Someone has to do it, here we go. Skimming the phins news wire is a lowly task, lots of handwringing with a healthy dose of doom and gloom. I’m not seeing it that way, even after the steaming pile of chum that remains in the wake of the loss to the mighty Jets. Simply put, this team is moving in the right direction, and kudos to Stephen Ross for having the wherewithal not to whither to the public pressure to blow it all up.
Now just so you don’t think I’m some pie in the sky optimist who sees the silver lining in everything, allow me to state I was usually the first one in the pool during the orgy of pessimism and ill will that Dolphins fans have bathed in over the last decade. These have been some truly awful times to be a Dolphins fan. Especially for one who has lived in Boston during these seasons of darkness (Go everyone but New England!). As someone whose friendships rely on healthy doses of mockery and ridicule I have had little to say in defense of my squad over the last ten plus years and have had to just sheepishly take my lumps after the close of each season. That changed this year. For the first time in many seasons I feel like popping off a bit.
Allow me to start at the most obvious point, Quarterback. Though Ryan Tannehill’s detractors have dwindled in number as the season progressed, for those of you who still count yourselves among those ranks I ask you, what are you comparing him to? Go look at the numbers of any QB you view favorably and you will be hard pressed to show me any who seriously outperformed him in their first four season in the league. Tannehill has gone in the right direction in each of his first four seasons, and he has done so with an offensive line that no would argue has been much good over that period of time. For the first time in Dolphins A.D. Miami has a QB that I can actually envision, enthusiastically, as being under center in Miami for ten plus years.
Perhaps the loudest demands for change have come from those calling for Coach Philbin's job. There are certainly arguments to be made for going in a different direction, but look at the teams that have been winning Super Bowls over the past several years. There is not a lot of upheaval in those franchises is there? Finding good young players, then giving them stability and time to develop is how you emulate teams that have had the most success over the last decade. I would suspect Mr. Ross has taken that into consideration as well. Yes there are a few obvious exceptions to this rule, but that is all they are, exceptions. There is something to be said, for stability, especially when you have a young quarterback who is clearly moving in the right direction. Think of organizations like the Packers and Giants. They have certainly had their bumps over the last few years that have riled up the media and fans alike, but they just keep hanging around don’t they? In 2008 every Packer fan I know was calling for McCarthy and Thompson’s head, now they are all super fans again. In New York, prior to their last two Super Bowl titles there were no shortage of people who wanted to see Tom Coughlin gone. The last two seasons haven’t been great for Giants fans, but theirs is a decade of football I would be happy to have had in Miami. I am not advocating for stability absent any encouraging signs from the current regime either. Philbin and his staff’s ability to develop young players seems to have been as ignored as it is promising. They are having success in that department. I’m happy to give it some more time to see if the win loss record can begin to reflect that success.
The most maddening of criticisms though is that Philbin in not a leader of men. Please, just stop. What a load of insipid meaningless nonsense. He is not a leader in the eyes of some because the Dolphins are not winning enough, if the Dolphins were on their way to the play offs right now I have a feeling there would be little concern in this area. Let's put it this way, if Bill Belichick did not pull one of the greatest players in NFL history out of his back side with a 6th round supplemental pick back in 2000, I seriously doubt there would be many who were in awe of a Belichick's leadership qualities (I’ll go round and round all day with anyone on this point). There is no style of coaching that lacks in leadership qualities when a team is winning.
That is what it boils down to obviously, winning. I have hope there will more of that in the future. The 2014 Dolphins bested New England this year, lost two heart breakers to play-off teams against the Lions and Packers, and went toe to toe with the Broncos in Denver. A few late defensive stops and many of this organization's biggest critics would have a lot less to say. Heck that might have been true just by avoiding the loss of Brandon Albert. The windows are closing in New England and Denver. Who strikes fear in you as the next AFC heir apparent? Is there anyone who remains that you don’t think Miami can be right there with when it is time for a changing of the guard? Giving this team more time was the right thing to do. There is no doubt work to be done. The Dolphins are going to have to make some tough calls to get the cap right in order to retain key players and add new ones. They need to figure out how to get that defense back on track. They have to hope for the best with Brandon Albert. They need to decide if Mike Wallace is their play maker for another year or if they need to look elsewhere. There are plenty of challenges but the fact remains, I have reason for optimism, even if I do skim the news wire more often than I should.