Most of those steps resulted in pratfalls.
So for those fans, it’s good but no longer enough that the Dolphins drafted Ryan Tannehill. Fans want to see him actually perform like a good quarterback rather than be projected or talked up as one.
It’s good but no longer enough that Wallace, a proven threat in Pittsburgh, was signed in the offseason. Yes, he averaged eight touchdowns each of the past four seasons, but he has to actually blow the top off a defense in a Dolphins uniform before Miami fans get truly excited about his heralded speed.
Local fans want the Dolphins to show them they’re good rather than tell them they’re going to be good.
I don’t blame them. It shows wisdom to wait for the proof of this team’s abilities to show up on the field before letting hopes run amok.
That’s because this team has a chance to be really good. And an equal chance to be really disappointing.
If general manager Jeff Ireland’s calculations are right, the Dolphins might indeed fit the narrative of challenging the lessened and older New England Patriots for the AFC East title.
But those calculations come with an algebra course’s worth of variables. For instance:
Tannehill, not as productive as most other rookie quarterbacks last season, becomes a good quarterback this year.
Lamar Miller, an understudy to Reggie Bush last season, produces more than his predecessor.
Dustin Keller, injured or ineffective for the Jets last season, stays healthy this year.
Brent Grimes, on crutches much of last season after tearing his Achilles in Atlanta, returns to form at cornerback this year.
Jordan, Miami’s highest drafted rookie since 2008, plays up to his draft status after missing the entire offseason recovering from shoulder surgery.
Jonathan Martin, an inconsistent right tackle as a rookie last season, makes the transition and upgrade to a good left tackle replacing Jake Long this year.
Phillip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe, signed as high-priced upgrades to Dansby and Kevin Burnett, play like the upgrades they’re supposed to be.
It’s possible all those things happen. The Dolphins are hopeful about all of them. But if local fans share that optimism, it comes with a qualification.
It comes with much caution.