Perhaps that’s the reason this team’s goals — so clear in the past — are defined in more vague terms now.
Years ago, when Don Shula was coach, the annual goal was to win a Super Bowl. Then the goal started to erode as the team’s success waned. Now, in the midst of four consecutive losing seasons, owner Stephen Ross won’t say the team must make the playoffs to be a success.
“You can’t make moves and not want to and hope to, you know, make the playoffs and see where you go from there,” Ross said when I asked him to define a successful season.
If he had only stopped there. Success is getting to the playoffs. It’s winning enough to have a chance to win a championship.
But Ross then started parsing words. And he started talking about progress. And he started equating progress with success.
“You want to see progress, and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “It’s really seeing progress as this team develops because I’m looking to bring a team to South Florida to win consistently, and that’s the most important thing.”
It is about winning
So showing progress from last season’s 7-9 record is successful, according to Ross. Does that mean 8-8 is a successful season for the Dolphins?
Here’s some advice: Professional sports is about winning and getting in the postseason and having a chance to compete for championships.
It’s not about losing as much as winning in 8-8 seasons. It’s not about being 9-7 but on the couch when the playoffs are on TV.
The narrative when training camp began was that these Dolphins would challenge the Patriots for a division title. If they win that title, that’s success. If they don’t win the division but still get in the postseason, that too will be a fine achievement.
That’s progress. And everything else is a failure.