Hermann Rorschach never knew the pain of being a Dolphins fan.
The Swiss psychiatrist probably never even heard of American football before his premature death in 1922.
But his famous ink-blot test has endless modern-day applications, including this young football season.
Dolphins fans and pundits alike can take in Miami’s first five games and come away with different evaluations based on their own biases and preconceptions.
The Dolphins are good.
The Dolphins are bad.
They are going to the playoffs.
They will wholesale changes this offseason.
Ryan Tannehill is the victim of circumstance.
Or his poor play is simply a reflection of his many limitations.
That’s the great thing about sports. There is always room for interpretation — and debate.
Until there’s not.
Because whoever the Dolphins are going to become in 2018, they will start being it soon.
Perhaps as soon as Sunday against the dangerous Chicago Bears.
That’s just how things have gone under Adam Gase.
Mid-October has been the turning point in each of his first two seasons as Dolphins coach.
In 2016, some thought the Dolphins were the worst team in football after a 1-4 start. Their only win came in overtime against the inept Browns, whose kicker — ironically, future Dolphin Cody Parkey — missed three field goals.
Nobody gave the Dolphins much of a chance against the Steelers the third Sunday in October. But then Jay Ajayi went nuts — his first of three 200-yard rushing days — and it sparked a six-game winning streak. The Dolphins ended up 10-6 and in the playoffs for the first time 2008.
Twelve months later, it was the funhouse mirror version. A 4-2 start had the Dolphins thinking they were headed back to the playoffs. Instead, they had an equally dramatic and consequential result.
The Ravens hammered the Dolphins 40-0 on national television, the first of five straight losses and eight in 10 games for Miami.
Which way will this season go? Time will tell. But history suggests it will be a drastic break, one way or the other.
Gase, naturally, is betting on himself, and his players, to click into high gear, beginning this weekend at Hard Rock Stadium.
“Because I watch these guys practice every day,” Gase said a few days back. “I watch these guys try to get better and try to do it right. [Wednesday and Thursday,] the guys have had great energy and worked hard. When we go out on Wednesdays, it’s not like it’s 65 degrees and cloud cover. You’re going to get tested just from being down here, which is great for us because it weeds people out real fast.”
That’s a parallel to 2016 when, like now, the doubters and cynics were everywhere.
“I remember the first game I felt good about the week of practice,” Gase said of the beginning of that run. “But you never can predict how many games you can win in a row and things like that because you’re so focused on one. And then you kind of forget that you won the week before. Everything is just so compartmentalized that you don’t worry about how many you win a row. You’re just trying to get that one week.”
You forget about wins. It’s harder to forget about losses.
And the last two weeks have probably felt like two years.
The Dolphins were outscored 65-24 in road defeats to the Patriots and the Bengals. It’s hard to say which outcome was worse: Getting hammered by New England or choking away a 17-point lead to Cincinnati.
And the task gets no easier Sunday.
The Bears’ strengths line up perfectly with the Dolphins’ weaknesses — if you’re a Chicago fan.
The Bears are second in yards allowed (292.2 per game). The Dolphins are 30th in total offense (288.2).
Led by all-world pass rusher Khalil Mack, the Bears rank second with 18 sacks. Down three starters against the Bengals last week, the Dolphins gave up three sacks, six tackles for loss and Tannehill was hit nine times.
Aside from the game’s location, there’s no real advantage for the Dolphins Sunday.
Of course, the same was said when they hosted Pittsburgh back in 2016.
So tell us, Dolphins fans.
What do you see?
▪ Six days after Sam Young was a big liability in emergency action, the Dolphins cut the veteran left tackle. With Young gone, Zach Sterup will be the team’s swing tackle Sunday against the Bears. The Dolphins elevated Jamiyus Pittman from the practice squad to fill the roster spot that Young’s release opened up.