The Dolphins have added a dynamic and proven playmaking wide receiver in the offseason. They’ve made the defense more physical by adding a playmaking linebacker to patrol the middle of the unit. And, most inspiring, the Dolphins have a young quarterback coming off a solid first season as the starter and the club believes he’ll show great improvement as he becomes the face of the team for years to come.
That’s the state of the Dolphins in 2013, right?
But that was exactly the state of the Dolphins three years ago.
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Think back to 2010 if you can bear it.
Back then, the Dolphins added Brandon Marshall to make plays at wide receiver in much the way the club has excitedly added Mike Wallace this offseason.
The Dolphins added Karlos Dansby to make plays and be a physical presence in the middle of the defense then. And similar things are now being said about this year’s additions of Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler.
And yes, back in the spring of 2010, Chad Henne was about to enter his second season as Miami’s starting quarterback and everyone who heard the club compare him favorably with Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan was expecting Henne to actually succeed like Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.
Now the same is being said, eerily, about Ryan Tannehill.
We’ve been down this road before. The Dolphins are retracing familiar steps this offseason and although that doesn’t guarantee the club will get it wrong again, it does explain some things and raise valid questions.
First, I was told last week the team has gotten less of an initial season-ticket sales bump this year than in that fateful 2010 offseason.
The truth is that although new customers are signing up at a solid rate, the club’s ability to retain old season-ticket customers is way, way down.
And the club is not really certain why that’s the case because, internally, the organization’s mood is upbeat and optimistic and expectant from owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland over to coach Joe Philbin and even team CEO Mike Dee.
The brass is excited. Players are excited. Everyone but paying fans, it seems, is excited.
Well, can I suggest the reason some of those fans aren’t jumping on the ticket-renewal bandwagon is because they’ve been here and done that before?
They’ve seen all these moves called from the exact same playbook before, and although they spent a lot of money to endorse the moves the first time, they clearly remember that led to nothing other than frustrating afternoons at Sun Life Stadium.
I’ll remind you that the same 2010 Dolphins that added the playmaking wide receiver and playmaking linebacker and had the promising young quarterback won only one home game in eight outings.
Fans are not dumb people. They have memories. They understand nothing the Dolphins have done so far this spring guarantees a winning football team in the fall despite the unapologetic optimism the team is exuding and the polite pressure the ticket-sales people are applying.
So when Philbin says, “I want our fans to expect this to be a good football team,” he’s preaching to people who got burned the last time they did that.
Those fans, particularly the ones who buy tickets, are more likely to believe the team’s move will work, predictably, when they see the team’s moves work.
But there are reasons to be encouraged:
The Dolphins are not the same organization they were in 2010. Ireland is more experienced and running the show without Bill Parcells. Philbin and the coaching staff are different.
And so far, that’s working out quite well.
There is a growing sentiment around the NFL that Philbin, still unproven and still admittedly trying to become a better coach, is quite good at evaluating talent. He knows a good football player when he sees him.
That’s encouraging because after spending much of his first offseason attending to fundamental coaching duties, Philbin this offseason has had more time to devote to personnel.
“In the first year, you’re putting together a staff. You’re putting your calendar together, time frames, all those things,” Philbin said. “Obviously, we have a much better handle on that at this point. I would say definitely more of my time has been devoted to personnel.”
The truth is also that the shotgun marriage between Philbin and Ireland is apparently working very nicely now. The coach and general manager, strangers a year ago, have a very good working relationship now. There is an expanding and significant understanding between the two about what kind of players the Dolphins want and should have.
“Yeah, it’s a collaborative effort,” Philbin said. “Jeff and I work closely together. His staff does a great job with their film evaluations. Our coaching staff, I think if you ask Jeff, has worked their tails off in regard to both the free agent evaluations and they’re into the college draft process as well. So it’s a cumulative effort.
“Certainly, I’m not the money guy. I don’t discuss contracts and offer this much or that much. That’s not my area of expertise. They certainly kind of take control of that, but I think we both kind of decide that we like this player, we think he can help us, he can contribute to our success and let’s go after him.”
With that overall organizational vision coming into focus, it is fair to say that the additions of Wallace, Ellerbe and Wheeler — the highest-priced free agents signed by Miami this offseason — come with a stamp of approval from both the personnel and coaching staffs. They agree those moves will work.
Both also agree Tannehill, unlike Henne, won’t be a flop. That is encouraging.
It all raises hopes that 2013 won’t be a replay of 2010.