Armando Salguero

The mystery Miami Dolphins are getting near to unveiling. And the stakes are very high

Like a mystery finally solved, the 2018 Miami Dolphins unveil everything they have and everything they are starting Sunday in their regular-season opener.

Until now we’ve been guessing what this team is going to be. We’ve guessed at how well or poorly they managed free agency. And the draft. And trades.

We’ve guessed how they stack up to the competition. We’ve guessed if this grand attempt to build locker room chemistry, at times at the expense of big names, is smart business or a wild grasp at straws. (Personally, I like it).

There’s been a lot of guessing done about these Dolphins with opinions about them running the gamut from a seven-win team, according to some Vegas sports books, to a playoff team if you believe what Dolphins sources are saying privately.

Guess what? Nobody truly knows.

The one thing we know with certainty is the Dolphins must get it right. They better be correct. Because being wrong would come at a steep price after the season.

And that’s different.

Think about it. Last year, the Dolphins lost eight of their final 10 games. They dropped to third in a four-team division. And the most important names in the organization remained the same.

Sure, players came and went in the offseason.

But ownership didn’t change.

The executive vice president of football operations remained the same.

The head coach remained the same.

The general managed remained the same.

The starting quarterback remained the same.

The offensive and defensive play-callers remained the same.

And that’s the way it’s going to stay after this season if these Dolphins win. If this team succeeds more than it fails and gets in the playoffs or relatively close to the postseason, we will stay on the road to status quo — hoping for more improvement in 2019.

But if the slide that began last October continues, then some heads are going to roll when the year ends.

Don’t believe me?

Consider: During the past offseason, the Dolphins went all in on the return of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The buy-in was so uncompromising that multiple people within the organization argued with me that Tannehill is going to be elite.

So what if he’s not?

The short answer was the team would go in a different direction at the end of the year.

That’s how it is when the starting quarterback is 30 years old, in his seventh NFL season, and the team is still waiting on certainty about what kind of player he is.

This is it for Tannehill. This is his year to show us who he really is on the football field. Or not.

No excuses.

But what if he’s injured again? That’s not his fault, right?

Well, it would no longer be a pass. It would be his third consecutive season getting injured. It would mean the Dolphins have to find a quarterback that can boast durability as an ability.

Tannehill is the epicenter of how this organization is going to be judged in 2018. Because figuring out the quarterback position is the most important decision in the NFL. Because everyone in this organization has lined up behind Tannehill. Because people have staked their reputations on him.

And coach Adam Gase is the first doing that.

“Oh, yeah,” Gase said without delay when I asked if he’s comfortable putting his considerable reputation as a quarterback maker on the line for Tannehill. “I love working with him. I love how he does everything from the time he gets in the building to the time he leaves.

“He’s really shown me a lot, especially on the practice field, how intense he is, how he treats every day like a game. He’s taken a hold of this offense and made it his own. There’s certain things we’ve never done before that we do now because of what he likes to do. I really like the way he’s working with that group of skill guys. They have good chemistry and it’s a good start for this season for us.”

The Dolphins believe they’re going to be good. They’ve got a bunch of plays they didn’t show anyone in the preseason that they’re counting on as soon as Sunday’s game against the Tennessee Titans.

They’ve got secret packages and strategies for deploying receiver Albert Wilson, tight end Mike Gesicki, nickel back Minkah Fitzpatrick and others.

There’s a lot of stuff they’re itching to unveil that no one has seen. There’s stuff they say will absolutely work.

But I greet that certainty with some skepticism. So should you.

I had no such skepticism last year. Last year, I trusted everything because the previous year this coach and this administration had completed an improbable 10-6 season. So they earned the benefit of the doubt.

My logic was, ‘They’re saying Jay Cutler is going to be good, so I’m going to believe them because these guys went 10-6 last year.”

And then Cutler flopped.

And Julius Thomas flopped.

And Lawrence Timmons flopped. After he went AWOL. And was suspended.

And the team dropped to 6-10.

So we’re back at .500 over the past two seasons. And so is everyone’s credibility. We’re back to ... prove it. Convince us.

Show us this mystery of a team is everything you say it is. Show us what the 2018 Miami Dolphins are about.

Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

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