Welcome to the Miami Dolphins’ 2015 season, a seven-month journey that had better play out pretty much the way everyone in the organization hopes because, unlike past years, this year needs to be different.
The season needs to be one for no excuses.
Since 2008, when the Dolphins last made the NFL playoffs — indeed since December of 2000, when they last won a postseason game — this fan base has been deluged with reasons and rationalizations their team has not been good enough.
Ricky Williams retired days before training camp.
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They missed on Drew Brees not once but twice.
A.J. Feely wasn’t who Rick Spielman thought.
Daunte Culpepper’s knee wasn’t what the doctors thought.
Nick Saban didn’t really want to be here.
Bill Parcells left too soon.
Jeff Ireland stayed too long.
It’s always been something to explain why a team that almost took winning for granted and enjoyed a national following from the 1970s through the’90s suddenly wasn’t successful with any consistency.
Not this year.
This season, the golden 50th anniversary for the franchise, must come with no excuses, no pretexts, no justifications and definitely no apologies. Fans are no longer in a forgiving mood. Explanations won’t do anymore.
This season has to be about results.
This season has to be about a winning record.
This season has to be about making the playoffs.
Nothing less can be tolerated.
And that makes 2015 different because the past few years, under owner Stephen Ross and coach Joe Philbin, the rationalizations for not being good enough have come fast and furious.
Ross has been the owner since 2009, and the Dolphins have not had a winning season nor made the playoffs during his tenure. Philbin has been the coach since 2012 and, as his 23-25 record suggests, the Dolphins have been merely mediocre without a winning season or a playoff berth under his watch.
Well, this year the excuses of the past ring hollow.
Mr. Ross, we’re not buying that you’re trying to build a best-in-class organization anymore unless, you know, the team finally plays like it is best in some class. And giving contract extensions to coaches who do not make the playoffs, something you’ve done twice now, is not a best-in-class move in any universe.
Coach Philbin, you didn’t have the horses in ’12. You didn’t get along with Ireland in ’13. You broke in a new general manager and offensive coordinator in ’14. This year you must make the playoffs or, well, you know …
The same applies to the personnel department and the players on the roster the personnel department assembled.
The personnel department wanted to remake the receiver room in the offseason. Done. It determined, against public opinion, that Dallas Thomas and Billy Turner deserved to be penciled in as starting guards. Fine.
Those decisions, significant in that they call into question quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s cohesion with his pass catchers and his ability to stay upright under pressure, better work.
The time for excusing Tannehill has passed as well. He was a rookie in ’12. He had no protection in ’13. He was learning a new offense in ’14.
Well, this offseason he was rewarded with a $96 million contract. He is now being paid like an elite, franchise quarterback. He needs to overcome whatever deep-ball accuracy issues, pocket-instinct issues, and decision-making issues he’s had in the past and play at an elite level.
Mike Pouncey? Last year he returned from a hip injury and took one for the team by playing guard instead of center. He was OK, but not great. This offseason he got a new contract that makes him one of the NFL’s highest-paid centers and, yes, he’s back at his customary position.
So, no excuses.
The run defense, 24th in the NFL, was surprisingly bad last season. The defensive line and, indeed the entire defense, also faded to a significant degree at the end of the season.
So Ndamukong Suh was signed for a whopping $114 million, multiple players were cut or let go in free agency, and players such as Cameron Wake, who has never been to the playoffs at age 33, expect to have outstanding seasons.
The defensive line has to be great. Good will not do. It must be one of the best in the NFL if not the best.
Philbin has admitted coaches have to “get a feel” for the secondary, specifically the substitution packages with multiple corners in the game. That’s code for the Dolphins have one proven cornerback in Brent Grimes and everyone else is a question mark.
Well, Jamar Taylor is coming into his third season after being drafted in the second round in 2013. Same for Will Davis, who was a third-round pick in ’13.
They’ve struggled with injuries. They’ve struggled to gain experience. This season?
Koa Misi was new to the middle linebacker job last year and was injured a lot. Zach Thomas somehow managed to start 168 games at the position for Miami at 5-11, so is it a lot to ask for some durability out of Misi as he plays the same position?
This season the Dolphins plan to celebrate their 50th anniversary by rolling out throwback jerseys and helmets and recalling a time when the franchise was unquestionably among the NFL’s elite. Well, when the postseason comes, the Dolphins must, in fact, be among the NFL’s elite.
DOLPHINS TRAINING CAMP SCHEDULE
▪ Thursday, July 30, 8 a.m.
▪ Friday, July 31, 8 a.m.
▪ Saturday, Aug. 1, 8 a.m.
▪ Sunday, Aug. 2, 8 a.m.
▪ Tuesday, Aug. 4, 8 a.m.
▪ Wednesday, Aug. 5, 8 a.m.
▪ Thursday, Aug. 6, 8 a.m.
▪ Friday, Aug. 7, 7 p.m. (at FIU Stadium)
▪ Sunday, Aug. 9, 3 p.m.
▪ Monday, Aug. 10, 12:30 p.m.
▪ Tuesday, Aug. 11, 8 a.m.
▪ Saturday, Aug. 15, 1:15 p.m. (Finatics Season Ticket Members only)
▪ Sunday, Aug. 16, 8 a.m.
▪ Monday, Aug. 17, 8 a.m.
Note: All practices will be held at Doctors Hospital Training Facility in Davie except Aug. 7.
Call 954-452-7004 for more information.