Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero: Will the real Miami Dolphins please stand up?

Miami Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell reacts in a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Thursday, October 29, 2015.
Miami Dolphins head coach Dan Campbell reacts in a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on Thursday, October 29, 2015. adiaz@miamiherald.com

The Miami Dolphins tell us that wasn’t them at the beginning of the season. They insist that wasn’t them losing so much while showing so little interest under Joe Philbin. And now that Dan Campbell is the new interim coach, the Dolphins say that wasn’t them that last game in New England that they lost in a romp.

So, in a nutshell, the Dolphins insist most of the games they’ve played this season have been played by some other unknown people who somehow got into the Dolphins’ locker room, donned Miami uniforms, and occupied the Dolphins’ sideline during games they lost.

Why? Because, well, that wasn’t really the Dolphins.

I’m not making this stuff up.

Consider:

Was that the Dolphins who lost to the Buffalo Bills the last time the teams met on Sept. 27?

“I feel like that wasn’t us, that wasn’t us playing in the first four games of the season,” defensive end Olivier Vernon said. “They had that first quarter, and I think everybody as a whole just let it roll off their shoulders, and looking after the bye week it’s a brand new season.”

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill agrees. He believes the Dolphins are way better than they showed against the Bills that day.

“We’re better than that,” he insisted. “We feel like we’re better than that, and we’re going to go up there and play the way we can play.”

Fine, I’ll accept the Dolphins maybe weren’t themselves before the coaching change. So after the coaching change, this team is different?

Well, what about that 36-7 loss at New England 10 days ago was any different than what we had seen from the Dolphins since 2008, the last time they won at New England?

“I just feel like we are in a better rhythm right now than what we have been,” Campbell said. “Now I know we stumbled a little bit against New England the other night but I feel like we are playing more as a team. I feel like we are more aggressive than we were in that first game [against Buffalo]. I just feel like we’ve got some good guys in this locker room that are willing to do anything to win.”

Stop.

I don’t want to hear this anymore. I’ve heard the narrative that this is a resurgent, revived team under a new coach and new approach and, for a while, I bought it because those thorough whippings of Tennessee and Houston were impressive.

But then New England showed us the wide gulf between these improved Dolphins and a legitimate, serious contender, and the shine of beating two poor teams following the Philbin firing dulled for me.

And so I’m not going to simply buy that these Dolphins are different and better anymore as surely as I no longer believe they’re Super Bowl contenders when they make big moves every offseason.

I learned my lesson on the big offseason moves promising Super Bowls that never materialized years ago. I used to believe the moves would change the Dolphins’ fortunes.

I believed Daunte Culpepper would change things.

I believed Bill Parcells would change things.

And Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby would change things.

And Joe Philbin would change things.

And Ndamukong Suh would change things.

And I haven’t seen things change.

So I’m not believing Campbell is going to really change things, and this new attitude and #strongertogether stuff is going to change things until something significant, you know, actually changes.

In other words, my faith has been stretched enough. I want substance, not hope. More importantly, Dolphins fans want results.

Which brings us to Sunday afternoon’s rematch against the Bills in Orchard Park, New York:

This game offers an opportunity to prove change has arrived. It offers a hard examination on how far the Dolphins have — or haven’t — come from the last days of the Philbin intoxication.

The Bills have been a struggling, mediocre team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since the dawn of this century, and yet the Dolphins have not won at Buffalo since 2011. You want to prove this Dolphins team is different?

Win at Buffalo on Sunday.

The Bills clobbered Miami 41-14 in the first meeting this season. You want to show us rather than tell us you’re a different team?

Win the rematch.

The Dolphins are winless in their division this season. They are 0-3 and there is no path to the playoffs for any team that cannot win even one game within its division. You want to show things have changed? That you’ve changed?

Don’t go to the midpoint of this NFL season with four division losses and only two division games left to play.

There are, by the way, some signs that all hope should not be abandoned. Even in last week’s loss to New England, the Dolphins were engaged until the end. They played hard. They didn’t simply bow out before the game was over, as Vernon suggested happened against the Bills in the first meeting.

But that is the minimum that should be happening. This is professional football, and these players are getting paid handsomely to perform to the end. Doing the minimum doesn’t get the Dolphins a parade.

It raises the question of whether this is an immature team, because any team that opens a season as if disinterested and needs a coaching change to kick it in the backside is immature.

Those September Dolphins, of course, are long since gone. This group is completely different. At least that’s what they’re saying. But I expect they know saying it is not going to be enough for the Bills.

“We’re just going to show up on Sunday and play a game,” Vernon said, “and they’ll see after the game if we are the same team.”

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