I’m a drug dealer. I know what you want. I know what you need. You can’t find it at a pharmacy or on your own. That’s why I’m here. You cannot buy the narcotic I’m peddling. It’s priceless. You might know it by its street name:
It is readily available in so many places, but it is in desperately short supply in South Florida among Miami Dolphins fans. Your team is broken. I have your fix.
I’m about to throw open the windows and let all the sunshine and fresh air roll in, with a little something I like to call, “All The Things That Could Go Right.” I am fumigating to eradicate doom and gloom.
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First, though, it is important we figure out what got Dolfans so strung out on pessimism to begin with. The unabridged version might require an encyclopedia; we’ll be brief.
No postseason victory since 2000, eight consecutive years out of the playoffs, a sad parade of ill-fated coaches and a deep, muddy rut of mediocrity. Coming off a 6-10 season, Miami is ranked No. 26 (sixth from the bottom) in ESPN’s latest NFL power rankings, and last in the AFC East.
The Dolphins have only one player in ESPN’s top 100 ranking out Wednesday (defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh at 25th), compared with the Patriots’ seven, Jets’ five and Bills’ four.
I would quantify, anecdotally, how acute Dolfan pessimism is and what a default emotion it has become around here. With the team 1-1 in the preseason entering Thursday night’s dress rehearsal third game in Orlando against Atlanta, I ran a blog poll asking Dolfans if the first two exhibitions left them feeling better, the same or worse about the team. Worse beat better by more than a 5-to-1 margin. Dolfans not only see a glass half-empty, they think the liquid inside might be poisoned.
Or, as I saw one beleaguered fan note on Facebook: “The Dolphins look good on paper. Toilet paper!”
I get it. The angst is understandable and largely justified. A franchise that has let its fans down most of this century (!) must earn back the trust. A refurbished stadium with a new name won’t do it. Only winning will.
Meantime, though, let’s try some positivity on just to see how it fits. Couldn’t hurt. Don’t cost nuthin’. Hey, pessimism is easy. And safe, because low expectations don’t bruise as easily. It is optimism that sometimes requires work. You have to dare to hope. Are you game?
All The Things That Could Go Right:
New coach Adam Gase turns out to be a keeper, a brilliant hire, the next great NFL coach and the Dolphins’ longest-serving sideline boss since Don Shula.
The metaphoric lightbulb finally clicks on above Ryan Tannehill’s helmet. It happens. Gase, quarterback maharishi, coaxes Tannehill to the elusive Next Level. Tanny puts up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers and leaves Dolfans — for the first time — loving him, thinking of him as the answer, not a question.
Offensive line? It plays solidly. Begins to look like what it is: a front with four first-round draft picks. Mike Pouncey comes back healthy and better than ever. And rookie Laremy Tunsil proves to be the draft steal the team prayed he’d be.
The receivers blossom. Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker are the club’s greatest tandem since the Marks Brothers. Local media scramble to similarly apply a nickname for Landry and Parker. “Long-Playing L.P.” OK, maybe not. Miami even discovers it is allowed to throw to the tight end!
Leonte Carroo proves to be as talented as he is mellifluously named.
Jay Ajayi blooms into a quality running back. But Arian Foster is even better — healthy, his old self, partying like it’s 2012.
The special teams, are.
Defensive line? Really good. Playing up to its star power. Suh is the dominator he wasn’t last year. Cameron Wake has another big season in him. Mario Williams proves to be a great signing, enjoying new life and going double-digits in sacks.
Newcomer Kiko Alonso leads a linebacking corps that exceeds expectations.
The secondary is stout because Reshad Jones is great and new corner Byron Maxwell plays solidly. But here’s the secret sauce: Xavien Howard leads the Fins in interceptions and climbs on to Rookie of the Year watch lists.
Will it all happen? Of course not. That’s dreaming. No rose-tinted view here.
But might some of it happen? Certainly.
And if enough Things That Could Go Right actually do, then yes — no matter what the NFL literati and naysayers contend — this could be an upbeat season, a playoff team.
If you are nodding right now, bravely allowing yourself to feel some hope, even a little, then congratulations. The drug is working. You are feeling the effects.