Construction Central: Are the Miami Dolphins Safe in the Hard-Hat Zone?

Joi WhitmoreCorrespondent IMay 14, 2009

DAVIE, FL - MAY 02:  Head coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins watches his team during mini camp on May 2, 2009 at the Miami Dolphins Training facility in Davie, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

As a resident of South Florida for over 18 years and an avid fan of the NFL, it is quite unavoidable to become intrigued by the single-season-no-losses-record-holding team otherwise known as the Miami Dolphins. This sultry paradise South Floridians enjoy is no stranger to the effects of “rebuilding.”

Exhibit 1: I95 throughout Broward and Palm Beach Counties—the never-ending construction that blemishes the lush tropical landscape residents live here and move here to enjoy.

A rebuilding process initially intended to provide a future improvement of our roadways sometimes looks like deconstruction rather than an improvement.  While driving through Palm Beach County recently, I experienced the frustration of how this construction affects our commute and angers many of the drivers.

It was very clear these changes are akin to the changes within this Miami Dolphins team. During this period of remodeling, many of the Dolfans and fair-weather Dolfans may not be able to see the light at the end of the stadium tunnel, and may instead curse at the orange cones that line the pathway back to Superbowl glory.

Sadly, the few times I have visited Dolphin  Joe Robbie Pro Player Dolphin  Landshark Stadium, it has been glaringly obvious that the term “fair weather fan” is an understatement.

My last game at Dolphin Stadium (as it was named then) was against the San Diego Chargers; early in the season when no one in the fandom of the NFL or beyond would even fathom that the Dolphins would perform as well as they did in 2008.  

It was a gorgeous October day, nice and hot still in this continental U.S.state closest to the equator.

I donned my Zach Thomas jersey, a practice jersey that was short, high, and slightly see through—one that garnered enough attention to get me on the Jumbotron, not to mention showed my undying support for one of the beloved ex-players of this team.

As expected in South Florida during the unrelenting months of hurricane season, the sunny day soon began to be streaked by large slow drops of afternoon rain.

At first the gaps in attendance in the stadium seemed to be due to the impending rain predicted earlier that day, but once the rain cleared, as it does quickly here, it was convincingly obvious that this team lacks the support of its fans in entirety.

Maybe the empty seats are an indicator that we live in an area where the activities for life enjoyment are abundant, and therefore many people can find themselves busy doing activities other than football on a Sunday. Or are they an indicator of the true nature of this historically losing team’s dying fan-ship?

Commencing this 2009 season with a new owner, management in their sophomore year at Miami, the acquisition of young new talent, and a schedule that would dishearten the mightiest of teams, there are very few indicators that we will see a repeat of last year’s “Miami Miracle.” 

South Floridians are no exception to the rule of “instant gratification” and it makes me wonder if we will continue to see the gaps of orange seats through the Rebuilding Years.

The big question is: Is this rebuilding process any indicator that this organization doesn’t think it’s quite time for them to jump in the pool yet? Is it too early in the proverbial summer to believe that they can make some risky moves and totally immerse themselves in a possibly cold but productive season?

The offseason transactions seem to indicate some hesitation from this club—dipping the toe to check the temperature of the water. Recent markers of this hesitation on the team include passing on the opportunities to pick up available (and much needed) receivers like Anquan Boldin or Braylon Edwards.

I see huge red flags (or should I say white flags) surrendering this team to the state of limbo, where things are messy and a stronger future is just barely in sight.  

This 2009 season—though not yet kicked off—has already started to baffle me, much like the Wildcat Offense that stunned a few defenses through the first few games of the season.

Prior to yesterday’s news that Jason Taylor will be returning to the team, I had little doubt in my head that it was the Big Tuna was wearing the hard hat here, Big Tuna who was reconstructing this team, the Big Tuna who turned up his nose at a veteran player who found more excitement off Dancing With the Stars, and the Big Tuna who wasn’t going to let this star return to his home team.

Surprise! I just got fooled by that same Wildcat formation, yet this time it was a management formation, not an offensive one.  A smart move—solidifying the defense, and most importantly, making sure he’s not on the opposite side of the ball.

Who knows? There could be more surprises in store—mimicking the Dolphins 2008 season—as Boldin is rumored to want to be a part of this organization.

I’ve learned a lot about the coaching style of Bill Parcells from his time with the Giants and the Cowboys, and one thing is clear—he does not condone showboats.

Given that information, it’s no wonder he left Jerry Jones and the cast of limelight players back in Dallas to work with a team of players who could be molded into the intense, workhorse-like players that he believes it takes to get this team to win—not now, but in a few years.

The exceptional coaching style of Tony Sparano, supported by the great and mighty Bill Parcells and his tightly knit staff may be the key to exceeding my expectations for this team.

Bringing back the Wildcat Offense and using it when most unexpected was a key to a few wins last year for the Dolphins. Other keys were the lighter schedule, and a Brady-less AFC.

I strongly sense a need for more ingenuity in the offensive package as other teams have not only copied this resurrected formation, but will also be diligently studying the Dolphin’s game tapes from last year to be well prepared against any surprises.

Here are my top three key offseason moves made by the Dolphins that will predict their upcoming year:

  • Adding a big strong center in Jack Grove that can potentially open up the lanes for the offensive and improve upon the running game. “Run Ricky, Run!” and lend more excitement to the other option at RB, an up and coming star in Ronnie Brown.
  • Key additions on the offense include the big and tough Gibril Wilson who should be able to force some openings in the secondary, and the new QBs should prove to offer them some much needed offensive enhancements. With the acquisition of Chad Henne—crowned as the almost definite 2010 starter and a not-so-shabby third string Pat White, it is sure to scare life into current starting QB Chad Pennington, and is definite to make some interesting game days as we can expect to see some teetering between all three behind the gun.
  • Not signing a top-end wide receiver may cause some holes in the aforementioned building of the offense. Looks like the Dolphins plan to work with their existing core of receivers who produced mediocre numbers last year as individuals but did collaboratively produce enough activity as a core to put points on the board. The issue that may arise here is that we’ve got a bunch of younger, less experienced guys who are looking to each other for leadership. It could be a huge success, but with all the other factors, this may be a key weakness. Boldin could be a huge factor here, if the rumors are true.

With tough games against the usual suspects, such as the defending Super Bowl Champion Steelers, the Patriots with Brady at the wheel, and lined up against strong clubs like the Colts, Panthers, and Titans, I can foresee the future of the 2008 Dolphins NFL season—and it holds a huge test—young talent gaining their battle scars against the very best in the NFL.

After a season of silencing naysayers and winning their well deserved spot in the playoffs, it seems unlikely that this team will have the chance to climb high enough in its division to repeat what they did in 2008.

This may be exactly what the Big Tuna wants—divert attention away from this team and when others are least expecting, he will have formed an army strong enough to make it all the way to the glory in 2011.