The football bourgeoisie have already deigned the Miami Dolphins will finish with an average record and end up out of playoff contention. And as it is written, so shall it be, right?
A phrase comes to mind: That's why they play the game.
It's easy to write off a team because a certain quarterback for a certain organization has returned. The fact remains that the Miami Dolphins are the AFC East Champs until proven otherwise. Just because a bunch of pundits are hammering opinions into your brain like a drunken handyman doesn't mean they'll come true. I've got a few reasons to believe in these Fins.
Has The Tuna ever steered a franchise wrong before? His Midas-touch is so effective that if I were him, I'd be afraid to go to the washroom. The fact that he resides in Miami's front office almost makes up for the fact that Jimmy Buffet is hammered on tequila three doors down in the same office.
Let's run through his credentials just to reassure ourselves:
-Two Super Bowls
-Three Conference Championships
-Five franchise rejuvenations
-Being the only man alive who could manage a coked-up Lawerence Taylor
-Three Murder, She Wrote marathons (I made that one up...probably)
With Parcells, you know what you're going to get: A big, scary, old man who is the football equivalent of buying Microsoft stock in the '80's.
The Wildcat (or Wildpat)/ The Mind of Tony Sparano
Call it a gimmick, say that it's time is up, mock Miami for resorting to such trickery; just don't say it doesn't work.
The Wildcat offense is the new scheme du jour in football, and the Fins are the head chef. Tony Sparano took a risk last season and it panned out, but he didn't stop there. The drafting of Pat White means Miami have a legitimate throwing threat in the backfield to keep blitz-happy defences at bay.
People can rag on the Wildcat for being overused or ineffective but they're wrong. Miami did what teams are supposed to do with their backs against the wall, they grew some...if I say cojones will the Estefans get angry?
The Fins have shown they have a competent coach who's not afraid to shatter the norms of football. It's about time.
An underrated offensive line
When the Dolphins spoiled all of our fun by signing Jake Long before the 2008 NFL Draft, it was about as climactic as the opening scene from Reservoir Dogs. Still, the man they call Jong (well, just me) is justifying his selection.
And like the mauling Michigan alum, the rest of the offensive line is very adept at run-blocking. Miami's running backs were averaging 4.28 yards per carry last season, for the unenlightened, that's a first down every three downs.
Even more inspiring was that their Power Success rate (the percentage of runs on third or fourth down with less than two yards to go that get converted) was 76 percent, eight points better than the league average. Somewhere, Dave Wannstedt just flinched.
Chad Pennington is about as mobile as a paraplegic shopping cart (maybe I'm exagerrating a bit, sorry Chad), so it should surprise you that Miami's offensive line only gave up 26 sacks last season. The big men in teal finished with a 5.7 percent adjusted sack rate, ranking them twelfth in the NFL.
This offensive line is legitimate and this season should cement them among the NFL elite. Probably.
When the Miami Dolphins picked up Chad Pennington, the rest of the league should have just arrested them there; because it was a steal! I will now punch myself in the face for making that terrible joke.
All terrible hilarity aside, Pennington was quietly one of the most effective quarterbacks in the NFL. If you believe in stats then listen to this: Pennington ranked sixth among QB's in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (or DYAR for the acronym-inclined). Even though that sounds like gibberish, and it does kinda look like gibberish, it means that Pennington was behind only Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Philip Rivers, Kurt Warner, and Jay Cutler when it came to overall quarterback efficiency.
He doesn't make a lot of mistakes (only seven INT's), he's very accurate (his 67.6 completion percentage was tops among QB's) and he's a boon to the team's chemistry. Pennington's fragility is the only warning sign, and Miami has yet to experience that yet.
I'll just come out and say it: The only thing Tom Brady has over Pennington right now is a hotter girlfriend. What? Oh yeah, and maybe some Super Bowl rings, but whatever.
The defense is getting better
Miami's D was average last season, opponents were gaining 329 total yards a game against the Fins; good for 15th in the NFL.
Fortunately, Miami was not idle during the offseason. Jason Taylor danced his way back into the Teal and Orange after his failed remake of a Jimmy Stewart film, "Mr. Taylor Goes to Washington." JT is old, but if Bob Barker taught us anything it's that old people can still tell you what the actual retail price of things are. And maybe rush the passer. I don't know where I'm going with this.
Joey Porter is back, after a 17 1/2 sack vendetta against all things quarterback. The new addition Gibrill Wilson will team up with Yeremiah Bell to give opposing receivers no solace that the position they play is named safety. If Jason Ferguson can stay healthy this defense will thrive. IF (that's a big if, get it?).
Well I've still got two hours until all of this could blow up in my face so I think I'll spend it with the people I love (is Jack Daniel's a real person?). It's time for Miami to shake off it's inferiority complex and take it's rightful place as defenders of the AFC East crown. There's a reason they play the game, and it's because nothing's for certain until the final whistle blows.
All signs are pointing to one helluva season.