Much has been written about the speed and certitude of Miami’s new regime. Face lift may be a cliché term to describe rebuilding projects, but with 47 new players on a 53-man roster it may also be apropos.
Such change is worthy of much larger hyperbole. How about the transformation of a 1-15 franchise to a 9-7 one? You heard it here.
Kidding aside (said with my fingers crossed behind my back) the Miami Dolphins are a different team than they were last year. Literally. But are they a better team?
The answer to that less than deep question is yes. All they have to do is win two games and they’re better. So putting simplicity aside, let me get to the one axe I have in an otherwise wonderful offseason.
It does not involve Bill Parcells, Jason Taylor, or CBS. No, it involves the cruddy days of yore: the pre- and postseasons that led to the miserable humiliation of a once proud franchise.
This one thing bothering me is conditioning: weight lifting, running, and core training.
This leads us to one of the more downplayed news items coming from South Beach this year. The new head coach, Tony Sparano, is a hard worker. He cherishes strength and power. He demands that his players train as hard as they possibly can.
In short, he and Miami’s football Czar, Bill Parcells, instill respect and inspiration (fear) into the hearts and minds of Miami’s players, new and old. They do this first in the weight room.
The stories from camp are of invigorated veterans and young talents being chiseled into every-down players.
Vonnie Holliday claims he has no knee pain, which is something he’s played with for years. Joey Porter claims to be stronger and more explosive that he’s been in years. Ronnie Brown’s knee rehab is ahead of schedule and he was cutting and carrying the ball well in mini-camp.
Ricky Williams feels and looks like Ricky Williams. Not a mere shade of his former self, but the real thing. The Ricky Williams who hands out torn rotator cuffs to opposing safeties like he recently gave out yoga mats.
The Dolphins are running more. Lifting more. Training in sand pits to build better small (or core) muscle power.
So what is it that bothers me? When so much is going right, where do I find fault?
It’s simple. What was this team doing before?
Veterans like Porter and Holliday cite their conditioning this year as a way to succeed. They have amazed looks on their faces when they talk of the weather in Miami being an edge they can use.
Teams from the North, they say, will have to come down and play in the heat. This is an edge for the heat tempered and uber-conditioned Miami Dolphins.
Then I want to scream.
Were Nick Saban and Cam Cameron completely unaware of this? Had they never watched a Dolphins home game prior to their hiring? NFL Films could put together a 40-disk DVD set of the clips of announcers making observations on how the heat was in the Dolphins' favor.
Were they completely in the dark about the fact that Don Shula built his most winningest career on something as banal as making the players run extra wind sprints? Either they weren't aware or they were arrogant.
Both men, Cameron and Saban, believed they were so smart that they could configure rosters and game plans to the point where vets could rest before games and victories would still issue forth, each proving the genius of the Dolphins’ head coach.
Cameron was going to use the Statue of Liberty Play to win the Super Bowl. Saban was going to micro-manage the water boys for optimal player hydration.
It really makes me scratch my head and wonder. This is not to say that I believe there was a Dolphins' Super Bowl somewhere between 2001 and now. There most certainly was not one. There was perhaps a decade of solid football. One not punctuated with a 1-15 season.
I guess I should get over it.
I will, come the home opener. The Dolphins are beating the Jets 21-17 in the fourth quarter and Ricky Williams is keeping the clock ticking. Four defense-numbing yards at a time.