Head Coach Tony Sparano came in as a breath of fresh air three years ago, and led Miami to the biggest turnaround in NFL history. From 1-15 to a division title (yes folks, regime change can sometimes be exactly what the doctor ordered). In the two seasons since, Tony has struggled to repeat that magic, logging back to back losing campaigns. But Tony isn’t only operating under the shadow of his own initial success. The man is also laboring under the pressure of a franchise and fan base with very little experience in the losing column.
From 1970 to 2005 the Dolphins were .500 or above 33 times. That’s just three losing seasons in 36 years. This is a mind-blowing number, one that as fans we should probably thank the Football Gods for on a nightly basis (our friends in Buffalo have endured six straight losing campaigns). In those 36 years only eight times did the Dolphins give up more points than they scored. They’ve done so four of the last five years. Between 1970 and 2001 the Sea Mammals won the division 21 times. They’ve done so once since 2002. In three seasons the current regime has had as many losing years as Don Shula recorded in his entire 33 year career.
This may sound like we’re piling on the current regime, but we swear to Dan Marino that we aren’t. It cuts both ways. On one hand, whoever leads the Dolphins is held to one of the highest standards of any NFL franchise. This regime has won a division title already. They’ve brought in Mike “The Mad Scientist” Nolan, a franchise left tackle, an All-Pro wideout, an unsigned free agent slot receiving Jedi, a sackmaster in Cam Wake, a blossoming pair of young corners, and a stud linebacker Karlos Dansby. But two seasons of sub .500 ball (by only one loss both seasons) and the mob is outside of team headquarters, pitchforks and torches in hand.
On the other hand, the fans have the right to ask if their coordinators and coaches are always putting their proud franchise in the best position to notch one in the win column. Is Tony always playing to win, or have we sometimes noticed the slightly sour smell of playing not to lose? Have we watched the coaches/riverboat gamblers atop our division make gutsy decisions that we can’t imagine Tony making? Are we going for the jugular out there? These are fair questions as well, ones that we have asked, and many have argued, repeatedly on this site.
Ross almost punched Tony’s ticket back to Assistantcoachville this past winter, then instead extended him a year. Assuming the extension wasn’t merely an expensive apology for the embarrassment of the Harbaugh mess, that gives the boys in Davie about eighteen months to deliver what we’ve all come to expect when the aqua and coral takes the field.
GO DOLPHINS, and feel free to follow us on Twitter @thebottlenose