This past season, the Miami Dolphins pissed away another year of fan loyalty and patience. It was one more 7-9 season littered with the same flaws and downfalls Dolphins fans have endured for the last two decades. So majority owner Stephen Ross embarked on his third remake/rebuild in his less than ten years — fun times!
But enough is enough — the Dolphins cannot live off the 1972 undefeated team and Dan Marino forever. Fans' loyalty is not a blank check. In 2019, Ross and the organization need to make clear that this time, things will be different. Investing in the team's future isn't a losing proposition.
Dolphins fans deserve better. They're tired of being told chicken shit is chicken salad. The Fins owe them more.
These are a few moves — some minor, some meaningful — that will make Dolphins fans believe the team is not only on the right path but also gives a crap about them.
1. Rebuild like you want to win in 2021, not 2011. This means under no circumstances can the Dolphins go out and steal Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh. No thank you. Harbaugh likely has no interest in the sort of complete teardown and rebuild the Dolphins require.
This team needs a philosophy shared by the coach and organization that looks to what football will be in 2024, not what worked in 2014. College-style offensive plays are more prevalent now in the NFL. Teams no longer just drop back the quarterback and hope receivers run crisp routes. The Dolphins must go after the future of the NFL in the draft — namely, Tua Tagovailoa in 2020 — and think forward if they want to get ahead of the curve.
Dolphins fans want to root for a team that is the envy of the NFL. At the very least, make your fans believe you're trying to bring in the future, not duplicate the past.
2. Listen to your fans: Go back to the throwback uniforms permanently. This one is easy. Please, for the love of whatever you believe in, put in a request (yes, we know the Dolphins can't just change uniforms/logo next season) to change permanently to the throwbacks. Players have repeatedly described how much they love the look. Don't make this hard, Miami — say you're going to do this.
Hell, when things like the "Miami Miracle" against New England happen, you should stick with everything you did that day. The Dolphins didn't this season and lost every game after that all-time moment.
3. Start your rebuild by locking up the few young core players. The Dolphins are about to have a massive estate sale, but there are a few items they should lock in a spare bedroom and hold on to for a long time. Some core players are important, even if it means overpaying a bit.
First on that list is cornerback Xavien Howard. He's one of the best cornerbacks in football. He's also about to get paid like it, though, so the Dolphins must weigh if the price makes sense for a team years away from competing. Next on the list would be left tackle Laremy Tunsil, who is also one of the best in the NFL at his position and likely to see a huge payday soon.
Beyond those two, Kenyan Drake comes to mind. While Drake is a running back — a position notoriously void of any need for real investment — he has proven himself worth locking in at a reasonable price. He's young — turning just 25 this month — and explosive, as you may have caught while watching the "Miami Miracle" play unfold last month.
4. Whoever the new coach is, make sure he holds players accountable next season. The Dolphins are a franchise with a problem — they don't have good enough players, and the good ones they do have aren't all that interested in being team leaders. Fans pick up on that. It matters.
When Reshad Jones straight-up refuses to reenter a game against your biggest rival after 10 snaps because he'd rather pout on the bench, that's unacceptable. Jones is one of the highest paid players on the team. He's a Pro Bowler. For him to quit — and the team to not make much of it — is not only embarrassing but turns fans apathetic.
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Next season, the Dolphins must demand leadership from their top-earning players. There should be no more quiet leaders like Tannehill or drama queens like Jones.
5. Make Sundays great again. Dolphins fans used to wake up on Sunday morning with butterflies in their stomachs. Now Sundays just give them indigestion. Whatever the Dolphins do in 2019 and beyond, they must ring in a new era that involves a better brand of entertainment. If you lose, lose with purpose. Employ young players and explain the reasoning to fans.
If the Dolphins rebuild, they should do it with a philosophy that results in unfamiliar entertainment. Fans can handle losing. It's the boring, same-old-same-old try-not-to-lose reruns that are draining their desire to tune in to and attend Dolphins games.