We all know what the national media thinks of the 2018 Miami Dolphins. They’re not buying in. From the outside looking in, they see a 6-win team that has jettisoned its best players (Suh, Landry, Ajayi, Pouncey) and reason that this team has only one place to go. Down.
All the way down to the NFL cellar in fact.
We’ve all seen the offseason power rankings. We’ve seen the Vegas odds. ESPN has the Dolphins ranked #32 out of 32 teams. Dead last. In Bleacher Report’s latest power rankings, they also think Miami is the worst team in the league. Here’s their explanation:
“This has the makings of a very long season in Miami.
In 2017, the Dolphins were a bottom-five team in both points scored and points allowed. And while Miami gets starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill back this season, it’s hard to identify exactly where marked improvement in either regard is going to come from.
Yes, Tannehill’s back. But Miami’s receiving corps isn’t exactly loaded with talent—especially with DeVante Parker nursing a broken finger. Kenny Stills is a capable pro. What he isn’t is a No. 1 wideout. Danny Amendola was great five years and 11 injuries ago.
The Dolphins were 29th in the NFL in rushing last year, and the team’s biggest offseason addition in that regard is 57-year-old Frank Gore.
Admittedly, things were worse than that until Kenyan Drake came on down the stretch. But Drake hasn’t shown in college or the pros (yet) that he can handle a heavy workload over an entire season.
And once you get past him and old man Frank on the depth chart, it gets pretty ugly pretty quick.
Miami will get an early chance to prove us wrong. It opens the season at home against a Tennessee Titans club that was a playoff team last year but is hardly a juggernaut.
Notch a win there, and Miami might be able to climb out of the basement in these rankings.
Look at the bright side. There’s nowhere to go but up.”
This follows an all too common national narrative. The focus is on subtractions, not on additions. It doesn’t consider the many factors that came into play which contributed to last year’s 6-10 record (Jay Cutler, Hurricane Irma, Lawrence Timmons, Chris Foerster, etc.). And when additions are mentioned such as Gore and Amendola, it is usually a dig at their age as seen above, and not the positive veteran leadership they contribute in the film room and on the field. And it should be pointed out here that the NFL is in the business of selling stories, and they weave narratives around teams and individual players in an effort to create human interest, clicks, and ratings.
A narrative has been created around the Miami Dolphins and gaslighted by the national media. But is it true? Is this what fans of other teams think about the Miami Dolphins?
As a Dolphin fan that grew up in Miami but now lives in the western U.S., I get to interact with a lot of football fans of other teams. Every Sunday during football season, I’ll don my Dolphins gear and drive to a sports bar to watch the game. (Yep, beer and eggs and 10 am kickoffs are a thing on the west coast.) When I walk into a sports bar full of Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman jerseys, I get looks. And when I request the Miami game, I’m invariably asked one question: “Why?”
Once I justify why I’m interested in the Dolphins (“I’m from Miami.”) and I’ve demonstrated the greatest trait a football fan can exhibit- loyalty- we get down to talking football, and from this social experiment I’ve learned two things.
One is that there are Miami Dolphin fans everywhere. In most sports bars that I’ve walked into throughout the west, there’s usually a small contingent of Dolphin fans present. In the east, we’re everywhere. I once went to watch a game in North Carolina and the entire sports bar was full of Dolphins fans.
The second thing I’ve learned is that football fans of other teams respect the Miami Dolphins. OK, maybe not during Cam Cameron’s lone 1-15 season, but since that time we’ve gone from being the worst, to mediocre under Joe Philbin, to now respectable under Adam Gase. The return to respectability is no small thing.
And get this- people outside of Florida actually think Ryan Tannehill is a good quarterback! They tell me how good he was playing before the injury. Kenyan Drake? Yeah, the secret is out- they know about him too.
My favorite fans to talk to are New England fans. You might think that the kings of the division think very little about the Miami Dolphins, but it may surprise you to know that they take us seriously and think we are an up-and-coming team. They confide that Miami is a tough match-up for them and playing in South Florida usually means suffering a defeat. Remember the 9 times that Cameron Wake sacked Tom Brady? They do. Remember how well Tannehill plays against them? They do. Do you suppose they know who Xavien Howard is now after he shut down Brandin Cooks and intercepted Brady twice last year?
So, who really cares about what the national media thinks. They don’t know our team. They don’t see a plan, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t one. It just means they aren’t looking. And that’s fine. I get the feeling that Adam Gase doesn’t care about the national perception either. He cares about winning. And if playing the underdog, lack-of-respect card is fuel for motivation- I think that’s just fine with them.
And lately, the team and Adam Gase have been quietly going about their business with an unspoken confidence in what they’ve got planned. They’ve got an “I know something you don’t know” vibe to them. They seem to not have any interest in combating the national narrative.
This team knows the only way to silence the critics is to win. And starting this Sunday against Tennessee, they’ll get their first opportunity the rewrite the narrative.
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