Waking up this morning it’s still easy to wonder if yesterday’s huge Miami Dolphins come from behind win with 4:00 minutes left in the game was real or just a dream. NFL.com shows the standings and it was real.
You would think that the Miami Dolphins had won the Super Bowl or made it to the playoffs instead of just beating an L.A. Rams team who is below .500. For 56 minutes the Dolphins were lifeless but as we now know, Ryan Tannehill took control and the battered offensive line found some rhythm.
Sunday’s game isn’t going to be on of those games that people talk about a year or two from now. Hell they might not be talking about that game two months from now unless Miami makes the playoffs by a singular win. Instead, yesterday’s game showcased the change in attitude and culture that has been so lacking.
Culture change is something that the Dolphins have been preaching for the last few years but in reality it goes back almost a decade or more. The Dolphins have only known how to lose and games like Sunday would have been yet another loss in the column. This however isn’t the same Dolphins team.
Adam Gase has the team believing in themselves and his system. Vance Joseph has the defense believing that they can go out and win every down not every series. Don’t be fooled by the five game winning streak, the Dolphins have a lot of holes, a lot of weaknesses, lack of depth at almost every position, and are young. But they believe.
Losing in itself is a culture. Once it has taken root in a franchise, it doesn’t leave. It’s hard to get rid of and sometimes winning a few games doesn’t make it go away. In 2008 the Dolphins were in dire need of a culture change. Losing under Dave Wannstedt in his final years coupled with Nick Saban’s dismal two years and then Cam Cameron’s singular season blunder, Miami needed change.
Bill Parcells should have been that change but the culture under Parcells never came close to the stigma of Parcells. Instead, Parcells sat back and let Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano drive the team into the ground with bad personnel decisions, bad coaching, and in fighting that would eventually cost the team years of opportunities.
The Dolphins however made the post-season in that 2008 season winning the AFC East. The success of that season however was more on the legs of the “Wild Cat” than anything the Dolphins were doing right. Miami kept the formation for another year with none of the same success. Eventually the poor drafting of Parcells and Ireland and the poor coaching of Sparano doomed the franchise.
Losing breeds losing and when Joe Philbin arrived again people thought there was real change on the horizon. After all Philbin was coming from a very successful Green Bay Packer team. Instead the Dolphins continued to spiral downward.
So what happened? Well for starters, Adam Gase happened.
Gase is nothing like Sparano or Philbin. He isn’t a tough as nails coach who demands anything from his players. He earns respect and only demands that the players put in the effort but unlike his predecessors, Gase coaches.
This has been a singular issue with the Dolphins as many former players go on to have better careers once out of Miami. Gase is taking inexperienced players or players who have struggled and is making them better. He is coaching them.
Gase made two big statements this year that clearly got his message across to his team. A message that said get on board or get the hell out. First he benched Byron Maxwell in favor of the younger more inexperienced Tony Lippett. Lippett is getting better the more he plays. Maxwell is back because Xavien Howard got injured.
The message was received as Maxwell too is playing much better. Gase’s second move was to get rid of Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas. Two offensive line liabilities who had no business being on the squad. Miami, ironically, hasn’t lost since.
Overall the point is that the culture in Miami is indeed starting to turn. The players are feeling different in the locker room as Jarvis Landry pointed out last week when he said he has never felt what he is feeling now inside the Dolphins locker room. Winning is contagious and it breeds more winning.
The Dolphins are not winning by gimmicks and they are not winning because they have some ace player who just joined the roster. Hell they are not winning because everyone is healthy. They are winning because they are not quitting. They believe they can win and they showed that on Sunday.
There is a long way to go before anyone says the culture has indeed changed for good but it’s obvious that for the first time in over a decade, the Dolphins are at least heading the right way out of that dark tunnel.