The Miami Dolphins Must Never Relive the Past

The Miami Dolphins can learn from mistakes made two decades ago. Folks may not remember the 1993 Dolphin team. It was a team packaged, signed, sealed and delivered, long before the 2011 Eagles flopped with “The Dream Team.” The names still ring in the faded memories of long time Miami fans: Irving Fryar, Keith Byars, Keith Jackson, Ron Heller, Mike Golic, the list of free agents from that team goes on...

The season featured the NFL 325th win by coach Don Shula, the most wins by a coach in NFL history. The Dolphins reach a 9-2 record in the famous Leon Lett Thanksgiving game in Dallas. But the season took a dark turn in week 5 when Dan Marino ruptured his Achilles tendon. He was replaced by Scott Mitchell who was named player of the month after his first four games, only to join Marino on injured reserve. Doug Pederson and ancient Steve DeBerg tried to lead the team, but after that Thanksgiving miracle all the magic ran out and the Dolphins lost the last five games to miss the playoffs.

The 1993 version may be the best Miami team ever assembled, but the stars could not align after Marino went down and the same players never had the run Shula hoped for. The Dolphins did not fall like the Eagles because Marino was too good to allow it, but that lesson and the lesson from the Eagles, should be a warning when delving too deeply into free agency...

Teams cannot be bought in the NFL.

The 2013 Dolphins have added similar offensive talent in Mike Wallace and Dustin Kelly, but there is no Richmond Webb and Keith Simms on the offensive line. John Offerdahl and Louis Oliver are not waiting for Ellerbe and Wheeler. Ryan Tannehill is entering his sophomore season and  Miami fans can only dream Tannehill’s second season will be half as good as Dan Marino’s. 

The caution flags must be raised early, these free agents are not the final pieces like those were supposed to be twenty years ago. This class is coming aboard as part of a working plan to rebuild after four straight losing seasons. With five picks in the first three rounds, the Dolphins are poised to collect more talent in one off-season than even the '93 team. Yet, the decline of the Dolphins can be traced right back to that 1993 season when the alignment of the stars was shattered.

The term is Due Process. This is where the Miami Dolphins must exhibit the restraint of not looking too far ahead and the wisdom to allow the progress to play its course. When expectations outweigh performance, a team can find itself overwhelmed and fall off the mountain far short of the pinnacle.

Having been there and seen how even a team led by the likes of Don Shula and Dan Marino can become victims of their own success, fans must allow the process of rebuilding to gel without the failures of the past jading the future. The common thread of these free agents is not a collection of prior pro bowls, but one of youth and the anticipation for future pro bowls. Thinking the super bowl is around the next bend is not only wrong, but foolish, and should not be the realistic goal for the Miami Dolphins or their fans.

Ryan Tannehill is not Dan Marino, but he could become the next great QB in Miami if fans are patient enough to allow this team to grow together. These free agents were not acquired as mercenaries in a title season, they were acquired as pieces in a puzzle still being built. A puzzle that may take another two years to reach fruition. Waiting has become an all too familiar necessity in Miami, but this feels different, like there is a plan.

Hang on and watch it grow, but do not allow the lost 1993 season and weight of over-hyped unrealistic expectations derail the train like the fall from the side of that mountain. The Dolphins are a work in progress and these latest acquisitions are part of the progress, not the end of the road. The road is still long, but there’s a trophy with a golden football glittering in the distance.

With patience the Miami Dolphins can make it back.

With unrealistic fan expectations the team will only repeat what slipped away twenty years ago.