Are you confused? Or just plain frustrated? Maybe you are thrilled yet
Itís a state of mixed emotions right now thundering across Dolphin
Nation. For many, the current three game winning streak is welcomed. For others
who crave the top overall pick in next Aprilís draft, itís not.
Never in this teamís history has there been such a passionate debate
about the value of winning. Itís extraordinary and a little sad.
First, let me address the naysayers. As I wrote in this space two weeks
ago, the ďSuck for LuckĒ campaign was desperate and an embarrassment. The
chance of it working was slim. And any argument that too much winning is bad
simply because you want the team to draft a highly regarded QB prospect is
There are no guarantees, people. None. Instead of wishing for losses,
pray for competency in the front office and let the natural course of events
lead this team where it may. Meanwhile, enjoy the ride.
Ah yes, the ride! Three dominant weeks of football, the kind of stuff people
were expecting from the start from these Dolphins. Better late than never, I
say. Only now youíll need a pretty thick rug for the kind of praying required
to get to 9-7 and a shot at the playoffs.
Those losses to Denver and Cleveland look even more
egregious now, donít they?
But whatís done is done, and the right and proper thing for Tony Sparano
and his players now is to focus on their Thanksgiving tilt with the Dallas
Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (4:15pm ET, CBS).
This is a big game, people; a nationally televised affair that promises
to answer a great many questions about the true nature of the 2011 edition of
the Miami Dolphins.
Remember the last time the Dolphins locked up with the Cowboys on
Thanksgiving? That was 2003, ironically against a Bill Parcells-coached team
with Sparano inaugurated in his role as offensive line coach. The Dolphins, in
their Ď72 perfecto duds, thrashed the Cowboys 40-21 that day to continue their
playoff push (ultimately unsuccessful).
This season, the circumstances are obviously different. We had a sense
then that those Dolphins were probably not good enough. Now we are just wondering
if these Dolphins are good at all.
In other words, who are the real 2011 Dolphins? The 0-7 lost boys, or the
"People don't want to hear it, but chemistry takes time," WR
Brian Hartline theorized to Brian Biggane of the Palm Beach Post. "We have
an offensive coordinator (Brian Daboll) in his first year here. We have a
quarterback (Matt Moore) in his first year, and a receiver (Brandon Marshall)
in his second. Most of the offensive line has been here one or two years."
Hartline is correct with all of his points. Additionally, as I wrote back
in the summer, the lockout had the predicted detrimental effect on overall
preparation, conditioning, and readiness. Settled teams like the Green Bay
Packers and the New England Patriots would have an easier time overcoming it.
One thing most pundits would agree on is that the Dolphins were not 0-7
bad in terms of talent. But some things had to change for the winning to begin,
the two biggest being improved QB play and better defense. The Dolphins have
those now. But are these changes permanent or just a reflection of the quality
of the recent opposition?
Letís start with QB Matt Moore, who has taken his game to the next level
over the past month. He is the biggest reason why the Dolphins are winning
right now. Moore
has been accurate with all manner of throws, heís pitching TDs, and heís not
turning the ball over. Thatís a winning combination. On top of that, his
mobility extends plays and gains yards off broken plays. And his teammates
believe in him as a leader. Moore
even won AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his work against the
Chiefs and gained recognition for his fine play against the Bills.
All of this in such a short period of time leaves folks wondering whether
or not Moore is
truly heir Marino.
While the signs thus far are intriguing, itís just too early to know. But
if Moore plays
well on Thursday against Dallas, a quality opponent in front of a captive
national audience, we must take his candidacy seriously.
Of course Moore
has had help, most notably from a suddenly stingy defense thatís created
favorable field position and denied opposing TDs now for 12 quarters. What was
once a soft sieve is now a hard hitting bunch that sends messages to current
and future opponents.
This defensive epiphany also began a month ago, right after Giants QB Eli
Manning went through them like a hot knife through butter to snatch away a
20-17 win. While Matt Cassel, Rex Grossman, and Ryan Fitzpatrick arenít exactly
chopped liver, neither are they the caliber of player Cowboys QB Tony Romo is.
So a stiffer test for these Dolphins approaches. How will this ďnewĒ
Dolphin D do against the better offensive talent that the Cowboys possess? How
will they handle the next version of their nemesis playmaker, the dominant
receiving TE in Jason Witten, a five time Pro Bowl selection? How will they
handle a quality RB like DeMarco Murray? And how will they handle Romo, a guy
who wonít miss the receivers that lesser talents do?
And, burning even hotter, how will QB Moore do against DeMarcus Ware and
the Cowboy D?
These Thanksgiving answers will tell us more about these Dolphins and
their legitimacy. Letís just hope they help, not hinder, our digestion.