By: Chip Turner
The 1997 movie Men In Black is a funny, feel-good sci-fi flick that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Quotable scenes and memes abound from it, but over the past five-week romp of the Miami Dolphins season, one particular scene keeps coming back to me.
In the scene, Will Smith’s character catches his mentor Tommy Lee Jones’s character checking up on his high school sweetheart. He looks wistfully at love lost, and Smith makes a wisecrack. Jones’s expression goes from embarrassment to frustration to impatience in seconds as Smith teases him, and then Smith tries to defuse the situation. “Ehh,” he says. “You know what they say; it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
Tommy Lee Jones leans in and locks eyes with him; his face showing a weariness and pain that Miami Dolphins fans are familiar with. In that second, we realize how wounded he is.
“Try it,” he says, stares down Smith, and then walks away.
This is the life of Miami Dolphins fans who can remember the early 1980s. The Dolphins came close to the brass ring, but never quite grasped it. There were spectacular flashes of brilliance followed by mind-numbing moments of incompetence. Then, decades of mediocrity left wrinkles and scars on our sports psyches, and it’s now second nature to doubt any appearance of success.
I’m too young to remember a Miami Super Bowl win, but even those who remember have become jaded; their memories of perfection and back-to-back Lombardis are now sepia-toned and curled around the edges like old photographs. The weariness of decades of frustration weighs heavily in every fan’s mind.
So this year, when a fresh-faced, optimistic group of youngsters showed up in Dolphins uniforms and kicked the door open to the AFC playoff race, we were skeptical. We’ve seen this before. We’ve embraced plucky teams with promise, and watched it all come crashing down. We’ve loved and lost. Many of us are preaching caution, to “not get our hopes up,” and to “have reasonable expectations,” I understand. It’s just that this time, with this particular team, I happen to disagree.
Here are some of the points I’ve heard as reasons to be careful, reasons to not fall in love with this team, and why you should adamantly refuse to listen:
Why You Shouldn’t Listen: This Offense Hasn’t Peaked Yet. The offense, and particularly the run game, haven’t clicked yet. Everything we’ve seen thus far tells us Brian Flores is smart enough to keep moving on from what doesn’t work until he finds something that does. Tua Tagovailoa is still getting comfortable with the offense, and the run game showed a glimmer of hope last weekend in Salvon Ahmed. They have at least two more weeks to get this offense going; an injured Broncos squad and the Jets could not have showed up at a better time.
Why You Shouldn’t Listen: The Point Differential. The Dolphins are on pace to have a point differential of over +100 this season. Do you know the last time they finished a season that way? It was 1985. This team is more than lucky bounces and freak occurrences. It’s well-coached, disciplined, and will not beat itself. You can win a lot of games in the NFL simply by playing solid, mistake-free football.
Why You Shouldn’t Listen (Part One): Miami is Playing With House Money. The Dolphins have a rookie QB, a second-year head coach, a boatload of draft picks, tons of salary cap room, and the second-youngest team in the NFL. Guess what, folks? This team arrived at least a year ahead of schedule, and it’s not going away for a while. The doubters are probably right, though. The Dolphins probably won’t win the Super Bowl this year, and that’s okay. We’re allowed to enjoy this year’s ride for as long as it lasts; it certainly doesn’t look like a flash in the pan.
Why You Shouldn’t Listen (Part Two): I Said “Probably.” There’s a buzz that’s started among the talking heads in the NFL over the past two weeks. I’ve thought it a couple times, but I haven’t written it down until now. If the Dolphins reel off a couple more wins, you’re going to hear it a lot more, trust me.
“This team reminds me a lot of the 2001 New England Patriots.”
Crazy, right? You can’t compare this team to the team that started the New England Patriots dynasty, right? Well, you actually can. The 2001 Patriots started with a 1-3 record, and the guy who would become one of the greatest quarterbacks in history took over after a couple of games and played only slightly better than average in his first year as a starter.
But then the Patriots took off, right? Well, not exactly. At one point, the Patriots were 5-5 in 2001; they weren’t a very good football team. But from that point on, they played solid, mistake-free football. They didn’t lose again, ripping off 9 straight wins. Through the Super Bowl, they out-gained their opponents in yardage only three times, using a bend-but-don’t-break defense. They had a staggering 25 to 8 advantage in turnovers in that time.
Does any of this sound familiar yet? Are you ready to refuse to listen to reason? Are you ready to love this Miami Dolphins team?
Before you answer, just remember what happened at the end of Men In Black. That fresh-faced kid who said it was better to have loved and lost? He was right. And the weary, pained, wounded guy who wistfully looked back on a past love? He finally got what he wanted.
At least until the sequel, but that’s another story.
Please welcome Chip Turner to PhinManiacs and please check him out on Twitter @ChipTurnerPA