By: Jason Sarney
Football, in many ways, can be directly compared and correlated to certain aspects of everyday life. The faith and family aspect of the game of football is everywhere around us. To take a few quotes and paraphrases from the epic Al Pacino speech from Any Given Sunday, as Coach Tony D’Amato for the once-proud Miami Sharks franchise...
“You find out life’s this game of inches. So is football.”
While this is one of the truer quotes within an epic 5-minute cinematic speech with the perfect subject matter, the movie master of the “speech” goes on to say things like…
“The inches we need are everywhere around us.”
“Now either we heal as a team or we’re gonna crumble, inch by inch, play by play, 'til we’re finished.”
Say what you want about the nuances and accuracy of how director Oliver Stone depicts professional football before the turn of the century. However, it hits the nail on the head on what this game means to people. Additionally, it pinpoints the efforts and the detail and the sacrifice made by those involved inside of this game. Those who live and die with the heartbreak and exhilaration of this game. That one inch, one move, one risk, one trade, or one pick, that can send a franchise into heaven or into hell.
Now as the legendary fictitious coach said at the time of the speech when he goes from morose to motivational…it sounds a lot like the state of Miami Dolphins the last decade, metaphorically speaking.
“We’re in hell right now, gentlemen, believe me. And, we can stay here -- get the s**t kicked out of us -- or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell one inch at a time.”
Let’s replace the word “inch” with “piece.”
The pieces Miami needs were, and are, everywhere around them. And based on what happened just a week or so ago in free agency, it seems the Dolphins front office is collectively bringing the organization and its rabidly passionate fan base out of hell…one piece at a time.
Back to Sir Al’s legendary rant, as he channels Vince Lombardi to fuel his player's inner desire to fight for every inch…
"You got to look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes! Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him!"
This quote, every word of it, describes the character and the content of the Miami free agency class.
When the Miami class introduced themselves to media members last week, it was clear they are all ready to fight, claw, and live and die for Coach Brian Flores.
Coach Flores shares the intensity and passion that Pacino channeled through his D’Amato character. Flores, whether in the locker room or on the field, inspires to bring the very best out of his players. So much so, that four of his former players from New England had Miami, and Flores, on the very top of their lists.
Former Patriot linebackers Elandon Roberts, Kamu Grieger-Hill, and Kyle Van Noy are all now Dolphins, as is the once New England center, Ted Karras.
Van Noy, who refuses to label himself a position said, "I don't like being called a defensive end or a linebacker but a football player.”
In his praise on his former positional coach as a Patriot, Van Noy said that Flores brings, “energy each-and-every day and that’s the coach you want to play for.”
He then added emphatically, “who doesn’t want to play for a coach like that?”
Karras told reporters last Wednesday regarding his coach, "he's intense and he is prepared to win." Karras added, "I really respect Coach Flores and I'm glad to be in his organization."
The team-first sentiment was also echoed by a former cadet of Hargrave Military Academy, new Miami defensive end Shaq Lawson, who takes pride in a stat-less form of the game that can help a teammate, that being “setting the edge.”
"I take pride in that. You don’t want to get out of your gap,” said Lawson.
This is a sacrificial type of situation, as the edge-setter does the dirty work to make life a bit easier for a pass-rusher on their way to a hopeful sack. Lawson is the type of guy that would lay on a wire for a teammate so he could cross the line of scrimmage and get to the quarterback without any praise.
Clearly, Flores is a coach that when speaking, his players listen. This was corroborated by another former Patriot linebacker who heard from Flores, specifically every single day in New England, while one of Flores’ linebackers.
Elandon Roberts told the media, regarding coach Flores, his decision was made easier by "how good a leader [coach Flores] is on and off the field." and then adds... "I'm all in, 100% all the way."
It’s the words of these new Dolphins that have confirmed what we all saw in 2019, that this is a coach and team, ready to fight and die for that inch. And before a new class of "pieces" join this unit, it is obvious there is a certain type of guy that this coaching staff and front office are searching for.
Come the NFL Draft, this team will be adding "pieces" who will heed the words and message of both Flores and his fictional counterpart in D'Amato.
Now, what are they gonna do?
That is anyone’s guess, but I will tell you this…
“In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch.”
The Dolphins are building with these types of "pieces" and will continue to do so. Players that, as Pacino said and as coach Flores searches for…
“...see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him!”
As Pacino closes his pre-game speech in the films game-action finale, as the window of mediocrity also is hopefully about to close in Miami, there is one thing abundantly clear what the Dolphins are becoming.
After more "pieces" are brought in, those building blocks will help Miami, player-by- player and inch-by-inch become what they must to succeed.
"That’s football guys. That's all it is.”
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