By: Shawn Williams
The bye week is normally a period of self-reflection for NFL Teams. It’s a time to rest, recuperate, and analyze the strengths and areas of opportunity. For the Miami Dolphins, who enter their bye week at 3-3 (the first time at five hundred for Brian Flores) the answers to why this team is surrounded by optimism lies well beneath the surface and statistics. Since Flores’ hiring, he, along with General Manager Chris Grier, have built a culture that is becoming unparalleled, and a rare sight in professional sports.
This team has become a family. Individual performances have been replaced by team efforts. Each player, and coach celebrates each other in a way usually reserved more for college athletics. This atmosphere was apparent on Sunday when TE Mike Gesicki could be seen sprinting down the sidelines from the fifty-yard line, to celebrate his “best friend” TE Durham Smythe on his first career touchdown reception.
Christian Wilkins, a Defensive End, was embracing rookie QB Tua Tagovailoa after his first game action since his horrific hip injury last November against Mississippi State. No one was celebrating Tua more than QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Alpha leader of this team, and player slated to be replaced by Tagovailoa.
Culture like this is not easily created. It takes each and every player buying into each other, the coaching staff, and one common goal. Grier and Flores have done an uncanny job of bringing in players that love playing football, put the team first, and are willing to put in the work on and off the field, in the locker room and in practice. If you do not fit that mold, you’re likely not going to be on the field and a part of the team long, as evidenced by RB Jordan Howard who has two straight healthy scratches.
You can often see the significance of culture in Super Bowl contending teams. The New England Patriots built a 20- year dynasty on a foundation of culture or the “Patriot Way”. Andy Reid and the Chiefs have a sound culture and togetherness as well as Pete Carroll’s Seattle Seahawks. Championship teams build a culture and find the guys to fit inside their dynamic and it seems the Miami Dolphins are doing just that.
Talented teams also time and again come up short of expectations when there’s a lack of leadership, accountability and cohesiveness. Adam Gase’s Dolphins teams were arguably much more talented than this current roster. Led by Ryan Tannehill, currently in the MVP conversation in Tennessee, and a plethora of other big names (Cam Wake, Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry, Kenyon Drake, Reshad Jones to name a few) were only consistent in their ability to fall short of expectations. The team ultimately quit on their coach and the team and found the quickest route out of Miami, some to find more success in new situations.
This is a different Dolphins era. One that players want to be a part of. One that will attract talent (finishing in second place for the Le’Veon Bell sweepstakes). The beginning of this era feels different, it feels special. Players are feeling the magic. This team may possibly head to the Playoffs this year, much earlier than expected, and the driving force will be the culture that surrounds this team. After twenty plus years of mediocrity, these Dolphins seem to be building the framework for sustained success. It is about time.
Please welcome Shawn Williams to PhinManiacs and please check him out on Twitter @swilliams3205