There have been quite a few instances over the past few years when the quality of the leadership for the Miami Dolphins has come into question. Whether it was the lack of vocal leadership shown by head coach Joe Philbin, the lack of proper veteran leadership in the locker room, or a combination of both, leadership has been an issue in Miami for some time.
Some have come to the conclusion that the Dolphins jettisoned the majority of their leaders this past offseason, by letting go of players like defensive tackle Randy Starks or wide receiver Mike Wallace, but there's also the mentality that Wallace was not a leader because of his locker room splitting attitude.
So this season, the Dolphins seem to have gone into the offseason with the intention to create a brand new core of leadership, built around players who lead more by example than by giving rousing speeches when the chips are down. Head coach Joe Philbin recently discussed whether he felt they now had a good core of leaders.
“Yeah, I do. I think there’s always room for improvement." Philbin said. "I think we do have a good core group and I think the way that they’ve gone about the offseason has demonstrated we’ve given them some opportunities to kind of take the lead a little bit and just the way they’ve come out here and worked, and the way they’ve conducted their business professionally inside the building, be it meetings, weight room, training room responsibilities, all of that stuff – I’m happy with the level of professionalism. It’s never exactly where you want it to be yet, but I see good things.”
Young players expected to step up and become leaders for the time are the likes of wide receiver Jarvis Landry, center Mike Pouncey and quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who recently signed a 6-year, $96 million dollar contract to become the team's franchise quarterback.
“I don’t think getting paid or anything like that makes me more of a leader. I think I’m a leader as it is,” Tannehill said shortly after signing his new deal. “I’ve continued to become more of a leader as I move forward, but I feel great about my leadership at this point. I’m excited about the future.”
Returning veteran leaders like safety Louis Delmas and left tackle Branden Albert have done excellent jobs stepping up and putting younger players under their wings, and now defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can be added to that equation, as he's gone out of his way to help young D-linemen improve in what they do during mini-camp.
While the leadership core is certainly more clearly defined, that doesn't mean there isn't still room for improvement, and Joe Philbin has taken steps to try and improve the overall leadership of the team.
“We’ve had some educational things. Number one where we’ve provided some forums for them and we’ve provided some information, we provide opportunities." Philbin said. "We’ve given them some time in the schedule with some meeting times and so forth for some of the older guys to do a little bit of mentoring and those type of things. So I think it’s a start and we have good potential there.”
Leadership is not just about being loud and talking a big game, it's also about leading by example and making a strong effort to keep team unity, something the Dolphins have lacked over the past two seasons for one reason or another. This year though, that seems poised to change, as the motto "Stronger Together" finally seems to be coming true with key returning leaders and newcomer leaders like Suh going out of their way to create a true team environment.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater