It's amazing how one win changes everything

Do you remember when the Dolphins were the laughing stock of the NFL?

I do.  It was just last week.

The Dolphins were 0-2, coming of an embarrassing 21-point loss to the Cardinals in Arizona.  They were known as the team who had lost 20 of their last 21 games and were headed up to New England for what was supposed to be their next loss.

And, man, were Dolphin fans angry.

Fans were questioning seemingly every decision that Tony Sparano and his coaching staff would make - whether it was to have Ernest Wilford inactive in week one or to use Davone Bess on returns rather than Ted Ginn.  Some were even getting on Dan Henning after just 2 games as Miami's offensive coordinator, disliking his "boring and predictable" game plans.

Even more fans were ready for the Dolphins to make the big switch at quarterback and bench Chad Pennington in favor of rookie Chad Henne.  Many believed it was Pennington's lack of arm strength that was holding this offense back.  Some seemed to believe that Henne would be the "savior" of the offense.

And while some claimed it was Pennington who was holding back the offense, others were actually placing more of the blame on this offensive line - a unit that was "supposed to be" perhaps the best on the team.  But instead, they were unable to open any holes.  Jake Long was being considered a "disappointment" by a few people and Samson Satele was being scrutinized for his poor performance through two games.  Some wondered if Satele's supposed "great year" last year was just a fluke - or even just a mirage that was a result of poor line play around him, making Satele look better than he really was.  Oh, and the signing of Justin Smiley was a "bad decision" by this front office, according to a few fans.

Long story short, many were expecting very close to the same kind of disastrous season that this team went through last year - even debating who the Dolphins should pick in next April's draft.

But then something changed.

At some point between last week and right now, there was something that happened.  Oh, that's right: the Dolphins beat the Patriots by 25 points in their own house.

Since then, we haven't heard one peep about replacing Pennington with Henne.  I guess that could have something to do with Pennington's 17/20 performance that went for 226 yards - an 11.3 yards-per-attempt average.  Or maybe it goes beyond numbers.  Maybe it's because of how he manages a game, makes some key throws, and doesn't make any mistakes.  Regardless of the exact reason, the Chad Henne talk has seemed to cool down.

And so has the criticism of the coaching staff.  No longer are Tony Sparano and company being questioned with every move.  Instead, Sparano, Henning, and David Lee are being hailed as conquering heroes - geniuses who devised a plan to go into battle with and successfully defeat the opposition on enemy soil.

Meanwhile, the offensive line is no longer being categorized as "disappointing."  Now this unit is being labeled as "full of potential."  Jake Long had a solid game.  Justin Smiley was a run-blocking animal.  And Samson Satele basically owned Vince Wilfork all game long.  In fact, did you know that all 5 of Miami's starting offensive lineman were among the 11 finalists for this week's AFC Player of the Week award?

Of course, we all know by now that Ronnie Brown was the recipient of that award - and deservedly so.  I guess those people who were yet again criticizing Brown will have to keep their mouths shut for the time being.

But perhaps the most significant change over the past week has been the media attention that the Dolphins have received and the rising expectations that some fans suddenly have.  For the past couple of years, ESPN hasn't really talked much at all about the Dolphins - and for good reason, I suppose.  But on Sunday night and Monday morning, SportsCenter led off with Dolphins highlights.  And this was despite the other stories that they could have chosen, like baseball pennant races, the Ryder Cup, or the final game at Yankee Stadium.

Even some power rankings are giving the Dolphins some love.  In fact, NFL.com's Vic Carucci has the Dolphins ranked ahead of teams like the Jets and Seahawks.

So why do I bring all this up?  Well I mentioned above about expectations.  Some Dolphin fans are already throwing around the "P" word after just one win - one very impressive win, but still only one win.  And with that comes the fear of the dreaded "letdown."

If your expectations are unreasonably high and things do go south, we're just going to end up right where we were before.  It's funny how one big victory changes everything.  Unfortunately, one nasty loss will likely have the reverse effect.

That's why you can't forget where we have come from.  Just last season, I honestly thought the Dolphins were destined to go 0-16 - and without a "gift-wrapped" win over the Ravens, 0-16 would have been a reality.  But all of a sudden, many seemed to have forgotten about last season.  However, I think it's important not to forget it.  In fact, I think we should all vividly remember it.

I know I'll never again under-appreciate a single victory thanks to last season.  We really did witness just how difficult a win is to come by.  So savor these wins in 2008 - especially last week's victory.  But don't let it change you.  Don't let it affect your 2008 expectations.  If you do, we're bound to see some more hysterical "bench Pennington" or "Sparano is an idiot" comments after this team goes out and loses 2 or 3 games in a row.

Don't let that happen.

Just relax and enjoy the building process - because that's all this season is.  It's just a stepping stone to get to where we all want to go.

And one win doesn't change that.

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