The Miami Dolphins are a couple of days away from perhaps their most important draft in the last decade plus. We all have been discussing possible draft scenarios: who we like, who we don't, who will be available, most important needs, etc. I don't want to discuss that in this post. I want to discuss philosophy, not draft philosophy (been done to death). I want to discuss the philosophy that will determine the direction of the franchise.
I've been reflecting on the last decade of Miami football. It's a painful exercise and I don't recommend it. It will leave you negative and bitter (hence Mr. Negativity!). But I think I have come up with the overriding philosophy of the Miami Dolphins in that time. From Dave Wannstedt to Tony Sparano, the overriding philosophy of this team has been: CONSERVATIVE.
This conservative philosophy has been evident in the draft as well as on the field. Here are the Miami Dolphins drafts for the last decade+.
I challenge you to find one impact player, one difference maker drafted in this bunch since 2001. Miami's draft philosophy, IMO, has been to take guys with High Floors instead of guys with High Ceilings. This philosophy leads to not finding any playmakers in the draft. They are afraid of failure, so you see a history of trading down, trading picks for marginal players, not taking risks, etc.
Then on the field you see the same thing. Name me one head coach from Dave Wannstedt to Tony Sparano that you would consider "aggressive"? I can't either. It culminated with the Tony Sparano's FG Fist Pumps.
I am a firm believer that any football team (any organization for that matter) is a reflection of leadership. The leadership for the Miami Dolphins is Stephen Ross, Joe Philbin, and Jeff Ireland. Here is my advice for each:
Stephen Ross - You Set The Philosophy: As owner, you set the direction of the franchise. So far, I think you are doing a good job. You are bold and not afraid to go after what you want whether its Jim Harbaugh, Jeff Fisher, or Peyton Manning.
"I'll do it again and again," he (Ross) said. "I can't worry about losing, because nothing ventured is nothing gained."
That is the philosophy that you need to impart on Philbin and Ireland. That is the philosophy that has been absent from Miami for far too long. While doing that, you also need to look within the organization and figure out why your Bold moves are not being rewarded.
Joe Philbin - The Team Will Play The Way You Coach: During the game week and on game day, you set the direction. You are the ultimate decision maker. You say whether the Offense will go for it on 4th down or punt. You say on 3rd and Long whether the Offense runs a draw or throws deep to try and pick up the 1st down. You make the decision, up 14 with the ball on your own 20, 1:30 left before half and two TO's, whether to take a knee or try to score more points. You, up 14 at halftime, make the decision to sit on the lead and run out the clock or try and make it a 28 point lead. You say whether to try and block a punt or set a return. You say on 3rd and Long whether the Defense Blitz's to create a big play or play zone coverage to allow the other team to punt.
I'm not saying you need to be reckless. But you need to Play To Win! For far too long, this organization has gone the conservative and the Play Not To Lose route. Fans appreciate Bold. If your bold move fails, so what. You will get more respect from the Fans for being aggressive and failing as opposed to being conservative and failing. Ask Tony Sparano about that.
Jeff Ireland - If Ross Sets The Philosophy, You Figure Out How To Get It Done: If Ross says "this is where I want the organization to go", it is your job to figure out a way to do it. You are the "football guy" that needs to make the "football decisions". You need to follow your owner's philosophy and make it happen on the football field by acquiring the necessary talent.
By just about all accounts, you are an arrogant, egotistical bastard. You are a douchebag. I say embrace that. Embrace the fact (that you think) that you are smarter than everyone else. If you embrace this, you will become bold and make tough, unpopular decisions because you know you are right.
GM's for Miami have been reluctant to do this in the past. They have done half measures (like trading draft picks for other teams back-up QB's), made calculated decisions (Dante Culpepper vs Drew Brees), and settled on "safe" choices (Jake Long vs Matt Ryan). You don't win making the safe choice. Like Ross said, "Nothing Ventured Is Nothing Gained". Go out and "Venture" and damn the consequences.
If you think Miami can win now, make the necessary moves to make it happen. That was the purpose of pursuing Peyton Manning. Manning is a win now move. Re-signing Cameron Wake, an older pass rusher, is a decision to win now.
If you think Miami needs 3-4 years to build a Championship Team, make the moves necessary for that to happen. Draft for that team and select players with High Ceilings that will be difference makers. If that means trading up (like the Falcons did for Julio Jones last year or the Jets did for Mark Sanchez) then do it. If that means trading popular players (Wake and Long) because they won't be in their prime or their contracts will be too restrictive to build a Championship Team, so be it.
Identify what you believe needs to be done and do it. Don't take half measures and be wishy washy in your decision making process. Trust that you are better than everyone else, that you are smarter than everyone else, and make it work. You are either going to be right or wrong. Trust that you are going to be right. And if you are wrong, at least be wrong doing it your way.
In my industry, I am the GM. I am Jeff Ireland. When I walk into a room, whether it is meeting with my own company or with a customer, I am the smartest person in the room. If I'm not, I lose. I need to be Bold and Decisive. Otherwise, if I am non decisive, I let other people determine my direction. When your compensation depends on you being right, on the path being the correct one, you can make damn sure I'm going to be the one choosing it.
Stephen Ross, Joe Philbin, and Jeff Ireland need to have the same conviction in their beliefs. They need to be Bold and Decisive. If they are, they still might fail. But if they aren't, they cannot succeed.
The organization hasn't been Bold and Decisive in the past decade, from ownership all the way down to coaching. And they haven't succeeded.
PS: As an aside, if you haven't read Dave Hydes's "Four Myths To Avoid In The NFL Draft", here it is:
This talks about the Bold Moves Necessary to make an impact in the NFL.