Human beings are full of excuses: why we didn't pay the bill on time, why we got fat, why we can't give up porn, why we don't have a better job, why we keep hanging out with "that" guy (Alpha). Moral of the story? We are all full of sh*t, and we try to justify things to ourself that don't necessarily translate to reality. I am a teacher so I hear excuses every single day - some of them annoying, some downright comical.
Here's my favorite of all-time:
(talking to Raj, a very polite, 11 year-old Indian kid during a tutoring session...just assume he sounds exactly like Apu from The Simpsons)
Me: "Umm, Raj, you started off the session great, but you are struggling with your focus. What's up, buddy?"
Raj: "I have pooped on myself, Mr. Aaron."
Me: "Raj, you are 11! Are you feeling OK? What's going on?"
Raj: "I am so sorry, Mr. Aaron. I have trusted a fart that I shouldn't have."
Where am I going with this? Simple. We are making excuses for why the Dolphins won't succeed this year and the #1 excuse I see permeating the Phinsider is the perceived lack of chemistry that we will have. The "realists" will have you cater expectations of what we can accomplish in 2013 based on this premise, and I'm here to tell you it's all bologna.
Quick Fact #1: Here is the roster turnover from the end of the 2009 season to the end of the 2011 season, by division... NFC West: 139 AFC East: 120 NFC East: 118 AFC North: 115 NFC North: 112 AFC West: 109 NFC South: 108 AFC South: 107
What's my point with all this? Every year, every team undergoes roster change. Players come, players go. This is the nature of the beast. Good teams make fewer changes, granted - and bad teams, must make more changes. Where do you think we fit in this spectrum? We have been bad and we HAD to make changes. But it's not like it was an entire roster overhaul. We had almost exactly the same roster movements as the 2012 Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (8 vs. 6 FA additions, 4 vs. 6 FA losses, 4 vs. 4 re-signings, and 2 vs. 4 releases). So it's not an argument about roster turnover, it's an argument about talent, which is why we made moves like replacing Sean Smith with Brent Grimes, replacing
Chad Johnson, Legedu Naanee, Jabar Gaffney, Davone Bess with Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson, replacing Anthony Fasano with Dustin Keller and Dion Sims. We made changes because we had to, but there is a misconception that moving parts means we must wait a year or two to see the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. Which bring me to...
Quick Fact #2: The Seattle Seahawks ended the 2011 season 7-9. They started 2012 with 24 new players, including QB. And made the Playoffs.
I know it's a small sample size. I'm too lazy to do all the research. My point is that each team in the league will have new starters somewhere on the field, some of them homegrown, some of them coming from another team or through the draft. At any rate, they are new starters. It depends on the coaching staff to get them acclimated and it depends on the hard work of the players to put in the time to get acclimated. Both of which the 2013 Miami Dolphins have. Let's take a look at what this means on offense and defense.
Offense: Tyson Clabo, Dustin Keller, Lamar Miller, Mike Wallace, and Brandon Gibson. These players will, presumably, garner extensive playing time. However, you know that adage about correlation? Just because eating ice cream and drowning are correlated doesn't mean the two cause each other. There's a 3rd variable at play: the summer. Just the same...just because we have new starters doesn't mean they won't know what they are doing - there's a 3rd variable at play: Ryan Tannehill. From all reports, Tannehill has taken his leadership to another level. He had a minor jab at Tom Brady through Twitter about working with his teammates during the off-season before him. Of any WR he "clicked" with during the 2012 season, it was undoubtedly Brian Hartline. Oh yeah, I forgot, Brian Hartline was out the entire off-season and pre-season due to a variety of injuries and illnesses (appendectomy). They turned out just fine. Just imagine what he can do with Keller, Wallace, and Gibson with an entire off-season, OTA, training camp, and pre-season. Tannehill will punch his time card, and he will demand all the others do the same. There's a reason guys like Brees, Manning, and Brady can seemingly have anyone on their team and succeed - it's because they lead and get everyone on the same page. Tannehill isn't doing all the talking, but he is certainly doing all the walking. 5 new starters? Eh, doesn't worry me. Clabo is a 32 year-old vet, Lamar Miller has been in our system, and Keller, Wallace, and Gibson are meeting with Tannehill on a daily basis.
Defense: Brent Grimes, Dannell Ellerbe, Philip Wheeler, Dion Jordan, Jamar Taylor. I include Jordan and Taylor simply because I want them to start, but there's no guarantee that they do. But anyway, any rookie has roughly the same learning curve that these two do. They are expected to start, but so are 60-some rookies across the league. Ellerbe, by my estimation, has the most difficult transition if simply because he is expected to be a leader on the defense. Wake will be THE leader, but a MLB unquestionably has a big role on the performance of a D. Ellerbe has publicly acknowledged that communication will be the #1 factor in determining how the defense comes together. The fact that he's aware of it means that he will do what it takes to make sure that it happens. Perhaps I'm taking a leap of faith with this, but Philbin has admired his work ethic and being a student of the game. And it's not like he's alone: he has the team's leader in sacks (Wake) and the team's leader in INT's (Jones) to help make the transition. Wheeler entered a new system in 2012 and had his best year yet. Grimes has shown every indication of returning from his injury to be a free agency steal, returning to his old form. He's at the very least a solid veteran.
My opinion? It's not the roster changes and the chemistry thereof that concern me. It all comes back to the QB position. There's a reason that Brees, Brady, and Manning can go through roster change or go to new teams and succeed. I'm not saying that Tannehill is in the same breath with these 3 because that would be absurd expectations, but I am saying that he will be the mitigating factor in how we transition. Our defense has exciting possibilities. Vernon, Wake, Jordan, Ellerbe, and Wheeler can all rush the passer with Starks being a darkhorse. Soliai, Starks, Ellerbe, Wake, and Misi are excellent run stuffers. Grimes, Taylor, Marshall, and Davis are a capable dime package. Jones, Clemons, and McCray are a stout safety group. We can finally cover TE's and RB's out of the backfield, rush the passer, be stout against the run, match up against a variety of WR's, and hopefully, cause some turnovers and make plays.
It will be whether we put up points or not, and that rides on Tannehill. Of our 2 major areas of weakness from last year it was pass offense and pass defense. We signed the #1 FA in WR Mike Wallace, spent a #3 pick on a freakish DE athlete that compares to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Pierre-Paul (Sports Science link on Dion Jordan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGIje72yCX4), and followed that up with a pro-ready CB in Jamar Taylor. We signed a guy that the Ravens were desperate to have in Dannell Ellerbe (and I don't know about you but I want any guy the Ravens want desperately on their defense) and a former Pro-Bowler in Brent Grimes. Couple that with Keller, Gibson, and Wheeler, and we have finally upgrade the talent. But NOTHING we do this year will be because of a lack of chemistry. That's just an excuse. There's no reason a group of professionals can't come together in 5 months to be on the same page.
In my eyes, the expectations I have for the 2013 season doesn't depend on chemistry amongst the players, because I think we have a strong locker room and strong coaching staff already. It doesn't depend on the potentially 10 new starters we have. It depends on one guy, and he's already been here. His name is Ryan Tannehill. And if I were a betting man, I would say we're in a good spot.