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Deconstructing Dolphins

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SB Nation 2014 NFL Playoff Coverage Another offseason, another bout of waiting for Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to make changes in the team's front office and coaching staff. How can Ross and the Dolphins ensure some solidarity in its talent evaluation and coaching ranks?

"The plane, boss! The plane!"
"The plane, boss! The plane!"
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

"Blood on the rocks. Blood on the streets.

Blood in the sky. Blood on the sheets.

If you want blood, you've got it."

AC/DC, 1979

Seldom does one get an opportunity to use the lyrics of a classic AC/DC track to sum up the attitude of a team's fanbase. When that team is the Miami Dolphins, however, the words found in a song like "If You Want Blood (You've Got It)" make all the sense in the world (cue your "Highway to Hell" jokes right now).

Yep, that low roar currently coming from South Florida is the collective grumbling of a Dolphins fanbase that wants blood--not real blood, of course, but the figurative kind, otherwise known as a swift firing of the team's general manager, head coach and offensive coordinator. Jeff Ireland, Joe Philbin, Mike Sherman--they all currently share the Public Enemy No. 1 tag in Miami, and Dolphins fans won't rest easy until at least one of them receives the axe. That's what happens when you have a chance to punch your ticket to the playoffs and instead lose your final two games of the regular season--both in absolutely humiliating fashion.

Dolphins fans been through that kind of disappointment and heartbreak one too many times, which is why they love to hate the players, coaches and front-office personnel they depend on each and every Sunday during the fall and early winter. For those fans, it's the only way to live with the Dolphins on a long-term basis--"win now or make way for someone who can." It's a somewhat irrational and very impatient approach to sports fandom, but is that the fault of Dolphins fans? Well, yes and no.

See, the "call for their head" campaign is a go-to move for the Dolphins fans who grew up having their guts ripped out by their favorite team. Whether it was the "Sea of Hands" debacle, the "Epic in Miami," Super Bowls XVII and XIX, the '85 AFC Championship Game or the numerous playoff losses to the Bills in the early '90s, the emotional scarring is there, so you can hardly blame Dolfans for feeling a bit jaded about this team. Of course, all of those heart-stomping losses occurred under legendary head coach Don Shula's watch. Now, how many fans do you think were calling for Shula's head in the wake of the team's mid-to-late-'70s collapse? What about during its run of horrendous first-round picks between 1984 and 1989? Does anyone blame Shula for Miami's total inability to get Dan Marino back to the Super Bowl following the ass-kicking the Dolphins took at the hands of the San Francisco in January 1985? Maybe some do, but not many. Here are two reasons why:

1) Shula brought two Super Bowls to Miami (five appearances total), as well as a perfect season in 1972

2) Shula had the trust and respect of every Dolphins fan who exhibited a pulse sometime between 1970 and 1995

Consider that second point--a Dolphins coach who had the respect and trust of South Florida. You could say the same about ... well, no Dolphins coach before or since Shula. And that's a big reason for the ultra-fickle, fragile nature of the Miami Dolphins fanbase. When you spend 25 years with the greatest coach to ever step on a football field (fans of Vince Lombardi and Bill Walsh: please direct your displeasure in the comment section below), you can't help but think that your team should only employ great coaches. And in the 18 years since Shula hung it up for good, the Dolphins have employed anything but great coaches. Hell, the Dolphins since then have gone through head coaches the way Spinal Tap goes through drummers. Jimmy Johnson couldn't live up to Shula (and subsequently waterlogged the twilight years of quarterback Dan Marino's career), so Dolphins fans begged team brass for a change. Dave Wannstedt was a flat-out disappointment in every facet of coaching, so fans begged for a change. Nick Saban didn't stick around long enough for fans to turn on him, but they made up for it with Cam Cameron by begging for a change before the start of his first rookie camp. Tony Sparano captivated Dolphins fans for nearly two years, and then the other shoe dropped ... and South Florida fist-pumped for a change.

Sensing a trend here? Dolphins fans have drawn more blood in South Florida than Dexter. So it shouldn't surprise anyone that it took only two years for fans to turn on current head coach Philbin (mostly because of the team's collapse the last two weeks of this season). Now he's right next to Ireland on the s***list of most Dolphins fans. Of course, Ireland has been South Florida's favorite whipping boy ever since the infamous day when he interviewed former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant prior to the 2010 NFL Draft. So while Philbin is no favorite in South Florida right now, he'd probably get a reprieve from most Dolphins fans if the team simply fired Ireland. Others might want to include Sherman in that "throw them to the sharks" deal, and you can hardly blame them, what with his stubborn playcalling and "smartest guy in the room" demeanor. Philbin has been a difficult embrace for Dolphins fans, but he's a regular Ryan Seacrest when compared to Sherman's "grandpa's off his meds again" press conferences and interviews.

Dolphins fans may be a bit too quick to reach for the knives when it comes to their team's players, coaches and front-office personnel, but it's hard to fault them when you consider where this team has gone the past two years. Where there was once a lack-of-field-personnel issue in Miami, there is now a lack of coaching, leadership and testicular fortitude. Philbin sure isn't a Don Shula, but he may not be a Tony Sparano, either (consider that for a moment). It's understood that Philbin "organized" a juggernaut of an offense in Green Bay, but he didn't call its plays. It's like the interview scene with the Bobs in the film Office Space: "What would you say you do here?" As far as Dolphins fans know, Philbin could be the coaching version of Tom Smykowski. Not good.

With the fate of Ireland, Philbin and Sherman still in question, one has to wonder what it will take to find the next great, long-term Miami Dolphins head coach. It almost certainly isn't Philbin, and it might not be any of the guys currently looking for a head coaching gig in the NFL. That won't stop Dolphins fans in search of blood, though. Their team's utter failure in 2013 will be in vain until someone plays the part of sacrificial lamb.

After all, if you want blood, you've got it.