Think about the times when the Miami Dolphins were on the top of their game. The easy answer to when this took place was during the Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson tenures. Even harder is to dictate it from a game by game statistic analysis. To break it down even in seasons like 2007 where they only won one game. One thing to note, this is not a case study into what landed the Dolphins into the post season, because this is not that type of Dolphins team. This is a game by game look at what kind of mentality is needed to win a single game. After all, once you take your eye of the single game narrative, and focus on season, the picture looks too broad.
Even during former head coach Joe Philbin's tenure, there was a narrative. The Dolphins would hang in there, and even beat teams like the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, and even the San Diego Chargers or the Baltimore Ravens. Meanwhile, they would lose games to the likes of the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and dare I say, the Cleveland Browns.
But how can this be, you ask? It is really quite simple question to answer. The games won were competitive on Miami’s end, while the ones lost were due to the Dolphins taking the opponents for granted and taking the focus off that game. Once they did that, they created paradoxical rifts in the minds of the players where they focused not on the game at hand, but on the games before, and the games after.
What current head coach Adam Gase has done and continues to does right, is instill a game by game mindset, one that says any given week, any given team can win. This means not only do they mentally prepare for the tough games ahead, but also prepare for the games they think they should win as if there is a chance they might lose.
Do not mistake the latter with a losing mentality. In fact it is still quite the opposite. Knowing you can lose, is not the same as thinking you are going to lose. However, there is a theory that rests inside the minds of good coaches that undervaluing an opposing teams ability to win, is the same as overvaluing it.
This leads to another destructive mindset: the guiding force behind a winning mentality. This mentality drives players like Ndamukong Suh, Jarvis Landry, Jay Ajayi, Cameron Wake, Reshad Jones, Kiko Alonso, Byron Maxwell, and even Mike Pouncey into being the stars we all claim we want on the team. Ones that will punish their bodies for the greater good on any given week. Ever notice we seem to talk about how sometimes under Philbin's tenure the players looked lost or that they have given up? This accentuates itself when a player starts to think that things are not going according to plan. But this mindset goes away when you train and plan for the worst. If you think you might lose, your competitive force is sparked, and the desire to win is born. However, if you take the simple principles for granted, you become lax in your ability to prepare. This is evident in guys like Devante Parker, and even Jay Ajayi early on in the season. You could see early on, before Ajayi’s benching, he thought he was simply too good to sit. The end result led to a benching that eventually saw him come back with both fire and passion. As with Parker, you saw his mentality that led to simply normalized stats that any given receiver could put up. Even Byron Maxwell forgot that simple inexperience does not mean that you cannot be benched for a rookie if your play doesn't warrant it. This was also Philbin's biggest failure as coach. Vet's were gifted their spots, thus there was a lot taken for granted. Look at the current state of the Miami Dolphins roster, and tell me if you see any Mike Wallaces on the team now.
Passion leads to a destructive force. Like a hurricane that wills itself into existence from a breeze. This team has it, and this team needs it. It will be the difference between life and death for the season.