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‘Patriot Way’, Harbaugh Way, Just Fundamentals

New England Patriots Practice Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In the days that followed former Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase’s firing a few weeks back, team owner Stephen Ross was widely rumored to be pursuing Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh, as well as his brother Jim, who is currently the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. Eventually, Ross and newly minted GM Chris Grier set their sights on Brian Flores, who is the de facto defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

All three of these men were, or are, deemed to possess the magic elixir of success for turning around the stagnant, moribund franchise that the Dolphins have been for many years now. But, there are no magic potions, no spells that can be cast to turn around a rudderless organization like the one the Dolphins have become. Don Shula said as much during his first press conference after being hired as coach of the team, saying, “There is no magic formula for success. I’m just going to roll up my sleeves and go to work.” Indeed, the common thread that binds John and Jim Harbaugh, Don Shula and seemingly anyone who comes from the Patriots organization is the emphasis on sound fundamental football. Making sure that both lines, and the front seven on defense, are a priority. Former Detroit Lions GM Matt Millen won three Super Bowls in the 80’s with the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders and San Francisco Forty-Niners (he was also a member of the Washington Redskins team that won the Super Bowl after the 1992 season, but was deactivated for the game), so he saw firsthand how championship teams are built, yet when he was hired by William Clay Ford as GM of the Lions, he spent top ten draft picks on wide receivers three times, leading to the worst eight year winning percentage, .270, since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.

That the nightmarish public relations disaster known as ‘BullyGate’ took place more than five years ago, and the Dolphins offensive line is still among the worst in the NFL today has made Miami the laughingstock of the league. Signing a guy who, at the time was arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, in Ndamukong Suh, yet still having one of the worst defenses in all of football during most of his time here has led to similar derision regarding the Dolphins around the league. I was glad to see that someone posted a GIF of former second round QB bust Pat White getting laid out cold by Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor, to remind us of what can happen to an undersized running quarterback. Yet, as of this writing, 63% of fans responding to a Phinsider poll wanted to see the Dolphins draft 5’8”, 195 pound bantam rooster Kyler Murray. That’s one of the problems I have with Fantasy Football’; it has spawned a whole generation of fans who believe that any offensive draft pick is a good draft pick. Hopefully, Grier, Flores and yes, Ross, will be able to resist the temptation of taking Murray in the draft three months from now. If Murray actually weighs in at 195 during the scouting combine next month, I’ll eat my hat. For comparison, Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders was listed at 5’8”, 203. I sincerely hope that Cris Grier and Brian Flores are able succeed where so many other men have failed over the past couple of decades, but if they do succeed, they’ll have to do it the same way Shula did it, with hard work.