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Are you ready for some football? I know I am.
The long wait for the new NFL season to begin is over as the first official game of 2015 will take place Thursday night when the defending champion New England Patriots host the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Three days later the Miami Dolphins will begin their new campaign on the road against the Washington Redskins. Miami hasn’t visited FedEx Field since 2007, when they lost 16-13 in overtime and finished the season a dismal 1-15.
In the years since that game there have been a lot of changes in Miami, but wins have been hard to come by. The only season that the Dolphins finished with an above .500 record was in 2008 when they went 11-5 and won the AFC East, but that feels like forever ago.
Heading into Week 1 there is a lot of optimism and hope that the Fins will end their long playoff drought and be one of the better teams in the AFC.
The team looks much improved on both sides of the ball, due to a combination of free agent signings, improved players and impactful rookies.
While seemingly every season in recent memory has been disappointing, this one will bite extra hard if Miami doesn’t live up to their expectations due to the talent across the board on the roster.
That talent, along with a strong coaching staff and front office, has many believing that the Dolphins will not only be a contender in 2015, but for the next several years as well.
Looking back on team history, this year has a similar feel to Miami’s 1990 season.
The Dolphins went into that year having missed the playoffs the past four seasons after a stretch in the late 70s and early 80s where they made the postseason seven out of eight times, including two trips to the Super Bowl.
Following a rough stretch that started in 1986 in which they went four years without a winning record (sound familiar?), a change was made in the front office and Eddie Jones was introduced as the new general manager and team president, roles he kept for the next 15 years.
Jones got to work quickly as Miami re-vamped some key positions and drafted a pair of future Pro Bowl offensive lineman with their first and second round draft picks that year (Richmond Webb and Keith Sims).READ MORE: COVID-19 Vaccination Sites In South Florida
The process of turning the team back into a consistent winner was underway. The Dolphins would go on to make the playoffs in nine of the next twelve seasons, though they only reached the AFC Championship Game once.
Still, the tide had been turned. Miami went on a stretch of fifteen straight years without finishing below .500, the longest such streak in franchise history.
Now fast forward to present day where the Dolphins are in a very similar situation. While the playoff-less years stretch much further back than they did in 1990, the need for a culture change and roster makeover was the same.
Miami hired general manager Dennis Hickey in 2014 and though they didn’t make the playoffs that year, Hickey drafted a pair of solid starters (and possible future Pro Bowlers) in Ja’Wuan James and Jarvis Landry with his first and second round picks, respectively.
The team has continued to fortify the front office, hiring former Jets GM and Bill Belichick disciple Mike Tannenbaum as the executive vice president of football operations. Tannenbaum played a vital role in the Dolphins adding several of their key new players, including star defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
A player like Suh only comes along once every generation or so. Combined with elite pass rusher Cameron Wake and the rest of Miami’s tough defensive front, the Dolphins D is expected to be one of the best in the league this season.
The front office also reshaped the offense to better suit ascending quarterback Ryan Tannehill, hiring offensive coordinator Bill Lazor in 2014 to bring an exciting, up-tempo style to a unit that had been mired in mediocrity for years.
They also added several new playmakers to the offense with Tannehill’s skillset in mind. Wide receivers Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings and DeVante Parker, along with 2013 Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Cameron, were brought in to join Landry, Rishard Matthews and Dion Sims, who were the only holdovers from the past year.
In contrary to almost every season since Dan Marino retired, there are more reasons to believe why the Dolphins will be a playoff team than reasons why they won’t.
Truly, there are a lot of positive signs that point to Miami finally breaking out of its decade-long slump and recapturing the success of the previous century.
On Sunday, we’ll start finding out if that dream finally becomes a reality.
Be sure to check out our FinsOn4 Live Dolphins Blog where we will be posting season-long coverage, updates, photos, video, commentary and more throughout the entire 2015 season.
Watch Miami take on the Washington Redskins this Sunday at 1 p.m. on CBS4, your official Dolphins station!MORE NEWS: Florida’s Surgeon General Asked To Leave Meeting At State Senator’s Office After Refusing To Wear Mask
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