For Miami Dolphins fans, this is the time of year when hope springs eternal. The NFL Draft is only a few weeks away, the team has plenty of money to spend in free agency, and last season's disappointments are far enough in the rear-view mirror that they no longer sting. March through July is when Dolphins fans have reason to believe next season will be different.
Unfortunately, Super Bowl slots aren't automatically awarded to the teams with the most draft picks. Dolphins fans know by now to keep their expectations low, and even the most hopeful devotees expect the worst.
It's a vicious circle Miami fans know all too well. Here are the classic offseason mistakes fans hope the Fins don't repeat.
Drafting for need instead of for the best players available. If Dolphins fans have seen it once, they've seen it a million times: Miami picks an offensive lineman or a linebacker ahead of a clear-cut difference-maker simply because the roster is depleted in that area. Examples of this exact scenario happen in almost every Dolphins draft.
This year, Miami will enter the draft with 14 picks. There should be no excuse not to trade a few picks to hop up and snag a player who'll clearly help the team right away regardless of where he plays. The Dolphins need 40 new quality players to win a Super Bowl. They can't be picky about when and where to select them.
Blowing money in free agency instead of spending wisely. The Dolphins have around $90 million in salary-cap space this offseason. They can pretty much buy any player willing to take their money and move to Miami. If they want to, the Fins can fill a few glaring needs with older, more established players, but at a huge cost.
In the past, the Dolphins have broken the bank and spent on players such as Ndamukong Suh and others who took the money and ran after a year or two of disappointing play. This offseason, the Dolphins should take the opposite approach and spread their wealth around the roster by picking up value additions who can help the team right away.
No more big splashes on one player. This isn't the NBA, and there is no LeBron James out there to fix everything. Build the roster smartly, spend wisely, and, for once, don't regret it two seasons from now.
Selling Dolphins fans on the process, not the current product. Every Dolphins fan knows 2020 will not be the season the team breaks its streak of no Super Bowl titles since 1972. No one even expects Miami to make the playoffs. Fans simply want to see clear progress and an assortment of athletes who are not simply useful but capable of Pro Bowl-level elite plays.
The Dolphins traded a few guys like that this season, so this offseason's roster-building process must find players better than the ones who're gone.
Whether the Dolphins draft Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and an assortment of other flashy players or some other quarterback and a bunch of offensive linemen, the product on the field must show signs of promise.
Playing the blame game. In the past, the Dolphins have had far too many chiefs and not enough Indians in the room come time to make an important decision. Inevitably, when things went south and rumors began to fly about who was responsible. Two years ago, team owner Stephen Ross allegedly wanted general manager Chris Grier to take quarterback Lamar Jackson, but Grier pounded the table for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick is a Pittsburgh Steeler now. Miami has a mid-first-round pick do-over to show for it.
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This offseason, all decisions are on Grier. There should be no rebuttals of "Brian Flores wanted this guy" or "Ross pressured Grier into this pick" — it's all on Grier. If he screws this up, he's gone. Easy stuff.
Landing in the news for anything unrelated to football. Almost every time the Dolphins get some hype in an offseason, they do something wild — like TMZ wild — to kill the vibe. Or worse, Ross decides to alienate large portions of the fan base by being overly political, illustrating why fans don't trust him. It's funny that when players talk politics, owners want them to keep it out of the game, but when the owner raises millions for a president and changes team rules to appease him, well, he's the owner.
This offseason needs no cocaine scandals, no domestic violence arrests, and definitely a lot less Stephen Ross. Keep the focus on the field and off TMZ and Good Morning America.