The Cycle of Losing

Optimism for the 2012 season doesn't seem to be running very high after a very difficult to watch preseason. The moves made by the Dolphins organization make it clear that a full-on rebuild is in motion. The concern now is whether or not patience will prevail to allow the rebuild to play out. Patience is not in high supply for Dolphins fans these days and that is demonstrated by several years of poor ticket sales and game attendance. The problem is that this lack of patience is contributing to a cycle of losing and fans need to realize they are part of that cycle.

Fans like to think that the lack of support has forced ownership to push harder for a winner. In my opinion, the fans have gotten their wish but not the result. We have seen several regime changes over the last several years and most of it has been driven by the owners' wishes to improve ticket sales. But regime change means lack of continuity and in a league where continuity is one of the only things you can look for to get an edge on your opponent, I am afraid we are on the losing side of that edge. So while the fans may have pushed for a winner, they have inadvertently forced a succession of losers.

Here is the cycle... It starts with losing. Losing leads to fan dissatisfaction and poor game attendance. Poor game attendance leads to decline in profits and ownership gets nervous. When ownership gets nervous they try change things to regain fan support and avoid more losing. Therefore a regime change takes place and hopes are renewed. But regime change often does not produce winning until all of that regime's pieces are in place. Depending on the patience level of the fans and owner, the regime will only get so much time to construct a winner before another regime change. But another regime change will mean more losing until THAT regime gets their pieces into place. Losing erodes patience and leads to more frequent regime change.

The Dolphins have been in a cycle of regime change driven by lack of patience which has been driven by losing for a long time now. It started with the losing after Marino's prime and struck hard with the incompetency of Dave Wannstedt's regime. This was the fault of ownership and not of the fans. But now the fans share the responsibility because they won't allow time for another regime to succeed. In Miami, if you can't get it done in 2-3 years, you are gone or going.

Some of this happens without fans even knowing it. We had a regime change in Miami without changing GM or head coach. In with Ross and out with Parcels was a major regime change. Many mistakes were made with Parcels as the decision maker and those mistakes looked like the mistakes of Ireland and Sparano. Nearly all of Parcels additions are gone and justifiably so including coordinators. Sparano tried to make the necessary changes last year but with the short off season and a new offensive coordinator it took too long to start winning and he took the fall. Ireland survived this time but how much longer will he get to correct the mistakes?

I think we all need to be prepared for some losing this year. We have a rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. That alone is enough to expect growing pains, but on top of that we have let go some good players for draft picks and haven't looked particularly good in preseason. So if the losing continues, will it continue the cycle? Will the fans scream for heads to roll as they have in the past? Will Ross cave under the pressure of poor attendance? Be careful what you wish for when you call for change because sometimes you are just keeping it the same!

In my opinion, the best chance the Dolphins have at ending the cycle lies with ownership.  At some point an owner has to recognize that public opinion can be slow to shift and the negative voices speak loudest.  Ownership has to make the hard choice of ignoring the voices of public outcry in order to give an opportunity for a regime to see it's push for change through.  If we lose this year and Ireland takes the fall, be ready for yet another restart and renewal of the cycle because that GM will be looking for "his guys" and that means new players, coordinators and (likely) head coach.