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Tradition; What will the 2002 Dolphins add?
“Tradition,” that has been a word thrown around with the Dolphins in recent weeks. Last Monday night they honored the 30th anniversary of the 1972 undefeated and world champion Dolphins, as well as retired Larry Csonka’s #39 jersey. Dolphin tradition is something that was kept close to heart throughout the Don Shula years, after all Shula was the coach for all those years. Former players were welcomed to practices and the Dolphins training complex at any time. When Jimmy Johnson came aboard, that tradition was thrown out the window. Could you imagine all those ex players being on the sideline in that infamous 1985 game vs. the Bears where the Dolphins protected the “Perfect Season” if Johnson was coach? Probably not. That game alone is the epitome of the Dolphins tradition. Fact is, Jimmy didn’t care about the past in Dallas and was successful so why should he care about the past in Miami? That was Jimmy Johnson and his way. But when Dave Wannstedt took over, he embraced that tradition that Jimmy was so quick to throw away. Once again, former players are welcome with open arms and the past is embraced by the current players.
The Dolphins tradition is unlike any other in pro football, or pro sports for that matter. While a championship has been elusive for 29 long years, the Dolphins have managed to win rather consistently with only 2 losing seasons in 32 years. And they’ve done it when seldom getting high draft picks and highly touted superstars from the college ranks. Though we all badly want that Super Bowl victory that is a tradition to be proud of. It’s a winning tradition, one that very few teams can even comprehend let alone match. The only thing missing are those Super Bowls.
The 2002 Dolphins are hoping to add that crown jewel to the Dolphin tradition. While they have shown to be serious contenders, they still have plenty of work to do and overcome what has become a negative tradition in recent history, the December swoon. So far they are 1-1 in December with 3 games left, 2 of them on the road and 2 of them against other Super Bowl contenders. The first against the Oakland Raider this Sunday in Miami where they can do their part to protect another Dolphins tradition, a Dan Marino passing record. While that is not important in the overall scheme of things, beating the Raiders is and a win would once again propel the Dolphin to the upper echelon of serious contenders for the AFC crown.
All things appear to be ready to go for the Dolphins in 2002. Jay Fiedler is back under QB, and while his thumb isn’t 100%, even though very rusty he played well last week and should improve with more reps and playing time. The team is healthier than it has been in December for quite some time, usually by now we can count on at least 2 or 3 killer injuries. Plus the Dolphins have something they haven’t had in a very long time, even two years ago, a dominating running game in the name of Ricky Williams. So all the components are there, it’s time for the team to execute and play to their fullest capability. Tradition is a wonderful thing to have, though sometimes it’s difficult to live up to. It’s impossible to live up to the 72 Dolphins perfect season, but nobody cares about going undefeated. All the fans and players want is something else the 72 Dolphins have, a Super Bowl championship. What will the 2002 Dolphins add to the tradition? Another winning season, but one that ends in disappointment, or a Super Bowl trophy? Tune in and see.