Miami Dolphins Fans,
Before the season started, you were being called out left and right by studies like this one, and rankings like this one. This was happening to the extent that I felt compelled to write an open letter to the fan-base questioning how it might respond. Well, thus far, you have responded excellently.
I had the privilege of watching in person as a sea of aqua and orange took over Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego when the Dolphins defeated the Chargers 31-24. Now that Miami is on a four-game win streak, that game just might be the last one for which Dolphins fans don’t get the “bandwagon” tag.
While the Dolphins earned a certain level of notice with a three-game win streak prior to the Chargers game, most experts still counted them out when discussing teams that could make a splash. Many odds had the Chargers winning the game by four or more points, but fans remained undeterred from attending. If one needs evidence, try this image of the stands at Qualcomm Stadium during the game:
I had the opportunity to speak with many Dolphins fans after the game, and most have plans to take over the L.A. Coliseum for the game against the Rams this coming Sunday, too. Can this new enthusiasm paired with wins generate enough energy to propel the Dolphins’ fan-base toward the same respect and notoriety that fan-bases like the Steelers’ base have? Bases that show up in swarms for games, whether they are home or away? Bases that lift their team into contention for that “America’s Team” label? It is anyone’s guess, but this is not a bad start to righting the support ship.
Analysts around the country are pointing to various reasons for the Dolphins’ current turn-around. Some say it is the “surprise” emerging talent of Jay Ajayi, and others say it is the changes on the offensive line. The truth is the team, while lacking big name players, has produced all around the field. Cameron Wake is generating monster sacks. The defensive tackles are improving against the run game, and the defensive backs without Reshad Jones are finding breakups and interceptions. Wide receivers and tight ends are making important catches. When the run game somewhat stalled against the Chargers, Tannehill posted a passer rating of 130.6, and he did it by absorbing monster hits while delivering the ball downfield to the endzone. Matt Darr continues to make big time punts, and while the return game struggled mightily against the Chargers, it has arguably delivered in a few of the previous games.
But another significant factor is fan attendance. Home games sound like home games again. Attendance at away games is frustrating opponents’ fans in their own stands. This support is contributing mightily to the reality that no one in the league wants to face the streaking Dolphins right now.
It would be easy to say that this turn-around in attendance has to do with the beautifully renovated Hard Rock Stadium, but that does not explain the increase in attendance at away games. Can the fans feel a long-term change for the better coming? Are they simply responding to a coaching change? It’s anybody’s guess, but in my preseason article Open Letter To Miami Dolphins Fans: The “Worst” In The NFL, I asked the fans how they would respond to being called out repeatedly by national media. So far, you have responded in force. Congratulations, and it will be interesting to see if this momentum continues win, lose, or draw.