Around the AFC East, Week 5: The Phinsider

Matty I of The Phinsider kicks off this week's version of Around the AFC East by taking a look at Miami's prospects for a successful 2009 campaign.

I don't think there's any question going from 1-15 to a division title made 2008 a successful season in Miami. What do you think is the minimum for 2009 to be considered a success? (From John B)

This is actually something that some Dolphin fans have been pondering for most of the offseason.  Last year was a tremendous season – the most enjoyable season of my lifetime, at least.  It was improbable and just an amazing ride.  And having it all come down to week 17 the way it did just made it that much more amazing.

Typically, after an 11-win season, many would say the following season has to include another trip to the playoffs and even some playoff wins for it to be a successful year.  But that’s not the case with the Dolphins.  While I’m not conceding anything in 2009, it’s very possible for Miami’s record to be worse than last year but for the season to still be a success.  In fact, the Dolphins could be a better overall team in 2009 than in 2008 but still end up with fewer wins.  And a major part of that has to do with their absolutely brutal schedule – on paper, anyways.

But Miami’s 2009 success hinges on much more than their record.  The Dolphins want to build a long-term winner down here.  So we need to see signs that this team is continuing on the right path.  We need to see great play from our young, but talented offensive line.  A break-out year for Ted Ginn would be nice to see.  Improved play from the young defensive linemen is another thing we’ll all be looking for.  And, of course, solid play from our two rookie cornerbacks would be a great sign for potential long-term success.

Those are the kinds of things that will make 2009 a success – not an X number of wins.  And if things do go south early on, getting Chad Henne some starts later in the year if it becomes clear that the Dolphins are not playoff contenders would be terrific, too.  After all, we need to find out eventually if Henne can be this team’s franchise quarterback.  However, I’m not one of those who want to run Chad Pennington off the field so quickly, either.  So don’t get me wrong here.  But if the season does go down the tubes for whatever reason, getting Chad Henne some late-season starts would be a great way to salvage the year.

The great franchises in the NFL are built for the long term. The goal is not to win the Super Bowl once. It is to be in the mix every single year like the Patriots, Colts, Steelers, and Eagles are. The Dolphins are trying to lay that kind of foundation. They were way ahead of schedule a year ago with 11 wins so I tend to agree with Matty that the team does not necessarily need to make the Playoffs to have a successful 2009. They do, however, need to make some tangible progress, which probably means getting Henne some experience. The 2008 Dolphins were a lot like the 2006 Jets. We'll elaborate on that in the future. The Jets did not build on the foundation whatsoever in 2007. As long as Miami does not have a similar wipeout, the team can argue it has made progress at least this upcoming season.

Check out The Phinsider for more AFC East chatter, including my take on the quarterback battle.

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