Don’t know who the Miami Dolphins are going to roll out as their new head coach, but it will happen soon and fans will expect a lot from him.
Well, maybe the best way to say that is fans will expect a lot more than they’re getting now.
How realistic is that?
Bill Belichick provided some clues on that last week when asked how long it took him to insert his full program in New England. His answer was four years, from 2000-03, and that answer comes from a man who had previously been a head coach in Cleveland, with all the learning opportunities that came with that project.
Here is the transcript of Belichick taking on a follow-up question. Did it take a couple of years in New England because of the personnel decisions he had to make?
“No,” Belichick said, “just because of everything.
“You have to change the culture. I mean, normally one coach is different from the previous coach. You don’t see a lot of ‘Whoever the first coach is, the second coach is kind of the carbon copy of the first coach,’ or ‘the third coach is kind of a carbon copy of the second coach.’ I mean, you rarely see that.
“The coach that comes in usually has a different philosophy than the coach that left, so you have to try to implement that philosophy. That means you’re going to turn over a high percentage of the roster because the players that the other coach had don’t fit the new philosophy, so a lot of the players are going to have to change in part because of the philosophy and probably in part because of the scheme. Those role-type players, now that role is not needed in the new scheme and a different role is needed, so you get different players, and then just getting your team acclimated to doing things the way that the philosophy of the new program.
“You’re going to have to go through a lot of tough situations – tough games, tough losses, tough stretches in the season, whatever it happens to be, to build that up over time. It doesn’t happen in training camp. I mean training camp is training camp, but those games don’t count. Even in the early part of the season, you might have some tough games, but it’s not like playing in January, playing in December. It takes some time to go through that.
“I don’t think there is any shortcut to it. I know there are a lot of other people in the league that think there is, that after two weeks all of a sudden everything is going to change dramatically, but I’m not really part of that, I don’t buy into that.
“So, I mean we won in’01. In ’02, we had a lot of issues. ’03 – that was a good football team. ’04 – that was a good football team. ’01 wasn’t the best team, but that team played the best, so we won. But I think we saw in ’02 more of probably overall where the ’01 team was. Just the ’01 team played great when they had to in critical situations in big games and that’s why they won. You can’t take anything away from them. They deserved it because they were the best team. But it wasn’t the case in ’02.”
Keep in mind, Belichick is talking about a period during which the Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003 and 2004) and still he felt limited by circumstances from installing his entire program the way he wanted in terms of seamless continuity. We’re talking about a perfectionist and we’re talking about one of the best coaches ever in this league.
Whoever takes on the Dolphins job won’t be as good and won’t be as successful but he will run into all of the issues Belichick speaks of here in the transitional phase. What Miami needs is someone who can survive that transition period, and not just another place-holder who can’t outlast the pain of two or three more years of mediocrity or losing, with all the criticism and fan discontent that goes with that.
I don’t pretend to understand everything Belichick says or knows, but this is about as expansive and insightful as the guy gets with the media. Might as well learn something from it.