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Dolphins looking to maximize THIS season

In talking to fans on my radio show, I have come to understand that many are happy the Dolphins have gotten this far in 2008 and if they went no further, that's cool with them. No worries. The team that was 1-15 can finish 8-8 and that is still a great turnaround.

The logic is hard to argue against because even if the Dolphins inexplicably collapse the final three games of the season -- which I do not believe they will -- 8-8 is truly a darn good recovery from the pain of a season ago.

But Tony Sparano and his crew definitely are not looking at it that way. They have come this far and want to go further -- a lot further.  "At the end of this whole thing, we don't just want to be good this year," Sparano said Friday. "We want to be good a long time."

The Dolphins cannot be happy simply holding where they're at as if they were in some NFL blackjack tournament. This team isn't holding at 8 wins any more than gamblers sit on 16.

And the reason the Dolphins want to keep flipping cards to see if they're victories has to do with competitiveness, maybe a little greed, and the realization that nothing is promised them beyond this season.

"Coach Sparano was talking about that a couple of days ago," starting left guard Andy Alleman said Friday. "And it's very true because you can't just go and say, 'Hey we did well, next year we'll pick up where we left off.' You see year in and year out surprise teams, teams that were supposed to be good who don't do good.

"You have to make the most of your opportunity that's right in front of you."

Dolphins fans should know this very well. Those fans among you saying, "Even if the Dolphins finish 8-8 this year, we'll get them next year, we'll be even better next season," are not remembering your history.

Remember the 2005 season? The Dolphins won the final six games of the season and finished 9-7. It seemed like a great foundation for a playoff run the next year.

But even after making a splash by trading for a former Pro Bowl QB, even after being picked to win the Super Bowl by Sports Illustrated, the Dolphins regressed in 2006. They finished 6-10 in Nick Saban's second season.

Bill Parcells had better luck with the New York Jets going from 1-15 in 1996 under Rich Kotite, to 9-7 in 1997 under Parcells, to 12-4 in '98. But the Jets came back to the pack after that.

When Parcells took over a Dallas team that went 5-11 in 2002, he again enjoyed instant success with a 10-6 record in 2003. But 2004 and beyond were difficult uphill climbs.

No, success in the future is not guaranteed, so hope for and wish for and pray for as much success as the Dolphins can possibly have now.

Speaking of that future, the Dolphins will be playing at Jacksonville, at Tennessee, at Atlanta, and at Carolina next season. They will host Houston, Indianapolis, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay.

The Dolphins will also host AFC North team and visit the AFC West team that finish where the Dolphins finish. So if the Dolphins finish first they play the first-place finishers of those divisions, if Miami finishes second they play the second-place teams in those divisions and so on.

Obviously Miami will also play its home-and-home series against the Buffalo, the New York Jets and the cheater New England Patriots.

OK, tell the truth: Would you still be content with an 8-8 turnaround? We all want better, I understand that don't take the conversation there. But would 8-8 be OK with you realizing that the Dolphins are 8-5, with a playoff chance ahead of them now, and no guarantees for 2009?

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