One of the impressive things about Miami Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell -- and there are quite a few things -- is that he can relate to players better than most because he was an NFL player for a long time and he's seen things they see and done things they're doing or want to do.
That's why it would seem to be uplifting when Campbell, at the helm of a team that has lost two consecutive division games, can and apparently has said to his team to take solace in the idea that they can rally from 3-5 and suddenly, improbably, get hot and race into the playoffs against all expectations.
Campbell can say, and players have taken note, that he was on teams like the current day Dolphins that unexpectedly turned a bad season into a good season.
"I don't see why not. I've been part of teams that all of a sudden make a run," Campbell said after the loss to Buffalo on Sunday. "You win seven straight, I've been part of that. I've been part of teams that won six straight. And you were counted out and all of a sudden you were the hottest team going in."
This is something to grasp on to at a time the season seems to be slipping away. If, after all, coach says he lived through something similar then it can apply to us, players may think.
"I think he’s been in this position before and went on to be in the Super Bowl so, he can speak at that from his perspective, which he went through by himself," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said. "I think he does a good job of translating what he’s been through and experiences he’s been through over to the team so we can learn from them."
So why not us?
Well, maybe because it isn't accurate.
Campbell played in the NFL from 1999-2009 and none of the teams he was on were "counted out" after a terrible string of losses and all of a sudden put together six or seven wins in a row to get in the playoffs.
Now, Campbell has been on very good teams, that is true. And he's been part of a couple of Super Bowl teams to one degree or another -- as a starter on one and on injured reserve another time.
He was a starter on the 2000 New York Giants and they went to Super Bowl XXXV where they lost to the Baltimore Ravens. But those Giants were 6-2 at the halfway mark in the season. And after falling back a bit to 7-4 (Miami would throw a parade for the Dolphins if they were 7-4), the Giants won their final five games to close out an NFC East division title.
So a team that was pretty good the first half of the season with a 6-2 mark finished the second half of the season with a 6-2 mark. Where's the surprise in that? A team that lost two in a row the first half of the season and still was 6-2 lost two in a row the second half of the season and finished 6-2 in the final eight games. Where's the improbability in that?
Yes, the over-reactionary New York media may have been counting out the Giants at 7-4, but the very idea that this might apply to the 3-5 Dolphins misses the mark.
Campbell was also on some other solid teams that won some and lost some. He was on the Lions when they lost every game. He was on the New Orleans Saints (on IR) when they went to the Super Bowl.
In 2009, Campbell signed as a free agent with New Orleans but he suffered a knee injury in training camp and was placed on injured reserve in August.
Despite the loss, the Saints started the season 13-0. So, yes, they strung a lot of wins together. But they didn't come back from the brink to do it. They weren't counted out. Yes, they lost their last three games of the regular season, but I'm not sure anyone was worried.
In fact, Drew Brees sat out the season-finale to rest and avoid injury before the playoffs because the Saints had home field advantage throughout. They were arguably the NFL's best team. So while Campbell was on a team that strung 13 wins together, they didn't do it improbably. They didn't come out of the grave to do it.
They were simply a really good team.
Campbell on Wednesday wisely walked back the narrative of being on a team similar to his 3-5 Dolphins that suddenly made the playoffs.
"Not a 3-5 but I’ve been on teams where you win a lot of games," he said. "I’ve been on one where we won seven in a row to get to the Super Bowl. My point with it is when you get hot, you get hot.
"Here’s what I do know as well, when you hit November, no matter what your record is, and I told the team this, this is where the teams really start to separate themselves because it’s that part of the season. Everybody is a little beat up, everybody is a little tired, everybody is a little testy especially when you lose a couple of games. But no matter where you’re at, teams will rise and teams will fall. There will be some teams that will end up being the hottest teams by the end of the year and some who are sitting pretty nice right now and they only win another one or two games.
"It happens every year.”
Maybe it happens in Miami. Maybe the players buy into the narrative despite its holes.