The Miami Dolphins were 6-10 in 2015.
Let me repeat that. 6-10. They were last in the AFC East. They were 1-5 in their six division games. They were not what anyone expected or wanted.
And so as we head into this 2016 season with hope and a new coach, who I believe deserves your respect and a fair amount of time to prove his worth, I say we have to keep things in perspective.
I say we have to tell the Dolphins they are entitled to our attention.
And nothing more.
Because this team should not feel entitled on any front beyond that. FDR and modern day socialists would hate me, but no entitlements for the Dolphins. None. Zero.
Work for it.
But no entitlements.
This team has not earned our confidence yet. This team hasn't earned the respect of any other NFL team yet. This team hasn't earned anything yet.
You know why?
It hasn't done anything yet. It hasn't won anything yet.
You know why I feel this way? Because the Dolphins are going to open their 2016 training camp on Friday and they will feel this way. Players who report later this week will get the message from the coaching staff that they haven't earned squat.
The earning begins Friday morning with the first practice. That's the message I'm hearing coaches will deliver.
And this applies to the team as a whole. And to players individually.
First round draft pick Laremy Tunsil, for example, has earned nothing. He was the apple of the personnel department's eyes on draft day. The coaching staff loves his potential and possibilities. And he will be the team's starting left guard when the regular season begins if things go according to plans.
But between now and the start of that regular season, Tunsil is going to have to sweat and bleed and hurt and prove he is the best left guard on the team. He is going to have to earn his place. It will not be handed to him. He has not been anointed by anyone. In fact, coaches are going to try to make it a little tougher on him on purpose so there is no question when he starts.
So work for it, rookie.
Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones spent much of the offseason wanting a pay raise. He was uncomfortable that he has only moderate security beyond this year and if he gets injured this year he really has very little security. And I get it. He has a point.
But the Dolphins, who love Jones, have told him in no uncertain terms that if he wants a big raise, he has to go earn it. He has to play so well as to get that defense in the Top 10 or Top 5 and get the team in the playoffs.
At least get them over .500.
Because no matter how good, safeties on 6-10 teams don't usually get a big pay increase two years before their contract expires.
That's the message.
Arian Foster has been a bona fide Pro Bowl running back in the past and thinks he can be again. Well, prove it, sir. You are new to this team and this town. What happened in Houston stays in Houston. This team isn't about what happened in Houston. Time to make it work in Miami.
Mike Pouncey has been the leader of the Dolphins offensive line for 2-3 years now. But, um, this is a new year. This is a new line -- perhaps the best the Dolphins have had in a long time. Don't talk about leading this line. Be about leading this offensive line.
Ryan Tannehill, everyone has an opinion about you. Some think you're pretty good because you've thrown for 15,460 yards your first four seasons and that's a stone's throw from Peyton Manning (16,418) and Dan Marino (16,177).
But yards notwithstanding that doesn't put you in the same company as Manning and Marino. And you won't be in their company, no matter how many times you visit with them, until you get a team in the playoffs.
Indeed, Ryan Tannehill, get a team over .500.
Win. Do it.
Then people will stop looking at you sideways.
I don't know anyone on the Dolphins who can walk around feeling like they are entitled. The coaches haven't won a game together. The players haven't been to the playoffs together. The franchise is in one of its longest postseason droughts ever.
So if ever a team should embrace hard work and a lunch-pail approach to training camp, it is these Miami Dolphins.
By the way, anyone who believes this isn't the case or shouldn't be the case should speak to new coach Adam Gase. Someone recently asked him how it feels to have arrived as a hotshot 38-year-old NFL head coach.
"I haven't won anything yet," he said.
The 2016 Miami Dolphins.
No one feeling entitled.