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Dave Hyde: Yesterday isn’t today, finally, as Groundhog Day Dolphins are icon of the past

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Miami Dolphins wide receiver Trent Sherfield celebrates with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after catching a touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 13, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Trent Sherfield (14) celebrates with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) after catching a touchdown pass against the Cleveland Browns at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 13, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)

One last time for auld lang syne:

Groundhog Day.

Now throw the phrase in a box, padlock it, take it five miles offshore and drop it into the ocean.

For most of the past 15 years, I’ve changed my Twitter icon around this point in the Miami Dolphins season to one of Bill Murray from “Groundhog Day,” the movie where he repeats the same day forever. Because we repeated the same season forever.

The Groundhog Day icon became a milestone ritual, like dropping the New Year’s Eve ball on Times Square, as one Dolphins season played out like the previous season. And the one before that. One November game in 2014, as the Dolphins were losing to Buffalo and another season was leaking, a text popped up on my phone.

“Get the Groundhog Day picture ready,” former Dolphins guard Richie Incognito wrote.

He knew what everyone knew. We woke up every January within view of 8-8. And there’s nothing a new coach or next blueprint could do about it. Until this year.

You can wonder how this Dolphins season will finish. You can see the rougher schedule ahead — three consecutive road games, two games in cold weather — and are allowed to rub the scars of yesteryear’s pain. But this year isn’t those years, and this team isn’t those teams.

For most of 20 years, they were the Deadphins.

Now they’re the Greatest Show on Surf.

They’re not just winning, something this franchise has done little of for most of two decades. They’re entertaining — and I’m not just talking about coach Mike McDaniel breaking the humor barrier for football coaches like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier for pilots.

They have the top-rated quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa and the leader in yards in Tyreek Hill (Jaylen Waddle ranks fifth). They have nine plays over 40 yards this year — after having eight all last season. And four in 2020.

They came back from 21 points down and six feet under at Baltimore. They’ve scored at least 30 straight points the past three games. Sure, it was against Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland, three of the defensive dregs of the league.

But you know who hasn’t put up 30 straight points in three consecutive games?

Every other team.

Kansas City and Buffalo are working on consecutive games over 30 points so have the chance to stretch it to three in a row this weekend. So what? The Dolphins (7-3) should stretch it to four consecutive such games against league-worst Houston (1-8-1).

(Quick aside: There is no more perfect example of the circle of life than what’s happened in South Florida with the Dolphins’ ascent to fun-dom this season. The Heat, a shot from the NBA Finals last year, are struggling. The Panthers, the top regular-season team last year, are struggling. It’s like there’s a cap on just how much fun this market is allowed to have.)

Part of this season’s fun, of course, is watching New England become the Dolphins. Oh, they’re 6-4. But for years they yawned at making the playoffs, collected Super Bowl rings (and their beat writers wrote best-selling books while Dolphins writers wrote about the next coach to be hired).

Now they’re just another mediocre team. Like the Dolphins once were. Their fans are refreshing this season, just like Dolphins fans have for years, to check their draft order for some injection of hope.

That’s another tradition gone for Dolphins fans — like re-living another Groundhog Day season is for me.

For all these mediocre years, as the Dolphins kept re-living their 8-8 seasons, I wondered why if they had a re-live a year it couldn’t have been Dan Marino’s magical 1984 season. That was an electric year. Why couldn’t we get that year to live again and again and again?

Now, look. If it’s not 1984 again, it’s as close as it’s been in a long while for the Dolphins. Their offense looks electric. This season is filled with possibility. November is turning to December and you can take that old Groundhog Day icon and drop it in the ocean.

There’s a new one up. It’s Bill Murray, waking up to a new day, saying, “Something’s different.”


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