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Miami Nice: Stevens Coach Loyal to Dolphins, Through Thick and (Lately) Thin

  • Paul Silva, Stevens High football coach, addresses the Cardinals at the end of their first preseason practice Monday at Monadnock Park. Silva became a fan of the NFL's Miami Dolphins in 1967, when he was 8 years old, and exchanges friendly banter with his players, most of whom are New England Patriots fans. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Paul Silva's car features a vanity plate showing his support of the NFL's Miami Dolphins. Silva, the Stevens High head football coach, is a long-suffering fan of the Dolphins, who have had one winning record during the past nine seasons. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Paul Silva watches his Stevens High football team practice on Aug. 13, 2018, at Monadnock Park. Silva has been a fan of the NFL's struggling Miami Dolphins since he was 8 years old and doesn't have much company in Northern New England. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Purchase a reprint »

  • Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman seperates Miami Dolphins linebacker Lawrence Timmons from his helmet as he breaks the tackle to run for a touchdown taking a 17-0 lead during the second half on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, in Atlanta, Ga. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/TNS)

  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is chased by Buffalo Bills' Lorenzo Alexander in the first quarter on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. (Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald/TNS)

  • Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) is stopped on a quarterback keep late in the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald/TNS)

  • Team Owner Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins is shown before an NFL game between Miami and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Nov. 11, 2013. (Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald/MCT)

  • Miami Dolphins Richie Incognito sits dejected on bench after the game with the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday, September 30, 2012. The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Miami Dolphins, 24-21. (Joe Rimkus Jr./Miami Herald/MCT)

  • Stevens head coach Paul Silva is congratulated following the team's 46-20 Divison III state championship win over InterLakes-Moultonborough in Durham, N.H., on November 19, 2016. It is the school's first football championship since 1968 and first team crown since 1989. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Paul Silva will be taking over the Stevens High School football job this fall. Valley News - Tris Wykes

  • A Miami Dolphins fan shows his displeasure with the team after the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills 13-10, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2007 in Miami. The Dolphins are now 0-9 for the season. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

  • An unidentified Miami Dolphin fan, wearing a bag over his head, hopes that the winless Dolphins will beat the Baltimore Ravens in the Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007, football game in Miami. (AP Photo/J. Pat Carter)

  • Don Shula, Miami Dolphins coach, shown on field during Super Bowl VIII game in game against Minnesota Vikings at Rice Stadium in Houston, Texas, Jan. 13, 1974. (AP Photo)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 20, 1985, file photo, Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino scrambles during NFL football's Super Bowl XIX, against the San Francisco 49ers in Palo Alto, Calif. The San Francisco defense sacked the record-setting Marino four times in the game and held the Dolphins to 25 yards rushing. (AP Photo/FIle)



Valley News Staff Writer
Friday, August 17, 2018

Claremont — Paul Silva is Stevens High’s longtime and successful football and baseball coach. His teams are well-prepared overachievers, and he’s earned widespread admiration for caring guidance in a hardscrabble town.

Such a man deserves to put his feet up on an autumn Sunday and root for an NFL winner. Or at least an approximation. The New England Patriots are the obvious choice, but someone who goes against the grain is worthy of admiration.

Perhaps just not quite so against it as to be a fan of the … Miami Dolphins.

The Dolphins were once the NFL’s flagship franchise, albeit so long ago that not only Silva’s players, but some of his players’ parents, wouldn’t have memories of that time. Today, they’re like something out of the mind of an HBO writer, with a loathsome and apathetic quarterback, a drug-snorting assistant coach and a bullying scandal recently involved in the script.

The Deadspin website recently noted that the Jacksonville Jaguars have been to the AFC championship three times during their 23-year existence. The Dolphins have made the playoffs eight times during that stretch — and lost a wildcard game each time.

“I’ve been there with them when they went from garbage to good and back to garbage,” said Silva, who will turn 60 next year. “They’re terrible, I’ll admit that. But I won’t change.”

Silva, who grew up in New Hampshire, recalls being 8 years old in 1967 when he came across a Sports Illustrated color lithograph depicting various NFL standouts in motion. One was Dolphins defensive back Dick Westmoreland. Silva loved Miami’s turquoise jerseys and got a televised look at them an hour later when the Dolphins took on the New York Jets. He was hooked.

A second-year franchise, Miami was 4-10 that season and suffered two more losing campaigns before legendary coach Don Shula arrived in 1970 and took the Fins to three consecutive Super Bowls, winning the last two in 1972 and 1973. The 1972 squad went 17-0 and remains the only NFL team to win a Super Bowl with an unblemished record.

The Dolphins lost the Super Bowl after the 1982 and 1984 seasons, the latter contest with transcendent quarterback Dan Marino at the helm. A 2005 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Marino twice more led Miami to AFC title games and is considered one of the all-time greats.

However, his last game was a 62-7 playoff loss to Jacksonville in January 2000.

“When it rains, it pours, and we got poured on,” Dolphins lineman Kevin Hogan said at the time.

Shula retired in 1995, and the Dolphins have had 10 coaches since, pretty much declining in stature. Jimmy Johnson couldn’t bring his Dallas Cowboys magic with him, Dave Wannstedt was king of the mustachioed grimace and Nick Saban went 15-17 before leaving to rule the college game.

“Well, then, I guess I have to say it,” Saban told reporters a few weeks before his exit. “I’m not going to be the Alabama football coach.”

Miami has qualified for the playoffs twice during the last 16 seasons, the most recent appearance in 2016. There was hope in the tiki huts on South Beach, especially after a 4-2 start last season, but along came a 40-0 loss to the Baltimore Ravens, the first of five consecutive setbacks. Veteran castoff Jay Cutler was signed as an quarterback injury replacement for $10 million, but was so uninspired that on one play in which he split out wide, he remained standing after the ball was snapped.

Nonetheless, Silva recently made the first payment on his NFL Sunday Ticket television package for the coming season, and he subscribes to the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post and the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel so he can browse their daily online Dolphins offerings. Silva’s car, a blue Ford Focus, bears the license plate PHINS1. He couldn’t get DLPHINS or FINS1 or several other supportive combinations, so he reasons there must be at least a few more masochists in the Granite State.

“I just keep waiting for a great draft pick but, for whatever reason, it seems like they’re a dysfunctional franchise, and it can beat you down,” Silva said. “People ask me how I can keep following them and why don’t I pick somebody else.”

That would, however, deprive Silva and his players of their friendly back-and-forth during the season. An online learning specialist at Stevens, Silva laughed when asked if the Cardinals give him grief over NFL results.

“They certainly know where my room is on those days,” the coach said. “Funny, though. I didn’t see too many of them after we beat the Patriots last year. I had to go find them that day.”

Silva refers to the Patriots as the “Flying Elvises” in contemptuous reference to their helmet logo, which resembles The King in a tri-cornered hat. He’s also got ready putdowns for New England quarterback Tom Brady and often dons Dolphins regalia to lighten the mood before Stevens games.

“I’ve come to accept the ribbing that comes with your team permanently being in that 6-10 or 8-8 range,” Silva said.

A few years back, Silva’s players presented him with tickets to see the Dolphins play the host Patriots. Of course, Miami lost. By the end of the rout, Silva high-fived a boisterous New England fan in front of him after a Patriots touchdown to keep peace while floating in an enemy sea.

The Dolphins have had 18 different starting quarterbacks since Marino retired, including former Dartmouth College great Jay Fiedler. They once chose Daunte Culpepper over Drew Brees on the free-agent quarterback market. Selecting Cam Cameron as head coach over now-Steelers boss Mike Tomlin did not turn out well.

Perhaps things will be different this season, however. And if they do, give the guy driving the blue car with an ear-to-ear grin a little honk and a wave.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.