DAVIE, Florida -- The kingdom is available for the Dolphins.
LeBron James abdicated the throne. He chose to take his talents to Lake Erie.
That leaves a huge void that needs to be filled. Many South Florida sports fans are feeling lost and betrayed. They need a new leader.
And the 2014 Dolphins have a golden opportunity to be their savior.
When the Dolphins open training camp at 8 a.m. Friday, football returns to being the No. 1 sport in a football-crazed area.
It's been a long time since that's happened.
If the Dolphins -- once the undisputed sports leader in South Florida -- handle this the right way they could grab what's now a vacant crown.
Here are five ways the Dolphins can (again) rule South Florida:
Above all, the Dolphins have to earn their first playoff berth since 2008. But a winning season would be nice.
If you really want to fast-track this thing, start dreaming of 11 or 12 wins.
The bottom line is this: Five years without a playoff berth or a winning season is enough to lose the fan base.
But combine that drought with the success James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh had in leading the Miami Heat to four consecutive NBA Finals appearances while winning back-to-back titles, and it's easy to see why the Dolphins have been relegated to second-class status.
In many ways, they've done it to themselves.
Last season's 3-0 start was good, but the Dolphins followed that by going 0-4.
Maybe a 5-1 start, or a 7-2 start would help convince fans this year is different.
Just as importantly, the Dolphins have to finish. It would have been a great triumph last season to plow through that ugly bullying scandal and still make the playoffs. And the Dolphins were in position to make it happen.
Sadly, they lost their final two games last season when a victory in either would have earned a playoff berth.
2. Stay clean
The bullying scandal and Wells report were followed by offseason Twitter silliness by center Mike Pouncey and safety Don Jones. And recently there was an allegation of Pouncey's involvement in a nightclub incident.
All of that needs to be cleaned up or the Dolphins will again be the subject of national ridicule, and at the far extreme, a picture of a team that's out of control.
The Dolphins formed two in-house committees as a result of the bullying scandal. But it really doesn't matter what they eventually decree. This is a player issue.
Dolphins players have to police themselves.
3. Ryan Tannehill must be a leader.
Tannehill, above all others, has a chance to own South Florida. He won't make people forget James. But every Dolphins fan wants to see another incarnation of Dan Marino. Or maybe an NFL version of Wade.
Tannehill needs to make this offense dangerous, not simply be a game manager. He needs to improve on last season's numbers of 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, finishing somewhere around, say, 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
As a comparison, Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger had 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions last season, and Carolina's Cam Newton had 24 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Tannehill won't become a South Florida legend in one year. But getting this team to the playoffs this season, and being the team leader, would be a good start.
There's always something magical about a good team led by a good quarterback.
4. Have a nasty defense.
From the No-Name to the Killer B's to the Zach Thomas/Jason Taylor-led units, Dolphins fans have always embraced a difference-making defense.
Maybe cornerback Brent Grimes, defensive end Cam Wake, defensive tackle Randy Starks and middle linebacker Koa Misi could be the backbone guys of a game-changing defense.
The Dolphins' defense was eighth-best in points allowed (20.9 per game) last season. That's playoff-caliber.
Now they need to be disruptive. They need to make big plays. Interceptions. Fumbles. Sacks. Bone-jarring hits.
Seattle and San Francisco are proof that defense can lead a team the way in an era marked by dynamic passing offenses. And realistically, the Dolphins are probably closer to the defense leading them to the playoffs than the offense leading the way.
5. A strong/smart coach Joe Philbin.
If Philbin projects a strong image, an image of a man in charge, a coach who makes smart decisions, a coach who turned around the craziness from a year ago and made this a playoff team, well, he'll be a local hero.
Unfortunately, Philbin is 15-17 in his two seasons as coach. Another losing season would likely be his last.
Considering Philbin's background is as an offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, it's disappointing that the offensive line and scoring points are two of the Dolphins' biggest problems.
Still, Philbin has been a fairly innovative coach. In the past couple of years he's used ends of the practice field to get additional repetitions for the first- and second-team units, given players their off day on Thursday instead of the traditional Tuesday, and had players wear monitors to track their practice activity.
But he hasn't won.
Philbin has to show he has control of his locker room, show his new offense is the answer, show his innovations are paying off, and, of course, get his team to the playoffs.
If the Dolphins do these five things, at this time next year they'll almost certainly be the new King of South Florida.
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