AFC East: Earl Campbell
"If you don't approach the season thinking that, then you shouldn't be playing football," Williams told me Tuesday afternoon. "The reason he said that is he probably heard Coach [Tony] Sparano say it, and that takes a lot of balls for a head coach to say it.
"He raised the bar, and it's our job to reach it."
When it came to the Henne comments, Williams looked at it from his quarterback's perspective and didn't think what Ross said was unfair at all.
"Who would Chad Henne be if he said 'I want to be the second-best quarterback in Miami Dolphins history?' " Williams said. "I don't want a quarterback like that on my team. I think you set the bar and you work hard.
Williams can relate to chasing greatness. When he enrolled in college, Texas Longhorns fans probably would've scoffed at the idea of a kid from San Diego breaking all the records owned by their beloved Earl Campbell.
"When I went to Texas on my recruiting trip, I walked into the T-Room, where they have all the pictures and the trophies, and I saw Earl Campbell's Heisman Trophy," Williams said. "At the time, I just said 'Wow, I'd like to put my trophy right next to it.' I didn't mean anything by it. It just touched me and thought it would be cool to have that happen.
"Through my whole college career, I always had that in the corner of my mind, and I think it motivated me, pushed me, kept me out of trouble and eventually it happened. If you set the bar and are serious about it, that's when great things happen."
Of course, Williams is looking at Ross remarks from the perspective of a prideful player on that team. There is a difference between internal pressure and outside pressure brought on by high expectations, as ESPN analyst and former New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi explained earlier.
Williams couldn't contain his smile when he thought about the upcoming season, which will provide him unprecedented stability. Until Williams mentioned it, I hadn't realized 2010 will be the first time in his career he has played for the same coach three seasons in a row.
"I'm just excited about the season," he said. "One thing I haven't experienced in my career is having the same coaches, the same players for more than a year or two.
"This regime is coming into Year 3, and it's nice to see how we've been able to build something. We've grown through our work ethic. We've added more talent. I think we’ve learned from our mistakes the last couple of years. It's exciting."
DAVIE, Fla. -- There already were beaucoup ways to illustrate how far the Miami Dolphins have come in the past year, but I've come across one more I wanted to share.
Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, barring an injury at practice or some other calamity, will become only the fourth No. 1 draft pick in NFL history to start in a playoff game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
But each of the previous three instances had special circumstances.
- 1978 Earl Campbell, Houston Oilers: They finished 8-6 the year before, but acquired the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' No. 1 selection for tight end Jimmie Giles and four picks (quarterback Doug Williams, guard Brett Moritz, quarterback Chuck Fusina and defensive end Reggie Lewis).
- 1982 Ken Sims, New England Patriots: In a strike year, they made the bloated playoff field with a 5-4 record.
- 1991 Russell Maryland, Dallas Cowboys: They finished 7-9 the year before, but acquired the Patriots' No. 1 selection for two draft picks (tackle Pat Harlow and cornerback Jerome Henderson).
That means Long will be the first player taken by the team that finished in last place the year before to start a playoff game in a normal season.
Another bit of trivia underscores how far both teams have come heading in Sunday's matchup.
When Miami's Tony Sparano matches X's and O's with Baltimore's John Harbaugh, it will be only the third time in NFL history two rookie head coaches have squared off in the postseason, significant because coaches rarely step down after their teams reach the playoffs.
The first two times it's happened were 1950, when Paul Brown's Cleveland Browns beat Joe Stydahar's Los Angeles Rams for the NFL championship, and in 2000, when Jim Haslett coached the New Orleans Saints past Mike Martz and the St. Louis Rams.