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29 posts from July 2008

July 16, 2008

If Tampa Bay is too hot for Favre, what is Miami?

Favre The St. Petersburg Times has a blog post that reports erstwhile Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre has told sources Tampa Bay is "too hot" for him as a possible landing spot should he be traded or released by the Packers. Seems of all the teams he might be interested in, he prefers to practice and play in cooler weather.

Two quick thoughts:

1. If true, you can lump South Florida in that thinking because, after all, it is hotter here than in Tampa.

2. This is ridiculous because the guy is from Kiln, Mississippi. I've been there. Winter doesn't come until December and the summer is hotter there than on the back side of the sun.

Having watched Favre's exclusive interview with Fox News the last couple of nights, it seems clear to me he would like to go back to the Packers and be the starter and that's what he expected would happen when he reached out to the organization June 20th to say he wanted to play again.

But he's been rebuffed by GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. Favre said they told him "We've moved on," but then they added they couldn't envision him playing for anyone else, either. Favre also said he hasn't envisioned himself playing for anyone else.

The fact is, however, that visions change. It would not surprise if the Packers eventually try to trade Favre. I had longtime Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Tom Silverstein on my radio show Tuesday afternoon and he said a trade to the Dolphins makes sense.

(I cringed, by the way, because I don't believe it does.)

Silverstein said he could see Bill Parcells convincing Favre to come to the Dolphins if that is what Parcells wants. He agreed it would require a two-year commitment from Favre, but said Parcells would sell Favre on the possibility Miami could be 8-8 this year and a Super Bowl contender next year.

Again: I am telling you what a Green Bay reporter said. I didn't say I agree with it because I think I'm clearly on record as saying it doesn't make sense for the Dolphins to chase Favre. It doesn't make sense for the Dolphins to spend the entire offseason building for the future and then at the last second deviate from that plan by adding a soon-to-be 39-year-old quarterback.

I asked Silverstein about compensation for Favre and we're both agreed ... Jason Taylor is the logical answer. You have a DE that may play only one more year being exchanged for a QB that may play one or two more years.

Of course, that wouldn't make Taylor happy because he's spent much of his career playing with unproven quarterbacks in great weather and might not see playing another year with an unproven quarterback in awful Green Bay weather as an upgrade. But that is life.

And Silverstein reminded me Keith Jackson once upon a time was traded from Miami to Green Bay and didn't want to report before relenting, and playing, and winning a Super Bowl ring.

Still ... it just doesn't add up for me.

July 14, 2008

Jason Taylor talks to ESPN, says very little

ESPN reporter Ed Werder is touring the country this week talking to NFL players in Sunday-type conversations that will air throughout this week. Jason Taylor is the subject of Monday's conversation that will air on the 11 p.m. SportsCenter and 143,043 times thereafter until the next conversation (one with Denver QB Jay Cutler) takes over Tuesday night.

Sitting down with Werder, looking cool with sunglasses sitting atop his shaved head, Taylor was comfortable, friendly and confident in front of the cameras. He basically spent 15-20 minutes repeating everything he's said in past interviews with other media entities with one small exception.

Taylor leaves open the door to the possibility that this won't be his final season after telling the Dolphins and the public this would indeed be the final year of his career. "Can that change?" Taylor asks rhetorically, "sure it can. This is America. We have the freedom to do pretty much anything we want to do."

So much for nuggets.

In the post of the Taylor interview on ESPN, the one titled, "Taylor dances around his future," the Dancing with the Stars runner-up does not say whether he will report to training camp with the rest of his teammates July 25 and start practicing the next morning. Can't tell if he was asked, but even if he was, I doubt Taylor would say.

Taylor was asked that question last week by NFL.com and he didn't give a straight answer then, either.

Werder asks Taylor what his expectation is of where and when he'll be playing again. "I have no idea," Taylor non-responds. "I have no idea."

So Werder chimes in, "What do you want the outcome to be?"

"I want to win games," Taylor says, recycling material and a tactic he's used before. "That's why I play this game. I don't play this game for fame, for money, for fun..."

Of course, the phrase that Taylor never utters is, "I want to play for the Dolphins."

Taylor does admit he may not have a choice, however. "I'm not a free agent," he says.

But, Werder offers, he could always retire, which Taylor has told all his friends and confidants that he definitely doesn't want to do. But regardless of that, Taylor refused to be pinned down.

"Well," Taylor says with a sly grin, "You can always do that, too."

Finding a QB is more important than victories

Back from vacation and I'm actually spending some time thinking about the Dolphins again.

It dawned on me this morning that Miami should have one (1) all-encompassing, all-important, undeniable priority this season. And that priority, believe it or not, is not winning games.

I would argue that finding a quarterback is Miami's most important task in 2008. I don't care if the team is 1-15 or 9-7. Regardless of the record, if the Dolphins come out of the season knowing they have identified the QB that will lead them the next 5-10 years, it will have been a successful season.

On the other hand, if the team improvement is considerable in other areas, resulting in a 9-7 record, but the quarterback situation is still unresolved at the end of the season, my take would be that the Dolphins didn't progress in the most important area.

I understand, of course, that normally the success of the team is tied to the success of the QB. But the Dolphins have pretty much been the exception in that regard. The team was 9-7 in 2005 but we all knew Gus Frerotte was not the answer. Miami also went to the playoffs in 2000 and 2001 but I don't think anyone fancied Jay Fiedler as a guy the team could ride to Super Bowl glory.

I would feel pretty good about this team if sometime during the season either John Beck or Chad Henne or even Josh McCown takes hold of the starting job and shows himself to be the long-term answer. Even if the record is not great, it gives hope that another draft filled with early picks can improve the remainder of the team.

On the other hand, having a good record at the end of 2008 but no quarterback would leave the Dolphins uncertain at the most important position on the field and in a situation where they might have to invest more resources -- either through a trade, or free agency or the draft -- to upgrade the position.

Do you disagree or agree with me?

Salguero live on the radio this morning

I'll be on the air at 790 The Ticket this morning between 10 and noon.

You can join me there and we can discuss Miami's quarterback situation, the Brett Favre situation and other issues on your mind.

You can listen anywhere in the world there is Internet access by logging on to 790theticket.com and clicking on the "Listen Live" button. You can also call into the show (free) on the toll-free line: 1-888-790-3776.

Hope to hear from you.

I'll be on the air tomorrow also.

July 10, 2008

What might have been with Daunte Culpepper

Daunte Culpepper is still unemployed today.

Only two weeks from the start of NFL training camps and he has yet to find a suitable team to continue his once stellar but now sputtering career. Late last month he confirmed to various media outlets that he turned down a 1-year, $1 million contract from the Green Bay Packers.

Culpepper declined to say why he turned down the opportunity, but with the Brett Favre's career in resurrection mode of late, one might guess Culpepper saw this scenario coming a few weeks ago and wanted no part of it.

So he is still out there. And that leads me to wonder what might have been for Culpepper in Miami if only.

You should remember that Miami is where Culpepper wanted to play. Florida is his home and he felt like South Florida was a great place for him. But after coming to the Dolphins in a trade in 2006, Culpepper was never healthy.

Last offseason, the Dolphins cut Culpepper simply because new coach Cam Cameron was convinced Trent Green was better, healthier and more likely to bring the team some success. So much for those plans.

Anyway, Cameron promised Culpepper a quarterback competition but never delivered on that promise, cutting the player before he really had any chance to practice.

I did not then and don't now disagree that Miami needed to cut Culpepper if he wasn't healthy and couldn't compete. The Dolphins needed to move on if that was the case. My problem with the scenario as it happened was not allowing the competition to actually happen as promised.

If that competition would have happened, I wonder how Culpepper would have done. I wonder if he would have proved himself better than Green. I know he was better then and today continues to be better than Cleo Lemon. I know he would have played better last year than rookie John Beck.

The problem is that competition never happened.

And in many regards, Culpepper is suffering a similar fate now. No team is willing to give him a chance to compete for a job now. Despite uncertain QB situations in San Francisco, New York with the Jets, Minnesota, Chicago, Baltimore and Kansas City, Culpepper hasn't latched on with any of those teams for one reason or another.

I am told he reached out to Bill Parcells and the Dolphins early on in free agency and was never seriously considered although he and Josh McCown, the QB the team ultimately signed in free agency, delivered practically identical statistics last season.

Culpepper had a slightly better passer rating but took far more sacks due to his mobility issues. McCown threw more TDs and had a better completion percentage but his interception percentage was higher.

My questions to you ... Do you think the Dolphins did the right thing cutting Culpepper without having that promised competition? Do you agree with me he is better than Cleo Lemon? Would you have picked him over McCown or did the Dolphins get the right Oakland QB as a free agent?

Discuss...

July 09, 2008

Henne, Merling may want to wait to sign deals

The Dolphins have three players they need to get signed before training camp opens July 26 -- second-rounders Phillip Merling and Chad Henne and third-rounder Kendall Langford. And while the agents for all three predicted the week following the July 4th holiday would bring the start of serious negotiations, it has not brought a serious agreement.

All three will get done eventually, but there may not be an agreement until late next week at the earliest if the agents for the two second-rounders in particular follow the advice of the NFL Players Association.

The problem Henne and Merling are having with the Dolphins is the same as most second-rounders are having around the league: Because they sign four-year deals and there is no collective bargaining agreement in place for that fourth year (2011), it is creating problems in negotiations.

The problems stem from the fact most second-round deals the past couple of years have included a one-time bonus that was guaranteed in that fourth and final year of the deal. But that isn't available to players this year. Teams are offering to give the guarantee and bonus in the second year, but agents trying to protect their clients from being cut don't see that as a concession as most players picked that high wouldn't get cut in the second year of their deals anyway.

The NFLPA has cautioned all agents to proceed very slowly with their negotiations now through next week when the union and the NFL Management Council will go before a Special Master to iron out the issue.

The Special Master may or may not have a decision before the end of the week but if you have a calendar handy, you see where this is starting to get a little sticky.

Assuming the Special Master brings a decision by next week, that will clear the decks for the sides to strike a deal in approximately seven days before Miami's first practice. That doesn't make it impossible to get Henne and Merling signed and on the field for the first day of drills, but neither does it bode as an easy assignment.

So far only one player selected in the second round has signed a deal.

Thinking out loud: Wow I got through that without ripping a politician again today.

July 08, 2008

Dolphins marketing changes course -- again

You might recall a couple of months back the Dolphins sort of unveiled a 2008 marketing campaign that, really, no one but the high-priced genius who came up with it understood.

The campaign boldly insisted Dolphins fans should "Respect the Code." Problem was that no one respected the idea behind the campaign. Ticket sales early this offseason were not great even though the team's internal optimism was soaring with the arrival of Bill Parcells.

Well, the code campaign has apparently passed on to marketing heaven and now the team's new campaign is "A New Beginning." If you live in South Florida, you probably have seen the billboards featuring GM Jeff Ireland, Parcells and coach Tony Sparano lining the highways and byways.

The campaign uses the novel approach of not promoting any player -- you know, the guys most folks pay to see -- because apparently the Dolphins don't think any of their players would sell tickets. Even Jason Taylor is not a candidate because the Dolphins were 1-15 with him last year and his status for 2008 is, shall we say, uncertain.

A Dolphins spokesman tried to convince me recently that rather than bill this new campaign as a complete departure from the code failure, I should portray the change as the result of an "evolving" strategy. Yeah, right. And Barack Obama is not flip-flopping on Iraq and campaign financing and his ties to that "church" he attended for 20 years but now disavows.

Anyway, the Dolphins change in marketing course is nothing that should surprise as they have been "evolving" on other fronts also, not the least of which is ticket pricing. Remember that January news release from the team that boldly stated ticket prices would not be raised through the spring?

Well it is summer. And ticket prices have risen from last year.

On a season-ticket basis, which is the only thing we can go by right now as single-game tickets are not yet available, the Dolphins raised prices across the board with the lone exception of upper prime seats which remain at $81.

Lower sideline seats went from $92 last year to $98 this year. Lower corner and endzone seats went from $77 to $82. Upper sideline seats went from $65 to $70. Upper corner and upper endzone (rows 1-4) went from $55 to $59. Upper corner and endzones went from $39 to $42. And economy section seats went from $29 to $31.

We shall see in the coming months if the new campaign can overcome the fact Miami was the worst team in the NFL last season. We shall see if the team can keep from losing season-ticket buyers from the previous year for the fourth time in five years (2006 it went up.)

But mostly we shall see if South Florida Dolfans and Dolfans in general believe this latest "new beginning" is worth the higher price of admission.

Reality: Favre to Dolphins doesn't make sense

Every credible sports news gathering entity with a website is chiming in on the Brett Favre story now. Most are tackling the issue with well-reported, cogent stories that outline why the statistical QB king wants to play again, why that causes a problem for the Green Bay Packers, and where Favre might land if not on the Frozen Tundra.

None of those stories -- seriously, not one -- regard the Dolphins as a logical landing spot for Brett Favre should he decide to continue his career.

And then there is The Miami Herald.

I opened my paper of record this morning (yes, I'm the guy that still buys the broadsheet instead of getting it free on the Internet) and read why the Dolphins should go after Favre. The story concedes what most right-thinking people understand: That Favre to the Dolphins could not happen. But then it stubbornly insists, "it could."

To which I stubbornly retort: No it couldn't. Really. It couldn't, wouldn't and won't.

Why? Let me count the ways:

First, the idea would thrill the Dolphins marketing department that is desperate to raise the organization out of a ticket-selling funk. But the marketing department doesn't make football decisions. And weighed against fanciful wishing, bringing Favre to the Dolphins is a bad football decision.

What would Favre bring the Dolphins? Lots of national attention. A better quarterback than they currently have. But a playoff shot? Probably not. Even if Favre is still able to be great, he can improve a team's record by one, maybe two games. That might make the Dolphins a 7-9 team instead of 5-11.

And when Favre re-retires it leaves the Dolphins weaker because their rebuilding program detoured because of a flirtation. We still won't know anything about John Beck or Chad Henne and the team will then have a lower draft spot from which to continue building rather than a higher one.

Not that this matters. The Dolphins know there is really no way to get Favre to South Florida anyway. Trade? Can't happen.

Here's the scenario: If the Packers trade Favre it would have to be to a team he approves because he could collapse the deal by simply not reporting if he doesn't like the team. The only teams Favre is interested in playing for are teams with a chance to contend for a Super Bowl berth.

The Dolphins do not qualify.

Yes, the winters are nice here and there is no state tax to pay, but Favre wants a proven offensive line to play behind. Favre wants proven receivers to throw to. Favre would like a West Coast offense to guide because that's what he's known his entire career.

The Dolphins again strike out on all counts.

Certainly, the Dolphins could force the issue if they really wanted. They could jump eyes-closed into the Favre lottery and offer to trade Jason Taylor to the Packers. And the Packers might go for it. But again, Favre would not report to Miami and then what you would have in Miami is another black eye to the team's reputation as yet another superstar admits he doesn't want to play for the once-elite organization.

And that speaks nothing to the issue of fitting Favre's $12.8 million cap hit, which is $4 million higher than Taylor's, into the Dolphins cap. That's right, any team trading for Favre would have to wedge $12.8 million into its cap which is impossible for many teams and a too-snug fit for Miami.

Of course, if the Packers were to lose their ever-lovin' minds and release Favre, the Dolphins would make sense as a free agent landing spot if no other team were to bid on Favre. Problem is the line of teams bidding on Favre would be long and cut straight to the quarterback's desire to get back to the Super Bowl.

The Vikings would be first in line. They are one QB short of being Super Bowl caliber. Bingo. The Bucs would be in that line, too. Jon Gruden runs the west coast offense and his team was in the playoffs last year. The Jets, Redskins and Ravens would also be in that line.

What suggests to you that out of all those teams -- including three playoff teams from last year -- Favre would elect to play for the Dolphins? The answer is nothing.

And what suggests to you the Dolphins would out-bid all those teams in a free-agent free-for-all when they don't share the same desperation to win now as those other teams? Again, the answer is nothing.

It simply doesn't make sense ...

... unless you are reading today's Herald.

July 07, 2008

Former Dolphins exec Bob Ackles dies [Updated]

Bob Ackles, who was Jimmy Johnson's right-hand man in personnel matters from 1996 through January of 2000, has died.

Ackles suffered an apparent heart attack Sunday while on his boat, according The Canadian Press. He was 69 years old.

Ackles worked for the Dolphins, Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals and in the CFL for the BC Lions. Following his five seasons with the Dolphins, he had a short stint with the Las Vegas Outlaws before that XFL team and the league went belly-up.

Ackles was hired by Johnson because he impressed the coach while both worked for the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90s. Ackles did everything from negotiate contracts to suggest player signings. His management style was sometimes brusque, sometimes haphazard. There were a couple of instances when he clashed with others within the Miami organization but generally he was well-liked. When Dave Wannstedt took over in 2000 Ackles was demoted and that ultimately hastened his departure by 2001.

Ackles' greatest contribution to the Dolphins was tapping into his CFL knowledge. He was the man most responsible for bringing guard Mark Dixon to the Dolphins. Dixon became a starter in 1998 and played at near Pro Bowl levels before being sidelined by injuries.

It was in the CFL that Ackles, a Canadian, made his greatest impact. He started out as the first water boy of the BC Lions in the 1950s. He was serving as the team's president and CEO when he passed. Ackles celebrated that rise by titling his autobiography The Water Boy.

He named his boat The Water Buoy. It was on that boat that Ackles breathed his last. He apparently was fetching a newspaper when he just dropped.

Ackles is survived by his wife Kay, two sons Scott and Steve, and five grandchildren.

Update: Dolphins head trainer Kevin O'Neill, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Johnson era, found out of Ackles' passing Sunday evening and informed the team. Today the Dolphins made a significant editing change to their media guide as it arrived at the printer. The 2008 Dolphins media guide will mark Ackles' passing and be dedicated to his memory.

Updated again: The Dolphins have released a statement from team president Bryan Wiedmeier. Here it is:

"We were saddened to learn about the untimely passing of our friend and colleague, Bob Ackles. During his time in Miami, no one worked harder than he did to maintain our success. He was highly respected by everyone he worked with, both within the Dolphin organization and throughout the National Football League.

“Bob started every day with a smile and kept that same upbeat disposition no matter the circumstances. As someone who worked his way up the pro football ladder from the bottom, he never forgot his roots. He would treat ball boys and interns the same way he did coaches and players  --  with respect, appreciation, and admiration.

"He will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know him, and on behalf of the entire Dolphin organization I want to express our condolences to his wife, Kay, and his family.”