One repetitive thread on this blog and among frustrated Dolphins fans is that Miami's problems today were caused primarily by Dave Wannstedt and Rick Spielman yesterday.
Everyone complains the lack of talent on the team now is directly tied to the mismanagement those two perpetrated during their combined five seasons of heading the
And that was true. Until this past Sunday.
I can say that Sunday you saw the baton of responsibility for Miami's mighty talent deficiency passed from Wannstache-Spielman to none other than Nick Saban. We saw the decisions Saban made in 2005 and 2006 hurt the Dolphins on the field against the Arizona Cardinals.
First consider the 2005 draft:
The Dolphins picked Ronnie Brown, Matt Roth, Channing Crowder, Travis Daniels, Anthony Alabi and Kevin Vickerson in that order. Brown has been a good, but not great player and certainly not one that has yet to reward the Dolphins for the No. 2 overall selection.
Wouldn't it have been better to select receiver Braylon Edwards, as the Dolphins were rumored to be considering?
Remember that Miami desperately needed RBs in that draft and picked one with its first selection. Except that Marion Barber and Frank Gore were available in that draft, were selected much later than Brown, and have so far been better players than Brown.
Matt Roth in the second round? Another borderline starter now. Cornerback Nick Collins went to Green Bay in that round. Roscoe Parrish went to Buffalo in that round. Star safety Kerry Rhodes was on the board in that round and for several more rounds afterward.
Channing Crowder in the third round? Well, Crowder has been solid as a starter. But there are questions whether he will be with the team after this season, which is his last under contract. The team has declined to discuss an extension and I'm told Crowder will hit free agency after the season. The Dolphins don't seem worried about replacing him.
That says something about what they really think of the player. Never mind what comes out of Tony Sparano's mouth. Mind what is done with playing time and with contract negotiations to really judge what the team believes about its players.
Also, the final test of any draft comes when the players in that draft hit free agency. If by their end of the fourth season those drafted players aren't worth re-signing when they become unrestricted free agents, then it is hard to argue they were worthy of being drafted to begin with.
Anyway, despite getting a good starter in Crowder, the Dolphins might have gotten a difference-maker in DE Justin Tuck, or a OL starter in Nick Kaczur, or a DB in Ellis Hobbs or another starting corner in Eric Green, who went to Arizona.
The fourth round was the one that really hurt. Daniels came in that round and was a starter right away because he knew Saban's system. But Daniels was traded for two silver dollars during training camp. And Barber was drafted in that round after Daniels and he's a Pro Bowl player. Rhodes was taken in that round after the Dolphins picked. So were Brandon Jacobs of the Giants and Brady Poppinga of Green Bay -- two more starters.
The Dolphins didn't have a sixth-round pick that year. That was shipped to San Diego for David Boston. How'd that work out?
In the seventh round the Dolphins picked Kevin Vickerson. Can't rip this pick too much because seventh-rounders rarely turn into difference-makers. But the Dolphins this weekend will face a former seventh rounder picked after Vickerson in 2005. His name is Matt Cassel.
In the 2006 draft, the Dolphins drafted a guy who I am very close to designating as a bust: Jason Allen.
Think about it. Allen was handed the starting free safety job this year in training camp. He couldn't keep it and fell behind Chris Crocker on the depth chart. Crocker is not exactly a great player as we saw Sunday. Meanwhile, rather than using the time away from the starting unit to improve and push Crocker, Allen has regressed.
When Crocker was taken out of Sunday's game, the Dolphins replaced him at free safety with Renaldo Hill. So not only is Allen not on first team, he's not second team, either. Geez. And the concerning thing is that this is the third coaching staff that has declined to embrace Allen. Remember Saban didn't start him and last year he was well down in the depth chart until everyone got hurt. It wasn't until the choice was playing Allen or Tuff Harris that Dom Capers relented and finally put Allen in the starting lineup.
The painful thing is that the 2006 first round was a gushing oil well of talent and the Dolphins didn't get even one drop in their tank. After Allen went to Miami, LB Chad Greenway went to Minnesota and has started the past 18 games. San Diego took Antonio Cromartie who is a stud. KC drafted Tamba Hali, a fine player. Pittsburgh drafted deep threat Santonio Holmes who also starts. Last year, Holmes averaged a whopping 18.1 yards per reception and almost had a 1,000 yard season.
Continuing, the Jets drafted starting center Nick Mangold. The Giants picked fine DE Mathias Kiwanuka. And Indy selected very productive Joseph Addai.
The second round of that 2006 draft, believe it or not, was a greater disaster for Miami than the first round. The Dolphins gave that pick to the Minnesota Vikings because they traded for Daunte Culpepper rather than sign Drew Brees as an unrestricted free agent. Brees has thrown 58 TDs for his new team. Culpepper spent one injury-riddled year in Miami and is out of the NFL now.
In the third round the Dolphins picked Derek Hagan. In the fourth round the Dolphins picked Joe Toledo while Denver picked Brandon Marshall out of Central Florida, which is like a two-hour drive from the Dolphins training facility. Marshall caught 18 passes against San Diego Sunday. That is typically more than half a season's work for Hagan.
Anyway, the Dolphins had no pick in the fifth round that year because they used it in the supplemental draft on Manny Wright. How'd that work out?
The sixth round pick went to San Diego in the Cleo Lemon trade. And the seventh-round selection was used on Fred Evans, who is playing for Minnesota.
The bottom line is the 2006 draft brought Miami zero starting players. The 2005 draft was better, but it didn't bring Miami any stars and certainly no superstars.
So the next time you want to blame Wannstache and Spielman for Miami's current woes, resist the temptation. The baton of fault has been passed.
Nick Saban is running with it now.