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41 posts from January 2009

January 12, 2009

Circumstances surrounding the Dolphins' sale

Early last week Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga and owner-in-waiting Stephen Ross talked about closing the sale of the team.

During that conversation Ross told Huizenga he needed to postpone going forward on the sale for about one week because he had some affairs to attend to out of town and he simply would not be around. Ross also told Huizenga he needed to get his minority investors lined up and ready to go and that would take some fine-tuning, which also required time. Ross, in case you weren't aware, intends to bring a handful of minority investors on board, not the least of which is Huizenga, who will keep a five percent stake in the Dolphins.

Bottom line: Ross told Huizenga to give him a week or so, and then they could get the sale ironed out soon thereafter.

Well, the timing of that signals something should happen with the sale of the Dolphins this week. The timing is right for this week because it meets Huizenga's need to divest of the team before the new presidential administration takes office and tries to push through new tax laws that could hurt Huizenga.

The timing also would be right for Ross for several reasons: Ross is eager to set into motion some team business initiatives he's been working on. He needs to get on board with decision-making powers to move those initiatives forward. Ross also doesn't want people, particularly Huizenga, starting to doubt his word. And Ross needs to give Bill Parcells (assuming Parcells remains with the team) and Jeff Ireland a budget for the opening of free agency in about six weeks.

The point Miami fans should be focused on most is the football budget because 2009 is scheduled to be the NFL's last capped season while 2010 is currently scheduled to be uncapped. Any moves in free agency and the money spent therein must take that fact into account and so the football side needs to have a budget for that.

So this is what you should expect if all is right with the Dolphins and their two-headed ownership: Huizenga and Ross will close the sale either this week or early next week and Ross will get the keys to his $1.1 BILLION team and stadium.

But there is a rub. If the deal doesn't get done within this time period, it may be wise to assume something is amiss. There are rumors circulating some NFL circles that Ross is struggling to get the money to complete the sale.

Credit is tight these days and that, plus the fact Ross is counting on unknown minority investors to come through on their promises is giving some skeptics pause. It doesn't help perception that Ross is prominent among a group of commercial real-estate investors, all rich beyond imagination, who are asking the government for a financial bailout. When a rich person is asking for what amounts to government welfare, it raises questions about that person's liquidity.

The chances that Ross doesn't complete the purchase of the Dolphins seem slim. Forbes Magazine says he's worth $4.5 BILLION and was the 78th richest dude in America in 2008. But stuff happens so this is not a slam dunk. The financial crisis has changed things in America overnight. These are uncertain times.

And so watch for the Dolphins sale this week or early next to close the door on the uncertainty as it pertains to Ross. Or, in the absence of a timely deal, watch for that uncertainty to snowball and threaten an avalanche.

Notes off the divisional playoff weekend

Some notes coming out of the playoff weekend and headed toward the championship weekend:

There are reports suggesting one of Miami's AFC East rivals is about to be weakened. The Boston Globe is reporting talks between personnel genius Scott Pioli and the Kansas City Chiefs are progressing. This suggests the Pats could lose part of the personnel acumen that has helped keep them competitive the past, oh, eight seasons or so.

Meanwhile, this ESPN story says the Denver Broncos have hired New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. It was under McDaniels that Tom Brady had his best NFL season in 2007. It was under McDaniels that Matt Cassel went from an anonymous backup to a solid starter when Brady was injured practically all of 2008.

The Dolphins defense won't be seeing McDaniels in 2009 unless the Broncos and Dolphins meet in the playoffs.

So while the Patriots have survived a talent drain over the years, next season they might be dealing with something of a brain drain. Can't wait.

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You should know by know that quarterback Tim Tebow is staying at the University of Florida.

So my blog post about him fitting in with Miami's Wildcat package if he comes out is now moot. But, as many of you rightly suggested, West Virginia's Pat White would also be a pretty good fit for that package.

And those of you claiming the Dolphins will scrap Wildcat next year because they'll be much improved offensively and won't need a gimmick spark for their attack, I pose this question: How do you know for sure?

Oh, that's right, you don't.

------------------------

Have you noticed the four teams in the NFL conference championship games?

Philadelphia, Arizona, Pittsburgh and Baltimore all have something in common: They all play killer defense or have been playing killer defense in the playoffs.

The Steelers had the NFL's No. 1-rated defense in the regular season. The Ravens had the NFL's No. 2-rated defense in the regular season. The Eagles had the NFL's No. 3-rated defense in the regular season.

The Cardinals? They were rated No. 19.

But they are allowing a paltry 259 yards per game in the playoffs and that's better than any of the other three teams still alive. They have seven interceptions, which is best in the playoffs. They have five sacks, which is best in the playoffs. And they are yielding only 67.5 rushing yards per game in the postseason, which is second to Pittsburgh of all the teams still alive.

The point is that in this postseason, like most others I've witnessed, the most dominant defenses have advanced.

Suggests the Dolphins would do well to continue upgrading their defense if they hope to do what coach Tony Sparano said was the goal for next season: Win a playoff game.

January 10, 2009

Tim Tebow a perfect fit for the Dolphins wildcat?

Like all underclassmen, University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow must decide by Thursday whether to enter the upcoming NFL draft or stay on campus.

I am told that Tebow sought and received information from the NFL's advisory committee for underclassmen. I have no idea what exactly he was told, but the opinion of three scouts and one GM I've contacted the past five days is this:

Tebow will go anywhere from the late, late first round to the fourth round.

"His intangibles make him someone you definitely want on your team," one scout told me. "But those intangibles would be diminished if he's just sitting on the bench and not producing. You cannot lead or be a leader from the bench. And that's where I think he'd be spending most of his time."

So why all the Gator stuff on a Dolphins blog?

Well, there is this: If Tebow decides to come out, and I stress that decision is not public one way or the other yet, you must be very wary of the New England Patriots trying to draft him. New England coach Bill Belichick is very close with Florida coach Urban Meyer and attended the game between Florida and Oklahoma. It should not surprise if Belichick, who spent time with Meyer the past couple of offseasons, gets access to whatever inside information there is to be had on Tebow.

Also of interest to the Dolphins is the fact they run the wildcat package and probably will continue to do so as long as they deem it viable. Well, hello, is there anyone more suited to running that package than Tebow?

Tebow would be more effective in the wildcat than anyone I can think of outside of Vince Young. [Really surprised the Titans didn't use it, but I guess they did well for themselves without it.] Tebow would be more effective than Ronnie Brown because, unlike Brown, Tebow is a legitimate threat to pass.

Teams copied the Ravens strategy of blitzing the wildcat package late in the season. The best way to beat that blitz is to throw the football. Except the Dolphins were not entirely comfortable with Brown throwing downfield very often.

The comfort level would rise dramatically with Tebow. And it would make Tebow, a quarterback that needs polishing and experience in the NFL, and instant contributor to a team like Miami. I guess what I'm telling you is that he has the perfect make-up for the Dolphins -- size, strength, never injured, great attitude, and ability to contribute immediately.

No, I'm not advocating Tebow as a first round pick. But as one of Miami's two second rounders? No doubt in my mind. And laugh if you wish, but folks laughed at me when I advocated drafting Devin Hester between late first and early third rounds also -- and look how that turned out for Chicago.

Discuss ... And enjoy the video.

January 09, 2009

Live blog chat starts Friday at 8 p.m.

[UPDATE: Folks, I had planned to be with you at 3 p.m. today but something has come up so the live blog is moved to 8 p.m. instead. Yeah, you and me  together on a Friday nighte. I'm sure you cannot wait. The fact of the matter is I will be on 790 The Ticket from 3-7 p.m. today so, actually, you can chat with me live anyway. Just call toll free 1-888-790-3776. You can listen live at 790theticket.com if you are not in South Florida. Otherwise, talk to you at 8 p.m.]

Today is a special day. It is Friday!

And it marks the first love blog chat (non-game) we've had here in a long time. We had one or two earlier this season but it frayed some nerves over at Mother Herald because we had too much traffic and it took away traffic from another chat.

But there is no chat going on at 3 p.m. elsewhere at the paper. So that means the cyberspace is open for us.

There are issues to discuss, you know.

Bill Parcells.

Chad Pennington.

The offensive line.

The defensive line.

The coming free agency period.

The re-signing of Miami's own free agents.

Chad Henne.

Chad Johnson. Oh, never mind on that one. But wide receiver upgrades is a fair topic. And so is Ted Ginn Jr.

Tons of stuff is available for discussion. You leave a question or comment and I will be happy to respond live. Depending on how many folks are on here at the time, we might chat for an hour, or all the way to 5 p.m., when you weasels can stop stealing your company's work time and actually go home.

If you can't be here at 3 p.m. or soon thereafter, leave your question or comment now, and it'll be first in line for my response. Then come back at your convenience to see what was said about your post.

OK, have fun. See you at 3 p.m.

January 08, 2009

Bowles uses Miami experience in interviews

Dolphins assistant Todd Bowles has completed his interviews for the head coach job at Detroit and Denver and he's talking to the Denver media about his experience of the past couple of days.

"[The Lions] were 0-16, so they were very interested in the turnaround we had in Miami," Bowles told the Rocky Mountain News. "The Broncos are in a little different situation, but I feel like I've been preparing for this kind of job - to be a head coach - for a long time. I've always felt like it was important to do all of the things necessary to be prepared if the opportunity to be a head coach came my way."

Bowles, so far the only Miami assistant to parlay the success of 2008 into a head coaching interview, is convinced what he learned this season with the Dolphins can be invaluable to any team he works for in the future.

"I don't know if what we did helps my cause, but maybe they're talking to me just because of the turnaround," Bowles said. "But it's not like the Broncos are 0-16, 1-15 and are looking for that kind of total turnaround. Having been a part of it, though, you understand what change is about and how you go about it, that everybody has to be involved and be willing to do what it takes to make a different result."

The Broncos have interviewed seven candidates and there are reports that is where owner Pat Bowlen will stop now and decide in what direction to carry his search. For the record, Dolphins assistants who are not coordinators are not allowed to speak with the media in South Florida. But the Dolphins apparently have no such restrictions on their assistants when they're in other cities.

I wish Bowles the best in his search to land a head coaching gig. If he doesn't do it this year, it won't be long -- another year or two -- before he's climbing the coaching ladder.

The truth about Miami's interior offensive line

Unlike most weeks during this Dolphins season when neither you, nor I, nor the Dolphins, can chew on one game for days and days after it is history, Sunday's playoff game against Baltimore is still on my mind. It is also on the NFL Network, which replayed the game much of Wednesday.

So I watched. And watched. And watched again.

And the result, inexplicably, never improved.

But one thing did become clear as I studied what happened in this defeat. Yes, the Dolphins turned the ball over five times. Yes, Chad Pennington had his worst game of the season. Yes, the defense gave up a long Ravens clinching drive in the final five minutes.

But this game was really, truly decided at the line of scrimmage where the interior of the Ravens defensive line and blitzing linebackers dominated Dolphins center Samson Satele, left guard Andy Alleman, and right guard Ikechuku Ndukwe. The score Sunday was 27-9. It was much, much, much worse than that if one judges the play of Miami's interior line.

Here is the truth of what happened:

Miami's offensive tackles didn't play great nor horribly. Left tackle Jake Long yielded a sack to Terrell Suggs while Vernon Carey gave up one to Trevor Pryce. But both tackles were responsible for man-blocking on all but a handful of pass plays. They were both 1-on-1 with pretty good rushers all game and did well on all but two plays.

So that wasn't an issue.

The interior of the line was a different, terrible story.

On one Ronnie Brown run to the left, Baltimore nose tackle Haloti Ngata picks Ndukwe up, tosses him about two feet to the left and Ndukwe lands where the hole on the left side is supposed to be. Brown actually goes head over heels over Ndukwe and then Ngata finishes him off. It looked like Brown got jacked up by a Ngata on TV and that he got right back up in defiance. But the slow motion shows Brown simply having his legs cut out from under him by Ndukwe's rag doll impersonation.

I have never seen anything like that in such tight space.

The Ravens blitzed a lot on Sunday. And the Dolphins could not figure out how to stop it. On one play, Ray Lewis blitzed between Satele and Ndukewe and neither one blocked him. He was there. And, zip, he was past and into the Miami backfield. It didn't result in a sack, but it led to an incomplete pass.

On Pennington's interception to start the second half, the Ravens rushed four. Long and Carey handled their assignments one-on-one. But Miami's interior trio cannot block Ngata and Pryce. Ndukwe and Satele double team Ngata while Alleman blocks Pryce. Except that Ngata beats both Ndukwe and Satele. So Alleman peels off Pryce to pick up the charging nose tackle. That leaves Pryce free to force Chad Pennington into throwing the football. He happened to throw it into a swarm of three defensive backs, but that is beside the point. The point is three Miami linemen are beaten by two Ravens defensive linemen.

That was bad, but it wasn't ridiculous. This was ridiculous: With the score 20-9 and the Dolphins at the Baltimore 25 yard line everything collapses for the Dolphins. On a second-and-seven, the wheels came off the cart. Dan Henning called a Ted Ginn end around at the same time the Ravens called for a blitz. The end around was set up with the Dolphins using an unbalanced line to the right side with Long outside of Carey.

That left tight end Anthony Fasano on the left side, with Alleman inside of him, and then Satele, then Ndukwe, then Carey and Long. Fasano got a block. Alleman pulled right, and that leaves Satele and Ndukwe doing their impersonation of swinging gates while a horde of Baltimore defenders poured through. Three Ravens were in the backfield as Ginn didn't seem to want took the handoff and fumbled it.

That 19-yard loss killed Miami's momentum and pretty much sealed the loss.

"We had favorable matchups and we took advantage of them," Pryce said. "It's quite simple."

So here is the deal: The Dolphins should, must address the interior of their offensive line this offseason. They cannot compete with elite defenses with this starting group. I realize neither Alleman nor Ndukwe were slated to be starters in 2008 but that doesn't change the need to upgrade there in 2009.

Obviously Donald Thomas is supposed to come back in 2009 after missing all but two quarters in 2008. And Justin Smiley is also supposed to return. But both are hopes. The Dolphins hope Thomas, a rookie last year, can live up to his potential and not be an injury-prone guy. The Dolphins hope Smiley, who has finished each of the past two seasons on the injured reserve list, is not an injury-prone guy. Smiley, by the way, is having another shoulder procedure this offseason.

I believe the Dolphins must add at least one starting caliber guard to hedge their bet. See how the Shawn Murphy pick is starting to hurt?

The Dolphins also need a starting center. There. I said it. Satele is not a starting center, in my opinion. He isn't very physical, he doesn't really move anyone in the running game, and on pass plays, I often see him with his back to the defense, chasing the on-rushing defender that just whipped him as the defender makes a target out of Miami's QB.

I am officially debunking the myth that Satele is a good player. He wasn't that against Baltimore, and I've seen him struggle too often during the regular season to believe he's any better than average -- maybe not even that. Satele is a guy you want as a backup center-guard, a swing guy. When he assumes that role, you'll know the Miami offensive line has upgraded.

Anyway, if you forgot what the debacle along the interior of Miami's offensive line looked like Sunday, watch the video. Make your own decision.

January 07, 2009

Peterson: Miami job "not going to happen"

Peterson_2 Former Chiefs boss Carl Peterson bid his farewell to Kansas City on Tuesday, but failed to shut the door on the possibility he might soon be joining the Dolphins in some capacity under new owner Stephen Ross. Wednesday he was much more convincing on that matter.

"It's not going to happen," Peterson told the Associated Press. "I have good friends there, but I need to get away for a while. It's been 20 years of making decisions every day and I need a rest."

There is but no doubt Peterson -- seen in the picture wearing the famous Dolphins pin I reported about Tuesday -- was angling for a job when he was visiting with incoming Miami owner Stephen Ross during Sunday's playoff game against Baltimore at Dolphin Stadium. And there is no doubt he had the opportunity but not the desire to close the door on that possibility Tuesday.

So I'm speculating (and that is all it is at this moment) that something happened between Tuesday and Wednesday when Peterson apparently is leaving nothing to interpretation.

That obviously is a good sign for Dolphins fans that want there be no chance Bill Parcells leaves the Dolphins once Ross becomes the owner. The Peterson obstacle apparently being cleared makes the road to a good relationship between Ross and Parcells a lot smoother.

But again, nothing is done until something is done. And Ross has yet to take over the team and Parcells has yet to say he is definitely staying. So stay tuned.

But at least for now, this shred of news is good. 

A look at some Dolphins love ... and it's VIDEO!

We've been tackling some difficult issues on this blog the past couple of days since the season ended. And I promise you that will not stop because there are issues, issues, issues everywhere with the Miami Dolphins as the offseason unfolds.

I could post seven things that are important to this team right now if I had to. Luckily, I don't have to. And you deserve some feel-good stuff on here to mix with the hardcore stuff because, after all, 2008 was a feel-good season.

So I want to share with you the scene outside of the Dolphins Davie, FL., headquarters Monday morning -- the day after the Dolphins lost 27-9 to the Ravens. It speaks to the appreciation Miami fans have for their team again.

And it screams about the type of guy coach Tony Sparano is in appreciating those fans.

Here's the video by The Miami Herald's Walt Michot:

Dolphins soon to chase their own free agents

If you read my column in Tuesday's Miami Herald you understand after reading the first paragraph of the story that Bill Parcells isn't one for wasting time.

He met with owner Wayne Huizenga Monday, one day after Miami's season ended, to outline things he wants to do in free agency. One reason Parcells needed to tell Huizenga about his plans is he wants to re-sign some, if not all, of Miami's soon-to-be free agents.

And to do that you need approval from Huizenga because it is, after all, the owner's money.

So as early as Tuesday, the Dolphins began contacting the agents of their targeted unrestricted free agents and making what they believe to be good offers in order to sign them before the beginning of free agency gives those players the opportunity to test the open market.

The Dolphins are wise to try to re-sign their key free agents because they cannot take steps backward on the talent front if they are to improve for next year.

So which players are we talking about?

Cornerback Andre' Goodman.

Strong safety Yeremiah Bell.

Free safety Renaldo Hill.

Inside linebacker Channing Crowder.

Right offensive tackle Vernon Carey.

Miami has others but these are the more important ones. All these players, with the exception of Goodman and Hill, were disturbed the Dolphins didn't extend them to new deals during the season. Now they are 45 days or so from going on the open market. That means getting their John Hancocks now will take hard work.

And the Dolphins are apparently on the job. So which player should be the priority? Well, as Tony Sparano said, you cannot get enough offensive linemen and cornerbacks.

To me, the Dolphins would do well to ink Goodman and lock up Carey. I realize both have issues. I realize both had moments this year when they didn't play well. But Goodman's moments came early in the season and from about the fifth game on, he was nails with his coverage. He led the team in interceptions.

Carey struggled with his pass blocking at times. But the Dolphins were primarily a right-handed running team in 2008, I think, because Carey was their best run-blocker much of the season. Finding a tackle is not always easy. Why let one walk when he's on campus?

It could be argued the Dolphins could do major damage by chasing Carolina's Jordan Gross in free agency but I don't see that happening. The Dolphins could re-sign Carey and address the right guard spot or center spot with about the same money it would take to sign Gross. Plus Gross played at left tackle in 2009 so he's going to want LT money rather than RT money.

So Carey is an important piece to keep, in my opinion.

Yeremiah Bell will also be re-signed if the Dolphins have their way. He's athletic, he's explosive, he's got a great work ethic, and his teammates like him. His agent Drew Rosenhaus isn't going to take a bargain contract now that YB has proven he can stay healthy and entire season. But Rosenhaus does have a history of working with the Dolphins.

Hill and Crowder will also get new offers. But I wouldn't be surprised if one of them doesn't come back for 2008 and I would be less surprised if Crowder is that one. Simply, an inside linebacker can be found in the draft. And Crowder wants a big payday. He is valuable, but the concern here is he might be more valuable to another team than to Miami.

All of this pre-free agency thinking is important to the Dolphins because they have a vision for 2009. And what might that be, you ask? Simple: Improve enough to win a playoff game.

"My vision on where this team is headed would be to win one of those ballgames like we were in [Sunday]," coach Tony Sparano said. "If we put ourselves back in that position, and to win one of those ball games like we were in [Sunday], to be better prepared, to be bigger, to be stronger, to be faster and all of those things when we arrive at that point next time.

"I think, when you come in here and you’re a new staff, the players don’t know your expectations, they’re not aware of what you’re looking for and all of a sudden now, they really are aware of what this thing is all about and they do know our expectations and how we expect to get to where we’re going to be. They do know that we won’t rest until we get this thing right one way or the other. I think that there’s a little bit clearer picture, or an awful lot clearer picture for them when they do come back. For us, we’ve just won our division, we won 11 ballgames and now you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘You set your sights on being better than that.’  You have a bar up there, you’ve got to try to go after that thing."

January 06, 2009

Is Chad Pennington Miami's championship QB?

Chad Pennington had a wonderful regular-season playing quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. His one playoff outing was terrible.

So where does that leave the Dolphins?

They have a great game manager. A great leader. A fine regular-season quarterback that can surely help them go from 1-15 to 11-6.

But do they have a championship quarterback? Do they have a guy that can help them not just reach the playoffs but win in the playoffs? Do they have the guy who can help them go from 11-6 to something greater and maybe even a Super Bowl?

Coach Tony Sparano believes so. I asked Sparano Monday if Pennington will be his starting quarterback for 2009 or if the player who threw four interceptions against Baltimore must earn the starting job all over again?

Sparano, who preached the need to have competition at every position last preseason, said Pennington is his starter for 2009. So much for the idea of Chad Henne getting a chance.

“There are a lot of issues that go on out there during the course of the ball game that can lead to throwing interceptions, fumbling the ball, giving up sacks," Sparano said. "Normal things when you give up sacks, it’s the line’s fault; well you don’t really know that. It can be the backs, it can be the receivers not running the site adjust, it can be a bunch of different things.

"There are a lot of things that went into why we didn’t play well enough yesterday, particularly on that side of the ball. That quarterback has played very well for us the entire year. I think the guy is just an outstanding player.”

Pennington indeed is an outstanding player. But again, is he a championship quarterback? That question can not be answered with facts. Pennington has not won a championship. And the game against Baltimore showed his flaws.

He threw several passes into double coverage, which I hadn't seen him do most of the season. But of greater concern, he sailed a couple of passes and Ed Reed plucked one of those out of the air and returned it for a touchdown.

I am reminded that in 2000, Jay Fiedler led the Dolphins to the AFC East championship. Much like Pennington, Fiedler was a fine leader, a guy good enough to help a good team win in the regular season. But the Dolphins believed he could also help deliver them to playoff success.

They were wrong then.

Do you think they are right this time with Pennington?

January 05, 2009

An uneasy feeling -- [Newsy update here]

This morning I filed the post the follows below. But I have an update.

I have confirmed that former Kansas City president and general manager Carl Peterson was at the Dolphins game Sunday. The fact, first reported by profootballtalk.com, makes me wonder what is really going to happen with these Dolphins in the coming days.

Peterson, I am told, was not only cozying up to incoming owner Stephen Ross during the playoff game against Baltimore, he was on the Miami sideline with Ross prior to the game. And get this: He was wearing a Dolphins pin on his lapel.

And he was overheard talking about the Dolphins as, "We." and "We're." So it sounds like Peterson believes he's going to soon be part of the Dolphins organization in some capacity. Ross and Peterson go back 25 years. Peterson was the general manager of the USFL's Philadelphia Stars and Ross was the team's owner.

All this leads me to wonder, how can Ross bring in Peterson and keep Bill Parcells? It would have to happen only if Peterson comes in exclusively on the business side.

Anyway, here's the text of the post I put on the blog early this morning:

This morning I am feeling uneasy so I need to share with you the reason for my discomfort. No, it's not stomach related you jokers.

As you probably have read by now, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said Sunday afternoon he had spoken with Football Czar Bill Parcells and Parcells told him he was staying with the Dolphins. This is my column on the issue that appeared in today's Miami Herald.

And these are the words right from Huizenga's mouth: "Bill is going to stay. He told me the day before yesterday [Friday] he was going to stay."

So case closed right?

I wasn't satisfied. So when I saw incoming owner Stephen Ross immediately after speaking with Huizenga, I decided to ask Ross about the Parcells matter.

"My gut tells me he'll stay," Ross told me. "I certainly want him. And I understand what he wants. I think he deserves all the credit. Everyone is expecting and wanting him to come back. I don't think he could find a more welcome home."

Guess what? I'm still not satisfied. And that's where my uneasy feeling comes from.

The fact is Parcells has not said anything on the matter. The fact is Ross confirmed he and Parcells have not hashed out the issue from a contract standpoint. The fact is no meeting is set between Ross and Parcells to do so.

And then there is my personal skepticism I have to deal with. You see, during my five billion years covering the Dolphins as a backup beat writer, beat writer and columnist, I've heard people say a lot of things. And then I've seen them do another.

Tim Robbie told me to my face he didn't need to sell the team for estate tax purposes. And six months later the team was sold.

I remember witnessing Jimmy Johnson em-effing colleague Jason Cole at least 12 times (There were more em-effs but I stopped counting after 12) because Cole wrote Johnson was taking it easier and slowing down prior to the 1999 season. Johnson insisted he still had the same fire in his belly he always had -- which, of course, it was proven later he didn't.

After Huizenga hired Parcells in December 2007, I asked the owner what the move meant for Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller. "Cam and Randy are secure," he answered. You know the rest of that tale.

Huizenga also told me in August of 2007 that Cameron promised him the team was going to the playoffs.

And, yes, I was there when Nick Saban uttered the phrase, "I will not be the Alabama coach."

So I've learned not to simply accept somebody's word as the Gospel truth.

In this case, I'm puzzled by the NFL Network report of Ross's flirtation with former Chiefs president Carl Peterson. Seriously, Carl Peterson?

I'm curious that Ross didn't squash the Parcells issue by saying something like, "I will do whatever I need to do to keep him." Don't get me wrong, Ross said all the right things. But he didn't exactly slam the door on the possibility Parcells might not be back.

Finally, it was interesting to me that when I asked Huizenga whether the sale of the team to Ross would absolutely go through, he said, "I assume so. We're going to go upstairs now and meet on that."

With that, Huizenga stepped into a Dolphin Stadium elevator and went upstairs ...

... except that I followed Ross and talked with him as he was headed out of the stadium and to his vehicle in the parking lot. He may have doubled back for that meeting. But it didn't look like it.

So I'll believe everything is set and done ... when everything is set and done.

   

An uneasy feeling: Parcells, Ross and Huizenga

This morning I am feeling uneasy so I need to share with you the reason for my discomfort. No, it's not stomach related you jokers.

As you probably have read by now, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga said Sunday afternoon he had spoken with Football Czar Bill Parcells and Parcells told him he was staying with the Dolphins. This is my column on the issue that appeared in today's Miami Herald.

And this is the words right from Huizenga's mouth: "Bill is going to stay. He told me the day before yesterday [Friday] he was going to stay."

So case closed right?

I wasn't satisfied. So when I saw incoming owner Stephen Ross immediately after speaking with Huizenga, I decided to ask Ross about the Parcells matter.

"My gut tells me he'll stay," Ross told me. "I certainly want him. And I understand what he wants. I think he deserves all the credit. Everyone is expecting and wanting him to come back. I don't think he could find a more welcome home."

Guess what? I'm still not satisfied. And that's where my uneasy feeling comes from.

The fact is Parcells has not said anything on the matter. The fact is Ross confirmed he and Parcells have not hashed out the issue from a contract standpoint. The fact is no meeting is set between Ross and Parcells to do so.

And then there is my personal skepticism I have to deal with. You see, during my five billion years covering the Dolphins as a backup beat writer, beat writer and columnist, I've heard people say a lot of things. And then I've seen them do another.

Tim Robbie told me to my face he didn't need to sell the team for estate tax purposes. And six months later the team was sold.

I remember witnessing Jimmy Johnson em-effing colleague Jason Cole at least 12 times (There were more em-effs but I stopped counting after 12) because Cole wrote Johnson was taking it easier and slowing down prior to the 1999 season. Johnson insisted he still had the same fire in his belly he always had -- which, of course, it was proven later he didn't.

After Huizenga hired Parcells in December 2007, I asked the owner what the move meant for Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller. "Cam and Randy are secure," he answered. You know the rest of that tale.

Huizenga also told me in August of 2007 that Cameron promised him the team was going to the playoffs.

And, yes, I was there when Nick Saban uttered the phrase, "I will not be the Alabama coach."

So I've learned not to simply accept somebody's word as the Gospel truth.

In this case, I'm puzzled by the NFL Network report of Ross's flirtation with former Chiefs president Carl Peterson. Seriously, Carl Peterson?

I'm curious that Ross didn't squash the Parcells issue by saying something like, "I will do whatever I need to do to keep him." Don't get me wrong, Ross said all the right things. But he didn't exactly slam the door on the possibility Parcells might not be back.

Finally, it was interesting to me that when I asked Huizenga whether the sale of the team to Ross would absolutely go through, he said, "I assume so. We're going to go upstairs now and meet on that."

With that, Huizenga stepped into a Dolphin Stadium elevator and went upstairs ...

... except that I followed Ross and talked with him as he was headed out of the stadium and to his vehicle in the parking lot. He may have doubled back for that meeting. But it didn't look like it.

So I'll believe everything is set and done ... when everything is set and done.

   

January 04, 2009

Huizenga: Bill Parcells is going to stay

Wayne Huizenga may have left Dolphin Stadium as majority owner of the Dolphins for the last time this afternoon, but before exiting he revealed some news Miami fans will likely welcome.

Huizenga said Bill Parcells is coming back next year.

"Bill is going to stay," Huizenga said. "He told me the day before yesterday he was going to stay."

I also spoke with incoming owner Stephen Ross who indicated he expects Parcells to stay.

Dolphins season ends with 27-9 playoff loss

It is over -- meaning this game and the season.

The Baltimore Ravens have defeated the Miami Dolphins 27-9 today and that loss in the wild card round of the playoffs sends the Dolphins home for the postseason.

The Dolphins finish 11-6 this season.

So it was a terrible day. But it was a very good year.

Let me know if the disappointment of the day in any way clouds the sunshine and warmth you've felt for 9 of the past 10 games before today.

Let me know what you think the Dolphin must accomplish this offseason ... Receiver ... more Olinemen ... NT?

And let me know whether you are seriously concerned that Bill Parcells will leave if and when Wayne Huizenga completes his sale of the Dolphins.

Come smart. Come strong.

Dolphins down 20-3 in fourth quarter

The Dolphins will need a miracle to pull this one out.

And the offense isn't playing like it has a miracle available, suffering four intercpetions and a fumble today.

Anyway, let gather in the comments section and continue the live blog and see what happens.

Ravens lead Dolphins 13-3 going to 3rd quarter

Well, do you want the good news or the bad news first?

The good news is the last time the Dolphins played Baltimore, way back in October, the Ravens held a 17-3 lead on Miami to open the third quarter.

So the Dolphins have made up some ground in the past two months or so.

The bad news? Well, they're still losing at halftime today. The Dolphins trail Baltimore 13-3 going into the third quarter.

It has been a nightmare half for Chad Pennington. Pennington has thrown TWO interceptions today while completing only 7 of 12 passes for 77 yards. One of those interceptions was returned 64 yards for a TD by Ed Reed. That is Baltimore's only touchdown of the day so far.

Terrible.

Oh, there is more bad news: Receiver Davone Bess has a thumb injury and missed most of the second quarter. So the Dolphins, which started the day with only three active receivers, are down to two.

Colleague David J. Neal tells me the Dolphins have gone 12 consecutive postseason quarters without a touchdown.

Anyway, the live blog continues in the comments section below.

Dolphins-Ravens tied 3-3 going to 2nd quarter

If the young Dolphins are suffering from playoff jitters, they're not showing it.

The Dolphins converted a Baltimore Ravens fumble into a 3-0 advantage when the offense moved the ball pretty well on its first series.

The Ravens, no slouches they, answered with a field goal of their own.

The second quarter will show which of the two teams, if either, can break this tie.

Join me in the comments section and we'll check it out on the live blog together.

A playoff live blog today of Fins-Ravens game

The day is finally here. Are you just a little excited?

The Miami Dolphins return to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-02 season today. They play the Baltimore Ravens. Baltimore is favored by 3 points.

But so far in these playoffs, the home team is 2-0.

One thing I know: The Dolphins lost to Baltimore 27-13 on Oct. 19 and two things the Dolphins want to address on offense are the use of the wildcat package and turnovers. On the turnover front, the Miamians must avoid the kind of game-changing plays that they allowed in the first game.

That means no interception returns for touchdowns, such as the one Terrell Suggs had in the regular season.

On the wildcat front, the Dolphins have studied and schemed to beat the blitz the Ravens showed every time Miami lined up in the formation the first game. That suggests passes and other tweaks out of wildcat, rather than just Ronnie Brown runs up the pike. The former might work. The latter didn't work on Oct. 19.

One last thing: The Dolphins defense must make Joe Flacco play like a rookie. He played more like Joe Montana in the first game. That means pressure. It will be interesting to see how Miami brings that pressure. Joey Porter, with 17.5 sacks in the regular season, needs to step up.

As you know, the reason you're here is to get the live blog going. It begins in the comments section at 1 p.m., although if you start now, I'll be checking in and out while I do my pregame show on 790 The Ticket in Miami.

The show streams online at 790theticket.com. You can also call me toll free at 1-888-790-3776.

January 02, 2009

The amazing, inspiring story of Davone Bess

Bess First of all I want to share with you that the 2008 numbers are in and this blog has set all sorts of records. This year this blog enjoyed 2,839,126 page views, making it the No. 1 sports blog at The Miami Herald with no one else even close. So thank you and great job by you.

I want to share with you today the story of Dolphins receiver Davone Bess. It is amazing. It is inspiring. It is, in my opinion, worthy of a movie -- particularly if Bess continues his meteoric ascent and improvement. Notre Dame's Rudy has got nothing on this kid.

The story is so good, it tells itself.

So that is what Davone Bess is doing. Here now is Davone Bess in his own words:

"My mom grew up pretty much a single parent. She had me at the age of 15 and she had my brother at 17. My dad pretty much wasn't there. If anyone was there it was my brother's dad, but not really because he was in a big time drug dealer. He was in and out of jail himself and going back and forth so he wasn't a reliable source.

"There was times my mom was in a room breaking down, crying, going crazy trying to figure out how to pay the bills and stuff. Knowing all the negativity my family had grown up in, there was almost no way out of our situation. This was in Oakland, California. I should tell you I was the first person in my family to go to college. I was the first person on my dad's side of the family that went to high school. That kind of gives you an idea of the type of family I grew up in. And my grandma was really supportive of my mom,  but it's crazy because my grandma was actually pregnant at the same time as my mom. I'm the same age as my auntie. So [my grandma] couldn't really take care of me like she really wanted to because she had her own to take care of. so my mom was a kid -- a kid raising two kids.

"Sports pretty much kept me busy, kept me out of trouble, kept me off the streets. My mom always stressed, 'We don't need to be going that route like your stepfather,' meaning my brother's dad. And being a kid, everybody got in trouble, doing this and that when your parents told you not to. But I always had sports to lean back on and it always helped me to stay focused and keep me from getting deeper into serious problems.

"My stepfather, like I said, was in and out of jail a lot. He was there when he could be. But it's different when you got a male living with you in the house. He didn't stay with us. I graduated high school and one day I went to pick some friends up, but they ended up having some stolen merchandise with them. I picked them up. We get pulled over. And they charged me with everything because I was the driver. They knew I had nothing to do with it. But because of the fact I was an accessory, I did 15 months in a juvenile detention facility. Those guys wanted to testify on my behalf and tell them I had nothing to do with it. I was getting ready to go off to college and do all these positive things, but their attorneys wouldn't allow them to do that because that would make them look bad.

"I was going to Oregon State. I had signed a sports scholarship to go to Oregon State already. I had just graduated high school. It hurt. It hurt big time. So it was time for Plan B for me. I knew I was going to get out. I had all these positive things going for me, but the positive things ended up screwing me because [the judge] felt that I knew better than to put myself in that situation.

"So I go to the facility. It was as open facility. If I had wanted to walk out the door and leave, I could do it. There was like no gates, no nothing. I could walk out. Obviously, if you walk out, you get in trouble. You might get more time. They had a whole bunch of leagues -- volleyball, softball, flag football -- so I'm doing all these different things. And with the flag football team, we end up going to this local high school to play. And there was this whole bunch of kids being recruited from this school. I guess I started turning heads playing against the kids that were already being recruited.

"We were playing 7 on 7 and one of June Jones assistants ended up seeing me. This was the summer of '04 and from that summer throughout the fall I was talking to [the University of] Hawaii. I got out in September. And then they brought me out on a trip in October and offered me a scholarship. I accepted, and in January 2005, I enrolled at Hawaii.

"I got my opportunity back. I still wasn't sold that my dream was definitely going to come true and I was going to the NFL. I knew that by me going into that situation, it was going to be that much harder to make it to the NFL. Being Hawaii, nobody respects Hawaii. And then there was still the trouble issue -- the character issue -- that people were going to wonder about.

"I didn't get drafted. And it was frustrating. But I didn't give up. I knew whatever team I was going to, I was going to give my all and give my best. I set specific goals for myself when Miami signed me. They called me in the fifth round and I thought that was going to be my round. But they said they didn't have any other picks and had to use their picks on, like, a lineman or a running back or something. So I was, like, OK. Then right after the draft my phone was ringing off the hook. Like 12 teams called me after the draft but I had actually verbally committed to coming to Miami during the seventh round. So I ended up saying, 'I'm just going to go to Miami.' I did know the situation and I felt this was the best spot for me to come in and contribute.

"They gave me a $7,000 signing bonus and my agent said there were a couple of teams willing to give me up around $9,000 or $10,000. But that didn't matter. I knew this was the best opportunity and best fit for me. I think my second preseason game, against Jacksonville, they bumped me up and I actually started as the third receiver. And I was like, 'OK,' and got a little more confidence. And then the next game, even more. It was the last preseason when I had my best game, even on special teams. And that let me know the coaches were serious. And Week 1, here it is and I'm the No. 3 receiver and starting in the three wide receiver package. And my confidence grew from there.

"So never listen to anybody that says you can't do something. Because through all those times, throughout that whole story I just told you, I always had people in my ear or talking behind my back saying I wasn't going to make it. 'He ain't going to do this, he's just going to be another statistic on the streets. He ain't this, he ain't that. I'm happy he went to jail.' I just kept my eyes on the prize. I knew what I wanted to do. I knew what I wanted to accomplish. And I took that motivation and kept it going. So don't let anybody tell you you can't do anything."

Amazing stuff. And thinking about Bess and guys like him on this team, is it any wonder why the Miami Dolphins think they can continue winning this season? 

January 01, 2009

Miami defense might ask "What about us?"

The Dolphins have lived by the credo, "Why not us?" during a season in which they discarded doubts about their ability to turn around a 1-15 nightmare in 2007 to an 11-5 dream in 2008.

But as 2009 dawns, it might be interesting to note the Miami defense may be adopting a new motto as the playoff game against Baltimore looms: "What about us?"

The Dolphins defense, you see, has apparently heard a lot about, of all things, the Ravens defense. Yes, the Miamian's defense has to worry primarily about the Baltimore offense. But with all the national attention on Ray Lewis and Ed Reed and Terrell Suggs and the greatness of the Baltimore defense, the Dolphins defenders are wondering why no one has noticed them.

"It's not talked about," defensive end Vonnie Holliday said. "Nobody's talking about the Miami Dolphins defense. No doubt about it. I was sitting there the other day and I'm watching television and thinking our defense is OK. But you don't hear that from anyone.

"So there is that competitive side of you where you want to match their defense. You want to play better than their defense, no doubt about it."

I could find no Miami defender who thought, or would say publicly, he believes Miami's defense is better than Baltimore's. Fact is, several Miami defenders kept saying they are more worried about Baltimore's offense than defense.

But these guys are competitors. And they don't doubt themselves even when the pundits do.

So ask Matt Roth who he thinks about when asked to name the better NFL defenses and this is his response:

"I think Pittsburgh and Baltimore and ourselves," Roth said, before adding, "At times."

So what has to happen for the Miami defense to be in that conversation all the time?

"Win this week," Roth said. "Yeah. Win this week. We've been playing good. We just have to be on all cylinders. That's where we're at right now."

The Miami defense was ranked 15th in total defense this season. Baltimore was ranked No. 2.

But the Dolphins had a run of three consecutive games in which they did not allow a defensive touchdown and they yielded only 317 points all season. Miami's D ranked No. 9 in points allowed, which is probably the most telling defensive statistic.

The Ravens allowed 244 points and ranked No. 3 in points allowed. 

"We're not trying to compare ourselves to them," said strong safety Yeremiah Bell. "We know where they're at and they got the numbers to prove it. They're like second in the league and we're like 15th. We can't compare ourselves to them."

And then in the next breath, Bell makes the comparison.

"We're a young defense," he said. "We're getting better and we will get to that point. Those guys have been together for a while and we're kind of a brand new team trying to get this thing rolling. So we're getting better each week."

Bottom line, Holliday said, the Miamians want to play well enough Sunday so that, when the game is over, people will come out of it, "Talking about our defense. And who won the defensive battle.

"We can win it. We're capable. Why not? We're capable of being in the playoffs aren't we? As a defense we've done some good things around here. But what a test. What a time to step up."