Dolphins coach Tony Sparano spoke to the national and local media on Thursday and it was quite enlightening in a Parcellian-not-going-to-tell-you-much sort of way.
As you know Sparano confirmed the Dolphins would not use the franchise tag on any of their free agents. But he wouldn't say why. He confirmed special teams assistant Steve Hoffman has left the team to coach in Kansas City. He kinda sorta tried to explain why Mike Maser was fired as the offensive line coach -- something about him yelling too much, I've been told.
He also made it very clear starting center Samson Satele is going to be in for a battle for the starting center job -- especially when the Dolphins sign or draft his replacement. And Sparano said the wildcat package would continue to be part of the Dolphins identity.
Anyway, read the questions and answers for yourself. Me? I'm just doing my part to fill up the Internet.
Q. Will you franchise any players?
Q. Can you talk about what went into that decision?
"Nothing to talk about. No."
Q. What do you look for at the combine and what do you want to get out of it?
A. "Probably the greatest thing that you learn when you're here at the combine -- from my end and the seat I'm sitting in -- is background and some of the interview information that you're able to get and have access to the players. I think that's critical, just getting to know some of these guys before you actually get into the physical part of it, watching them work, maybe getting them on your campus later on or whatever the case might be. I think the most important thing is the interviews while you're here and then seeing them work. What has happened as of late is more and more guys are working here, which is nice to see."
Q. What is Miami's biggest need?
A. "As you know, I'm not going to tell you from that end what our biggest need is or what any of those things are, but let's not confuse this whole thing. We won 11 football games this year, but we knew when we walked in the door that this was going to be a couple-year deal for us, a couple-, two-, three-year deal to get it right exactly the way we want it. We kind of had an idea of maybe how many players this might take when we walked in and we're not there yet. We won 11 football games, and we know that we need a lot of pieces. There's a lot of needs on our football team right now that we need to address. We'll keep banging away, trying to address them through the draft, maybe through free agency. We may not get them all answered right now."
Q. How much easier will it be in free agency, coming off an 11-win season as opposed to one win?
A. "I hope that that's a little bit easier, but everybody has something great to offer one way or the other.
As you know, the players have options and we have options and all those good things. I would think that
when you're coming off a 1-15 and now you're 11-5 and you start to turn the corner -- we're not there yet,
but you start to turn the corner and change the culture -- that's attractive to the free agents. Our players
on our team right now probably have a pretty good message and pretty good information to potential free
agents that might be out there. That all helps."
Q. How do you coordinate the draft and free agency to fill your needs?
A. "It starts with the free agents. That's the phase that we're closest to with this being 10 days away. From our end, we need to be careful. We're not going to be able to address all our needs from a free-agent standpoint. That really isn't our philosophy. It never has been. Our philosophy is plain and simple: We want to build it through the draft. That's always been Bill's [Parcells] philosophy. That's always been Jeff's [Ireland] philosophy. That's what I've been kind of raised in, so you try to build it through the draft with as many pieces as you can from that end, and then I think you start to maybe look at a couple components that are maybe available to you in free agency one way or the other, whether they're your own or whether they're somebody else's that you might be able to get and help you save a must pick during the course of the draft process. That's the way we attack it: Always thinking the draft is first and foremost."
Q. Is a major trade that would cost draft picks out of character for the Dolphins front office?
A. "A lot of that depends on where you are and maybe what you have to offer. Where we are at this time right now, we need a lot of players. So depending on what that situation is .. You know last year we had a great situation with the Anthony Fasano and Akin Ayodele trade. That trade from Dallas for the fourth-round pick, that helped us. We got two players that we knew a lot about that we knew were going to be starters for us for a fourth-round pick. We felt good about that."
Q. Why did you go tackle-the-quarterback in last year's draft rather than quarterback-then-tackle?
A. "Different people have different philosophies with this whole thing. You look at the way that whole deal went down and, of course, we feel like we got a very good player in Jake [Long] and I'm sure ... I can't speak for Atlanta, but [Matt Ryan] is a heck of a player. At the end of this whole thing, from our end it's always been a philosophy that you start there, up front. And, of course, my background is that way, and Bill's background and history is one where you do start within the lines and you try to get the big people first. The tackle was available, and the left tackle in this league is a premium. We were able to get Jake who, of course, from our end had everything that we were looking for in the makeup."
Q. Do you still have needs on the offensive line?
A. "There's a need at every position right now, and I'm not trying to skirt that question one way or the other. But that's a true statement. We really need a lot. You can never get enough big people. You can never get enough secondary guys. That's the way I've been raised in this deal. As we've gone through the season, you could see those things pop up. We lost Justin Smiley during the course of the season. We lost Donald Thomas during the course of the season. When you're trying to make a run at this thing and you lose valuable pieces like that it proves your point. You can never have enough of them. We were fortunate we had some guys that were able to fill in because that's been our philosophy."
Q. Do you scout players with the Wildcat in mind?
A. "I'm sure of that. I'm sure that there's some people that are looking at those pieces right now. I know that as the season went on, more teams tried it. I don't know how committed other teams are one way or
the other to it, but there's a lot of those kinds of players out there, the potential Wildcat guys, whether they're different positional players that have the skill to run the football that maybe has thrown the football. There's some of those people out there that might fit other people's philosophy. Again, all depends on whether or not you're married to [the Wildcat]. It was good to us, certainly. But at the end of the whole process and you got back and evaluate where we were offensively, it was just a very small part of what we do."
Q. Are you still married to it?
A. "It's going to be a part of our personality. There's no question about it. I think our players like it. I think our coaches feel like there's some advantages there. There's some things this offseason that we had to go back and look at and reevaluate how to do it better, those type of things. There was a lot left on the bone that we didn't roll out there during the course of the season for one reason or the other. This gives us a chance this offseason to push the envelope a little bit more."
Q. How surprised were you that the Wildcat became adopted by so many teams?
A. "I was pretty surprised, to be honest with you. At the end of this, I wish I had a dollar for every person
who ran it. But I was surprised only because we knew when we rolled it out during the course of the New
England week that you're taking a chance one way or the other. We also knew that, hey, this might be a
two-play deal. We might go out there for two plays and if it backfires or it doesn't give us the look that we wanted, maybe we don't see it anymore. It just so happened we started to get a couple of the pictures that we wanted to see, and we were able to go with it a little bit longer. But to see other people running it, that surprised me a little bit."
Q. Would you draft player specifically for the Wildcat?
A. "There are players in this draft that certainly have qualities like that. I don't know that we would solely do that. When you're looking at the percentage that we've used it, that would be hard to do."
Q. What do you think of what's happened with the Jets and Patriots this offseason?
A. "Any time you look at those types of situations in your division, you're always very conscious of what's going on. Starting with the Jets, with a new head coach and him coming from Baltimore and us not having great success against Baltimore the two times that we played them, I think that's something we're doing our homework on. Of course, you shake up a staff, you have to be conscious of the staff Changes. Same thing in New England, you lose your offensive coordinator, those types of situations. We're all aware of that. 'm sure they're aware of what we've done from a staff standpoint. We had a change in the line coach. We have to do our homework to prepare for them, kind of like your new opponents."
Q. Can you address kicking coach Steve Hoffman's situation (joined Chiefs staff)?
A. "Steve had a great opportunity. He had the opportunity to go to Kansas City and coordinate that special teams. I was with Steve in Dallas. It's a long time coming for him. I was really pleased for him and his family. Right now, we need to address the situation, take a look and find the best fit."
Q. How different was it to coach in Dallas under Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips?
A. "Just different philosophies. Being an assistant coach under Bill (laughs), you didn't have this exposure. You didn't have these types of things. You weren't going to speak to the media. It was more of a one-voice philosophy. But as far as the two philosophies on the field, Bill wanted them coached hard. Wade wanted them coached hard. That's what we did. I think an awful lot of coach Phillips and what he's done and how he helped me because getting a chance to have a voice and be out in front of the media and to be a little bit more involved is something that helped me to get this job. I think the philosophies are
just a little different in maybe they ran the overall deal."
Q. Why did you change offensive line coaches?
A. "Well, to be honest with you, there's something that from my end -- and I don't want to get into it too
much because I really think an awful lot of Mike [Maser] and what Mike did for us -- but you have a feeling sometimes. From my end, what I didn't want to do is if I have those kinds of feelings on where we
need to be ... That group is a finicky group, that offensive-line group. I think that to my end, communication-wise, I think it's important. Mike did a great job out there coaching them on the field. But I felt there needed to be a change. I moved in that direction. I didn't want to move in that direction a year from now and sitting here, saying 'Why didn't you do this a year ago?' I felt like this is the time to do it. We evaluate players. We evaluate coaches. My coaches know that, and the players know that."
Q. Because of your background as an O-line coach, will it always been an unfair scenario for your O-line coaches?
A. "I don't know. Bill always says to me 'It's never going to look the way you want it to look or look like when you were coaching it because you were the offensive line coach.' That might be true, but I don't think so. I think I try to let those guys coach. I really don't get involved a whole lot that way. My job is to oversee and to be sure that I'm touching every unit on the field. Joey Porter needs attention. Yeremiah Bell needs attention. All these people need my attention as well. That was my job from day one, so the people that I hired I wanted to make sure they communicated with their positions without me interfering."
Q. Do you monitor Tom Brady's progress and whether you'll have to face him?
A. "Yeah, we pay attention to it. Certainly, when you can you do. There's no secret, and I'm not saying
anything that I'm sure the Patriots or the Jets or the Bills wouldn't be saying. As we know, to get to where we need to be, it all starts in your division. So you better know everything about your division. That's important to us. Our team knows that we need to know everything about our division. At the end of the day, the division is what matters most, first. Watching those things and trying to keep your finger on it as much as you can ... Nobody is going to give out injury information and how people are doing and all that good stuff. But you try to see what you can see. It's important for us."
Q. How many drafts does it take to address the trenches?
A. "That's an interesting question. Certainly, a couple. I would say two, maybe even three to fully get to where you want to be down there. When you look at it, at the end of that whole process last year, we had [Shawn] Murphy, who didn't play a snap for us but is a good, promising young player for us, and then Jake [Long], who played, Donald [Thomas], who we drafted and unfortunately got hurt, and on the other side of the ball Kendall [Langford] and Philip [Merling]. So we had five guys that came out of that draft that one way or the other you could argue the point that four of those guys were contributors. If Donald doesn't get hurt he's probably going to be in there for the long haul and play over a thousand plays. But you're only looking at four players, and you really need somewhere in that process 14, 15 on both sides of the ball combined. It takes a couple of years to get it the way you want to get it in the trenches."
Q. What are your thoughts on Julius Peppers in a 3-4 defense?
A. "To be honest with you, I stay away from commenting on anybody else's players on anybody else's teams or the free-agent stuff. What I do know is there are more teams going to the 3-4. I read just the
other day like you read that Kansas City might be going to a 3-4, so now there's more options for these kinds of payers that are out there right now. There's a lot of these players in the draft, the 265-pound defensive ends that we mess around with in Dallas with the Greg Ellises or in Miami with the Matt Roths. So there's a lot of those kinds of players that maybe aren't big enough to be defensive ends in a 4-3 defense but are big enough to play linebacker."
Q. What is Samson Satele's status and will he be your starting center?
A. Samson's obviously a member of our football team right now. Whether or not he's our starting center?
One of the things I think everyone of our players know on my team is that there's going to be competition at every position always. We feel that makes us better. If we don't have competition, and I don't care what the position is if you look at quarterback and see Chad Pennington's had a great year, but we drafted Chad Henne. He's a guy who'll always go out there and compete. That's why we drafted him. He has that kind of makeup. Chad Pennington has that kind of makeup. There's competition at every one of our positions right now. One thing that we know, and I'm sure every team in this league will say the same thing, is the 53 you had last year doesn't mean that's going to be the 53 you have this year. For us, it's going to be the right 53 again, and whatever happens, happens. Everybody's got to be ready to compete. If not, they don't belong on the Miami Dolphin team."