It is tax day and that's quite depressing with all the government spending and mismanagement that's going on. It's enough to cause hundreds of thousands of citizens to take to the streets in grassroots tea parties throughout our nation. Meanwhile NFL fans are sizing up the potential potholes in their teams' recently released schedules while also measuring their teams' weaknesses in anticipation of the coming NFL draft.
It can all be a huge downer if you let it.
So today I offer a lift to you, the hardcore Dolphins fan. You have much to be thankful for because although I've made the point time and again that the Miami roster is flawed, the franchise is nonetheless pointed in the right direction.
So what follows is a list of positive facts about your Miami Dolphins that should take your mind off 1040s and turbo tax and all that schtuff.
1. Bill Parcells is running the show. The Big Tuna has brought to the Dolphins a credibility and respect that was lacking since Jimmy Johnson quit the first time, after the 1998 season. The Dolphins are no longer viewed as potential victims in trades because Parcells doesn't get taken to the cleaners. The Dolphins are being molded in the image of a champion that Parcells likes to establish, which is a big, strong, hard-working team that avoids drama. Parcells is so good at what he does he is already thinking of the 2010 season even as we're days from the 2009 draft. He is going into this draft understanding the possible holes in the 2010 roster -- due to free agency -- and he expects to make decisions in this draft, in part, with that season in mind. Pretty awesome for a team that simply tried to survive day-to-day under previous management regimes.
2. The quarterback situation is set. The Dolphins haven't had it this good at the quarterback spot since Dan Marino was in his prime. They have a veteran quarterback in Chad Pennington that doesn't make many mistakes, doesn't make a ton a money to eat up cap space, doesn't complain about his contract situation, is a great leader, and is a great team player. They have an heir to Pennington in Chad Henne, who has a very good arm, played for a long time at a bigtime university, doesn't seem overmatched by anything, and is such a competitor he's intent on displacing Pennington this year rather than waiting for 2010.
3. The coaching staff is set and productive. Yes, there were some hiccups early last season when Tony Sparano and his staff were still getting to know their players. But they figured out very quickly what those players could and could not do and they maximized that ability. The staff was good enough that Todd Bowles and Paul Pasqualoni were considered head coaching candidates elsewhere this offseason and Steve Hoffman was hired away by Kansas City. The good news is the staff only had the Hoffman defection and an offensive line assistant change when Mike Maser was fired. By any NFL standard, that means the Dolphins staff retains its cohesion and constancy.
4. Youth rules. The over-the-hill-gang they definitely aren't. The Dolphins were young last season and will be younger yet this year, believe it or not. They've lost or cut veterans such as Vonnie Holliday, Renaldo Hill and Andre' Goodman and will replace them with younger players. They are about to add a dozen rookies. They are building for tomorrow. “There is no doubt about it, you have to have younger players on your team," General Manager Jeff Ireland said. "You want to build through the draft. That’s a strategy and philosophy that this trio has felt real strongly about as many times as we have been together. Age does make a difference as well as longevity, how many more years a guy can play and if a player is ascending or descending.”
5. The Dolphins know the trenches are important. There is no NFL team that can win despite losing the battles along the line of scrimmage. It is simply impossible. Don Shula recognized this earlier in his career when he sent three offensive linemen to the Hall of Fame. He knew this when tough men such as Manny Fernandez anchored the defensive line. But he went away from that a bit when Dan Marino came on the scene. Yes, that lightning release was rarely sacked, but the Dolphins couldn't run the football to save their lives. And yes, the Dolphins applied pressure, but they struggled stopping the run. It was telling that in 1995, the Dolphins desperately needed to improve their pass rush ... so their signature free agent signing was Eric Green, a tight end. Jimmy Johnson believed offensive linemen weren't a priority, but rather afterthoughts he could find late in the draft or as undrafted free agents and that just wasn't true all the time. By contrast, the Dolphins today have a solid starting offensive line. Jake Long should get better. Justin Smiley is expected to be healthy by training camp. Jake Grove is an upgrade over Samson Satele as long as he stays healthy. Donald Thomas is 100 percent again and has much potential. And Vernon Carey is nothing if not dependable. Defensively, the Miami line is young and improving. Yes, Holliday is gone but he played only 53 percent of the snaps last season and was destined to play less than that this year because Phillip Merling or Randy Starks are going to start. The Dolphins have high, high hopes for Lionel Dotson, who got little attention in 2008. Keep your eyes on him because Parcells is.
6. The draft will not finish Miami's work. The Dolphins have worked out and studied a ton of little-known, little-valued players they believe might not be drafted. The reason for this is the team will sign about a dozen undrafted free agents in hopes that maybe two make the team and one or more can become practice squad players. Last season the Dolphins added K Dan Carpenter and WR Davone Bess as undrafted free agents. I think that speaks for itself.
7. There's more to Miami than meets the eye. While most of us are focused on the starters and the stars, the Dolphins staff and personnel dept. are wise enough to go beyond that. Guess what? They didn't give up on guard Shawn Murphy after he disappointed last season. He came in too
fat heavy to be able to compete last training camp. Falling behind day after day, he was of no effect by the time the team needed guard help during the regular-season. That will not be the case now. He is in shape and getting stronger. The Dolphins haven't given up on him simply because he's not a star or starter. The same is true with Dotson, who I mentioned earlier. No, he didn't figure prominently. But this is a 6-4, 290-pound guy who is getting stronger this offseason. He is a project, I grant you, but the project is being improved as we speak. Safety Tyrone Culver is not a name you'll hear most anyplace else. But the Dolphins think he's going to be a stud in the nickel and dime packages. He has coverage and ball skills that allow him to compete at cornerback. And failing that, he's a reliable tackler in the back end. The Dolphins expect much from him. Then there is Joe Cohen. Who, you might ask? He's pushing Paul Soliai to be Miami's backup nose tackle. At 6-2 and 315, Cohen is probably a bit smaller than the Dolphins want anchoring the middle, but University of Florida fans know he's He-Man strong so watch for him. Finally, there is TE Joey Haynos. The fact of the matter is David Martin and Anthony Fasano are both unsigned beyond 2009. Both will not be re-signed. The Dolphins are projecting Haynos to be the next guy up in the rotation. He has great hands. He's 6-8 and 270 pounds, which makes him a HUGE target in the red zone. And the amazing thing is the kid is rather lanky and can run pretty well. He has potential the Dolphins believe will begin to shine in 2009.
So those are some good-news facts you should consider about your team today -- even as tax bills and life's other challenges try to get most of your attention.
Let me know what else you would add to my list.