One of my twitter followers (which you should join, by the way) asked me Tuesday afternoon what order of responsibility I would assign to Miami's current struggles. OK, let me be more honest: He asked who I blame for Miami's problems this season.
Well, with the Dolphins the responsibility (blame or credit) for a season's performance goes to the players, who must execute, the coaches, who must develop players and put them in a position to succeed, and the personnel department, who delivers the players to the coaches.
This blog usually focuses on the players and coaches.
Today we focus on the personnel department.
And that personnel department is pretty much the kingdom of Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland -- The Big Tuna and the Tuna Helper, as I sometimes amuse myself designating them. (I'll stop if one ever asks me to.)
The overall grade of the personnel department since March of 2008 has to be considered a B-minus as of today. That department took a 1-15 team and cleaned a very dirty house. I believe the accurate percentage of player turnover has been in the 75 percent range as only 16 players that were on the team before the current regime arrived are still on the team. That figure includes players on injured reserve.
The grade can and will change as this season's final month unfolds, but the point is the personnel department has done relatively well.
But great? Wonderful? Amazing?
Quick, which player did this personnel department sign, draft or trade for that has been a game-defining player? Yeah, nobody.
Jake Long might be an excellent player for the next decade but you're supposed to get that and more when you get the first pick of the draft. And Long doesn't change the game or force opponents to scheme and game plan for him. He's a foundational role player.
The point is we cannot name one player that we know will be a superstar for the Dolphins in the coming years. You hope Chad Henne might be that player. But there are almost as many reasons to doubt he can be that guy as there are reasons to believe he will be.
We hope Vontae Davis or Sean Smith become lockdown cornerbacks in the coming years and become perhaps the best CB combo in the NFL. But they're not there yet. Not even close. And so we can give the personnel department kudos for picking two starters, but no credit (yet) for finding greatness.
Cameron Wake has potential. But he is a project that might take another couple of years. Lousaka Polite is a fine player at fullback but he is a role player, not a star.
Anyone else on that roster that might be getting Pro Bowl consideration in the coming weeks or seasons?
We hope Phillip Merling goes there, but frankly, he's kind of a disappointment in that he didn't pick up this year where he left off last season and then rise from there. Kendall Langford is good enough to start, but not great. Randy Starks is a nice player, but he's not going to the Pro Bowl, folks.
The rest of that highly paid $156 million offensive line? Not a Pro Bowl player on there despite high hopes for the future of Donald Thomas. Again, good stuff, but no greatness yet.
The fact is the personnel department has hit on a ton C and B players. But the A and A-plus guys have yet to show themselves.
Miami's personnel department has also missed some as well, and that, of course, lowers the overall grade.
The personnel department's biggest and most obvious mistake is in its failing to find a playmaker for the offense. Here we are in Year 2 of Parcells and Ireland and we are relying on Ricky Williams to carry the offense.
The guy was carrying the offense in 2002. So Parcells and Ireland are threatening to fall into the same abyss that swallowed Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban and Cam Cameron in that none added two or three offensive players that turned Williams into a role player. Saban almost did it by drafting Ronnie Brown, but even he complained in 2006 that one reason the Dolphins finished 6-10 was that his best weapon was not available as Williams was suspended for the season.
Cameron wanted to get rid of Williams because he disliked everything Williams represented, but even he found himself needing Williams.
And now these Dolphins need Williams. Too much. The truth is today's Dolphins have no real hope of winning games if the 32-year-old running back doesn't play great. That Miami finds itself in this unseemly situation is ... is ... really bad personnel work.
The personnel department has yet to find a star wide receiver. The Dolphins weren't interested in Terrell Owens, didn't trade for Braylon Edwards, didn't draft Hakeem Nicks, and now Miami has no receiver that is an appreciable threat to defenses. The team did draft Brian Hartline and Patrick Turner. Hartline has been OK as a rookie, while Turner cannot get on the field.
The personnel department blew it on Ernest Wilford. That's all I got to say about that.
The personnel department was looking for an upgrade at free safety this year and paid Gibril Wilson $27.5 million to be that guy. The New Orleans Saints, meanwhile, paid Darren Sharper $1.7 million for one year. Which of the two players has taken over games this season? By the way, it was a personnel decision to let Renaldo Hill go to Denver. He also has played better than Wilson.
No personnel department is flawless. Miami's is not. But the outstanding personnel departments cover a multitude of misses by adding one game-changing player a year or two. Look at Minnesota, who has added Adrian Peterson, Jared Allen and Brett Favre the last three years.
No, they didn't draft two of those players. So what? All three are key reasons the Vikings are playing exceedingly well now.
The Colts do it through the draft, but they seem to get production from their rookies almost immediately. Look up WR Austin Collie's numbers. Look at what rookie CB Jerraud Powers is doing as a starter. And I'm not even mentioning Donald Brown, who we last saw plowing over Gibril Wilson en route to a TD at Land Shark Stadium.
The point here is the Miami personnel department is in great hands with Parcells and Ireland. They've done a good job. But you cannot honestly say they've done a great job until we see some great players on the field. We cannot say they've done a great job until we see a team that's better than 5-6.