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Miami Dolphins personnel dept. good not great

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?

Not really.

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.

Ricky Williams!

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.


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Nobody's? Sharper and Samuel are 1st and 2nd in INT's respectively

TO, TJ, AUstin ALL have better #'s than any WR we have...

There's nothing worng with infusing a yong team with talent...or a stop-gap...It's a tactic that MANY successful teams use!

Garbage ! i'll only take austin. The rest are old and garbage !. samuel ? you just drafted davis and smith. Samuel signed for like 60 mil. No Thanks !

its year two of a four year project! give em time this team sucked big time and at least theyre competitive.

Exactly ! Successful teams . Teams that were good already. teams On the verge. MIAMI WAS 1-15 !

G0d D#mIt man! What's so hard to understand? You used NO as an example...Well, New Orleans was AGGRESSIVE! THey signed Shockey, and Brees, and later Vilma, and Sharper! I said SIGN ONE, TWO of them, not all of them...ANY of those guys are better than ANY player on this team for their respactive positions! THey aren't ALL old, and a WR can be productive well past 30, in fact, they are ALL more productive than the cast we have!

"Rome wasn't built in a day".

"It's only been two years".

"It's a 3 year plan".

"It's a 4 year plan".

"2007 we were 1-15".

"Finding acorns".

"Turning over every rock".

And finally my favorite: "I like this team".

Tony Sparano (preseason 2009)

Cocoajoe, if you don't "like this team", hit the road punk... kick rocks

God D#mit. Don't you understand anything ? NO already went 10-6 and were on the verge when they went out and got shockey , vilma and now sharper. I'm sure alot of NO fans were calling for payton's head and were down on their team , just like you are now. Who having the last laugh. 11-0. CHILD PLEASE !

Meant to throw in that NO fans were down on their team when they went 7-9 and 8-8. Who's having the last laugh at 11-0.

What do you guys REALLY think the Fins final W-L record will be?


Who will contribute or NOT contribute for that record to happen?

I think this staff has done a lot with what they had and not sacrificing draft picks to do it overall. My main issue with the last game isn't that they lost, it's that they seemed to give up. I saw an offense that had no chemistry or concentration and a defense that couldn't stop the Bills! THE BILLS!!!!! I was very disillusioned after that game. If we beat NE, when can be done, then all of the sudden everything looks different and you have a much happier fan base. If they stay in the game the whole way again things are looking up. If they show up and lay another egg.....get ready for some REAL whining and moaning.

I have a question for you Armando. My favorite channel is ESPN Classic. I love all the documentaries. I notice that they often recycle the same interviews for various documentaries. I recall seeing you once giving some comments. I think it was regarding Dan Marino and perhaps it was for SportsCentury.

My question is - how does that interview work? Do they come to your home? Do you go to one of their studios?

Also, I presume for efficiency that they'll ask you questions about multiple people/topics, so they can use your comments for numerous documentaries and don't have to keep coming back to interview you. Did they just ask you questions about Dan Marino or about a bunch of other people/topics?

I'd be very curious to know.

P.S. I keep hearing about how Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are the next Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. Boy, I hope I'm proven wrong, but I just don't see it. Madison and Surtain were literally "shut down corners." Davis and Smith, while confident and cocky, don't yet have the skills to back up their confidence.

Sorry man, I'm just not sold...I don't see the young guys we have becoming GREAT players...Even if Wake turns out great, he's already 27-28...Not exactly a spring chicken...JT, JP, Ferg, Bell, Allen will all be gone in a year or 2, and who do they have to replace them?

Sean Smith will NOT be the next Surtain, you can take that to the bank

Tampafin, I'm predicting 12-4.

Finally, I agree with Nathan...

Davis seems to have more potential, but, he seems more like Buckly than Surtain or Madison

A risk-taker that gets smoked often

6-11 ? LOL 1 I see miami going 7-9.


Maybe in an alternate universe.

MY GOD ! Can we please give these guys more than 11 games to make a judgement ? Miami is the only team in the league with 2 starting rookie CB's ( i think indy for a game or 2 ).

Yes, we are missing playmakers. but you can't buy playmakers either. look at the jets or the redskins. they are always shoping for playmakers.

Buying players, puts you in a hole for years to come. Thats what our philosophy of bill, ireland and the dolphins. build from the draft.

Did you need more than 11 games to know that Marino, Zach, JT, Madison, Surtain, Bowens, Gardner, Ogunleye were going to be great?

Marc , are f'n kidding me. Yeah i did. Surtain didn't even start until his 2nd year. Ogunleye ? The man missed a whole year because of injury and then played another year as a backup before starting in his 3rd year. Madison started after 8 games or so and really came on the next year. Gardner ? LMFAO ! It also took him a couple of years and was no star. How many pro bowls did he make ? LMFAO !Taylor , thomas and bowens. That's it ! CHILD PLEASE . Give it a rest already.

are you. Typo

ya i agree, but to me your just stating the obvious. everyone wants results now in the nfl and it can happen, but the truth behind it is that as a franchise you dont want to be a one hit wonder but the beatles or say the steelers. they take years to build teams and the foundation untill they find the elite players. dolfans just relax. change has come and will continue for years to come. we dont want a one hit wonder we want a year in and year out contender.

Surtain didn't start because we had Buckley, Ogunleye was injured, but, when he started, as well as the others, they made IMMEDIATE impacts! You saying that Gardner didn't? You might be worse than I thought ;) He was solid...He did have a short career though

What else is funny about this list...We traded away all of them, with exception to Marino, who they forced out...

I think people need to keep in prospective that the team was 1-15 not even 2 years ago. If they had only won 5 or 6 games last year, 1.Everyone would have thought that was great, and 2. Everyone would think this year is going even better and they're on the right track. This is just a matter of fans being spoiled by last year's early success and expecting the same results when in reality, this team is on year 2 of a complete rebuilding process and still is a good year or 2 of being a completed product. Let me ask you this, who would you rather be right now, Houston or Miami? Houston is basically a finished product that seems to have all the right peices, yet is 5-6 and has yet to make the playoffs, ever. Where as Miami is far from a finished product and you know needs obvious help at 3-4 positions. Do you get my point? Cry and whine about this team after they get a play making #1 WR and TE, and draft a stud NT and Safety and still are only a .500 team like Houston is.

Nobody's spoiled by last years "success"...Maybe we're just sick of more than a decade of misery...

Marc , gardner was a instant succsess ? LMFAO ! You sure changed your tunes on surtain and ogunleye in a hurry. LOL . Like i said , it took surtain a year of learning before he started and the same goes for ogunleye. Davis and Smoth have been thrown into the fire. I'm done.

As I recall Gardener made an immediate impact, yes! From what I recall Ogunleye started as soon as his injuries were cleared up...If not, it may have been the fact he was behind Trace Armstrong...Surtain didn't need a year either, as I said, he was behind Buckley, who was a pretty good DB!

Armondo, compare the 2006 or 2007 rosters with the current one and tell us how many positions had better players than the ones on this team. In many cases, it looks like our 3rd string player is better than the starters in those years. Also, what were you saying about those teams drafts and personnel moves?

Chicken heads

I think this is a VERY good assessment of the team this year. There are a few things lacking though. What other coach INSIST that a player be great on special teams before they get on the field in their main role? Sure they need to contribute but most teams consider it too big a risk to put your best players in that position. Special teams are only PART of the team Sparano and it spends the least amount of time on the field. Ideally we want the offense to spend the most time on the field, SCORING. There needs to be a SERIOUS look taken at our D coach and or schemes this offseason. We either need the players to support the 3-4 or get a new coach and go to a 4-3. The later being the best move. Last year Carolina proved that a great running back tandem does not need the Wildcat. Trade Ronnie. Ricky is now proving what we have all known. Ricky is the stud back on our team. Ronnie is mediocre without the WC. We still have Patrick Cobbs. Lex Hillard reminds me of Larry Csonka.

Why did we extend Crowder? He has been a problem since day one at Miami. Look it up. Coaching has to be questioned. Lex Hillard runs great and Sparano runs Ricky more than he said he would. Kory Sperry caught a touchdown pass and two other catches in his first game ans we have not seen him since. Why? Oh, I know. Our TE's are catching and scoring all over the place. It is obvious that covering Martin is what made Fasano so good last year. Ted Ginn Jr. on third and important? Ted Ginn on anything but returns? "If you always do what you always done, you always get what you alwyas got." Miami will NEVER get their money's worth out of Ginn, EVER. Pay him to stay at home. He cost us more by being on the field. Write him off as "our" Ryan Leaf. Henne is our future. How can people judge him poorly with what he has had to work with and for as a rookie?LOL Look at some of the drives he makes. Works of art. He is talent that is being kept under thumb. He comes on and off the field WAY to much to keep a rythmn. WR's and TE's drop perfect passes. he needs to learn a little more touch on long passes, but he is a rookie. Did you see that pass to Hartline in the back corner of the endzone? WHy is Hartline not the number one receiver? I can answer. It is $$$$$. Ginn is getting payed too much NOT to be there. One final thing. We made some good moves last year and this year. However, it is perfectly clear that we have more needs this year than we did last year, they are just at different positions.

Marc , surtain and ogunleye didn't start because they simply weren't ready yet and were learning behind armstrong and buckley NOT because of them. I recall jimmy johnson getting on gardner all the time because of his laziness. He took to many plays off. He sure was NOT a instant success. Give it a rest will ya ! :)

Armando, this blog entry is pointless. THE DOLPHINS WERE 1-15 TWO YEARS AGO!!!!! You don't win a Super Bowl overnight!!!!! You talk about Ricky Williams like he is a scrub. The only reason you do this is because he is 32. He is still our best player, regardless of age. He won the Heisman for a reason. I like our direction. I like our young guys. Give it time Armando!!!!

Mando, I think, and I might be wrong, but isn't Jason Ferguson a game defining player that the personel dept acquired? Look at the stats without him.

We drafted Jake Long because guess what? We needed him!! He is a great player, and tell me how many offensive lineman there are that are "game changers"

Armando, yellow journalism on the sports pages is alive and well -- your article is a paradigm of the journalistic obsession with instant gratification. I commend kindry and like minds for their rational perspective.

Parcells and his disciples like to build a team from the inside out -- and he did that last year, taking Long, Merling, Langord, Shaun Murphy, Donald Thomas, adding Ferguson; this year he signed Jake Grove, who unfortunately once again can't stay healthy. With the core linemen in place (and remember in a 3-4, the defensive linemen aren't the impact players, the LBs are), the front office focused on other need positions in the draft --defensive back in particular, which was a greater need than wide receiver. This front office knows that, historically, defensive backs can play well as rookies, while wide receivers usually take 3 years to develop. Hence, Vontae Davis over Hakeen Nicks. Free agency beefed up the linebacking corp with Taylor (a stop gap due to age) and Wake.

With significantly improved depth, and with a much better sense of what the team has (particularly with someone like Ginn), the front office can now go get impact players -- who will be able to have a real impact because a solid core is already in place (eg, Randy Moss disappeared in Oakland, but is a superstar again with New England). With Porter likely gone because of an inability to play the run, LB will be a focus. As will WR.

And don't think that the front office didn't plan it this way with 2010 being an uncapped year and with the 2010 draft supposedly stronger and deeper than the last few drafts: with core players in place, with depth, with fewer needs, the Dolphins can now focus their offseason spending on 2-3 impact players this off-season, rather than multiple players .

No front office is perfect -- but for one of the commentators to think Ernest Wilford was a world-historical bust is silly. A mistaken assessment? Sure. Overpaid the $6 million bonus? By $5.99 million. Wilford was supposed to be a poor man's Keyshawn Johnson, a possession receiver who would be able to help red zone offenses with his height. He was not expected to be an All-Pro. It didn't work out.

The much bigger mistake is Gibril Wilson. It's obvious why they chose him over Darren Sharper -- Wilson is much younger and they were looking for a longer term solution. But Wilson's decline as a player that started in Oakland is clearly not an aberration. The disturbing aspect is that the Parcells-Ireland combination couldn't solve the safety problem in Dallas either -- Parcells could never find a replacement for Darren Woodson (or for a declining Roy Williams for that matter) in his 4 years in Dallas. (He also couldn't draft offensive linemen to save his life, but he seems to have solved that issue in Miami).

As for adding impact players in the draft, let's look at the 2008 draft: who have been the impact players in the first 2 rounds? Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and Chris Johnson. Only Ryan rated a No. 1 pick -- and the front office thought it could get more value choosing Jake Long, and waiting for Henne in the 2nd round (after picking Merling). The Fins did not need a RB, and Chris Johnson did not merit a top pick at the time (in hindsight, 20 teams made mistakes). You can't blame the front office for not being able to trade the top pick and overpaying Long; the draft pick salary allocation and slotting system is all screwed up and the first pick is poison, untradeable.

In the 2009 draft, the Dolphins picked later and went for the greater need, with the possibility of early dividends: cornerback. They picked two good ones in Davis and Smith.
It's way too early to suggest that others chosen after Davis will have more impact.

And for the person who suggested that the Dolphins could have picked up Anquan Boldin for the draft pick used to pick up Pat White, what are you smoking? And Armando, TO? Did this team need such a divisive player? Braylon Edwards? Except for the 2 Dolphins games, he's done very little -- and the word is the Jets may not resign him ... so he may be available next year without the Dolphins having had to give up draft picks.

Building a team is a multi-year process. I think this front office rates a B/B+ so far. This offseason will be key in terms of bringing on impact players. Dol-fans should be patient.

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