I learned a lesson in 1993. Having grown up on Dolphins football, I had great admiration for what Don Shula and Dan Marino and Mark Clayton and Mark Duper did in the 1980s.
When I started covering the team in 1990 I had to suppress some of those feelings because now I was interviewing and writing articles about the very men I grew up watching on TV. And dealing with Shula and his band of stars, I came to realize what I saw on TV or had read in the papers wasn't the full picture.
I realized, for example, that Clayton was a supremely gifted, intelligent, pain in the behind. Shula loved what the wide receiver did on many game days, but wasn't thrilled with Clayton on many Mondays through Saturdays.
But despite many trips to Shula's office and many verbal tongue-lashings, Clayton remained on the Dolphins because, well, he produced.
Then in 1991, after posting three 1,000-yard seasons in the the previous four years, Clayton wasn't producing so much anymore. His catches dropped to 44 from 70 the previous year. His yards fell to 619 from 1,053 the year before. And fate of fates, Clayton was also now a free agent.
So you know what Shula did with his star receiver who had done so much and meant so much but was also a pain in the behind and was now on the decline?
No farewell press conference. No ceremonial celebration at the training facility or the stadium. Clayton was just ... gone.
Shula was asked why the Dolphins didn't retain Clayton and all he said was, "He's a free agent and he's free to make whatever decisions he needs to make. And we're free to make whatever decisions we need to make."
That was it. Nobody asked about Clayton again. Shula never talked nostalgically about Clayton while he was coach, that I could recall.
Within months, Shula traded for Irving Fryar, who did get an introductory press conference at the stadium. And Fryar promptly delivered a 1,000-yard, a 1,200-yard, and a 900-yard season the three years he was in Miami.
So why am I telling this story? Well, it relates to another supremely gifted, intelligent, pain in the behind player currently on the Dolphins roster: Joey Porter.
Porter has been interesting his three seasons in Miami. He was a terrible free agent bust in 2007. He was a Defensive Player of the Year Candidate in 2008. And he was somewhere in between in 2009, with the scales tipping slightly closer to '07 than '08.
And throughout that time, he's done some things that have made Dolphins coaches -- both staffs -- gleeful he was around and also unhappy he was around. But, regardless, Porter stayed around because he (mostly) produced on Sundays despite the fact he was sometimes a pain Monday through Saturday.
The problem for Porter is that his pain in the behind factor (PITBF) rose significantly in 2009 while his performance went in the other direction. It wasn't a big problem when Porter refused to come off the field during one game in 2008. Porter was simply fined by Sparano.
But as you read in the previous post, it wasn't cool for the Dolphins when Porter had issues with in 2009 as he was mired in a sack drought. He got suspended for disciplinary reasons. See the difference in the response?
And, as I reported first, Porter became an unhappy camper by season's end and he let coach Tony Sparano know as much in a private meeting.
Porter told Sparano he didn't agree with the suspension in an end-of-season talk. I also reported first that Porter also told a hometown Bakersfield, Califorinia radio station he wasn't coming back to the Dolphins and wanted to play closer to home.
And so now the Dolphins have a decision to make on Joey Porter.
The current labor situation in the NFL means there probably won't be a salary cap in 2010 so the Dolphins are able to jettison Porter with no sort of cap hit whatever. Yes, they have to pay him $2.4 million in guaranteed money that his contract calls for. But they certainly don't have to give him another $1 million he is due on March 1 as a roster bonus.
And whatever they do will not hurt them against the cap because there will be no cap, as it stands now.
So the next move belongs to the Dolphins. Porter is only along for the ride here. He might do a million interviews and say he wants out or say he wants to stay and it will not matter because the Dolphins have hand over this issue.
So will Miami keep the player that has some talent left but also has a high PITBF? I don't know.
I'm too busy thinking Mark Clayton.