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60 posts from January 2010

January 19, 2010

List of special eligibility players for 2010 draft

I think despite all the conversation we have on this forum about trades and free agents of one sort or another, we all agree the way the Dolphins will mostly try to dig out of their 7-9 hole through the draft.

So the deeper the draft, the better it is for Miami. Well, today the NFL released it's list of draft-eligible underclassmen or players with special eligibility for the draft and the good news is it is 53 players long. That's the longest list -- tied with 2008 -- since 2001.

Tell me which players interest you.

No, not Eric Berry. He'll be gone before the Dolphins select at No. 12.

By the way, the practices for the East-West Shrine game in Orlando began on Monday and Bill Parcells was present checking out the talent for himself. But that's not the interesting part. Fact is, Parcells attended the practices for the Orange Bowl teams here in South Florida, too. He wants to see the talent up close and personal.

The intriguing thing to me is that Broncos receiver Brandon Marshall, a native of Central Florida was also at the practice. OK, math lesson of 2 + 2 hopefully =ing a beast WR for Miami.

As you know, Marshall was not on great terms with the Broncos when the season ended. He was, in fact, inactive the final game of the season for reasons the coaching staff determined. So the talk is Marshall may be available when the league year begins in March.

What if Marshall approached Parcells? What if Parcells approached Marshall? If it was going to happen, this would have been the perfect venue. Furthermore, with their interview of former Denver defensive coordinator Mike Nolan coming up, one would assume the Dolphins will be able to get the inside dope on Marshall if they are so inclined.

Obviously, it's up to them to be inclined. But if they are, opportunities are opening to them for gaining information on Marshall -- including talking directly to the player. Coincidently and unofficially, of course. 

By the way, be sure to catch up on today's non-news at the Herald website -- The Dolphins announced the hiring of Bill Sheridan as their inside linebacker coach. It only took them a week or so to announce it.

Player

Pos.

College

Basped, Kevin

DE

Nevada

Benn, Arrelious

WR

Illinois

Berry, Eric

DB

Tennessee

Best, Jahvid

RB

California

Bowman, Navorro

LB

Penn State

Bradford, Sam

QB

Oklahoma

Briscoe, Dezmon

WR

Kansas

Brown, Antonio

WR

Central Michigan

Bryant, Dez

WR

Oklahoma State

Bulaga, Bryan

T

Iowa

Burnett, Morgan

DB

Georgia Tech

Campbell, Bruce

T

Maryland

Clausen, Jimmy

QB

Notre Dame

Curran, Rennie

LB

Georgia

Davis, Anthony

T

Rutgers

Dunlap, Carlos

DE

Florida

Dwyer, Jonathan

RB

Georgia Tech

Franks, Dominique

DB

Oklahoma

Geathers, Clifton

DE

South Carolina

Gibson, Thaddeus

DE

Ohio State

Gresham, Jermaine

TE

Oklahoma

Griffen, Everson

DE

Southern California

Gronkowski, Rob

TE

Arizona

Haden, Joe

DB

Florida

Hernandez, Aaron

TE

Florida

Jackson, Kareem

DB

Alabama

Jones, Chad

DB

Louisiana State

Jones, Reshad

DB

Georgia

Joseph, Linval

DT

East Carolina

Marshall, Darius

RB

Marshall

Mathews, Ryan

RB

Fresno State

McClain, Rolando

LB

Alabama

McCoy, Gerald

DT

Oklahoma

McKnight, Joe

RB

Southern California

McNeal, Shawnbrey

RB

Southern Methodist

Mitchell, Carlton

WR

South Florida

Moore, Joshua

DB

Kansas State

Morgan, Derrick

DE

Georgia Tech

Norton, Jerell

DB

Arkansas

Pierre-Paul, Jason

DE

South Florida

Pouncey, Maurkice

C

Florida

Price, Brian

DT

UCLA

Rogan, Dennis

DB

Tennessee

Snead, Jevan

QB

Mississippi

Spievey, Amari

DB

Iowa

Tate, Golden

WR

Notre Dame

Thomas, Demaryius

WR

Georgia Tech

Thomas, Earl

DB

Texas

Warren, Donovan

DB

Michigan

Williams, Damian

WR

Southern California

Williams, Mike

WR

Syracuse

Worilds, Jason

DE

Virginia Tech

Wright, Major

DB

Florida

Jets "formula" is a mirage not the plan to follow

I am praying to survive this week and reach Sunday's demolishing of the New York Jets by the Indianapolis Colts because my head wants to explode with all the J-E-T-S stuff the East Coast Media is laying on so thick these days..

I'm not hating here. I believe the Jets, a mediocre team, have grabbed a great opportunity and are holding on with superhuman grip in making their way into the AFC Championship game.

They took advantage of two teams laying down for them the final two weeks of the season -- after the head coach himself said the season was done -- to qualify for the playoffs. Then they beat a flawed and wounded Cincinnati team in the first round of the playoffs and a San Diego team that had a wide receiver that could kick better than the kicker and a man who has never won a championship-caliber game as the head man.

And so now the Jets are the best thing since turboprops?

You guys are as guilty as the media of overstating what the Jets are. I've read some of the comments about how the Jets formula should be the Dolphins formula going forward. You know, run the ball like crazy, play aggressive defense, win championships!

A couple of things: The Jets have not won any championships. The Jets will not win any championships during this postseason. And they do what they do out of necessity, not out of choice.

First, separate the Jets defense from this conversation. That unit is championship caliber. They deserve great respect and admiration for playing an attacking style of football few teams match. It's the reason the Jets allowed fewer points than any other.

But the offense?

Rex Ryan on Sunday called it, "old fashioned ground and pound football." He said it with pride as if that's what his plan was all along. And I'm calling B.S. on that.

The fact of the matter is the Jets are ground and pound because when they tried to be what they truly want to be -- a multi-dimensional team with a dynamic passing game as well as dynamic running game -- and they recognized they don't have the horses to do it.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez threw more interceptions than TDs while the Jets were hoping to be a multi-faceted offense. And the team lost games against the likes of lesser teams such as Buffalo, and yes, Miami, during that time.

How do I know the Jets don't really want to have a one-dimensional offense based completely on the league's best running game? Because Ryan has said so himself. I've heard it with my own two eyes (LOL).

Earlier this year, when the Jets figured out they had a fine defense and running game, they recognized they needed to throw the ball to win championships, so they went out and traded for wide receiver Braylon Edwards to do just that.

Ryan called Edwards, "the final piece of the puzzle," when the trade with Cleveland was made.

Ryan said the Jets gave up good players for Edwards and that would, in turn, prevent teams from stacking the box or disrespect New York's ability to go downfield.

"I think we get a receiver who draws a team's attention," Ryan said. "It's almost about what the defenses can't do to us anymore."

Of course, we know Edwards hasn't quite become the consistent threat the Jets had hoped. But that's irrelevant to this writing. The point is the Jets desperately wanted to become something greater than "ground and pound." They knew they were incomplete without a great downfield threat and gave up players and draft picks for a wide receiver they thought would, pardon the pun, bring that completion.

And that brings me to you guys, the Dolphins fan community. I've been hearing troubling rumblings from you about how the Dolphins should mimic the Jets. I've been hearing that the Jets have the right formula, which in many regards is akin to the Dolphins formula, and so Miami should simply stay the course.

All the Dolphins have to do to make it to the AFC title game next year is spend this offseason improving the defense and then ground and pound -- the passing game be damned.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Once they are eliminated on Sunday, the Jets will go into the offseason and continue to address their flawed offense. Their young QB won't be a rookie forever and they will try to surround him with more weapons so he can throw the football. I guarantee you this.

Yes, they will continue to run because Shonn Greene looks like a star in the making. Yes, they will continue to play great defense because Kris Jenkins will come back next year and the draft will augment what they already have, which is scary.

But they will also look to throw the football like a championship team.

And so it would be a mistake for you, and certainly for the Dolphins, to get lulled into thinking that simply running the ball and playing great defense will match the Jets.

Defense and a running game may indeed be good enough to get a into the playoffs when a couple of teams lay down. It may be good enough to advance in the playoffs when you face teams like the Chargers that continue to under-achieve in the postseason year after year after year, dating back to 2007.

But it isn't otherwise good enough. To be a complete team you have to, well, be a complete team. The Jets know this. And they tried to address it even as the season was underway.

I just hope and trust you know it. I hope and trust the Dolphins know it.

Yes, you have to run and play defense. But in today's NFL you have to do that other thing just as much if not more: You have to throw the rock. Just ask New Orleans, Minnesota and the Colts. Those are the teams to mimic.

Not the Jets.

Follow me on  twitter or whatever. 

January 18, 2010

Mike Nolan to interview with Dolphins for DC job

The Denver Broncos made good on using Dolphins talent at safety, cornerback and defensive line to help the defense rise from No. 29 in 2008 to No. 7 in 2009.

Wouldn't it be ironic if the Dolphins could employ Denver's former defensive coordinator to rise from their No. 25 defensive doldrums of 2009?

Denver defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is now former Denver defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. He has "mutually decided," to split with the Broncos, according to Jay Glazer's twitter.

And I'm reporting the Dolphins plan to interview him.

Nolan is the 50-year-old son of former 49'ers coach Dick Nolan. If you're too young to remember that Dick Nolan was a defensive genius once upon a time, you should know the younger Nolan was the defensive coordinator when the Baltimore Ravens continued their run as a fine defense from 2001-2004.

Prior to that, wait for it, wait for it, he was defensive coordinator of the New York Jets in 2000 when Bill Parcells was the general manager of the Jets. Cha-Ching

Obviously, Nolan was also the head coach at San Francisco in 2005-2008.

Throughout his career, Nolan has been a 3-4 guy. He's been an attacking kind of guy. His defenses have been very good.

And so he instantly becomes a possible defensive coordinator replacment for Paul Pasqualoni.

Sun Life Stadium comes on line Wednesday

The stadium where the Dolphins have played their home games since 1987 has had more aliases than a fugitive on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Let's see, it was Dolphins Stadium, Joe Robbie Stadium, Pro Player Stadium, Dolphins Stadium again, Dolphin Stadium (big difference, no S), and this past season, Land Shark Stadium. Well the team has invited season ticket holders to attend a "major announcement" at the stadium formerly known as, well, everything to announce the re-renaming of the facility.

As The Miami Herald reported first on Dec. 24th,the Dolphins have entered into an agreement with Sun Life Financial and will call the place Sun Life Stadium starting Wednesday. The name will apparently be in place for the playing of the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl in a few weeks.

SportsBusiness Daily reports the naming rights deal pays the Dolphins approximately $7.5 million per year.

How is the extra $$$$ important to you, the fans?

Well, the hope is the extra funds will mitigate the need for a ticket price increase in 2010 or, at the very least, help keep some seats at current prices.

And this likely being an uncapped year, it will benefit the team having a couple of extra million bucks in the coffers to use on, say, a free safety that actually makes plays.

'Attack and attack and attack some more,' please

It took me a while to write this post. I had to stop barfing at the thought of having the New York Jets continuing their improbable run through the playoffs and reaching the Super Bowl in Miami.

... And using the Dolphins locker room the week before to prepare for the Super Bowl.

Yeah, I'm exaggerating. I didn't throw up.

But the thought is troubling, no?

Anyway, as I reported first last week, the Dolphins want their defense to be more aggressive going forward. They want the new defensive coordinator to bring the heat similar to what the Jets and Pittsburgh and Baltimore do.

They want to act rather than react. That wasn't the case in recent years under Paul Pasqualoni.

Well, I'm wondering if the best way to do that is not to go to the source? The Jets have a coach named Bob Sutton on staff who's been with the Jets since 2000. He worked under Al Groh, Herm Edwards, Eric Mangini and now Rex Ryan.

He was the defensive coordinator under Mangini. He is Ryan's linebackers coach and a "senior defensive assistant," whatever that means. I suppose he's learned a thing or three from Ryan this season.

I'm thinking perhaps talking to this guy once the Jets run is over might be a wise move. No, he doesn't have any ties to Bill Parcells or Tony Sparano. But he did coach at Army, which should endear him to Parcells, who coached linebackers at Army in 1966-67.

[UPDATE: An alert reader corrects me in that Sutton came to the Jets in 2000 when Parcells was the general manager. So, it stands to reason Parcells at least approved of him, if not full-fledged hired him to come work in New York.]

On the other hand, perhaps the Dolphins might reach for a Ravens assistant like Chuck Pagano (who coached in Miami from 1995-2000) or Vic Fangio, who has been in Baltimore since 2006 and was Houston's defensive coordinator earlier. For a more complete list of possible candidates, check out my Jan. 15 post. The list -- that includes New England assistant Pepper Johnson -- has begun making the rounds at other media outlets now.

Anyway, this much is certain:

With offenses becoming so sophisticated these days and the rules being written to favor them, defenses need to find a new way of doing things. Simply hoping the offense makes a mistake isn't good enough any more.

As Patton used to say, "Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more."

January 16, 2010

A postgame one-on-one with Anquan Boldin

NEW ORLEANS --  I promised you I'd try to catch up with Arizona Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin after this playoff game between the Saints and Cardinals.

I keep my promises.

And the news for Dolphins fans hoping to see Boldin in a Dolphins uniform next season is not great.

Boldin, you see, told me as he walked out of the Arizona locker room that he will not request a trade this offseason.

"No," Boldin told me following Arizona's 45-14 loss to New Orleans said. "I'm going to let it play out."

Boldin is under contract to Arizona for the 2010 season at a scheduled pay of $3 million. It is the final year of his deal. And considering he's a 1,000-yard caliber receiver, he believes he has been underpaid for some time and wants the deal redone.

Because of that, Boldin has, through his agents, asked for a new contract and even requested to be traded in the past when a new contract didn't come.

That approach is apparently changing for Boldin.

"I can't do anything one way or the other," he said. "If I go to them and request a trade, it don't matter. I'm under contract for another year. So no matter what I say or do, that won't change anything. I'm under contract for another year. So whatever happens, it depends on what the Cardinals want to do. I'm not worried about it at all."

Boldin also has no concern about the perception he's become injury-prone. He'll be 30 years old in October and missed these playoffs due to knee and ankle issues.

"I'm fine," he insisted. "I don't have anything that requires surgery or anthing. I'm fine."

Boldin knew when he was speaking with me he was talking to a Florida constituency because I told him I work for The Miami Herald. I asked him if he's ever thought about coming back to his home state of Florida and playing for the Dolphins.

"I've always been concentrating on my team," he said. "I can only help the Cardinals and that's it."

Free agents on display during live blog today

NEW ORLEANS -- One reason I love covering the NFL playoffs is this is where the best teams are, thus this is where the best players are.

I'm covering the Saints and the Cardinals today and some of the players I'll be watching are the ones that could be available to the Dolphins in the coming offseason via either free agency or trade.

This list of the top free agents shows today's game includes several free agents that will be restricted (assuming no collective bargaining agreement is reached). But there will be one guy -- Arizona inside linebacker Karlos Dansby that is completely unrestricted. He is the 11th rated free agent on the Scout.com list but you'll also note he is the No. 2 unrestricted free agent (players with six or more years of experience) behind only Julius Peppers of Carolina.

Another player I will try to catch up with after today's game is Arizona WR Anquan Boldin. He isn't playing today because he's injured. But he's here and on my radar. I want to ask him if he will renew his request to be traded after this season. I want to ask him his thoughts of playing for the Dolphins. As I have reported to you in the past, the Dolphins have much respect for Boldin and would consider adding him in trade if the price is right.

We'll see what happens. 

Hopefully we'll see what happens together as I am conducting a live blog during the game. So join me here and we'll discuss the game with the community of thousands of Dolfans that regularly visit this blog.

Remember, the live blog begins at 4:30 p.m. ET. Follow me on twitter.

January 15, 2010

Dolphins' coordinator search taking wrong turns

It hasn't been a great day for the Dolphins. As I reported on my twitter feed early this morning, the Dolphins' search for a defensive coordinator has taken an unexpected turn.

Into a ditch.

Al Groh, who worked 10 years and on three different teams with Bill Parcells, interviewed for the Dolphins job Wednesday and took the job as Georgia Tech's defensive coordinator late Thursday evening. Reports of the hiring at Georgia Tech emerged this morning.

No problem, right?

The Dolphins had a multi-pronged plan for hiring a replacement for Paul Pasqualoni. So the Dolphins turned to Pittsburgh linebacker coach Keith Butler, who I'm told was coach Tony Sparano's first choice. Well, there are conflicting reports whether Butler was offered the job or even interviewed for the job.

This much is certain: He has spurned Miami's overtures and will remain with the Steelers.

That's got to sting that a position coach in Pittsburgh might A. Decline an interview for a defensive coordinator job in Miami. Or B. Take the interview and decline the job offer. There is no option C.

And then this little nugget to add insult to the brew: Pasqualoni, who had been seriously considering taking a job with the New York Giants after speaking with coach Tom Coughlin Tuesday and Wednesday, was hired Thursday afternoon to be the Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach for 2010.

He is in Valley Ranch, the Cowboys training facility, today. He'll be traveling with the Cowboys tomorrow to their playoff game against Minnesota. Amazing.

"We know what kind of coach he is," Dallas coach Wade Phillips told the Dallas Morning News. "Anytime somebody does a really good job, if you have a chance to get him again you take that opportunity. Similar to Dave Campo. Everybody knew he was a great coach. We had a chance to get him again and we did."

As I wrote on twitter earlier, the Dolphins still have a fallback option of promoting secondary coach Todd Bowles to defensive coordinator. But that clearly is Plan C, at best.

The Dolphins wanted to have the defensive coordinator search completed by the end of this week. They wanted a quiet, clean search and hiring process.

But their batting average doesn't look so good right now.

[Update: Been talking to different folks around the league and nobody that's saying anything really knows what the Dolphins are thinking. It doesn't help that it's Friday night. Anyway, here are some names folks threw at me as possibilities that I, in turn, am throwing at you. this list does not include Bowles, but obviously I've been giving you his name for days.:

Pepper Johnson: currently the D-line coach in New England. Played for Bill Parcells. Knows the system. Young. Energetic. Never been a coordinator.

Bryan Cox: Currently the Cleveland Browns' D-line coach under Eric Mangini. Never been a coordinator. He's familiar with the 3-4. He played for both Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. Oh, yeah, he played for the Dolphins in the 90s and hates Buffalo.

Bob Sutton: Currently works as LB coach and defensive assistant for the Jets under Rex Ryan. Obviously cannot be interviewed until the Jets are out of the playoffs. Suffered a demotion prior to this season when Ryan took over. Sutton had been the Jets' DC from 2006-08. Coached linebackers for the Jets from 2000-2006. Was the head coach at Army from 1991-99.

Gary Gibbs: Currently coaches linebackers in KC. Coached linebackers in Dallas from 2002-2005, so spent two seasons under Parcells there. Was the defensive coordinator in New Orleans from 2006-2009. He left with Sean Payton at the same time Payton wanted to take Tony Sparano with him to be the Saints' offensive coordinator so Gibbs and Sparano are familiar.]

How does Groh fit with a more aggressive D?

The Dolphins defense last year was bland. Can we agree on that?

It was mostly the same-old-same-old, snap after snap, quarter after quarter, game after game. It took defensive coaches weeks to decide that cornerbacks Sean Smith and Vontae Davis should match up with receivers rather than putting them in the same spot every down -- thus allowing offenses to dictate matchups they wanted.

While I watched the Jets bring safeties and drop linebackers and sometimes play as if they had 13 guys on the field, the Dolphins definition of surprising was the same slot cornerback blitz with Nate Jones. While other teams overmatched quarterbacks with six guys on the attack, the Dolphins rarely brought that many.

Deposed defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni repeated time and again that he wanted to get a lot of pressure. But he wanted to get it with his four rushers.

Arrrrrrrggggghhhhhhhh!

Well, the days of the Dolphins vanilla defense might be coming to an end.

Word on the NFL grapevine is that Tony Sparano wants 33 flavors not the same steady diet of vanilla. And Sparano, apparently recognizing there is no super dominant player on the defense right now, believes the way to get better (aside from adding more talent) is to become more aggressive.

We'll see if this is true or not. But I would tell you that the hiring of Bill Sheridan as a linebacker coach is good in the regard that his roots have been pressure defense. The interviewing of Pittsburgh linebacker coach Keith Butler is good in that his days in Pittsburgh have been filled with fire zone blitzes and other means of freaking out offenses.

I am, however, left scratching my head about Miami's flirtation with Al Groh as it pertains to becoming more aggressive. I remember watching Groh's defenses with the Giants and Patriots and there was nothing exceedingly exotic about them -- unless Lawrence Taylor playing like a crazed dog qualifies.

The University of Virginia, which Groh coached until being fired in 2009, fielded a sound defense but it was by no means cutting edge.

Perhaps Groh, at age 65, can embrace an updated approach to slowing down today's modern-day, rocket-fueled offenses. But I'll have to see it to believe it.

I

January 13, 2010

Al Groh interviews for Dolphins DC job

It wasn't a suprise and it had to happen eventually. Wednesday was the day former Virginia coach Al Groh interviewed for the vacant Dolphins defensive coordinator job, a league source confirmed this evening. My club source isn't calling back after business hours, so you only get one source on this.

The news was reported first by ESPN.com.

Groh, 65, is a two-time Atlantic Coast Conference coach of the year.

He was fired after last season but has over a decade of coaching experience with Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells.

I would not presume to tell you Groh is the leading candidate because of his experience and history with the Big Tuna. But I think it is a fair assumption that Groh will have a job with the Dolphins if he wants one.

Even if the Dolphins are blown away by Keith Butler, the current Pittsburgh linebacker coach who is interviewing as early as Thursday, it is possible the team will still offer Groh a LB coaching job. Bill Sheridan, hired Tuesday, will coach one set of linebackers.

Groh could coach the other set if Butler is chosen. If Groh is the DC pick, it is unlikely the team will hire Butler because he'd be making only a lateral move from the LB coaching job in Pittsburgh. Groh could also be hired as the DC and to coach linebackers, saving owner Stephen Ross some money.

Groh also has talked to Georgia Tech about becoming the defensive coordinator there.

Dolphins to interview Steelers assistant for DC

The Dolphins have requested and received permission to interview Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker coach Keith Butler for a defensive assistant job, most likely the defensive coordinator job, according to a club source.

The interview, first reported by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was expected to take place before the end of this weekend, the source told The Herald.

Butler, 53, has ties to coach Tony Sparano. Both worked under head coach Chris Palmer in Cleveland in 1999-2000. While Sparano went to the Washington Redskins in 2001, Butler remained with the Browns through 2002 before joining the Steelers in 2003.

Butler is considered a possible heir to the Pittsburgh defensive coordinator job if and when Dick LeBeau decides to retire. His work under LeBeau suggests he is familiar and comfortable with the 3-4 defense but also an attacking style of that defense that includes a vast array of zone and other type of blitzes.

Under LeBeau, Pittsburgh has at times been referred to as Blitzburgh.

With Butler as their coach, Pittsburgh linebackers have feasted on great seasons. James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison, Joey Porter and Clark Haggans all had varying degrees of success under Butler.

Harrison in particular stands out. He was the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year and has been named to he Pro Bowl three times.  

Tired of the Dolphins always playing catch-up?

I told you in the previous post that part of Paul Pasqualoni's undoing as Dolphins defensive coordinator was the fact his unit didn't get off the block quick enough the final three games of the season.

The Miami defense was slooooooow to get interested in games, giving up two and sometimes three scores in the first half before getting into the assignment and finishing better.

Well, isn't it ironic that in searching for Pasqualoni's successor, the Dolphins are seemingly playing catch-up again?

Barring the regime naming Todd Bowles, an in-house guy, or being able to pull a major surprise name out of the coaching ranks as the new defensive coordinator, the Dolphins have been a day late on at least one potential candidate.

Today the Chiefs got their man as reports confirm Romeo Crennel is going to be the defensive coordinator in Kansas City. An NFL source close to Crennel tells me the Dolphins inquired about the coach's interest in coming to Miami (he owns a house in Palm Beach) but he had already promised KC first dibs.

So what does that say?

The Dolphins got to Crennel after the Chiefs and basically had to take a number.

There are other reports the Dolphins are also interested in former Virginia head coach Al Groh as a DC candidate. Well, Georgia Tech already talked to Groh about becoming the DC in Atlanta and so if the Dolphins want Groh, they have to pull a comeback to get him.

And I'm starting to see a troubling trend here.

The Dolphins were 0-2 in 2008.

They were 0-3 in 2009.

They were late waking up defensively while going 0-3 to finish the season.

Are they late getting started on finding their defensive coordinator, too?

In the case of Crennel, that answer is yes. 

On Paul Pasqualoni (finally) and loyalty

As you can see I reported early yesterday afternoon on my twitter feed that appears on this page over <---- there, the Dolphins have already taken a significant step toward filling one of their linebacker coaching jobs by identifying former Giants defensive coordinator and linebacker coach Bill Sheridan for the job.

Sheridan is not hired yet. But he's been offered the job and there are only a few details to work out to make this official. The Dolphins should announce this hiring sometime before the 2012 season begins.

As to the subject you've all been demanding I address -- the firing of Paul Pasqualoni:

I told you looong ago that Bill Parcells believes in surrounding himself with people he's familiar with. He calls them "my guys." Parcells is loyal to his guys, is comfortable with his guys, and believes in his guys. This applies to coaches, personnel people, and players.

And it's one big happy football family until one of the "guys" fails. Then that loyalty and confidence and comfort take a back seat to production and the reality that the NFL is really a business, not a family. Winning, you see, trumps loyalty and even friendship.

Tony Sparano, obviously a branch of the Parcells coaching tree, believes in this philosophy.

The players he picks, he often says, may not be the best 53 players, but they must be the right 53. The coaches he picks are "his guys." And all is hunkey dory until one of the guys doesn't get the job done.

And that's when one of his guys is suddenly gone, a fleeting memory on a very short press release.

That's the case with players and assistants and anyone else.

Remember that Ernest Wilford was one of Miami's first free agent signees when this regime took over? The Dolphins gave him a big contract. They stood behind him even as he was slow to figure things out. They even tried to give him another chance at another spot.

But loyalty carried the relationship only so far. Eventually Wilford had to produce and when he didn't, he was out, the big signing bonus and warm wishes be damned. Same with draft pick Shawn Murphy. He was the organization's guy because he was drafted by Parcells and Jeff Ireland and coached by Sparano. But when production didn't meet expectations, the relationship, the loyalty, the bond was unceremoniously severed.

I must tell you it's not always like this in the NFL. Some NFL people don't know when loyalty ends and cloudy thinking takes over. I remember years ago coach Don Shula was comfortable with defensive coordinator Tom Olivadotti. Olivadotti was a Shula guy. But when the Miami defense was shredded by the Buffalo Bills year after year, Shula stuck by his guy -- to a fault.

The loyalty cost Shula in the end.

Former owner Wayne Huizenga was loyal to his guys to a fault. When Jimmy Johnson quit (the first time), Huizenga offered to let Johnson coach only home games, that's how much he stuck by Johnson. Big mistake.

When Dave Wannstedt's inexorable decline was in full swing, Huizenga could not bring himself to firing the failing coach. First he didn't extend his contract, then he extended the deal but demoted Wannstedt from personnel decisions, and then, finally, he told Wannstedt he would be fired at the end of the 2004 season.

There are many sad examples of NFL teams sticking too long with their guys. And what this means, when it becomes clear a mistake has been made and there is delay in correcting it because of loyalty, is the organization is expanding and multiplying its mistake.

Anyone can make a mistake in hiring a coach or picking a player. But it is valuable to be able to disconnect dispassionately from that player or assistant or personnel man if he's not producing. It is valuable not to compound the mistake of picking poorly with the mistake of sticking with the poor choice.

These Dolphins these days don't do that.

They make mistakes as everyone does. They might pick poorly -- yeah, Pat White comes to mind right off. But they don't sit around and nurture the mistake. They don't compound their problem by keeping the mistake around. They don't allow the mistake to haunt indefinitely.

And that finally brings me to Pasqualoni. He was, by any measure, one of Parcells' guys. He was part of the Dallas migration of 2008, the Cowboyfication of the Dolphins if you will, when Sparano, Ireland and a handful of assistants were plucked from that organization by Parcells, who had coached there.

But we saw this week that being part of "my guys" isn't a blood signature on a lifetime contract. It is an entrance through an open door. But the door swings both ways and one has to perform to keep from getting swept out.

Pasqualoni didn't perform because, well, his defense did not.

The Miami defense, by any measurable standard, regressed in 2009.

Miami defenders allowed five more points per game than in 2008. They allowed an average of 20 more yards per game. They had fewer interceptions and fewer fumbles forced. There was no significant measurable -- most significantly points allowed -- that showed improvement.

Obviously Pasqualoni wasn't uniquely responsible for this issue. It was the personnel depatment that gave him a terrible free safety. It was the personnel department that gave him a 35-year-old nose tackle that predicatably got injured. It was the personnel department that hasn't improved the linebacker corps.

But Pasqualoni didn't get anything extra out of his players. None performed above potential. You never stood back and said of Pasqualoni's work, "Gee, I wonder how he's doing so much with so little." He, in fact, did little with so little.

And then there was this troubling fact:

The Miami defense spent much of the year either not being able to finish or not knowing when the heck to start. Early in the year and through November, Miami's defense was a leaky dike in the fourth quarter. That's why the team broke the franchise record for most points allowed in the fourth quarter.

Well, about the time that got resolved, as the unit started finishing game better, it promptly couldn't start any games on time.

The Houston Texans scored 27 first-half points on Miami.

The Tennessee Titans scored 17 first-half points on Miami.

The Pittsburgh Steelers scored 14 points in the first quarter and 17 points by halftime on Miami.

Not surprisingly, the Dolphins lost all three games because they couldn't climb out of the hole they constantly dug themselves.

And, not surprisingly, that hole became a grave for Pasqualoni's Dolphins career.

January 12, 2010

Dolphins hurt after losing man you don't know

I remember enjoying the food and festive atmosphere at one of the Dolphins annual banquets a few years ago and complimenting a team official for the event.

"It didn't look like it was going to be much of an event last night," the official told me. "But Bryan Wiedmeier jumped in and started helping arrange tables and setting things up. Can you imagine any other NFL executive working like that with his hands? He even ordered pizza for everyone because the guys working late had missed dinner and were hungry."

The Miami Dolphins were lessened on Monday when the Cleveland Browns announced the hiring of Wiedmeier as their executive vice president for business administration. In that capacity, Wiedmeier will run the business side of that organization as he did with the Dolphins for much of his 29 seasons with the team.

You probably don't know about Wiedmeier because he was by no means the face of the franchise. He was a behind-the-scenes guy who toiled on things such as salary caps, and player contracts, and day-to-day operations of the team and practice facility.

But he was so much more than that.

Wiedmeier saw the need and helped establish the team's Community Relations department.

He saw the possibilities and helped establish the Miami Dolphins Foundation. The Miami Dolphins Foundation has made meaningful contributions to the South Florida community but it has also been active in helping former Dolphins players that needed help.

When Doug Betters became paralyzed after a ski accident, the Foundation came to his aid financially and in other ways. When Randy Wheeler, a practice squad player on the 1997 team, was paralyzed in an auto accident, the Foundation came to his aid, even purchasing him a van.

When Mark Duper and other former players teetered on becoming indigent, the Foundation propped them up. And this was done in keeping with Wiedmeier's personality -- quietly, out of the limelight.

Wiedmeier was Don Shula's capologist. He hired Matt Thomas, who is Bill Parcells' capologist. Wiedmeier was former club president Eddie Jones' right-hand-man. And when Jones retired, Wiedmeier was Wayne Huizenga's right-hand-man.

Yes, Wiedmeier was involved in those coaching searches that turned up Nick Saban and Cam Cameron -- nobody's perfect. But in November and early December of 2007, Wiedmeier was also part of the full franchise study ordered by Huizenga.

That study eventually led to the Parcells hiring.

Weidmeier was not loved by all his employees. But he was respected by most of them. He was big on structure. Big on purpose. Big on organization.

"Plan your work," he would tell staffers, "and work your plan."

He wasn't kidding. The guy had a five-year plan, an annual plan, a monthly plan.

"He put organization into chaos," one current staffer told me today.

Bryan Wiedmeier was a traditionalist. He was there when the Dolphins were a Super Bowl team. He worked for the team during Air Marino.

And so in 1997 when there was an internal debate about changing the Dolphins logo to some radicalized permutation not the least bit connected with the franchise's roots, Wiedmeier championed updating the logo, but never, ever discarding it.

He helped organize the Don Shula farewell celebration in 1996. He helped organize the Dan Marino farewell party at Dolphins Stadium in 2000. He helped organize the Don Shula birthday celebration earlier this month.

You probably never heard of Bryan Wiedmeier and that's the way he would want it.

But now that he belongs to the Cleveland Browns, that organization is improved. And the Dolphins are lessened. 

January 11, 2010

Dez Bryant to Dolphins? Bwaaahhaaahhaaa

I know everyone covets a top-flight wide receiver in the coming draft to get the Dolphins offense airborne. The odds of that receiver being named Dez Bryant just became astronomical.

Forget for a moment that Bryant is supremely gifted and could be gone before Miami picks at No. 12.

Forget for a moment that Bryant missed most of the 2009 season after being suspended by the NCAA and has played only 28 college games. The Dolphins have issues with investing high picks on players with questionable backgrounds and limited experience.

But if those don't hurt Bryant's chances of landing in Miami, consider he has hired agent Eugene Parker, and that seriously affects those chances. Parker, in case you don't remember, was the agent for Michael Crabtree.

And Crabtree conducted a 2009 rookie holdout until October 7 because Parker and the San Francisco 49'ers were not agreed on the rookie's worth. The 49'ers wanted to pay Crabtree the slot price of what the No. 10 should get. Parker argued Crabtree had Top 3 talent and should be paid like it.

What do you think Miami will do if it faces a similar negotiating stance?

Here's what I think: Bill Parcells and Co. will likely avoid the issue altogether.

On Pats decline & Vince Wilfork playing in Miami

BOSTON -- I was listening to local sports radio on my way back from the stadium Sunday night and I felt like I was back in Miami -- except that the host had a Boston rather than pronounced New York accent.

The fans were calling, ripping the Patriots, following their 33-14 loss.

They were ripping the outside linebackers and lack of pressure on the QB.

They were ripping the coordinators -- interesting because I have learned that New England's offense, for example, had three different people calling plays this year.

The callers even compared Tom Brady to an aged Joe Montana, Troy Aikman and  Steve Young -- once great, but declining once they started suffering injuries.

Talk about a team on the decline!

That's exactly what my column in Monday's Miami Herald is about. The fact is the Patriots have tons of warts.

They are going to be looking for wide receiver help this offseason -- can you believe it? (Wes Welker may not be ready to play until October or November.)

They have issues with their running game -- what running game?

And they have a major issue with Vince Wilfork, who is unsigned for 2010. I spent a lot of time with Wilfork after the game Sunday. And he told me he'd like to come back to New England. But barring the right contract from the Patriots, Wilfork said he's open to playing for a certain team from South Florida.

He wasn't messing around. Check out the column and see what he says.

Frankly, I'm feeling better about the Dolphins today after seeing what I saw Sunday. It's not that the Dolphins don't need a lot of work. But it is clear to me that the Patriots need much work also. Much work. 

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January 10, 2010

Patriots not quite team of this decade

FOXBORO -- And then there was only one AFC East team left standing.

The Patriots have taken a thorough whipping, 33-14, at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens today. That leaves the New York Jets as the only AFC East team left in the postseason.

Thank a great day by the defense, and a great day by former University of Miami standouts Ray Lewis, Ed Reed and Willis McGahee.

Cam Cameron's offense also got the better of Bill Belichick's defense. Where was that three years ago?

Anyway, tell me what you think ...

Is this the close of the Patriots dynasty? 

[UPDATE: I just got back from the Patriots locker room and getting ready to write my column. You guys will love to hear what Vince Wilfork said after the game about going elsewhere.]

Patriots dynasty on the ropes to start 4th quarter

FOXBORO -- The Patriots did score a TD in the third quarter and that did close the gap to 27-14.

But the team of the last decade is teetering on playoff elimination.

It is the fourth quarter. Time for heroes. And time for reality.

We shall see what they got. If anything.

Join me in the comments section.

Ravens pounding Pats, 24-7 to start third quarter

FOXBORO -- Well, the Patriots have fought back somewhat. They got a special teams break when a muffed punt was recovered inside the Baltimore 30 yard line.

Then Tom Brady eventually tossed a TD pass to Julian Edelman to close the game to 24-7.

And that's where we are as we start the second half.

I would say to you that if the Patriots were the team of the last decade, they haven't exactly started this decade with a bang.

Join me in the comments section to see what happens next.

Patriots decline underway in second quarter

FOXBORO -- What a butt-kicking!

The Ravens scored on the first play from scrimmage and really haven't stopped since. They lead the homestanding Patriots 24-0.

The home crowd is booing Brady because he's already been intercepted and fumbled on a strip sack.

It decline and fall of the Roman empire, I mean, of the New England Patriots continues in the second quarter portion of this live blog.