FOXBORO -- I wish I were back in South Florida covering a playoff rematch between the Dolphins and Ravens today.
But that simply isn't reality. I am here in frrrrrozen New England covering the Ravens' visit of the Patriots. So we'll do a live blog of this game that starts at 1 p.m.
This not being a Dolphins game, it will be a more light-hearted live blog today. You'll see what I mean if you participate.
A couple of business items before we start:
1. The Jets beat the Bengals Saturday afternoon and so that we don't become like them, we congratulate the Jets for what they have accomplished. I hated that the New Yorkers didn't give Miami credit when the Dolphins swept them. I don't want you guys to act like that when the Jets are obviously having success.
But in advancing to the Elite 8, the Jets have hurt themselves in 2010 free agency. The way it is scheduled to work in an uncapped year, a team that is in the Elite 8 cannot add a free agent unless it loses a free agent. So that hurts the Jets.
2. The other thing is I want you to check out my column in Sunday's Miami Herald. If you remember the day after the season finished, coach Tony Sparano said he and the coaching staff would rate and rank the players on the roster.
Well, as the Dolphins will not be releasing their rankings, I decided to do it for them. My column ranks every player on the Dolphins roster 1-60. It is a for-fun exercise. It is obviously not the team's actual opinion. But check it out and see where you agree and disagree with me.
OK, come back here by kickoff and we'll hang out together this afternoon.
As you might have read on my twitter a while ago, the Dolphins coaching staff will coach the South team in the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 30. The Detroit Lions' staff will coach the North squad.
This will mark the first time since 1997 that Miami's staff coaches the Senior Bowl.
So what's the big deal?
One, the staff that draws a Senior Bowl assignment has an advantage over other staffs. Miami's coaches will be around the South players more than any other. Miami coaches will be able to measure which players learn their assignments more quickly than others. Miami's staff will be able to measure better than other coaches how the South players respond in practice and work both on and off the field.
It is definitely a plus for the Dolphins because they can use their information in picking players.
Second, the fact the Dolphins accepted the assignment suggests there will be no further significant turnover to the staff. Translation: Don't expect either offensive coordinator Dan Henning or defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni to be going anywhere.
Simply, the Dolphins would be unlikely to accept the task of coaching the Senior Bowl with a staff missing either coordinator. Remember that Miami will be installing its offense and defense for the all-star game and doing it without coordinators would be nearly impossible.
There have been questions about whether Pasqualoni and Henning would return to their coordinator jobs in 2010. Henning is 67 years old and has already retired once previously. So it was possible he might want to ride off into the sunset to spend the rest of his days at leisure. That is looking less likely now. Henning, barring a change of mind in the coming days, is expected to return in 2010.
Then there's Pasqualoni. The issue with him, like Henning is numbers -- not years, but points. We're talking 390 points to be exact. That's how many points the Miami defense yielded in 2009 and that was tied for the eighth-most in the NFL.
The Dolphins yielded 73 more points this season than last. That, ladies and gentlemen, is not progress. If you think that is a result of a tougher schedule, understand that the New York Jets and New England Patriots, which played similar schedules, allowed over 100 fewer points than Miami this season.
I would point out the Dolphins lost valuable players such as Will Allen and Jason Ferguson to injuries and that was part of the problem. But the bottom line is every team suffers injury issues and it is up to the coaching staff to overcome the problems.
The Dolphins, as you might recall, allowed a franchise high 140 points in the fourth quarter in 2009. But to Pasqualoni's credit, once the problem became apparent, it was addressed. The Dolphins yielded only six points in the fourth quarter the last five games of the season.
Both Henning and Pasqualoni spent the past few days at work. That suggests they were doing the year-end evaluations required of the coaches that will be back next season. Departed linebacker coaches Jim Reid and George Edwards, by contrast, weren't around since the season ended.
All this is detective work, of course, and I cannot tell you absolutely, positively Henning and Pasqualoni will be back. I tell you when I know things for a fact and when I don't. The Dolphins have not announced that either Pasqualoni or Henning are staying and will not do so, I'm told, because they don't announce the status quo.
I tried to remove the shroud of mystery from the issue by e-mailing coach Tony Sparano and asking him outright if the two coordinators were coming back or not.
The Associated Press asks 50 voters nationwide to select its annual All-Pro team and also cast ballots on its postseason awards. Those awards started coming out this week, including the naming of Tom Brady as the comeback player of the year.
I voted for Brady and make no apologies for it because his return from a terrible knee injury was impressive. I also voted for a couple of Dolphins on the team, not because they are Dolphins but because I believe they were worthy.
As I've done the last couple of years, I am today sharing my ballot with you.
Let me know where you agree or disagree -- not that it's going to change anything as I'm a pretty stubborn guy and, well, the ballot's in already.
The 2009 season exposed the Dolphins in a lot of different areas and one of those was the linebacker corps.
The team is already addressing those issues and I'm not talking about the coaching change with George Edwards that I was first to report on Thursday. I'm talking about the signing Thursday of OLB Brian Johnston, most recently of the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions.
Johnston is interesting because he was drafted by the Chiefs as a 4-3 defensive end. He played in nine games for the Chiefs in 2008 and made three tackles in that span. But when KC hired Scott Pioli, Bill Parcells' son-in-law, and then switched to a 3-4 defensive alignment, the team cut Johnston.
Well, now the Dolphins, a 3-4 team, are hoping Johnston can move well enough and not be exposed in space so much as to be a possible answer as an OLB. We'll see who's smarter, Parcells or Pioli.
Johnston seems like a Matt Roth type and in that regard the Dolphins have had success converting undersized 4-3 ends into OLBs. Remeber they even experimented with moving Vonnie Holliday to OLB?
Frankly, the Dolphins need an OLB that can hold the edge of the defense and defend the run because that was a weakness in 2009. If you doubt that, think back to the TD run by Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Then think back to the two other TD runs against Miami in that Buffalo game. Then stop thinking and watch the video and you'll know what I mean.
Miami's run defense on the perimeter needs help. Maybe Johnston can provide some help.
[BLOG NOTE: I am flying to Boston today and will be covering the AFC Wildcard playoff game between Baltimore and the Patriots on Sunday. We will have a live game blog of that game on Sunday so please join me here. Meanwhile check back for more updates today as more Dolphins news and analysis pours into this space. Follow me on twitter.]
The Dolphins are now looking to fill both assistant linebacker coaching positions today, following the departure of inside linebacker coach George Edwards on the same day outside linebacker coach Jim Reid was introduced at the University of Virginia.
A club source confirmed this evening that Edwards is no longer employed by the Dolphins. Edwards was not fired, the source said.
Indeed, Edwards is gone because he apparently is taking a job at the University of Florida as a defensive assistant, perhaps even the defensive coordinator, another source not affiliated with the Dolphins told me.
Reid left the Dolphins to become the defensive coordinator for the Cavaliers.
Edwards worked five seasons for the Dolphins, first as the linebackers coach from 2005-20007, then as the inside linebackers coach starting in 2008 through this season.
Edwards was a 1991 graduate assistant at Florida and has been on coach Urban Meyer's list of coaching candidates in the past so it makes sense for him to be headed back to Florida.
I've been telling you throughout the season the Dolphins put together the NFL's most expensive offensive line which is costing $156 million in total contracts for the starting unit alone.
And the Dolphins probably think they got their money's worth from the line because it played relatively well as a unit this season despite injuries and other issues. The offensive line is a team strength.
But is Miami's offensive line elite?
Not if you ask John Madden.
Madden and a panel that includes NFL Network analysts Jamie Dukes, Steve Mariucci and Marshall Faulk are this year awarding the "Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award," presented by Prilosec OTC. They studied all 32 NFL lines this season and have whittled the list of best lines to five:
The Tennessee Titans, New York Jets, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints and Indianapolis Colts.
The Dolphins? It's unclear if they were among the top 10, but they obviously didn't earn a mention in the top 5.
The Miami Dolphins talked to the Cleveland Browns about Joshua Cribbs last season -- once for sure in the days and weeks before the October trade deadline and perhaps once another time much earlier.
Obviously the Browns, which traded away talent like it was going out of style, didn't budge on trading Cribbs. But all that may change now.
The Browns have a new football czar in Mike Holmgren and apparently Cribbs and his agent have gotten the message that a new contract is not in the immediate offing for perhaps the most outstanding and electric return man in the NFL.
So Cribbs believes he's played his final game in Cleveland. "Thanks everyone," Cribbs wrote this week on his twitter feed. "I love playing for the browns (sic) & put my all in to (sic) it, but it doesn't look good 4me(sic) at this point on (sic) returning. I don't believe I made the to do list for the team in 2010."
Why does Cribbs believe he's gone? Because on-going negotiations yielded an offer from Cleveland that would have paid him approximately $1.4 million per season over the next six years with approximately $400,000 to sign. I must say that's a lowball offer.
And Cribbs agrees. "I'm sorry guys," he said. "I don't want to seem greedy but fair is fair and there is no way around that. I'm the best at what I do but the lowest paid ..."
So Cribbs intends to request a trade on the first day of the new league year and hold out if he doesn't get one.
"We’re going to formally put in a request for a trade,” agent J.R. Rickert told NFL.com. “He will not set foot in that facility again. If they had offered even something like $2.5 million per season we could have worked with them, but to me this offer is indefensible."
The fact of the matter is this is Mike Holmgren's first contract squabble in Cleveland. I doubt he wants to lose it. The fact is Cribbs is over-performing on a contract that has three years remaining. The fact is both sides have good leverage.
So don't be surprised if the Browns try to turn this mess into a draft pick with which Holmgren can bring in "his guy."
Enter the Miami Dolphins.
As we know, they need dynamic playmakers because there are precious few of those on the team. They could stand an upgrade at punt returner and kick returner. They could also use Cribbs in the Wildcat package, which he ran quite effectively in Cleveland. He averaged 6.9 yards per rush in 2009.
Oh, and did I mention Cribbs took snaps as a wide receiver also? He caught a modest 20 passes for 135 yards but obviously that is not his primary value.
His primary value is special teams. He returned three kickoffs and a punt for touchdowns this season. He has 10 return TDs in five seasons.
The downside is the guy does fumble. He had six fumbles in 2009 while fulfilling all his various duties. For perspective, you should know Davone Bess led the Dolphins with six fumbles in 2009.
So should the Dolphins be interested in Cribbs? Of course, they would be. But would they pull the trigger on a trade that would also involve paying the guy a new contract? That another matter.
If all Cribbs wants is $2.5 million per year, you should know the Dolphins are paying Ted Ginn Jr. an average of $3.5 million per year. Which is the better player?
And if the Browns are asking a second- or third-round pick for Cribbs, it probably sounds like an exceedingly high price to pay. But I remind you second- and third-round picks don't always turn into good players.
The Dolphins spent a second round pick on Pat White last year. They also spent a third round pick on Patrick Turner. Neither contributed very much, if at all, in 2009.
Sometimes it is better to just let you guys drive the bus.
So rather than write about stuff I think you want to know about, this afternoon you simply tell me what you want to know. It's called an interactive live blog chat.
If I know the answer, I'll give it to you. If I don't know the answer, I'll try to get it for you. Unlike question-and-answer forums on other websites, I'm not going to feed you so much bovine manure as to fake my way through answers.
So I will be here at 1 p.m. today and we can talk, debate, banter, even argue if you wish. I'll stay until all the questions are answered. Maybe I'll have some questions for you, too.
If you can't be here between 1-whenever, leave your question or comment beforehand and I'll get to those first.
All I ask is you don't ask me whom the Dolphins are going to pick in the draft -- as in the name of the dudes. The answer to that question right now is I don't know.
And so Miami players had to clean out their lockers to make room for another team -- a better team -- to come in and use the space before the Super Bowl.
The truth is the entire practice facility will be on lockdown the week the AFC champs are in town. No Dolphins players will be allowed to work out in the weight room or use the training room. And the second floor of the facility, while open to Miami staff, will be locked up in certain places so folks like Tony Sparano or Bill Parcells or Jeff Ireland won't be peeking at the AFC champions' practices.
I've been told it is possible Sparano will give his coaching staff that week off so as to limit the insult of not having full run of the facility and also maximize the efficiency of the weeks they are working on post-season evaluations.
"That's crazy and what really hurts is you look up the street and see the Jets made the playoffs," Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said. "I mean, we beat them twice this year. But at the saem time, they earned it. They found a way to get it together at the end of the year and get themelves in. It is what it is and we'll try again next year."
Can you believe it?
There is a possibility -- a small one I admit, but a possibility nonetheless -- that the team using Miami's facility will be the New York Jets. Yeah, the same team that scoffed at the Dolphins twice this season after Miami beat them twice.
There's also a chance the team using the Miami facility will be the New England Patriots. The Patriots have an easier road to the Super Bowl than New York as they actually will have at least one home playoff game when the tournament begins this weekend.
The fact of the matter is four three of the six teams in the AFC playoffs beat Miami this year -- San Diego, Indy and New England. Baltimore and Cincinnati did not play the Dolphins in 2009.
And then, of course, is this usavory irony: One of the coaches that might be using the Miami facility before the Super Bowl? Baltimore offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
[BLOG UPDATE: I have a notebook full of stuff I need to get to you in the coming days, so I'll be posting at least twice a day for the next few days. So please check the blog in the morning and come back in the afternoon for any news and further updates. And follow me on twitter for notifications and news alerts from the blog.]
One of the most curious things about Black Monday at Dolphins camp, in my humble opinion, was the reticence regarding Chad Henne and his future as the Dolphins starting quarterback.
For perspective I remind you that one year ago when Miami's season ended, I asked coach Tony Sparano if Chad Pennington was his quarterback for the 2009 season. The question was pertinent because Henne had a season under his belt and because Pennington was coming off a four-interception performance against Baltimore in a playoff loss.
Sparano wasted zero time in responding by anointing Pennington the starter for 2009.
On Monday, someone asked the coach if he thinks he's found a future starter in Henne following a season in which the second-year player started 13 games. And this was the coach's reply:
"I haven't really discussed it yet," Sparano said. "I haven’t really looked at the whole body of work, as I told you. I have to sit back now and look at the entire body of work now and see what Chad did really well and what Chad didn’t do really well. But I am really pleased with what Chad did, I really am.
"I just think the guy did some outstanding things. Yesterday, whatever he was before he got hurt, 16 of 20 or something like that, I think [he] was in a really good rhythm yesterday in that game. More importantly, I thought he had his team prepared. Going out there yesterday, good week of practice, really upbeat they came out offensively and got in a pretty good rhythm. I think that says a lot about him. This guy he is a pretty curious guy. He likes to get better at the things he is not good at. I think they are all good qualities to have. I really like what I have seen in Chad right now."
Sparano likes what he's seen. But he doesn't like it so much as to give Henne his blessing as the 2010 starter.
What's going on here?
First, what is it exactly the Dolphins have to decipher about Henne, anyway? He's young. He's got much improving to do. He needs to improve his touch-passing. He needs to manage defenses with his eyes better. He's got to get quicker in reading the defense pre-snap.
But all those things have to come with playing time. And those things don't normally show up in a young quarterback's game until he's had 28-32 starts in the league. So Henne needs more playing time before we know if he will become a franchise quarterback or not.
But it's not like the Dolphins have many better options.
Pat White, the presumptive No. 2, looks like he can't lead a college team, much less an NFL one. Third-stringer Tyler Thigpen wasn't given much of an opportunity to unseat White so next year he suddenly becomes good enough to vault over Henne? And Pennington is still rehabilitating from his third shoulder surgery and is unsigned.
So do the Dolphins have to see if that secret cloning project of a 28-year-old Dan Marino is working before they name Henne the man?
Let's face it, the team is likely to draft a quarterback. That is simply wise business because Ron Wolf, the former Green Bay personnel savant and a Bill Parcells confidant, taught NFL teams long ago that backup QBs have a way of becoming golden insurance policies that can be exchanged for draft picks later on, so it it wise to draft one almost every year.
But what rookie is likely to beat out Henne in his first training camp?
So again, Henne is Miami's best choice for 2010. And furthermore, he deserves the opportunity.
He is a hard worker. You read from Sparano that he works at improving the deficiencies in his game. One expects improvement from him, particularly if the Dolphins surround him with better weapons. So I think the guy deserves to be the starter for 2010.
And Henne, bright as anyone in the locker room, agrees with me.
"Yeah," he told me. "I mean, I would say overall we started off well, getting off to a 7-3 start. Obviously the last three games wasn't the way we wanted to end it but hopefully I showed the coaches I have the capability of leading the team to wins and more in the future."
Two tests in judging QBs that Henne passed this year came in that led what was a less-than-mediocre team to a 7-6 record in his 13 starts. And I wouldn't say Henne was mostly at fault for those three season-ending losses. Not at all. So he passes the test that measures whether he can win or not.
He also passed another test on Dec. 6 against New England. Henne threw for over 335 yards with two touchdowns and one interception that day and outplayed Tom Brady in the process. The game, viewed in a vacuum, was a good moment for Henne. But viewed in the perspective that Henne had suffered a three-interception meltdown against Buffalo the week before, the comeback performance spoke of the kid's resilient nature and fighter's spirit.
Playing QB in the NFL is about talent, sure. But it's also about having brass, um, well, intestinal fortitude. Henne's recovery from the Buffalo loss showed me he's got the guts for the job.
The NFL has made official each team's 2010 opponents and so here is what the Dolphins will be looking at in 2010.
At home, the Dolphins will play the Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions, as well as AFC East rivals Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots and New York Jets.
On the road, the Dolphins will play the Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and their three AFC East rivals.
That means Miami will play eight games, or half their schedule, against teams that made the playoffs in 2009. The Dolphins will play three teams that won their divisions.
Just came back from the locker room where nuggets were flying left and right.
The Herald staff plucked a couple out of the air and share them here:
1. Nose tackle Jason Ferguson revealed that his recovering from a torn quadriceps injury will take him another six to eight months. He said he would would like to play in 2010, but won't make his decision whether he will until he's healthy.
2. Quarterback Pat White's health is fine. He drove to work this morning and was in the locker room yucking it up with teammates..
3. Quarterback Chad Henne said he didn't go back in the game Sunday because he was experiencing blurred vision. He said things were still a little blurry today.
4. Will Allen was in the locker room and was asked about his role for 2010. "I'm not worried about my role," he told The Herald's Jeff Darlington. He added he expect to be 100 percent by the start of offseason training activities in the late spring.
5. Patrick Cobbs, who tore up his left knee earlier this season, was in the locker room. He reported his rebab is going well.
6. The Dolphins will select 12th in the first round of the April 22 player draft. Miami picks immediately after either Jacksonville or Denver, depending on a coin toss between those two.
7. Joey Porter refused to speak with the media. Shocking!
8. Defensive end Randy Starks confirmed he is a Pro Bowl alternate. He said third or fourth, but wasn't sure which.
9. RB Ronnie Brown, who suffered a lisfranc fracture of his right foot, is no longer using crutches and is wearing his normal footwear. But he is still walking with a pronounced limp.
Coach Tony Sparano will speak in a few minutes. Come back for the update from him.
I'm not even going to bother discussing Sunday's game except to tell you the Dolphins lost 30-24 to Pittsburgh to finish the season with three consecutive losses.
Afterward, I talked with club owner Stephen Ross and we discussed whether Bill Parcells will return for 2010. Read the previous post for the answer, which starts with a y and ends with an s. Ross also told me he has more ideas to be implemented for next season to, "make the Dolphins the NFL's best franchise both on and off the field."
Well, if it's going to happen on the field, I have some ideas about what the Dolphins must do. I'd tell you what Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland believes is important for Miami to accomplish in the offseason but when I tried to speak with him, he blew me off in the locker room after the game.
So you get my thoughts instead:
Thought One: Fire Ireland for not talking to me! Kidding.
Thought One: Fire Ted Ginn Jr. I'm serious about this one. Look, there are times Ginn shows great promise. There are times he looks like a a guy with elite speed. But that happens about 20 percent of the time. The other 80 percent of the time, he's dropping a pass or running a poor pass pattern, or looking for the nearest sideline to run toward, or looking for a place on the turf to get down before he picks up a first down. It sends a bad message, folks. It is also ironic that a team that prides itself on being physical has such a timorous player on the roster. He's got to go.
Thought Two: Decide whether Jason Taylor or Joey Porter is the right guy to bring back in 2010. But not both. As I wrote in my column for Monday's Miami Herald, these two players don't work well when they're on the same team. They basically play the same position and it simply doesn't work when you ask one or the other to play out of position.
Last year Porter had 17.5 sacks without Taylor on the team. In 2006, Taylor was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year without Porter on the team. But when they were together in 2007 and 2009, it simply didn't work out very well.
I believe Taylor is the better player. I believe Taylor would be the right choice to bring back for 2010. I do know, as was written here, Taylor wanted to return to the team for 2010 until the Dolphins started benching him on many passing downs a couple of months ago. He will not return unless the team gives him some sort of idea that he will be used correctly, meaning as a pass rusher on passing downs.
Thought Three: Hire some help at inside linebacker. Miami inside linebackers had trouble getting off blocks this year. They had trouble taking the right lanes to tackles. They struggled to make any plays in pass coverage. Miami needs to find players that don't have so many issues playing their position.
Thought Four: Give serious thought to giving Patrick Turner a chance to play in 2010. Coaches obviously didn't think he was ready to contribute throughout the season. That's the same coaching staff that somehow believed Pat White was a better answer as a change-up quarterback than Tyler Thigpen. Thigpen is the better player. It's been that way for some time. Sunday's game proved that.
The coaches would counter that Thigpen can be good enough to bring you back from a 24-10 deficit, but he's also capable of killing that comeback with two consecutive interceptions on the game's final two possessions. That was true Sunday, but did you think maybe Thigpen would be better if he had a chance to take some practice snaps with the offense rather than run the scout team all the time?
The point is if the coaches can make a mistake in evaluating White ahead of Thigpen, where is it written they aren't making a mistake on Turner? Free Patrick Turner!
Thought Five: Add speed anywhere and everywhere you can get it. The Dolphins are a plodding, physical team. And that would be awesome if this was 1990. But it's 2010 people, and the NFL is about playing fast and getting there yesterday. The NFL is a pass-first league. It is dominated by 4,000-yard passers and 1,200-yard receivers. It is also a playmaker's paradise for defenders returning fumbles or interceptions. Miami needs speed to make those plays.
Thought Six: Find your offensive line then stick with it. The Dolphins on Sunday continued mixing and matching at the offensive line. Joe Berger started at center but Jake Grove finished. Nate Garner started at right guard but Donald Thomas finished. Pick somebody and go with him. That is how one finds consistency.
Thought Seven: Resolve the nose tackle position. The Dolphins were ranked No. 7 against the run when 35-year-old Jason Ferguson was injured and went out of the season. Then the run defense dropped as low as No. 14. They yielded a season-high 202 rushing yards on Sunday. That isn't all about the nose tackle, but whatever is happening at that position hasn't been good enough since Ferguson went down.
Thought Eight. Find a team to conduct dual practices against in the preseason. The Dolphins have put themselves in a hole at the outset of each of the last two seasons. They lost the first two games in 2008 and the first three games in 2009. That should tell you they weren't ready to play at the beginning of the year. Perhaps working against another team -- maybe the Saints -- would help prepare the Dolphins for a quicker start in 2010.
Thought Nine: Stop overpaying for the free safety. The Dolphins did that in 2010 as Gibril Wilson didn't play up to his salary. Maybe Wilson figures things out in his second year in the Dolphins system. Maybe he can still be rehabilitated. But he isn't worth the money the team paid this season. It is, of course, possible the Dolphins simply cut Wilson.
Thought Ten: Add a tight end that can attack the seam of the defense. Coach Tony Sparano made the point earlier this year that Miami's tight ends are handicapped by the fact many teams crowd the tackle box with safeties to stop the Miami running game. His thinking is that hurts Miami's tight ends because the area in the middle of the field is cluttered with defenders.
Um, maybe if the Dolphins had a tight end that can run, he would be able to force the safeties to back off because staying with him would be difficult. Just saying.
The primary question that looms this offseason about the Dolphins has not changed at all from last season: Will Bill Parcells return as the team's football czar next year?
Owner Stephen Ross believes he will be. I asked him after today's 30-24 Dolphins loss to Pittsburgh if he is certain Parcells will be back?
"You can never be certain," Ross said. "I mean, I can't speak for him. I'm certainly hopeful and all signs from my conversations with him would indicate to me he will be. So I'm optimistic. I believe he will be. But I can't speak for him."
Parcells, in the third year of a four-year contract next year, is free to walk away from his deal and still be paid.
Aside from Ross's optimism, you can infer Parcells will be back because he's been spending a lot of time studying the Dolphins current players on tape (suggesting he was to reach his own evaluation on them) and he's been studying college talent (suggesting he's going to add to the Dolphins in the offseason).
Despite the obvious satisfaction with Parcells and the expectation he will be back, Sunday marked the second season in a row former Kansas City president Carl Peterson is on hand for the Dolphins' season-finale. I don't know what it all means, but he was definitely at LandShark on Sunday.
As an aside, Ross told me he was told by the team doctors and trainers that Pat White will be fine.
It looked bleak for the Dolphins when their starting quarterback left the game against Pittsburgh with an injury, and then their No. 2 quarterback left the game by the third quarter with an injury, and they were trailing 27-10.
Enter third-string quarterback Tyler Thigpen and he directs two touchdown drives to make the score 27-24.
Fact is the Dolphins got the ball inside Pittsburgh territory after a Ben Roethlisberger fumble and Miami looked like it had chance to take the lead. But midnight struck for Cinderella.
Thigpen threw an interception. And another one.
Then the Houston Texans beat New England to elminate Miami from the playoffs.
Then the Steelers clinched the 30-24 victory with a late FG drive.
And so the season is over. The Dolphins finish at 7-9.
So where are we?
Are the Dolphins a team that regressed as their record shows -- going from 11-5 in 2008 to 7-9 this season? Or are they a better team than they were in 2008 that ran into a tougher schedule? Or somewhere in the middle?
The Dolphins finally stopped the Steelers in the second quarter. But it was more the Steelers stopping themselves when Santonio Holmes threw an interception on a receiver pass.
Unfortunately for Miami, the offense hasn't been able to convert. The defense, meanwhile, has been terrible to start the game three consecutive weeks.
So the Dolphins trail at halftime.
By the way, anyone wondering if the Dolphins will make a change with Paul Pasqualoni as defensive coordinator, that became more unlikely today. ESPN is reporting that Romeo Crennel, a trusted Bill Parcells man who might have made sense in Miami, will be the defensive coordiantor in Kansas City next year.
The Dolphins wanted to get off to a fast start today. And the offense did that, scoring on their first possession of the game on an 11-yard pass from Chad Henne to Lex Hilliard.
Those guys have work to do.
With a secondary that has replaced Gibril Wilson as the starting free safety and has lost Vontae Davis to a wrist injury, the Dolphins are getting abused.
Ben Roethlisberger just completed a 54-yard pass to rookie Mike Wallace, a third-round pick, for a go-ahead score. Nate Jones and Chris Clemons, the man replacing Wilson,, got burned on that long bomb. It didn't help that Tryone Culver knocked down Jones on the play.
Join me in the comments section as we continue the live blog.
We will live blog the Dolphins' regular-season finale today as we do every game day so be sure to be here for that today.
I will also be updating the inactives for today's game. Here's a hint: I do not believe Patrick Turner will be active today so if you're wondering, that is my educated guess. Simply, nothing has changed in recent weeks to cause the Miami coaching staff to put in an inexperienced receiver over any of the other four they usually activate on game days.
Regardless of whether he's active or not, I would say it's been a disappointing year for Miami's third-round pick of a year ago. Very disappointing.
[Update: Turner is indeed inactive. The others are Evan Oglesby, Andrew Hartline, Andrew Gardner, Lionel Dotson, Ryan Baker and Tyler Thigpen as the No. 3 QB. Joe Berger starts at center. Nate Garner starts at right guard for Donald Thomas. Troy Polamalu is inactive for Pittsburgh.]
Another thing I want to share with you as we prepare for a game that, in part, will determine whether Miami's season ends today or goes on, are two topics about next season:
I want to discuss salary cap structure. And I want to give you a quickie free agency tutorial.
And their prospects for performing up to their salaries in 2010 are not exceedingly good. That means the Dolphins can get rid of any of them without suffering a salary cap hit that typically keeps some under-performing players employed.
It's going to be a baaaaad year for free agency. I was talking to former Herald colleague Jason Cole on Friday and we amassed our enormous brain power (he scored 1,500 on the SAT once and I, um, I have had ideas in my life) to figure what the free agent scenario will resemble come next spring absent a salary cap.
It will be this: All the big name players we all wish the Dolphins would sign won't be availble. There will be no Vincent Jackson or Braylon Edwards or Miles Austin because unlike typical years, free agency will not be available to players with four years or more experience. Free agency will be granted only players with six years of experience.
What does that mean? The biggest name pass-catcher to hit free agency will be New England tight end Ben Watson.
Pass rushers? Tully-Banta Cain might be available.
The point is all the top-tier 25- and 26-year-old players that typically hit free agency for the first time every year, aren't going to be free agents in 2010. They will be restricted free agents, meaning there must be draft pick compensation involved in getting them. And that compensation will typically be a first-round pick. So that dooms free agency -- at least in Miami, where draft choices are typically used for drafting, not trading.
But because the cap is not a factor, under-performing players that might otherwise stick with their clubs will be let go by teams next offseason. So what you will see is a bunch of players on the street that didn't live up to their past contracts. Those guys will be older, less accomplished, and have many more warts than a typical free agent.
That group will also be much bigger than the class of true unrestricted free agents because teams simply want to rid themselves of toxic contract.
That's the deal, folks.
Tell me what you think. And remember, the live blog starts here later on.
I was standing in the middle of the Dolphins locker room earlier this week when rookie Sean Smith walked through and, looking at the kid from a distance, he seemed kind of skinny to me.
Don't get me wrong. Smith isn't skinny skinny.
I mean, he eats. He lifts weights. He works out. He weighs 214 pounds.
But he is NFL skinny. His arms don't bulge. His upper body isn't ripped.
Basically he has some growing to do yet. And that's what coach Tony Sparano says is the next step in Smith's progression toward next season.
"I would say with Sean, it’s just some strength, some physical strength," Sparano said. "Training, when you get young players out of the draft, and you’re training them for the 16-week, really the 22-week period that we’re going to have them out there, the amount of time you get them from the draft until the time you can train them and do that is not really close to what the veterans have been doing.
"Having these guys, Sean, Vontae [Davis], Pat White, Andrew Gardner, these guys all with the full offseason under their belt, I think is just going to help them down the road, the stamina that it takes to play as many games as you have to play, particularly at their positions, Sean’s position, all those things."
As you know, Smith doesn't have an interception this season. He's been around the ball, but on at least two occasions, I can remember he either got out-fought for the ball that became a completion or the receiver knocked it from him for an incomplete pass.
That is about strength. And Smith will add some in the offseason. Then, of course, the other stuff will come. Smith will have to learn to study himself and his opponent better. That time he spends thinking about the mall these days? He'll grow as a professional and think about more film study. That is part of growing up as well.
"I think, watching himself on film, watching some of these very good receivers that he’s played against each and every week. Going back through it with his position coach and really being able to hack out his fundamentals and technique, and then spend some time in the offseason doing some of those things whenever we get to that point I think would be the best thing for Sean," Sparano said. "Right now, I think the best thing for Sean is to make sure that the guys with the black helmets on don’t do that this week. We need to concentrate on that game first."