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48 posts from January 2011

January 16, 2011

AFC East playoffs live blog today from Foxborough

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It is cold. There is fallen snow on the ground. And playoff football is in the air. As in years past, The Miami Herald will be at the NFL playoffs watching other teams play while the Dolphins ...

... Well, they're watching just like you and me. Actually, I'm closer to being in the playoffs than the Dolphins. At least I'm in the stadium.

I'm covering the Jets at New England today.

You remember the Jets and New England, right? They're the two teams that finished ahead of the Dolphins in the division. They're the teams the Dolphins must pass in 2011 to get to the playoffs.

So we should watch and see what the task might be like. There will be a live blog here starting at 4:30 this afternoon.

In the meantime, I would ask you to check out my Sunday column. It makes the point that Miami faces a tougher job in getting past the 2010 season than it did in the 2007 season. Yes, I know the Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 and were 7-9 in 2010. And I repeat, the assignment is tougher now.

I explain why in the column, but suffice to say one of the reasons is the folks trying to turn things around don't have the luxury of working with the benefit of a honeymoon now.

Some extra things I did not have room to mention in the column that makes overcoming 2010 might be harder than overcoming 2007:

After four years of tooling and retooling and retooling again along the offensive line, the Dolphins have to, you guessed it, address the offensive line once more. They need a center and maybe a right tackle.

And they need to dump that idea of picking players who mostly offer position flexibility but no position consistency. Here’s a crazy idea: Rather than find a mediocre player that can play guard and center, how about finding a really good starting center and leaving him there until he retires?

The Dolphins need to upgrade the tight end position. Last year they loved Tony Moeaki and Dennis Pitta in the draft but couldn’t land either. They really must upgrade the spot this year or once again the red zone troubles that plagued in 2010 will haunt another year.

As I touch upon in the column, coach Tony Sparano, already fixing his rift with general manager Jeff Ireland, must broker a fix between receiver Brandon Marshall and quarterback Chad Henne.

Yes, Henne is very likely going to return in 2011. The Dolphins would be unwise to anoint him their starter and probably will not, but I doubt they will simply dump him. And unless an experienced, talented veteran can be added, it is unlikely any rookie Miami finds will be immediately ready to supplant Henne.

So you might find yourself with Henne under center in 2011. Again. Marshall might find himself with Henne under center. Again.

That’s not a comfortable spot. The receiver openly criticized his quarterback the last few weeks and in some cases he was right to do so. But Marshall never admitted that sometimes he blows his assignments and runs the wrong routes and causes problems that sometimes get blamed on Henne.

Both players need help. Both need improvement. And in 2011, both may be surprised to learn they need each other again.

Crazy right?

See you at the live playoffs blog.

January 14, 2011

NFL Network insider Jason LaCanfora talks Dolphins on Armando and the Amigo (audio)

The topic foremost on everyone's mind with the Dolphins is the hiring of assistant coaches to be offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

Everyone knows the chronicled candidates so far: Rob Chudzinski, Chris Palmer, John Garrett, and Saturday the Dolphins will reportedly interview Brad Childress.

I hate the idea of Childress, by the way.

Why? It doesn't make sense. It doesn't belong. It's not what the Dolphins seem built to do because it means instituting the West Coast offense to a team that doesn't have West Coast offense talent.

It would require finding a quarterback familiar with running the West Coach offense. It would require players in Miami taking a shine to Childress in a way players in Minnesota clearly didn't -- and doesn't coach Tony Sparano have enough issues convincing players about his own credibility to be thinking of also building up the credibility of a coordinator whose questionable reputation precedes him?

Simply, the Brad Childress candidacy does not seem logical to me.

I discussed this and many other Dolphins topics with NFL Network insider Jason LaCanfora on Armando and the Amigo Friday on 640-Sports here in South Florida. LaCanfora made the point, and very well, that we shouldn't really be talking about the next Miami quarterback until the coordinator is hired.

He also explained that the other candidates apparently in the hunt for this job come from a different philosophy and coaching tree than does Childress.

Listen to the interview. Or if you wish, you can tune into the show Monday through Friday between 6-10 a.m. on 640-AM in South Florida or streaming online here. LaCanfora, by the way, appears on my show every Thursday.


Jason LaCanfora


Cam Newton to Dolphins? Hard to believe

Heisman Trophy winner and National Championship winning quarterback Cam Newton announced Thursday evening he is leaving Auburn and will be eligible for this spring's NFL draft. And by this morning the buzz around Dolphins fans will almost certainly be that he's our guy!

The Miami quarterback issue will now definitely get solved because Newton is awesome and athletic and tall (no Chad Henne batted passes) and mobile and awesome and yippie!


Newton is a great college football player. His 30 TD passes and 20 running TDs is testament to that. But I should not have to tell you college greatness -- especially when limited to one season -- does not certify NFL anything. It doesn't mean Newton will be great in the NFL. Or good. Or mediocre. Or ... anything.

Here is the truth about Cam Newton. Barring an electrifying spring in which he simply blows away at least one personnel man with full say over his organization and a draft pick before the 14th overall selection, Newton will be there when the Dolphins select in April's first round.

And if Jeff Ireland learned anything from mentor Bill Parcells, he probably will not select Newton. But, but, but why you cry aloud?

Because Newton doesn't fit the profile. He's played one season. That's a red flag or it should be. He's been all about the spread option formation and NFL quarterbacks have to be under center. There will be questions about Newton's footwork because of that system he played under, questions as fundamental as, "Can this guy operate under center?" 

There are also questions about whether Newton can read defenses. He didn't do very well in the one or two games he was presented with something other than a single-high safety read.

Was he a product of a great system? No, not entirely. The man is supremely gifted athletically. But is he Josh Freeman all over again? There are serious questions about that.

There are also serious character questions.

This from ESPN's Kevin Weidl:

"Newton was arrested while at Florida on a charge of possessing a stolen laptop computer; there have been rumblings that he had academic issues while with the Gators; and the NCAA investigation surrounding his recruitment out of Blinn College and the fact that his father was attempting to solicit large sums of money in return for Cam attending Mississippi State will all be investigated thoroughly by NFL teams.

The NCAA has cleared Cam Newton of any wrongdoing in the recruitment scandal, but the influence of his father will be a consideration for NFL decision-makers.

Something that bothers me: Newton, his dad, Auburn University and even the NCAA agreed that it would be best if Cecil Newton did not attend the BCS championship game between Auburn and Oregon. Auburn's Athletics Director even released a statement saying Newton was not at the game. And yet, several media outlets shot pictures of the two Newton men, father and son, in a celebratory embrace after the game on the field.

So much for the Newton family word.

The point is there are so many questions and flags here, I would not be surprised if Newton drops like a lead pipe in the draft. And I would not be surprised when the quarterback-hungry Dolphins pass on Newton and select other options.

January 13, 2011

Troy Drayton shares thoughts on the Dolphins


Dolphins players and former players have been telling you what they think about all things relative to the franchise in the days since the regular season ended and owner Stephen Ross flirted with the idea of replacing Tony Sparano in a manner that failed protocol.

Former tight end Troy Drayton, who played in Miami from 1996-99, was a guest on Armando and the Amigo on 640-Sports in South Florida and I share with you the interview above.

Drayton shares his opinion of the season. He shares his opinion of the last few weeks (hint: he used the word "fiasco"). I asked him if people like you, the fans, will forgive and forget going forward.

Eventually the conversation turned to Chad Henne. Drayton saw what you saw. "He regressed," he said.

But Drayton has an interesting take on Henne going forward. Drayton also talked about Tyler Thigpen, whom he apparently likes more than Henne at this point.

Click the link and listen.

And come back later as I'll upload an interview we did with former University of Miami, New York Giants, St. Louis Cardinals RB O.J. Anderson. You will appreciate the story he gives you about how Bill Parcells dealt with him back in the day.

January 11, 2011

Dolphins address offense but try not to wreck model

The Dolphins have asked and received permission to interview Chargers tight end coach Rob Chudzinski for their vacant offensive coordinator job, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune and that could be the first of a slate of interviews coming in the next couple of days.

The Dolphins have certain openings for offensive coordinator (because Dan Henning and the team parted ways) and quarterbacks coach (because David Lee left for the University of Mississippi). The club may also have one and possibily two more openings on its coaching staff in the coming days, with special teams and the tight ends position being closely reviewed.

Chudzinski is also an offensive coordinator candidate in Carolina, where Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera is expected to be hired as early as Tuesday as the team's new head coach.

Coach Tony Sparano is expected to make a decision on those issues soon. Sparano, however, expects to have Assistant head coach Todd Bowles remain with the staff. Even though Bowles is said to be on the radar for a job in Dallas, a source said Monday that at this time, Sparano expects Bowles to return to Miami.

The search for an offensive coordinator should be an interesting one. It is also expected to include Dallas tight end coach John Garrett, who is a former Dolphins quality control coach who went to Dallas in 2007 and worked on the same staff with Sparano that year.

Garrett's brother, Jason Garrett was recently named head coach of the Cowboys. Jason Garrett also coached with the Dolphins in 2005-2006 and was on the Miami roster as a backup quarterback in 2004.

The fact both Chudzinski, who played in the 1980s at the University of Miami, and Garrett coach tight ends could call into question George DeLeone's status with the Dolphins. DeLeone has coached four years in the NFL while spending most of his career coaching at Temple, Mississippi, Syracuse and Holy Cross.

Other candidates for Miami's vacant offensive coordinator job could emerge.

The Dolphins are rumored to be interested in coaches currently serving on Sean Payton's staff in New Orleans, including offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. Carmichael is the team's offensive coordinator in title but Payton is indeed the play-caller for the Saints.

Sparano and Payton are close friends.

The Dolphins are clearly intending not to stray from the type of offense they have run in the past -- one that follows the lineage of Don Coryell, then Joe Gibbs, Ernie Zampese and Henning. Lately Norv Turner has taken versions of that offense to his various NFL stops including Dallas in the early 1990s, Washington, Miami, and now San Diego.

One supposes whichever offensive coordintor Sparano picks will install his system that springs from the blue-print of those previous coaches but might employ personal tweaks.

Scrapping an offense altogether is a dangerous proposition this year in the NFL. The uncertain labor situation has left open the possibility of an owner's lockout of players. That would mean teams that make changes to their staffs or schemes might not be able to implement those changes on the field with players until a new labor agreement is reached.

And that means the teams installing significant changes will fall behind teams that retain the players, coaches and schemes from the previous season.

The Dolphins expect to make significant changes to the offense beyond the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. The club expects to go searching for a new quarterback, at least one new running back and some help along the offensive line and possibly at tight end.

Interestingly, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is apparently giving his input into the kind of offense he wants the Dolphins to run. This despite the fact he has never coached football at any significant level.

"I’ve told Tony that, to me, I want an aggressive, creative (offense), not playing just to keep it close,” Ross said on 940-AM. “Where, people are a little bit more unpredictable, and opening it up. That’s what I think South Florida wants, and that’s what this climate demands."

"We have one great advantage in Florida as the Miami Dolphins, that other teams don’t have, and that’s we have the weather in August, September and October,” Ross added. “Our players are training in that weather, let’s take advantage of it. Let’s go with a hurry-up offense, let’s wear them down. We’ve never done that. This isn’t the north, where you want to just take it 4 yards and a cloud of dust. I think I look for a different brand. Seeing the Dolphins, how fans want to see it, how we win, we’re going downfield, the days of Dan Marino, the days we all want to go back to.”

Interesting on two levels. It was Ross who, in effect, de-clawed Miami's weather advantage by petitioning the NFL the ability to play early season games on the road while playing its early-season home games either at night or the late afternoon.

Ross said he did this so that fans didn't have to sit in the heat of Sun Life Stadium. Unfortunately, the team cannot take advantage of the heat if the owner is getting games changed to times that are relatively cooler.

Also, in the same interview, Ross says he's learned not to "micromanage" the football operations.

January 10, 2011

David Lee leaving Dolphins for Ole Miss

David Lee did wonderful work in bringing to the Dolphins the signature offensive package that helped carry them to the playoffs in 2008 -- the Wildcat package.

And in doing so the quarterback coach did something perhaps no NFL quarterback coach had done before: Find a way to make your offense more explosive by removing the quarterback from the equation.

Well, Lee is taking his Wildcat scheme back to the college ranks where he first used them. Lee has parted ways with the Dolphins to become the offensive coordinator at Mississippi a source confirms.


 This is a good thing for everyone.

Lee, you see, put his stamp on Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne the past two years in that Henne became a tireless worker. Henne spent countless hours preparing. Henne knew the playbook and his assignments and reads backwards and forwards.

But ...

Lee, a cautious sort, seemed to turn Henne into something of a cautious, undaring kind of quarterback. Henne didn't often dare go with his gut or heart and simply fling it. He trusted the book instead of his eyes.

And that turned Henne into something of a robot. It clearly did not work. It needed to be broken up. And now it is.

The Dolphins may not be done. There is an obvious need to upgrade the special teams and Assistant head coach and secondary coach Todd Bowles interviewed with the Dallas Cowboys lately.

It is possible Darren Rizzi, who took over as special teams coordinator when John Bonamego was fired could also leave. But just as likely he will stay while the Dolphins look for more help as in a fulltime special teams coordinator.


I'm told he will stay with the Dolphins. That's good. He's got a lot of work to do with a young secondary that limited mental mistakes in 2010, but struggled to catch potential interceptions that could have changed the direction of games.

The Dolphins thus have a opening at offensive coordinator and quarterback coach and could be looking for a special teams coordinator.

Live chat blog starting at 1 p.m. today

So much to cover. So little time during the season.

But it is the offseason -- at least for the Dolphins it is -- so let's roll with a live blog chat today, starting at 1 p.m. and going until my hands get numb from typing. I do not know how long that will be, but we'll go at least one hour and probably longer.

So if you have a question. If you have a comment. If you have a bone to pick, either with me or the Dolphins and would like to talk about that, it's all good.

As usual, you can circumvent the typing and reading and so forth and simply speak to me directly. I am available, you know.

My personal phone number is 888-640-9385. But I have to warn you: I only answer that number on weekdays from 6-10 a.m. while I'm on the air hosting my radio show, Armando and the Amigo on 640-Sports in South Florida.

It is a toll free call, in case you're wondering.

Either way, I am available.

Actually, I'm married. But you get my drift.

January 08, 2011

The Saturday meeting with the media (w/ audio)

The so-called round table the Dolphins planned for Saturday is over. The idea of the thing was to set the record straight on what happened over the past week and announce coach Tony Sparano's two-year contract extension, which is worth approximately an extra $6 million

It had its moments. But it was not the Dolphins' finest hour, I'm sorry to report.

As a synopsis, I would tell you:

Club owner Stephen Ross says he never contacted either Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. Jeff Ireland said he "never wavered" on his opinion of Tony Sparano and that he told Ross "Tony was still the right man for the job."

"In the beginning and in the end of all this, I believe Tony Sparano is the right football coach for this football team," Ireland said. "I've always felt that. That has never changed."

Ireland, however, was on that flight to California to woo John Harbaugh. And he never communicated to Sparano that he was going or what was happening. He did not address those specific facts. But did admit, "I was in a tough spot. And I put Tony in a difficult spot as well."

Ireland read his opening comments from a piece of paper. So did Ross for the most part. (You'll be able to tell in the audio.)

"I was asked by Steve if I thought Harbaugh was the right coach for this team. I told him Tony was still the right man for the job."

Ross did his predictable (read my previous post) admonishing of the media. We're evil and often wrong. He corrected the fact Carl Peterson was not on the flight to California to get Harbaugh -- which was reported by ESPN, NFL Network, The Miami Herald and practically every other media outlet out there. Guess everyone had the same wrong source.

Ross did admit some mistakes of his own. He said he should have told Sparano he was flying to meet with Harbaugh. "I shouldn't have been talking to coaches and seeking a replacement until I decided that I should make a change," he said.

Now, let me take you back a second. Despite saying he only talked to Harbaugh, Ross did talk to more than one coach and every time he spoke on the topic he used the word "coaches.' He "talked" to Eric Mangini when the former Cleveland and Jets coach called him about something or other.

And while Ross said neither he nor anyone in the organization ever spoke with either Cowher or Gruden, sources close to both men continue to insist he spoke with their representatives.

That doesn't make Ross a liar. But if that's how it happened, it makes him a master of nuance. When you speak with someone's agent, folks, it's like you're contacting that guy in my book. Anyone that doesn't understand that needs to go back to working with crayons. It is, in fact, the first or second step of trying to hire that guy.

Then there is something that wasn't asked thus not addressed: Suppose Ross is completely accurate here and everyone else is wrong. So Ross, who said he was trying to explore all avenues of improving his team, was doing so by flying across the entire span of this nation, but he completely ignored the two most accomplished and decorated unemployed coaches on the market?

Ross is clearly thinking of replacing Sparano but doesn't pick up a phone to talk to two former Super Bowl winning coaches, one of which has put your team on a list of teams he'd love to work for?

Sorry, you cannot have it both ways. Either the Dolphins did contact Cowher and Gruden (at least through their agents) ... or they really are inept about getting the best coaches possible.

If Ross maintains the media -- all of us -- were wrong about contact with Cowher and Gruden and if that is the actual case, then he is totally clueless about which coaches need to be contacted during a search. Wonder if he would be so eager to say the media was wrong when presented with that choice?

The Dolphins need help upgrading the offense and don't even reach out to Gruden? Really?

Ross also said he didn't think his search for a new coach would be a big deal. "This was my first time I interviewed and I never thought this would be national news," he said.


Sparano agreed with Ross and Ireland that mistakes were made -- by them.

"The communication problems, I felt like at the time, had it been said right away, that would have been fine and I would have been able to deal with it," Sparano said. "I do think the communication end of things that both Jeff and Steve alluded to could have been handled different."

(A little aside here: I was not at this meeting. I was not allowed in, in part, because the Dolphins limited media presence to two people per outlet. The Miami Herald in an epic failure of wisdom, in my opinion, decided it would use its slots on a reporter and videographer/photographer. The Herald offered me the one reporter chair. I turned down that reporter chair because I am not the beat reporter. I am a columnist that specializes on this beat so I wasn't going to ask someone not at the meeting to write the lead story while I wrote my opinion. I also am the morning show host of Armando and the Amigo on 640-Sports here in South Florida and that station had two slots. I could have used one of those. But the Dolphins forbad that, saying I would be taking advantage of a "loophole." Thus I was locked out. I heard the entire meeting on a speaker phone, instead. Not the best way to do it but did what I could with what I had to work with. You might be asking why did the Dolphins conduct this meeting in a room so small they would have to limit media access. They do, after all, have a team meeting room that seats about 100-150 people. I'm told some of the folks speaking at the meeting aren't comfortable getting up in front of large groups.)

And with that ...

The thing that intrigues me most is the relationship between Ireland and Sparano. These two guys have to work together if the Dolphins are going to have any chance of winning going forward.

Ireland said Sparano would probably still have questions about what exactly happened this week. But he also said he and Sparano had a great conversation to discuss everything and that hard questions were asked and answered.

"... He knows how I feel about him and I know how he feels about me," Ireland said. "We've worked together for nearly seven years. We have a great working relationship and more important we have a very close personal relationship." 

Sparano put a good face on the relationship as well. He didn't say he loves Jeff Ireland but neither did he mention leaving a bloody, sawed-off horse head in Ireland's bed last night. 

"I tell my players we don't place blame, we solve problems," Ireland said. "The three of us are trying to solve problems and move forward."

Sparano on the offensive coordinator search: "We're going to open this thing up and try to be more explosive. We're going to hire the best man for that job."

The time frame for that?

"We're going to move forward as fast as we can," he said.

Ross ended the 40-minute meet by saying, "I will deliver a winner."

I was listening on a speakerphone. Maybe he said he will deliver a wiener.

Anyway, if you got an extra 45 minutes or so to spare, you can listen to the entire meeting. Just click here. There are a couple of seconds of empty background noise to start and at the end. If that link doesn't work, try this one:

Download Ross_Roundtable_Herald



A couple of suggestions for Saturday's meeting

Let's face it, everything that is about to happen starting at noon on Saturday is window dressing. The script has been finalized. The actors have studied their lines. The public relations department has supplied the right-sounding spin to possible tough questions.

And when the lights come on, the Dolphins' brass will act as if Tony Sparano signing a two-year contract extension today makes everything right and everything you heard the past week is mostly wrong because, of course, the media stinks.

Part of that is true. Some reporters stink at their job and get it wrong a lot or simply steal information from others. And some are just human and make mistakes. I made some myself in covering this weeklong debacle. Some media out there said the Dolphins made Jim Harbaugh an official offer. I think I was quite clear in telling you they never did. They weren't really on a footing solid enough to convince Harbaugh to come, which should say something about the Dolphins ownership and organization.

790 The Ticket in South Florida reported on one of their shows that Harbaugh was already delivered as Miami's coach and he'd already told his assistants he was taking his talents to South Davie, where the Dolphins train.

Harbaugh is today the San Francisco coach.

But the hope here is the Dolphins, known for making the outside world the enemy, emerge today a little smarter, a little wiser, and a little better than that flawed blame-someone-else-strategy.

Note to the powers that be: Admit your mistakes. Tell the truth -- because if you lie you will get busted eventually. And don't assume you're smarter than everyone else. The past week has pretty much proven practically everyone else is smarter than you, no matter what your pay grade or bank account says.

You guys are rookies and you showed it this week. Everyone in the NFL is talking about it and snickering about it, trust me. Don't make it worse by trying to rationalize, excuse or obfuscate your mistakes.

Soft words turn away wrath. Humility disarms. Honor inspires.

Don't try to fool people by saying everything is fixed and perfect. We all know the fracture between Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland will require work. We get that. We can get over that if you can. But we cannot get over you guys saying the understandable hurt and discomfort don't exist because that is a challenge for people like me to prove it does.

Admit it. Tell us you're working toward making it better. Then move on.

Saturday is going to be somewhat painful. We understand you're nervous. We understand that's the reason the round table is being held in a tiny room that limits the size of the audience. Just speak from the heart, from the soul. Speak truth.

This two cents worth of advice is all meant to lessen the sting. It cannot deaden it. The only way that happens is if my dream comes true. 

My dream overnight? The Dolphins gather for their noon round table with the media and out trots ... Drew Brees. Or Matt Ryan. Or Josh Freeman.

In his new Dolphins uniform.

All are quarterbacks. All are outstanding or showing the early signs of being outstanding. And it says here that if the Dolphins could somehow, some way, find a way to introduce one of these or a reasonable facsimile, then all would be forgiven.

The Dolphins cannot do that Saturday. So all cannot be forgiven Saturday.

But that doesn't mean wounds won't heal down the road. That doesn't mean the phones jammed with complaints won't eventually stop ringing.

Miami's best chance of making that happen? Get a quarterback!


Start with get a quarterback coach. Get one that has previous NFL success as well as experience. Get one that is ... is ... ballsy. Yeah, get a quarterback coach that will teach his quarterbacks to play with gusto and nerve and daring as well as intelligence, preparation and care.

And get a quarterback coach whose greatest contrubition three years into his Miami career won't be to deliver plays that, like Wildcat, take the quarterback out of the game.

Zeke Bratkowski isn't working is he? Talk to him! Yes, he's older than the hills. So? Advice has no expiration date.

After you find a quarterback coach, find a quarterback. Search high and low. And get help for your search.

In 2008, the Dolphins sent Ireland, Sparano, Dan Henning and David Lee to Michigan, Boston College and Delaware. All four watched Chad Henne, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. The unanimous consensus was Henne was every bit as good as Ryan and Flacco.

Everyone was wrong. Henne isn't in the same class with the other two. So maybe the Dolphins simply stink at evaluating quarterbacks. I present exhibit A: Pat White.

The Dolphins need to find a couple of quarterback experts. They need men who can spot quarterback talent, sniff quarterback greatness, feel a quarterback's instincts. The Dolphins need men who can spot that it that quarterbacks must have to succeed.

I cannot describe it. But I can tell after 20 or so NFL starts if a player has it or not. Henne doesn't have it. Sorry.

So enlist a couple of guys that can identify that. Ron Wolf can. Former Dolphins and University of Miami quarterback Bernie Kosar can. Chad Pennington probably can, too. Pennington has it, by the way. Too bad he doesn't have an arm to go with it.

The Dolphins will have opportunities to address the QB spot in this coming offseason. Study Cam Newton. Study Blaine Gabbert at Missouri. Obviously Ryan Mallet deserves a thorough study. Check out why Jake Locker simply collapsed.

Get a conviction on somebody. Learn something about one of these kids that no one else knows. Don't stop working it until you have that nugget. And then draft him.

And then get him a veteran to help him learn to be a professional.

Vince Young, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton, maybe Donovan McNabb will come available. Do not sign any of them for very long and do not sign Young at all. None of the others are the answers, really. But maybe one can be a stopgap.

Scrounge around for that one, understanding that you are picking through some else's discards, which is a nice word for trash. Don't pay like any are treasure. None are for varying reasons.

Above all, understand that the slow, plodding offense you've put on the field the last couple of years was acceptable in 1990. That was the Bill Parcells blueprint of yesteryear. But this year is 2011. And the game has completely changed.

You need speed. You need big plays. That's what the rules are written to allow. And more than oxygen itself you need a quarterback.

The fans get the fact you cannot produce one during Saturday's round table. Do the next best thing. Rather than telling us how the last week really wasn't as terrible as everyone knows it was, do something audacious.

Pledge to get us that QB. You get the right one, he will make us forget the last week ever happened.

January 07, 2011

Negotiations with Tony Sparano hit a significant snag

The Dolphins have a coach under contract at this hour. But they don't necessarily have a coach.

The negotiations I wrote about in the previous entry on this blog were apparently going fairly well around 3:30 this afternoon when the Dolphins decided to call a media roundtable for 4:45 p.m. to discuss the events of the past week and put a smile on all that has made you frown.

But ...

... at around 4:15ish those talks became a little heated, I'm told. They went astray, I'm told in that you had two sides pulling in different directions. They hit a significant snag in that the sides definitely were not agreeing on a final outcome. And so at that time, the hammer was dropped and coach Tony Sparano or his representative let it be known he wasn't comfortable returning to the Dolphins in 2011.

That serious.

And so, as I said earlier, the Dolphins still had a coach under contract because Sparano is tied to the team for 2011. But they didn't have a coach to put in front of the media with owner Stephen Ross and perhaps general manager Jeff Ireland.

That happy family portrait the Dolphins wanted and intended to put on display was not ready for public viewing.

So the Dolphins called off the round table indefinitely. A spokesman said it could be reconvened in five minutes or five days.

[UPDATE: Dolphins have just rescheduled the roundtable for noon Saturday. This suggests the hurdle the negotiations hit earlier has been overcome, or perhaps overcome to the point sides are very confident they will be resolved by noon Saturday.]

That's all I know.

I do not know the particular topic that caused the gap that kept the sides from having an agreement. I do not know if it was just legalese in a contract that eventually will be overcome by the legal experts -- I'm not betting on that one.

I am told, however, that the sides hope to get this resolved at some point.

So a state of uncertainty exists.

And you thought you'd seen uncertainty with the Miami offense? Ha.

Dolphins, Sparano will talk contract 'adjustment'

And now it is time for the other shoe to drop.

With the Dolphins and their ownership turning their attention back to keeping Tony Sparano as the club's head coach,the idea now is to find peace within the ranks before presenting a calm, happy, united front before the media in a press conference that is planned for today but whose exact time has not yet been determined.

Well, to get that family portrait just right the Dolphins must make coach Tony Sparano a happy camper. And after a week in which ownership said some things and did others, kept Sparano employed but also sought ways to replace him, bringing the coach back to a state of joy is going to require some hard work.

And that is the work that is happening at this hour.

A source in the ownership group tells me the team is working on ways to soothe things over by, among other things, discussing the "adjustment of Sparano's contract."

I suppose in regular everyday English that means the Dolphins are going to talk with Sparano's agent Jimmy Sexton about some sort of contract extension or pay raise or some guarantees of some sort.

I also have been told some of the conversation in today's meetings are supposed to involve Sparano's coaching staff. I reported to you Thursday that offensive coordinator Dan Henning and the team have parted ways. So, obviously, names of possible replacements might be a topic as well as the job security of various other assistants.

All of Miami's assistants are under contract for 2011.

Another topic that would have to be broached is the relationship between Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland. They were once joined at the hip. They were part of a trio, including Bill Parcells, that was supposed to turn the Dolphins into champions.

Well, Ireland disconnected from Sparano in recent weeks and found a way to find favor with ownership that Sparano did not. And Ireland was on that team that went to California to seek out Jim Harbaugh as a possible replacement for Sparano.

So there are some frayed feelings there. No, the relationship is not broken. But it definitely is different now. There are issues there now.

Those issues have to be addressed.

This is probably not going to be a one-sided conversation. So perhaps ownership will have items it also wants to vent about to Sparano.

I would be careful about venting too much, however. Otherwise, that happy family portrait the Dolphins are hoping to unveil later today might not look quite right ... or might not get unveiled at all.

Dolphins' ridiculous order of business continues

If you listen to my radio show or follow me on twitter, you know what's coming next: Cue the circus music. Send in the clowns.

Are you ready for this?

You probably know by know several reports, including this one in The Miami Herald, are saying the Dolphins have decided to retain Tony Sparano as Miami's head coach. Awesome! I've been advocating that all along quite forcefully, I believe.

But I have no issues that owner whatshisface has sampled the market to see if he could find an upgrade at coach. Nothing wrong with that. I have, however, a distaste for the manner that was done. And today that distaste grows.

The fact is that while sources within the team and close to owner whatshisface have leaked to various media the fact Sparano was to be retained, I know that no one told Sparano this.

Think about that ...

So the sources are telling the media. But they are not telling the principle person involved most affected by the news.

Stunning. Embarrassing. More embarrassing, actually. Head-scratching.

I do know there is a meeting planned for today between ownership and Sparano. I don't know when or where, but I assume the purpose is to break the news to Sparano that was broken first to the media.

One can assume Sparano will come out of this meeting the head coach of the Dolphins. But I cannot guarantee that. Who knows what other things owner whatshisface has up his sleeve and might want to spring on his coach.

And who knows if Sparano, hung out to dry the last four days while the Dolphins chased other coaches across the country, might not agree to be retained.

Strange? Thy name is the Miami Dolphins in January 2011. 

The biggest loser? Stephen Ross

Joe Robbie had issues and some of them came out of bottles of alcohol. Wayne Huizenga was duped by Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Rick Spielman, Nick Saban and then duped Bill Parcells.

Stephen Ross?

He's the worst of all.

In the past week, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has turned the bitter disappointment of a 7-9 season into the good ol' days. He has lacked wisdom. He has misled and deceived. He has overestimated. And those were his resoundingly good moments.

Mostly he has embarassed the Miami Dolphins, his coach, his fans, and himself.

In a nutshell, he has stunk like a skunk.

Ross arrived back in South Florida early Friday morning and landed his private jet at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He had spent the previous 30 or so hours trying repeatedly trying to convince Jim Harbaugh to become Miami's new head coach. By all reliable reports, he failed.

Ross couldn't sway Harbaugh in northern California.

Ross couldn't sway Harbaugh's agent David Dunn in southern California.

Ross took a giant swing and whiffed. He also whiffed on Jon Gruden. He also whiffed on Bill Cowher before that.

So Ross returned to South Florida a defeated person. But he mostly returned to South Florida a reviled person.

Reviled, you might ask? Yup.


Remember I have reported to you Ross met with Bill Parcells on Saturday to ask his opinion of what to do with Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. He left that meeting after indicating to Parcells that he was keeping both the general manager and coach. And then he went about the business of trying to replace the coach.

So Ross has crossed Bill Parcells.

It obviously can be argued Ross changed his mind after that Saturday meeting and reactied to Sunday's 38-7 defeat at New England. That one, after all, could have caused the owner to reconsider what he had told Parcells.


You see, Ross met with Sparano for several hours on Monday. And when he left that meeting, he gave Sparano the strong feeling that he would be retained. And then Ross went about the business of wooing several coaches, particularly Harbaugh.

That's his prerogative, right? He's just doing his due diligence, right?

Well, sure. But why mislead and misdirect? Why give an indication that points north and then go south? Why sully the honor of your word with men who value honor and the bond of one's word, men like Parcells and Sparano?

Ross could have easily left his meeting with Sparano by saying, "Coach, I understand you had issues this year and I understand everything you've just explained, but it's my duty as owner to go look around for the best coach I possibly can. So I'm going to take the next couple of days to do exactly that. I hope you understand and can be patient while that process plays out. If you can't be, I understand that, too."

Sparano would have had no choice but to accept that. And he would have respected the way Ross was handling it. But Ross never uttered words even remotely close to that. He just smiled and glad-handed Sparano and upon leaving his company, went about the business of trying to replace him.

However you feel about that -- even if misdirection doesn't bother you -- the process Ross then undertook was, well, kooky.

He approached Cowher and reportedly offered mega-bucks to get the Super Bowl winning coach. But he wanted to saddle Cowher with an unaccomplished general manager and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Is anyone surprised Cowher turned Ross down? Please speak now if you are suprised. (You are alone if you raised your hand. Go face the wall.)

Ross also reportedly contacted Gruden or his "people" to gauge his interest. Gruden's interest is said to have been located at around the $10 million range. Outrageous, right? Even for a great offensive mind and former Super Bowl winning coach, that price tag is exorbitant.

But Ross is a billionaire three times over. He just offered around $7 millionish to Cowher. What's another $3? That's a total of $12 million over four years. That was too much for a multi-billionaire? That's like shopping for a Rolls Royce but walking away for not wanting to pay extra for the air conditioning.

Then came the Harbaugh debacle. This one makes 38-7 seem palatable.

Ross made a run at him here in South Florida and got rejected. And then Ross flew across country to San Jose, California to make a run at Harbaugh at his home turf. And despite offering more money than anyone else, Ross still couldn't close the deal.

A warning: When or if Ross finally speaks on this topic -- he refused to do that Friday morning when his plane landed -- he will likely say he never really offered Harbaugh a deal. He will probably paint this fiasco of a trip as an exploratory mission to feel out Harbaugh. It was, he may say, an interview of Harbaugh.

In truth, it was a Harbaugh interview of Ross. And Ross failed the interview if nothing changes in the next couple of days and Harbaugh does not run back to the Dolphins to become their coach.

So now Ross goes back to Sparano. I would tell you that was his fall-back plan the whole time. Not true because that would require you to believe Ross had any plan to begin with. I will not insult you with that.

Ross told Sparano upon leaving that meeting that he would get back with him on Tuesday and it would all be resolved by then. Tuesday came and went. Wednesday came and went. Thursday came and went. And the two had not talked.

Sparano was reading accounts of what was happening in the media. Of course, Ross may tell Sparano those accounts were wrong and he never talked to three different potential replacements. The owner may tell Sparano he has his confidence and it's always been that way.

Sparano is smart enough to know better.

And here's the kicker:

When Ross went on his cross-country coach search, even as he hung Sparano out to dry by offering a job that was still filled, the owner was something of a hero to one segment of the fan base. Fans that wanted Sparano out appreciated what Ross was doing regardless of the slimey manner in which he was doing it.

It angered fans that saw it as a classless, low-life, back-stabbing move. But it made fans of change enthusiastic about Ross.

But having failed to successfully make change, Ross has now alienated fans that didn't appreciate the manner he was going about trying to make this coaching change ... and he has now alienated fans that wanted the change he seemed to be working on but failed to accomplish .. and he has now aliented fans that didn't want any change to begin with even though there is no change being made.

He's solidified the entire Dolphins fan base! Everyone hates Ross for one reason or another.

He either embarrassed you or he embarrassed you.

Maybe Ross should offer to sell the team back to Huizenga. Or even Robbie. Either would be better than him. And, yes, I know Robbie is dead. He still had a better week than Ross.

Is it the money that drives Jim Harbaugh?

My guess is something significant will happen today. It will either get done with Jim Harbaugh or it won't because, after all, there is only so much money even billionaire Stephen Ross can push across the negotiating table at someone who has never been an NFL head coach.

No, the Dolphins didn't have their Rooney Rule candidate interviewed yet by early Thursday evening. So they had not actually offered Harbaugh a contract to become Miami's coach. That's all agent stuff anyway.

More importantly, Harbaugh absolutely was not in the bag in a serious, real manner. He wasn't agreed. He obviously wasn't signed. And ESPN even reported there were overtures by the Denver Broncos to interview him.

It is seriously not a slam dunk, folks regardless of what any radio show (other than mine) may try to represent or front or whatever the swag term is these days. It ain't done!

So I would estimate this as 55-45 that Miami closes the deal and Harbaugh replaces Tony Sparano as the new head coach. Yes, forty-five percent is a very high number. Very high. I would be inclined to give better odds if I didn't have so little confidence in Ross and his helpers.

Ross, you must remember, isn't having such a good week hiring a new coach. He struck out with Bill Cowher and didn't land Jon Gruden, either, for whatever reason.

So Ross is 0-for-2 in my book and this at-bat is close to over.

Having said all that, what happens today will go a long way in telling us what kind of man Jim Harbaugh is. I remember the Dolphins used to play against Harbaugh back in the days he was the Indianapolis quarterback and the Colts were in Miami's division.

He was a fiesty, competitive, guy. I remember he called out a Miami reporter on a conference call once for something the guy had written months beforehand. I thought it was cool.

Here is what I think is not too cool:

I don't feel all that enthusiastic about a college coach making the jump to the NFL because those do not ever often succeed anymore -- and don't tell me Pete Carroll because he was an NFL head coach first and 7-9 is successful in the NFC West but only good enough to get you replaced in the AFC East.

I don't feel all that comfortable about a man who interviews for a job knowing someone still holds that job.

And I'm not at all impressed by someone who is driven by money.

Let that last point marinate for a moment ...

.... I am not saying that is what motivates Harbaugh. Maybe the guy just wants to take on the most ludicrous situation that so far has been offered him and turn that thing around and become a legend. Maybe the guy is all about the challenge.

But I'm sure the money is moving Harbaugh, too, because by all accounts, he has money on his mind.

Remember Pete Carroll once famously asked Harbaugh, "What's your deal, man?" Without missing a beat, Harbaugh responded to the higher paid Carroll, "Nevermind that, I want your deal!"

By any logical accounting that does not involve dollars, Harbaugh should be taking the San Francisco 49ers job. That job means he doesn't have to move himself or his family. That job means he goes to the NFC West where a division title is very much within reach next season. That job means he's going to have more draft picks the next couple of years than he'll have with Miami and the ones this year will be better than Miami's. That job means Harbaugh will come into a community where he is already something of a hero for turning Stanford into a relevent football team.

The Miami job?

This job puts him on a third-place team behind two playoff teams. This job puts him behind a 14-2 division champion and Super Bowl favorite. This job won't offer a second-round pick in 2011. This job promises lumps from the best in the business -- Bill Belichick -- twice each season. This job also comes with an owner who doesn't mind chopping off a coach at the knees after a 7-9 season. (Note to Harbaugh: You see what Ross is doing to Sparano this year? That could be you in three years.)

So what's so great about the Miami job, you ask?


It walks, baby. And if reports of Ross offering between $7-$8 million per year can be believed, it not only walks, it runs, and does cartwheels, too. There is also the matter of no state tax in Florida while Californians pay a 10 percent state tax to a state government going bankrupt.

Factor in the reports that San Francisco kind of low-balled Harbaugh with an offer around $4.5 millionish per year and you see where Miami owns the treasure trove advantage.

Perhaps that is all Harbaugh needs to hear. Perhaps that is what motivates him to take the Miami job. Security for one's family is a powerful attraction for a man. I get that. Money is good.

But I also get the love of money is a terrible, terrible thing.   

January 06, 2011

Dan Henning takes another step in his career

It has been a week of breathless anticipation by fans and participants alike, as folks have been waiting to see what goes down with the Dolphins head coach job. And in the midst of offers to Bill Cowher and talks with Jon Gruden and talks with Jim Harbaugh and more talks with Harbaugh, we have overlooked the other news.

Dan Henning has left the Dolphins.

Henning, the offensive coordinator in Miami the last three seasons, agreed with coach Tony Sparano that it would be best to part ways, a source close to Henning said Thursday night.

It is not clear if this is a retirement or simply a parting. Henning, you see, is said to want to take some time to reflect on his current situation, but may remain open to future work if the right opportunity comes along.

Henning has served 31 years in the NFL and five of those with the Dolphins, the last three under Sparano. He was previously the offensive coordinator in Carolina, the New York Jets, Buffalo, and Detroit. He was the head coach in San Diego (1989-91) and Atlanta (1983-86).

Obviously the Dolphins now need to hire an offensive coordinator. But at this hour (check the time stamp on this post) the team has not fired Sparano nor made a contract offer to Harbaugh.

Ross to make last-minute pitch to Harbaugh

I've seen many strange situations with the Dolphins. I call it the theater of the absurd. This one ranks right up there.

Imagine Dolphins billionaire owner Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland and former Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson on the same private jet pointed toward San Jose, California. All of them are of so vastly disperate backgrounds and experiences. All of them are convinced they are like-minded in their purpose.

And their purpose?

Hiring college whiz kid coach Jim Harbaugh away from Stanford University -- out from under the nose of the San Francisco 49ers.

By offering him around $7 million. At least $7 million.

All this while incumbent coach Tony Sparano, apparently out in the cold despite previous assurances from Ross, waits helplessly  back in South Florida for a fate that seems more likely to include a firiring than a reprieve.

That's how it looks if this ESPN report from late Wednesday is completely accurate.

The report gives me a strange feeling because it shows to what extreme Ross is willing to go to get the coach he clearly has targetted as of 7 o'clock hour (EST) Wednesday to become Miami's next head coach. (That is not a bad thing, by the way, but the timing is intriguing considering his search began Monday.)

Ross would be making his second run at Harbaugh because I have confirmed the Dolphins spoke with Harbaugh already and he wasn't all that impressed with their first pitch. The fact is the Dolphins felt they had other options than Harbaugh after that first, failed pitch because I have confirmed the Dolphins were planning to make a run at Jeff Fisher.

But Fisher is apparently staying at Tennessee -- although not official. Harbaugh, meanwhile, wasn't totally blown away by the San Francisco 49ers in a meeting he had with that team Wednesday. So both sides are giving each other another chance Thursday morning.

This bothers me.

It bothers me because Ross is trying to create a monster. 

Some background: I have confirmed Ross met with Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells over the weekend as my column last Sunday said he would to discuss the state of the team and gain advice on a next move. And a person whose been told some details of that meeting tells me Parcells told Ross the team is capable of getting into the playoffs if he's patient and stays the course for 2011. Ross indicated to Parcells he was going to give both Sparano and Ireland one last year in 2011 to turn the Dolphins into a playoff team.

But on Sunday, the Dolphins got pummeled by the Patriots and, as this ditty said, that seemed to change everything for Ross. Ross decided to keep Ireland but try to upgrade from Sparano.

So where's the monster?

Continuity and change are opposites. Ross is trying to make them brothers.

Ross is effectively trying to put a new coaching head on the remnants of the personnel department body Parcells left him in Ireland. He is trying to match Harbaugh with Ireland. He is trying to make the new coach the face of his franchise and putting him atop a personnel department that gave the Dolphins a 7-9 record in 2010.

Here's a question: How is it Jeff Ireland has been completely spared of review but not Sparano? How is it the coach is up for being replaced because he didn't get enough out of the players, but the general manager who provided the players that didn't deliver gets a vote of confidence?

What about Ireland made Ross tell Bill Cowher -- BILL COWHER! -- "we want you but only if you accept coming with our general manager already in place."

Are you kidding me?

There are, of course, no sure-fire moves. You should remember there has been no Super Bowl winning coach who won another Super Bowl with another organization. But, you should also note that not too many college coaches, which Harbaugh is, have made the successful leap to the NFL lately.

At any rate, Thursday should be interesting.

Ross, Ireland and Peterson will make their pitch to Harbaugh. Ross will offer to throw gobs of money at Harbaugh, certainly more money than either San Francisco or Denver are likely to offer. Ireland may promise to get Harbaugh the type of talent he failed to get Sparano. And all of them will try to Harbaugh a comfort level with a club structure that seems strange perhaps only to me.

Ross is on the line here. He's picked his sword. He has decided to listen to Peterson and not Parcells. He has annointed Ireland while casting down Sparano. And now he has one last hope of luring the attractive coach he covets.

We'll see what happens.

January 05, 2011

ESPN: Harbaugh not so likely to Miami

If God had wanted me to be a play-by-play man he would have sent me down here with a wonderful baritone voice instead of my current voice that only gets me by on my now highly rated (apparently) Armando and the Amigo radio show.

The point  -- aside from a shameless plug -- is that play-by-play is not my favorite.

But here, the Dolphins are in a coaching search and you readers are a beast that must be fed. So I feel compelled to throw every available nugget of information down your collective throats. And that means giving you the play-by-play of things happening as we know them.

So what nugget can you chew on this hour?

ESPN's Adam Schefter, the best information man in the business, is reporting he doesn't think Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh will end up with the Dolphins. How's that for a hearty meal?

Schefter tweeted moments ago he likes San Francisco today as the landing spot for Harbaugh. "Not Miami, not Oakland, not Carolina, not Denver."

That nugget lodged in your throat now?

This, of course, does not mean the Dolphins chase of Harbaugh is over or a failure. Schefter did give himself wiggle room, saying he likes San Francisco for Harbaugh "today." And tomorrow is another day.

But if the story stays the same and Harbaugh does land the San Francisco job that is located 21 miles from his current address, that means Tony Sparano will likely return to the Dolphins for his fourth season unless another star candidate suddenly emerges.

[UPDATE: ESPN is reporting Harbaugh is meeting with San Francisco later today.]

A notable aside: Today the Michigan job came open. Athletics Director Dave Brandon said Harbaugh is not a candidate at Michigan because he "is headed to the NFL." And Brandon specifically referred to Habaugh dealing with a "billionaire."

Miami owner Stephen Ross is a billionaire. San Francisco owner Jed York? He's now part of the DeBartolo family and his mom Denise is estimated to be worth $900 million.

But what's $100 million give or take, right?

Sparano shadow fades only in the offseason

Me? The head is spinning because another offseason has dawned and a handful of Dolphins players are going off on coaches, on each other, on anything and everything they believe is wrong with the organization.


Over here, you have Ricky Williams whining because, in his opinion, coach Tony Sparano preached too much about scoring touchdowns in the red zone and not fumbling or making stupid mistakes. Of course, Ricky believes this was wasted energy of the zen demon screwu because the Dolphins clearly didn't need to hear about scoring in the red zone or fumbling.

Then Brian Hartline does a radio interview with former University of Miami quarterback Gino Torretta on WQAM and complains the Dolphins are apparently too regimented and stick to the game plan too closely and need to "make some plays off schedule" to be more effective.

And Brandon Marshall finally explains comments he made after Sunday's season-finale in which he said the offense was not speaking the same language and on different pages. I specifically asked him, by the way, to explain what he meant by speaking a different language during his press conference Sunday and he didn't wish to be specific.

But he got specific on the Michael Irvin show, explaining that in his relationship with previous quarterbacks the understanding was that even if a read called for the ball to go elsewhere but he had man coverage, the QB would throw the ball up to him and he'd run under it or outfight the cornerback for it.

Marshall's complaint is that quarterback Chad Henne wouldn't do that, but rather would go through his progressions as taught to him by quarterback coach David Lee.

"Henne, the way he plays the game is he goes exactly through his reads, no matter the matchup," Marshall said. "Then you get to the sideline, and it’s some conflict there because they don’t like it."

When Tyler Thigpen got in the game Sunday, however, Thigpen apparently blew off the proper read and threw it to Marshall anyway. And that made Marshall a Thigpen fan. And it also led to an argument between Marshall and Lee on the sideline.

And all that is fair to say, but I still think if men are men and they want to stand for something and actually help the team while the season is still salvageable, it should be said during the season.

Yet we hear nothing -- with the exception of a hint here or there from Marshall -- during the season. By the way, I respect that Marshall said what he said during the season. He made his points and no one argued or had the nerve to contradict him in public. So he gets a nod for some honesty and openness.

Everyone else ... where'd this stuff come from? Where was it all season?

I say all that to say this:

This is the second consecutive season Miami players go into open rebellion after the season is over. Last year, Joey Porter went on a scorched Earth campaign against Tony Sparano and his teammates that ultimately got him a one-way ticket to the waiver wire -- twice.

Channing Crowder also chimed in with certain complaints the genesis of which I can't even remember now and don't give any import to, anyway.

But all of Porter's and Crowder's griping came after the season.

And perhaps a surface analysis of this now two-year trend is that several players don't especially love the way the Dolphins are run and don't necessarily agree with the way Sparano does thing. That could lead you to believe Sparano has lost the locker room.

You'd be wrong.

It should lead you to the exact opposite conclusion.

The fact no one seems to have the guts to speak up during the season, while they are still under Sparano's supervision, says all those complainers and bitchers -- not including Marshall -- feared saying anything. They feared what Sparano might do. They were wary of crossing the coach while the season was still in flight.

It was only after the season ended and they were no longer under Sparano's control that they went off on the team or teammates or the coach.

Again: When the season was on and Sparano held the reins, no one other than Marshall said a peep and even Marshall tamed his comments. It wasn't until after Sparano was out of sight that anyone felt like they could, you know, speak.

That, like it or not, is control.

It isn't always like that in a football locker room.

Cam Cameron lost control of his locker room around the middle of 2007 and before the year was over, players were challenging him on the team plane and cursing him out in meetings. I know of no such incident with Sparano's Dolphins.

Remember that in Nick Saban final season, he lost control of the locker room. He got into an expletive-filled argument with quarterback Daunte Culpepper during practice and players were questioning his intentions the last three weeks as Alabama rumors swirled.

Dave Wannstedt lost the Miami locker room early in 2003.

Jimmy Johnson lost Dan Marino around 1998, perhaps earlier, and the two waged all-out war in 1999, with most of the locker room siding with Marino.

Yet in-season, Sparano rides herd over Miami's locker room. Players may not like him. It's impossible to get 53 gifted people to like one guy telling them what to do, anyway. But none of them showed much desire to criticize Sparano or anything else until they got out from under his shadow.


January 04, 2011

The breakdown of the Dolphins coaching seach

The Dolphins are quietly conducting a coaching search.

The club has made no public move to cement the future of their football operations but that does not mean things are stagnant behind the scenes, as ownership has already contacted two potential coaching candidates, according to multiple NFL sources.

The Dolphins in recent days reached out to former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher to gauge his interest in becoming the coach, according to a source close to Cowher. But the team's conversations with Cowher included a scenario in which he would have final say over the organization but also retain general manager Jeff Ireland and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Cowher, apparently not comfortable with that setup because he wants autonomy over assistants, personnel and the hiring of a GM, has backed away from the Miami job at this time as a result. He is out of the Miami picture at this moment but that remains a fluid situation.

Another source indicated this morning that the Dolphins have made initial and preliminary contact with Jim Harbaugh's camp and that more conversations are expected in the coming hours and possibly days with the Stanford coach. Harbaugh, who authored Stanford's 12-1 season and their 40-12 defeat of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, has been in South Florida for over a week.

The Dolphins have had no official meetings or talks with Harbaugh per se. But having such discussions is apparently the plan, a source said. The story was first reported by NFL.com.

There is no certainty that Harbaugh will be hired by Miami, however.

He is perhaps the hottest college coach in the nation now and his pro-style offense is appealing to any NFL team looking to upgrade on offense -- a description the Dolphins fit. But that makes Harbaugh a candidate for jobs in San Francisco and Denver and at his alma mater, Michigan.

The 49ers are an apparent quality of life fit because they are 21 miles from Harbaugh's current address. But the 49ers seem intent on completing the hiring of a general manager first so that may hinder their attempt to land Harbaugh.

The Broncos are now guided, in part, by former quaterback John Elway, a Stanford graduate. Like a contingent of Dolphins employees, Elway was also on hand Monday night as Harbaugh's team did its work against Virginia Tech.

Michigan is a fit because Harbaugh played there and was a candidate for the job in 2002. But Harbaugh didn't land the Michigan job that year so his allegiance to the Wolverines may not be as solid as it once was. Ironically, Ross is a Michigan alumnus and major contributor but could be the reason Michigan doesn't land its prized candidate.

Harbaugh seems to fit what Ross apparently is searching for -- a name-coach that promises offensive fireworks that excites fans. But chasing Harbaugh is not without difficulty in that he would also have to agree to work with Ireland and keep Nolan, whom Ross seems intent on keeping at this point.

Two other possibilities are Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden.

The Tennessee head coach has not been told by owner Bud Adams if he will be retained or fired. If he is fired, Fisher is a respected name that could attract Ross. The situation in Tennessee has no timetable for finding resolution.

Gruden, working for ESPN on their Monday Night Football broadcasts, is perhaps the most expensive candidate on the market. Because he is scheduled to be paid $5 million by Tampa Bay in 2011 and makes approximately $2 million from ESPN, he would be looking for a deal that could exceed $8 million. It is also not known if Gruden would be willing to work with Ireland.

And all the time, the Dolphins are keeping current coach Tony Sparano on hold. It is now clear he is the fall-back position.

While Sparano is still on the job, the team is also conducting a search.

Ownership is seeking what it believes is an upgrade. And failing to find one, will bring Sparano back for his fourth season as Miami's coach. His record in three seasons is 25-23 with a playoff appearance in 2008 and back-to-back 7-9 records the past two seasons.

Ricky Williams cross free agency bridge, then burns it

Ricky Williams is a lot of things. He's a solid, old running back. He's not very well rooted. He's an articulate man. He's a classic me-guy. And he's a hypocrite.

He's also pretty much done with the Miami Dolphins and I believe the feeling is mutual. And so with his Miami career pretty much over, a bridge Williams knew he would cross eventually, the running back went about burning that bridge on Monday Joey Porter style.

In his weekly radio radio show on WQAM, Ricky criticized coach Tony Sparano, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and took a subtle swipe at QB Chad Henne. He said, among other things, he is a closet New York Jets fan.

The comments you'll hear that seem most damning is that Ricky criticized coach Tony Sparano, saying among other things that the coach had lost his locker room toward the end of the season and the attention span of the players throughout the year.

“Tony goes through a lot of effort to show us the things it takes to win football games,” Ricky said. “Not turning the ball over, converting third downs, scoring touchdowns in the red zone. He spends a lot of time saying, ‘If you do these things, you win.’ And sometimes I feel personally that he does a little bit too much. My personal opinion is if you have the right attitude that you guys are going to win, then all that other stuff takes care of itself."


Interesting that Ricky didn't mention that during the season at any point. He refused to speak with the local media unless they paid him, which local radio station WQAM did in giving him a show. And even during those paid weekly appearances, Ricky never before complained about the coach asking the team to convert on third downs and score TDs in the red zone.

It wasn't until Ricky was clear of the season and felt he had cover that he made his point about Sparano's approach. Interesting. Maybe it might have been more productive had he brought the issue up with one of the captains to take to the coach. Maybe, as the longest tenured Dolphin, he might have brought the issue up to Sparano himself in private.


“Coach [Nick] Saban had a saying, ‘We’re worried about mouse manure, when we have elephant [crap] all over the place,’” Williams added. “I want to really start focusing on what I want to accomplish and what it is I want to achieve, but not micromanaging this or that and focusing on the little things. It’s keeping my eye on the prize and putting myself in a supporting environment and going to work every day with a smile on my face.”

That quote in a nutshell is Ricky: I, I, I, my, myself, my.

I guess it could have been more accurate if Ricky had included a couple of "me" references.

Ricky is very self-aware. And that self awareness guided him to reach this conclusion last week as Miami was preparing for the season finale:

“I had," Williams said, "a little bit of a sense during the week of practice that we weren’t maybe as focused or preparing as well as we needed to.”

Did he tell anyone? Nope.

He surely didn't tell anyone that could have changed the course of the preparation, that's for sure.

Ricky, by the way, is not a big fan of some of his teammates that he shares a huddle with, we now discover. Marshall, Miami's leading receiver and perhaps the most vocal and open critic of what was happening during the season, is Ricky's prime target.

“Being around Brandon a lot – I like the guy, I think the world of him – but as a teammate, sometimes he makes it difficult to like him and support him,” Ricky said. “It’s not necessarily what he says, it’s when he says it and the way he says it. But for the most part the things that he says are things that everyone else wants to say, but no one has the courage, or the balls. And some of it is intelligence – they’re smart enough not to say those things, because they don’t want to burn bridges. But when you have $50 million, then you can get away with whatever you want.”

Let me get this straight, so Marshall is speaking truth. And Marshall is saying these things while there is still time to correct course. But that makes him difficult to support?

And the guys not saying anything are doing so because they're more intelligent than Marshall?

Oh, and by the way, having courage is a bad thing?

Ricky said the biggest difference between the Patriots and the Dolphins is, "they have a quarterback," and with that he threw Henne under the bus. Nothing wrong with that, but throughout the season on the very same show, Ricky often talked about how much he supported Henne and how much he was progressing.


Now the season is over and so it's OK to do an about-face and pile on the guy when he's down and everyone knows he's going to be replaced?

The best part of the interview to me was when Williams spoke in glowing terms about Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas and the New York Jets.

Taylor and Thomas both hated Ricky when he quit on the team in 2004, weeks before the season was to begin. Ricky, you'll recall, said he wanted a break from football to go discover himself. Then he changed that story when it was learned he had failed his, like, fourth drug test and was en route to a suspension anyway.

Taylor's disgust with Ricky was most obvious when he showed up at the annual team Halloween party in a Ricky costume, complete with dreadlocks. Well, this year, Ricky showed up to the Halloween party in a JT costume, including a giant JT shaven head.

Taylor had little taste for Ricky and Ricky knew it. And Ricky took his revenge in his typical passive aggressive style.

But now Ricky is a huge JT fan: "... When I got here, playing with guys like Jason and Zach, it was awesome. Just their professionalism, and the way they played the game, it was incredible.”

Ricky also thinks LaDainian Tomlinson is incredible. In fact he thinks what LT and the Jets are doing if pretty cool.

“I like watching the Jets play,” he said. “Because of LT. I’m an LT fan. And I like the fact that the Jets run the ball.”

Dolphins fans might have liked Ricky to run the ball against the Jets. He 62 yards on 17 carries in two games against New York this season -- a 3.6 yard per carry average.

Ricky is a free agent in 2011. I think he realizes that. Otherwise you would not have heard him say any of this stuff.