For several years now, since Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano took control in Miami, we've heard the term "position flexibility" mentioned time and again as an asset, indeed a necessity, for Dolphins offensive linemen.
I suspect you'll hear the term more in the coming months based on the fact the Dolphins selected Mike Pouncey with their first overall pick in this draft and he has played both guard and center at the University of Florida.
"... He really only played the center position for one year," Ireland said following the pick, "… and like I said, it’s going to be up to the coaches on where they put him. I think we have great position flexibility with he and Richie (Incognito) and so ... but right now, I think we’re going to slide him in at center and go from there.”
I would tell you Pouncey will slide in at center and he better not slide out. I would tell you his value is at center as the signal-caller for the entire line. I would tell you picking a guard at No. 15 overall is not nearly as good a deal as picking a starting center.
I would tell you the Dolphins better cast off these freaky ideas of position flexibility with Pouncey and all their other good linemen.
If coach Sparano is reading this, he's not happy. The man loves the ability to mix and match, move and coordinate different combinations of linemen on offense. He is like a scientist in a lab.
I hate that.
Football ain't no lab project. I think the way to make an offensive line great is picking your five best guys and leaving them at their spots until something significant like a world war dictates otherwise -- position flexibility be damned.
Frankly, to me, position flexibility is a euphimism for not good enough to keep one spot. Jake Long has zero position flexibility. The man is going to be Miami's left tackle until he retires.
That's not a bad thing. That's a good thing!
Meanwhile, guys like Nate Garner, Richie Incognito, Joe Berger, Pat McQuistan can bounce around at left guard, right guard, a little bit at center, some at tackle, and they're just ... ok. Not great. Not amazing. Not Pro Bowl players.
I've had it with just ok position flexible offensive linemen.
The Dolphins should decide that Pouncey is a center and leave him there. Period. The Dolphins should figure out if second-year man John Jerry is a left guard or a right guard and live and die with that decision. The Dolphins should know Incognito is best at right guard and anchor him there until someone rips the job from his cold, clammy hands.
Toying with all this position flexibility is necessary for the scrubs. But the guys that you want to start? It's bad. It's a path to confusion.
Position flexible players are jacks of all trades ... and masters of none.
I hope, I pray, the Dolphins are not telling their scouts, "Go out there and find me an offensive lineman with position flexibility," because that is code for, "Go out and get me a replaceable backup."
And that leads me to my next beef about Miami's approach to building the offensive line: I hate all the constant experimenting.
The past two seasons, the Dolphins have toyed with their offensive line the first three, perhaps four weeks of training camp and into the early preseason games.
Note to coaching staff from the guy who knows nothing: Your 2011 starting offensive line should be LT Jake Long, LG John Jerry, C Mike Pouncey, RG Richie Incognito, RT Vernon Carey. That's it. The only possible tweak might be to switch Jerry and Incognito if Jerry still hasn't figured things out well enough. But that's all. Period.
I don't want Pat McQuistan to get a chance to earn a starting spot. He's not a starting-caliber player. I don't want Rey Feinga tagging in and out wherever it is he's playing these days.
Pick your five and commit to them. Let them grow together. Let them struggle together, if necessary. But let them do it together. That forms a bond. That forms chemistry. That forms kinship.
I remember Don Shula drafted Richmond Webb and Keith Sims in 1990 and put them at LT and LG, respectively, and that was that. There was no room given for experimentation. They played every single snap of the preseason. And they played all but one snap of the regular-season side by side.
By 1991, these guys were so in tune with each other, they actually would walk out to practice and then off the field with Sims on Webb's right -- just like they lined up. They lockered that way, too. It became the natural order of things for the two.
No mixing. No matching. No experimenting.
The only option they got was do or don't do. Succeed or fail. It wasn't, "Well, if you don't play well at left tackle, Richmond, we'll move you over to right tackle."
I'm sure a coach reading this could present a dozen reasons why experimentation is important with the likely starting group. Fair. I can give one reason why experimentation is not smart: It failed last year. It failed horribly.
Pick a group. Stick with them through some adversity. Let them grow. That's how good offensive lines blossom.
[NOTE: Same drill today as yesterday. I'll update later with whatever information I dig up. Don't go anywhere. Follow me on twitter. And there will be a live blog starting at 6 p.m. when the draft gets underway.]