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73 posts from October 2011

October 17, 2011

Live blog of Dolphins vs. Jets on MNF

Well, remove the St. Louis Rams from the list of teams that might be in Suck for Luck mode. The Rams traded a late round conditional pick for wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, formerly of the Broncos.

The Rams want to get help for quarterback Sam Bradford and figure Lloyd, who made the Pro Bowl last year, might be able to do that. That remains to be seen.

What is certain is the 0-5 Rams are trying to salvage their season.

The Dolphins are also trying to salvage their season, by the way. Someone suggested to defensive end Kendall Langford that the Dolphins Suck for Luck. "U outta ur rabbit ass mind!" was the response.

So there is that. Onto the game against the 2-3 New York Jets, losers of three consecutive games.

Did you see the Buffalo Bills use of C.J. Spiller on Sunday?

They basically turned him into a wide receiver. They asked him to return punts. They made him work but not in ways a guy his size should not -- in other words they didn't ask him to run the ball between the tackles.

That's what I'm hoping the Dolphins do with Reggie Bush tonight.

I expect Vontae Davis will start. I expect Daniel Thomas will play. I expect the Dolphins to win. (At least that's what I picked in both The Herald or The Herald's Pigskin Challenge.) I know, I know, you have no respect for my picking of games.

I will update the inactive players as soon as they available.

[Update: the inactives are Steve Slaton, Chris Clemons, Ike Alama-Francis, Will Baker, Ryan Cook, Will Yeatman and Phillip Merling.]

And we shall have a live blog starting in the comments section below as we get around kickoff at 8:30.


Dolphins not a total mess on some decisions

We are all quick to point out when the Dolphins get things wrong. Let me take this opportunity to point out a couple they got right:

David Garrard.

Kyle Orton (sort of).

As you know, the Dolphins talked to David Garrard for two days when they learned starting QB Chad Henne would be out for the remainder of the season. The Dolphins wanted Garrard. But Garrard wanted a guaranteed amount of money the team wasn't willing to offer.

I reported Garrard talked with Jeff Ireland and the Miami GM came away lacking a good feeling about Garrard's desire to play for Miami. So the Dolphins did not sign the player who seemed the best available QB on the market.

Turns out that was the right call. Today while the Raiders were chasing Garrard with thoughts of signing him to replace injured Jason Campbell, Foxsports.com reported Garrard was told this morning he has a bulging disc that will require surgery.

The injury had been bothering him for some time but Garrard apparently got final word on the issue today. So while I would not rip Garrard for not telling the Dolphins of his injury, I would applaud Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland for backing away from Garrard. Of course, even if they had not, I assume Miami's doctors would have picked up Garrard's injury in the physical.

Glad it didn't come to that.

As you well know, the Dolphins also didn't add Kyle Orton in the summer. I reported in my column today that Orton is not a Dolphins player today because Stephen Ross himself ordered Ireland to back away from the idea of signing Orton.

A source tells me the Dolphins were going to extend Orton's deal two years at $9 million a year in addition to paying him his base salary this year. But that, plus the second-round pick asking price in trade, convinced Ross to tell Ireland to get away from that deal because he was told by the Dolphins personnel dept. that Orton is not a franchise QB.

Now, I do not applaud an owner making football decisions. I also cannot applaud the Dolphins allowing Chad Henne to come into training camp and, indeed into this season, with absolutely zero competition for his starting QB spot. They should have drafted someone.

But backing away from Orton? He's having a bad season. He's lost his starting job. It seems the Dolphins got that one right.

Gruden apparently out of everyone's coaching search

ESPN announced within the hour that former Oakland and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden has signed an "exclusive agreement" with the network  that will "keep him on sports television's signature series and out of coaching for the next five years."

That obviously means scratch Gruden from the list of folks who might be lining up to coach the Dolphins should Tony Sparano not be able to turn things around and keep the Dolphins on their present winless course.

Gruden guided the Tampa Bay Bucs to a Super Bowl victory during his tenure with the team.

“Jon is a rare individual who has been successful at everything he has done, going from one of the youngest coaches to win a Super Bowl to reinventing himself with this new broadcasting career in his 40s," Bob LaMonte, the agent for Gruden said in a statement. "He has an unmistakable enthusiasm for football that will continue to entertain fans on ESPN.”

This obviously affects the Dolphins. As I reported to you in my column today, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is already making contingency plans on what to do with the Dolphins if his team doesn't turn things around.

Part of that plan would include hiring a new coach. The thing is, Ross doesn't want just any coach. He thinks one way to get the Dolphins on the right track might be to hire a "star" coach that would have final say over all football operations matters. That coach would then hire a general manager of his choice.

Obviously, Gruden would have qualified as a "star" coach. Gruden served as an NFL head coach for 11 seasons with the Oakland Raiders (1998-2001) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2002-08). He compiled a career record of 100-85 and led his teams to five division titles. Gruden’s best season was 2002 when the Buccaneers finished the regular season 12-4 and captured the Super Bowl XXXVII title with a 48-21 victory over the Raiders, the team he had coached just one season earlier.

So the list of possible "star" coaching candidates shrinks by one. That list now only includes Jeff Fisher, Bill Cowher and Tony Dungy. (I don't think Dungy wants to come back to coaching, but I'm putting his name there anyway.)

I must warn you: As I write in my column, Ross may opt to go another direction on the hiring front if the Dolphins don't turn things around. He might hire a "star" personnel man or GM type. He might hire his own Football Czar typeand that person would hire a coach.

And that hire might not necessarily be a "star," but simply a coach the "star" Football Czar/GM believes is ready to take the Dolphins to the next level.

[Update: Mike Florio makes the point on ProFootballtalk.com that ESPN is refusing to say how this contract extension prohibits Gruden from going to the NFL. Thus, Florio believes Gruden can go to the NFL at any time if he wishes. So there's that.]

The plan if the Dolphins don't recover

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will be at tonight's game between the Dolphins and Jets. He will attend with hopes his team can win its first game of the season.

But if the Dolphins don't win and continue to struggle though the season, sources are telling me Ross has a plan for his team that will take effect as early as January. The plan includes a new coach, a new quarterback and probably a new general manager, accofrding to a source familiar with Ross's thinking.

So if you want to know what the plan is for the quarterback spot click here.

If you want to know what the plan is for the coach, click here.

If you want to know if general manager's status with the team is secure or not, click here.

And come back later today and tonight for the live blog of the Dolphins at Jets game.

October 16, 2011

Clemons, Merling, Yeatman out vs. Jets

The Dolphins have ruled three players out for tomorrow night's game against the Jets: Safety Chris Clemons, defensive end Phillip Merling and tight end Will Yeatman.

Clemons (hamstring) and Yeatman (shoulder) are injury related. Merling is non-injury related -- meaning he's just not good enough right now. Yup, he is having a horrible season and the No. 32 overall pick he cost the Dolphins in 2008 is looking like something of a waste.

Merling, 26, has played three games this season. He has one tackle.

The Dolphins have decided that Tony McDaniel, who missed the past three games with a broken hand, is better suited to play with five practices under his belt than Merling.

Merling, an unrestricted free agent after the season, is a prime candidate to be traded to whichever team might want him for a draft pick before Tuesday's trade deadline. Maybe the Dolphins can get a sixth- or seventh-round pick and a conditional toothbrush.

The fact Clemons is not playing has special teams ramifications but since he lost his starting FS job to Reshad Jones, it does not impact the defense. Yeatman has not played a game for Miami so he effectively has collected more injuries (1) than catches or blocks (0) since joining the Dolphins after being waived by New England.

A look at the weekend for the possible franchise QBs

It's ironic that on the week the Dolphins will start their 16th quarterback since Dan Marino's retirement -- none of them elite -- the message of Miami's intention to go franchise QB shopping this offseason came out. If you remember, I wrote last week finding a franchise quarterback would be Job One for the Dolphins in the coming offseason.

I will have more on that tomorrow in a column that will interest all of you.

Today, knowing that the priority is drafting or trading for a franchise quarterback with drafting being the more likely approach, I want to start a weekly look at some of the potential franchise QBs that might be available in the draft.

Every week now, I'll update you with what the potential franchise QBs are doing in their games. These are some of those signal-callers and what I thought of their performance (if I saw it):

Andrew Luck: Led Stanford to a 44-14 victory over Washington State. Completed 23 of 36 passes for 336 yards with 4 TDs and 1 INT. I watched the early parts of the game before falling asleep. Luck was not overly impressive early on. He missed a wide open receiver deep on a post pattern but underthrew him badly. The interception happened on the second play of the game, so it was kind of an eye-opener to me because it showed him to be human. I obviously missed the portions of the game when Luck warmed up because he threw all four of his TD passes in the second half.

Robert Griffin III: Baylor lost to to Texas A&M, 55-28. I watched the entire game. Griffin threw an interception when he threw a frustration pass into triple coverage. It was only his second interception of the season against 22 TD passes. I watched the game start to finish. Was tweeting my observations. So you should follow me on twitter. RG3 or RGIII if you prefer completed 28 of 40 passes for 430 yards, with three TDs and one INT. I was thoroughly impressed, interception nothwithstanding. The kid has a gun. He is a great athlete in that he's a national hurdles champion so he can run. And he's very, very, very intelligent. He gladly took the easy passes for 5, 6 or 7-yard gains. And he also hit the 77-yard TD pass when it was there. His accuracy is outstanding. He threaded one pass for a 6-yard TD between two diving defenders. He put it in a tiny box where only his receiver could catch it. I'm going to continue watching this kid, but given what I'd heard and what I saw, I'm a fan.

Landry Jones: Oklahoma beat Kansas, 47-17. I didn't watch but saw a couple of highlights. His presence in the pocket is unquestionable. He completed 29 of 48 passes for 363 yards, with three TDs and one INT. I would tell you Jones has better receivers on the other end of his passes than any other of the elite collegiate passers. Kenny Stills is the truth and Ryan Broyles is an NCAA record-breaker who will also definitely play on Sundays. Jones isn't as athletic a runner as either RG3 or even Luck. His arm doesn't seem as impressive, either. But he attacks the middle of the field as well as Luck. He scans the field with great alacrity. I need to see more.

Matt Barkley: USC beat Cal, 30-9. I didn't watch. Barkley completed 19 of 35 passes with two TDs and no INTs. From what I've seen of this kid, he throws the 9-route about as nicely as anyone. His timing and synch with his WRs is impressive. I haven't seen enough to judge his athletic abilities with his feet. I know the level of competition in the PAC-12 is not on par with the SEC or perhaps even Big-12. Barkely clearly understands matchups. He rarely throws into double-coverage. Like Luck but unlike Jones and RG3, Barkley plays in a pro-style set offense. He is under center regularly. It's not new. He's ahead of the game there.

Who else? Who'd I miss. Tell me in the comments section and give me the breakdown of what they did.

October 15, 2011

Dolphins healthier than Jets as Monday night approaches

The bye week was kind to the Dolphins because they have licked wounds well enough that when coaches meet Saturday evening to finalize which players will and will not travel, no one is definitely out of the running.

Miami's toughest injury situations right now are Nolan Carroll (hamstring), Chris Clemons (hamstring), Daniel Thomas (hamstring) and Will Yeatman (shoulder). All are listed as questionable. All were limited in practice every day this week.

Vontae Davis (hamstring), Tony McDaniel (hand), and Koa Misi (neck) are probable. McDaniel and Misi practiced full speed this week. Davis did a full practice Saturday after being limited earlier in the week so that is an obvious sign he is coming along well.

Davis will start at CB for the first time in two games.

I expect Thomas to travel but I know the Dolphins put a lot of practice reps on Lex Hilliard this week. Thomas last week said he would play against New York. So we'll see. The Dolphins obviously want Thomas to play because he's their best back right now.

Coaches will have an interesting decision along the defensive line. Everyone is apparently healthy now. That means someone who is healthy will likely have be scratched from the game. I assume the decision is between McDaniel and Phillip Merling.

"You got a bunch of hands there right now," coach Tony Sparano said today. "Having Tony back is good, no question about it, because he’s an active player but obviously you got a bunch of guys there. This week will be difficult that way because it’s kind of you’re getting enough guys healthy coming off of the bye. The last couple weeks some of these guys I knew were going to be down where right now it’s a little bit the other way. You’re hoping that some of these guys are going to be up. There will be some hard decisions this week."

The Jets are having a harder time of things. They have four players -- WR Logan Payne, DL Ropati Pitoitua, DB Donald Strickland, and DB Isaiah Trufant -- out for the game.

Center Nick Mangold, who missed practice early in the week because of an ankle injury, has been improving. He is listed as questionable.

Reboot time for the 'best CB tandem' in the NFL

Vontae Davis and Sean Smith obviously had high hopes and expectations for themselves in 2011. Yes, both had yet to make marks as excellent cornerbacks but both were hovering around good in 2010 after being very good by rookie standards in 2009.

Both going into their third seasons with the Dolphins knew that 2011 should be their unveiling as premier players if they were going to get to that height because they're both in their primes, they're both familiar with the system they're playing, and they're both familiar with the opposition.

So I understand why Vontae Davis thought he and Smith together would be "the NFL's best cornerback tandem," as he said prior to the season. It wasn't necessarily true what he said, but it was good he was thinking in that direction and working toward that.

Unfortunately for the Dolphins and the duo, 2011 has been unfulfilling so far. Both suffered cramps and were beaten for plays as a result of that in the season-opener against New England. Davis, who was also beaten on passes before the cramps, wasn't even able to finish the game because of the cramps.

The next week against Houston Davis sustained a hamstring injury and, again, could not finish a game he started, breaking up "the best tanden." And while Smith rebounded against Houston in that he got through the game without injuries, he did yield a couple of plays that cost his team. It was nothing that an average cornerback wouldn't give up, but the point is Smith is supposed to be part of "the best tandem" in the league so it was viewed as a bit of a disappointment.

The hamstring injury Davis had in that Houston game kept him out against Cleveland and then San Diego. Smith played against both teams. He played well against the Browns. He didn't play well against the Chargers.

In the Chargers game, the Dolphins asked Smith to cover outstanding WR Vincent Jackson throughout the game. Smith wasn't up to the task. Jackson had three catches for 108 yards in the first half. Judging from that one half of damage, it was fortunate for Smith that Jackson didn't play in the second half because he re-aggravated a leg injury.

Neither Smith nor Smith have an interception this season.

"Well, I’d like to see him get his hands on more footballs, yeah," Sparano said when asked about Smith. "Sometimes the balls got to come your way to have those opportunities and really prior to last game, I think the San Diego game, is when the most balls went Sean’s way. I think overall right now he’s played three really good games. I think the San Diego game Sean would tell you there is a play or two there he wishes he had back. I don’t think he played a bad game in that game I just think there was a couple plays there he wishes he had back."

I'm thinking coach needs to redefine "really good games" and "bad game."

Smith might be fundamentally sound and be beaten only once or twice, which practically every cornerback does, but that is not a "really good game." That's what the guy is supposed to do. A "really good game" for a cornerback includes an interception. Or it includes erasing an outstanding wide receiver from the other team's arsenal. Or it includes stripping the ball on a corner blitz, picking it up and scoring.

Neither Smith nor Davis have done any of that. Indeed, in the two games both Smith and Davis started, the Dolphins gave up six pass plays of 25 yards or more.

The Dolphins have given up 10 pass plays of 25 yards or more this season -- way, way, waaaay too many for four games. It is partially the reason Miami is 31st in the NFL -- next to last -- in pass defense this season.

Monday night will be a chance for Davis and Smith to put all that behind them. The Dolphins are coming off a bye. Davis, close to 100 percent, will start for the first time in two games, barring a last minute setback to his hamstring.

The night game will offer a new day for Miami's two young corners.

And they should be very well motivated. You'll recall that on Thursday, Rex Ryan took a little jab at the two. He was talking about Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, his two corners, when he mentioned that while they were not the best tandem, he thought them to be pretty good.


Well, going up against an offense that struggles to pass the ball -- the Jets are 21st in the NFL -- and a quarterback that is completing only 56 percent of his passes, Davis and Smith should be able to have a good game if indeed they're going to turn this season around for themselves.

Oh, and, I'm using my definition of good game. I recognize the need to have good technique and them being able to sink their hips and all that. But I more recognize big plays like interceptions and forced fumbles and passes defensed that end drives.

That's what I mean by the Dolphins needing a "really good game" from their cornerback tandem.

October 13, 2011

Ejection, Brandon? Ejection? Really?

I wish he was just joking. But he wasn't smiling and actually said he was not kidding.

"I'm serious," Brandon Marshall said.

I assume he knows better. But I'm not sure any more because some things are impossible to figure out and Marshall is one of those, right up there with the true purpose for Area 51, the final number for Pi, and women.

But still, one has to react with a proverbial SMH when you hear what Marshall today said his gameplan would be for the nationally telecast Monday night game between Miami and New York.

"Hey man, I’m just going to let it out. I don’t care if they have two or three cameras on me. I don’t care if I have penalties, it doesn’t matter. I’m going to let it all out,” Marshall said. “I don’t know if it’s throwing a football 15 yards in the bleachers and getting a 15-yard (penalty) or punting the ball and getting thrown out of the game, something’s going to happen. I’ll probably get kicked out after the second quarter.

"I’m going to have fun on Monday Night Football, that’s all I can say."

Young. Misguided. Not an intelligent thing to say.

"Obviously, Brandon was 50-percent kidding," coach Tony Sparano said in defense.

Um, no coach, he wasn't. At least he said he wasn't.

“My goal is to get thrown out midway through the second quarter. Hopefully I achieve that,” he said. “Whatever it takes, that’s what I need to get the season going.

"No, I’m not joking. I’m serious,” he added. “They’re going to fine me -- probably going to be like a $50,000 fine. That quarter-and-a-half I’m out there, I’m going to play like a monster. I might get in a fight with Bart Scott, (Antonio) Cromartie -- we used to fight in Denver and San Diego. If that happens, that happens, so we’ll see."

Let's see ... Can you rationalize that one for us, coach?

"I know one thing about that guy," Sparano added, "he's not going to do anything to hurt this football team. I know the people in that locker room are important to him, and this guy has worked really hard."

Some thoughts: The truth is Marshall has indeed at times hurt the team. He got a 15-yard personal foul penalty against Chicago last year, wiping out a 16-yard reception, when he threw the football at Chicago Bears quarterback and former Denver teammate Jay Cutler, who was on the bench at the time.

He had issues with offensive coordinator Dan Henning and quarterbacks coach David Lee last year. And his relationship with starter Chad Henne was rocky at best. So, I'm not exactly embracing the coach's defense of Marshall.

Obviously, Sparano has to make that semi-believable defense because he might lose the enigmatic Marshall if he tells everyone that talking about getting into a fight during a game -- four days before the game -- is premeditated stupidity. It is basically telling the officiating crew that you must be watched every single moment.

It is ... what's the word ... oh, yeah ... dumb.

Sparano cannot say that because, well, Sparano needs Marshall. Marshall is still Miami's best wide receiver.

But he is not Miami's most professional wide receiver. The comments today show that.

He is not Miami's most efficient wide receiver. He's dropped at least three, and more likely four, TD passes in four games. (It depends on how one judges the difficulty of one of those).

Marshall explained his comments, saying he felt he was containing his emotions too much this season. And by doing so, he had limited himself on the field. Thus, he reasoned, it is time to unleash his inner "monster," as he put it.

I got a better idea: I say the Dolphins unleash this monster altogether.

The trade deadline is Tuesday. Put Marshall on the block. If you can get a second-rounder for him, do it and cut losses. Be done with the inner or outer monster. Move on.

Of course, I'm being optimistic here. Nobody will give a second-round pick for Marshall although Miami gave two second-rounders for him last year. His worth has dropped like a rock in the last year.


Would trading Marshall now diminish the Dolphins this season? Maybe.

But you know what? The Dolphins will not fold as a franchise without him. Fact is no team Marshall has played on has made the playoffs. If you're not going to the playoffs with him, what's the big deal of not having him?

Trading Marshall would clear cap space for Miami for next season. Trading Marshall would give the Dolphins an extra pick next year. So what's the argument against it, again?

The truth is the Dolphins are an organization that is already looking to brighter days in 2012 and beyond. Those brighter days ostensibly include a young franchise QB. You're going to ask a young QB to deal with an alpha receiver whose best thinking for improving his game is to get thrown out of a game?

I don't know if anyone would give a second-rounder for Brandon Marshall. Fine. Do I hear a third?


Rex Ryan thinks floundering Jets are Super Bowl bound

Rex Ryan's New York Jets are in the throes of a three-game losing skid and, in his words, food doesn't taste as good is it normally does, beer isn't as cold as it usually is. "It's rotten. When you lose it's absolutely rotten," he said.

But has his confidence that his team can recover disappeared?

No, not really.

Ryan, who guaranteed the Jets would win the Super Bowl this season, after he predicted they'd go to the Super Bowl last season, is still thinking the Jets are bound for the Crown Jewel game in February.

"Yeah, I definitely think we are," he told the South Florida media moments ago. "But facts are facts. We have lost three games in a row. There's no question about that. And we've been there before. Unfortunately, this is my third year in a row, my first year we actually had two three-game losing streaks so I know what it feels like. But I also know we can get out of this. We have to this week. We know Miami is in a similar situation that we are. Both of us thought we'd have better records at this point. We've earned what we are right now."

Ryan, who has earned a reputation as something of a gasbag media darling in New York for his audacious predictions refused to back away from the Super Bowl talk when pressed on the subject.

"I can guarantee you we're going to chase it, that's for sure," he said. "Do I think we'll win it? Yeah, absolutely."

Ryan, whose team hosts the Dolphins Monday night, is obviously aware his team isn't playing well right now. But he couldn't resist tweaking the Dolphins cornerback tandem of Vontae Davis and Sean Smith whie discussing the difficulties of his own team.

"Well, we dared New England to run on us and they did," he said when asked if he'd dare the Dolphins to pass. "So I don't know if I want to dare anyone to do anything now. We've got two excellent cover corners. I know we're not as good as Miami's but we're pretty good."

In the preseason, Davis claimed he and Smith were the best cornerback tandem in the NFL. Um, they are not.

Follow me on twitter to your phone or your computer.

[PRACTICE UPDATE: Koa Misi (neck) is practicing today but he seemed to be limited during the 30-minute window open to media ... Everyone is working on the field today, including Chris Clemons, who has been trying to get healthy much of the past three weeks.] 

Brunch is served: Heaping helping of Andrew Luck

I hate doing this but I have no choice: It seems all you people care about is Andrew Luck.

Oh, you have a passing interest in whether the Dolphins win one game or not. You want to know if the Dolphins are going to make a change at the top of their personnel department and on their coaching staff and when those might come. And, until Tuesday's passing of the NFL trade deadline, you have an interest in whether anyone is coming or going via trade.

Other than that, it's all about Andrew Luck.

Andrew Luck this. Andrew Luck that. Suck for Luck. Etc., etc., etc ...

Fine, I will feed the machine.

I present to you as much Andrew Luck as you can bear. By the way, as you watch, notice he's human. Yup, Andrew Luck is human, The Herald has learned. He isn't perfect. He makes mistakes. The game and opponents sometimes beat him.

I'm sure someone will also bring up the fact he doesn't exactly play in the SEC, either.

But his footwork is awesome. He has a quick enough release. He moves well in the pocket and can run a little bit. His accuracy while on the move is outstanding. You will see him on more than one occasion come off one receiver and onto another. You will see him on more than one occasion look at one side of the field and come back to the other side and throw -- something Miami quarterbacks haven't done a lot of lately.

He can attack the seams of the defense, which has been lacking around here since Chad Pennington. His arm is strong enough. He already plays out of the pro-style set so there isn't a wide learning curve in getting him under center and familiar with drops.

So, yes, he will be the first overall selection in the next draft, assuming he remains healthy and comes out. And I will therefore feed your ravenous appetite for Andrew Luck:

After the 2010 season, Luck could easily have been the first overall pick in the NFL draft had he opted not to stay at Stanford. He stayed anyway so the rest of this season he must stay healthy, and show some improvement on 2010 play like this:

October 12, 2011

Yeremiah Bell discusses 2004, 2007 and today's Dolphins

I still find it hard to believe the Dolphins are winless. I seriously never would have believed this team to be winless midway through the season's second month. SMH.

And yet, here they are. The Miami Dolphins are 0-4 and they are not exactly favored to win their Monday night meeting with the New York Jets. Again, hard to believe.

But as I showed you in an earlier post, this season so far does have some significant parallels to the troubling and terrible 2004 and 2007 seasons. I wrote a post on the similarities last week. (Check the archive or scroll back.)

I got to talking with safety Yeremiah Bell about this topic on Tuesday. He survived 2004 and 2007. He's living this season's travails. I wanted to see if he was equally surprised or shaken by this seemingly talented enough team's inability to win even once.

This is what Yeremiah Bell had to say:

October 11, 2011

The Tuesday afternoon postscript on the secondary

To piggyback on the last post, let me update you with what coach Tony Sparano says about some members of the secondary and what seems likely to happen going forward.

Vontae Davis is back practicing after missing two starts. He seems ready to play and will start, barring an unfortunate setback between now and game night at New York. So Nolan Carroll's time as a starter -- an assignment borne of necessity that at times was bigger than him -- has apparently come to an end for now.

Carroll, by the way, seemed to be limited in practice today. So was safety Chris Clemons, which continues to be a frustration to everyone because the Dolphins can foster zero competition at free safety as long as the player who is supposed to be part of that competition is not healthy.

So it will continue to be Reshad Jones starting against the Jets next Monday night. Beyond that

"I hope there's competition at all places for as long as we can have it," Sparano said. "That being said, I've been pleased with what Reshad's done. Reshad missed a few of tackles in the ballgame the other day. That's not a secret. Reshad would tell you that. But this guy's made a lot of tackles. Too many.

"Both our safeties have made a lot of tackles right now. That being said, I've liked some of the things Reshad has done. I've liked most of the things he's done back there. I just wish he'd get his hands on more footballs but at the same time, the ball's got to come to you back there. He's a young player whose done some nice things.

"All that being said, if Chris comes back and gets himself healthy and can compete, that would be good."

So that covers the one cornerback spot and the free safety spot. What of the other cornerback spot manned by Sean Smith?

"I like to see him get his hands on more footballs," Sparano said. "Sometimes the ball's got to come your way to have those opportunities. Prior to the [San Diego] game is when the most balls went Sean's way. Overall, I think he's played three really good games. In the San Diego game I think Sean would tell you there was a play or two thre he wishes he had back. I don't think he played a bad game that game, I'm just saying there's a couple of plays he'd like to have back."

The Dolphins have the No. 31-ranked pass defense in the NFL.

The Dolphins secondary? Terrible so far

How is it the Buffalo Bills are 4-1 and the Dolphins are 0-4 when, looking at each teams' roster, it is nearly impossible to discern that the guys from Western New York have any more talent than those from South Florida?

Well, aside from the fact the Bills have properly identified which is the A-back (Fred Jackson) and which is the B-back (C.J. Spiller) while the Dolphins have not, while the Bills are maximizing the talent in their undervalued receiver corps and the Dolphins aren't, while the Bills are getting good quarterback play and the Dolphins have not, the biggest difference is found in the secondary.

Buffalo's secondary and the rest of the defense does great work turning the ball over via interceptions. And the Dolphins stink in that category. Neither team is exceedingly effective stopping the pass. The Dolphins are 31st in the NFL in that category and the Bills are 26th.

But throw the ball against Miami and you move the ball. Throw the ball against Buffalo and you might move the ball and then again you might have the ball intercepted.

I'm not exaggerating and to prove the point simply consider this:

The Bills on Sunday intercepted Michael Vick four times. That one-game total is twice as many interceptions as what the Dolphins have all season long so far.

And the Bills have done it twice!

They have two games in which they intercepted the opposing quarterback four times. The other game came against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

So twice this season the Bills have come up with twice as many interceptions in one game as the Dolphins have come up with in four games.


The Bills have 12 interceptions on the season. The Dolphins have two.


No starter in the Miami secondary has an interception this year. Miami's two interceptions came from defensive end Jared Odrick and dime cornerback Jimmy Wilson -- a rookie. Indeed, Wilson is a rookie picked in the seventh round.

What does that say about Sean Smith and Vontae Davis and Reshad Jones and Yeremiah Bell?


What does this say about the group?: New England defensive lineman Vince Wilfork has as many interceptions (2) as the Dolphins do. He has more interceptions than any member of the Miami secondary.


Then there's this: There are 10 individuals in the NFL so far this season who have more interceptions than the Dolphins do as a team.


It used to be frustrating when Miami players had potential interceptions bound off their hands and fall incomplete. Those are the good old days. Nowadays, Dolphins players, particularly those in the secondary don't get nearly close enough to have the football hit their hands. That partially explains why Miami gives up an average of 307 yards per game passing, which if it continues, would be an all-time franchise worst mark.

In fact, the Dolphins have yielded 1,128 passing yards in four games. They're on pace to give up 4,912 passing yards for the season. That would shatter the old worst mark of 3,794 passing yards allowed in a season by 1,118 yards.


Surprised? You should not be. We should have seen this coming and definitely the Dolphins should have seen this coming because last year the club was horrible in the pass interception dept. Last season, the Dolphins had 11 picks all freakin' year long!

And that has been something of a theme during the current Dolphins administration. In 2008, the first year Bill Parcells-Jeff Ireland-Tony Sparano were in charge, the Dolphins set the franchise record for fewest interceptions in one year. They had only 8 all season long. Glad to see the addressed the issue over the years.


October 10, 2011

Changes the Dolphins should consider starting, like, immediately

The bye week is over and I assume the Miami Dolphins have discussed among themselves what their problems are and how to address them best as possible.

I'm sure we'll see a vastly different approach when the team returns to the field. But just in case the team isn't happy with the bye week's self scouting and vast number of changes they have made (assuming here), I'd like to suggest a couple of changes from here on out.

For the offense:

Start Daniel Thomas and let Reggie Bush come off the bench: Thomas is the more explosive back right now. He is more of a sledgehammer than Bush and as such would be better at setting the tone of a game from the very first moment the offense is on the field. Bush hasn't made a statement to any defense other than, "This is going to be easy for your guys and a long day for us." So Bush becomes the change-of-pace back. Will this upset Bush? Who cares? This is a damn football team, not a psychologist's couch. This actually sends the message that not getting the job done means you lose your job. The Dolphins haven't had enough of that this year.

Use Bush in space: Let me repeat: Use Bush in space. He is quick. He has some speed. Use those traits to your benefit instead of trying to run him between the tackles and turning his gifts into liabilities.

Spread out the formation: The Dolphins do not have the kind of personnel that is clearly better than most defenses they face. So why bunch things and try to overcome the defense mano a mano? Spread it out. Make the field an ally instead of an enemy. Go with four WRs and one RB in the backfield. If the defense lines up in its dime package, run the football with Thomas or throw to Bush matched against a linebacker. If you cannot win those matchups, retire. On the other hand, if the defense tries to stop the run by using an extra LB or bringing a safety down into the box, pass the ball. Throw more slants. Throw bubble screens to Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess. Put both of them in the slot on either side of the formation with Brian Hartline and Clyde Gates on the outside. And keep the defense honest with occasional deep throws to Hartline and Gates.

Oh yeah, more Clyde Gates. Less Anthony Fasano: The idea of drafting Gates was to blow the top off the defense. That is not possible unless he's in the game but his playing time has been sporadic. But what if he doesn't produce, you might ask? Well, Fasano isn't a huge producer and he plays lots. Time to cut losses. I'm not saying forget about Fasano, but he isn't good enough to get the kind of playing time he gets. He's neither an offensive tackle nor a great pass-catcher. So why are they asking him to block or catch the ball when they have people that do either better?

Bench Marc Colombo. He's on pace to yield 12 sacks this season. Is that good? Move Vernon Carey back to RT. Colombo has been a downgrade, not an upgrade at RT. Meanwhile, it is time to put John Jerry in at right guard. The reason the team moved Carey to RG in the preseason was, in part, to protect rookie Mike Pouncey. He's fine. Now this team needs to find out if Jerry is a player or not. They cannot go into the offseason needing a right tackle, not having Carey signed, and not knowing if Jerry can play or not. Get an answer for at least one of those questions.

For the defense:

Bench Reshad Jones: He was supposed to be a playmaker back there. Tell me, what play has he made? Enough said.

Promote Chris Clemons: No, he didn't make a lot of plays back there last year. But he didn't take terrible angles to Wes Welker, thus allowing 99-yard TD passes. He didn't let people get behind him. There were fewer blown coverages back there.

Pray Vontae Davis is ready to play. If he's not, don't keep making the same mistake with Nolan Carroll as the starter. Jimmy Wilson needs to be the next guy up because at least he battles. Carroll hasn't done that. And I'm tired of it.

More blitzes up the middle: Neither Karlos Dansby nor Kevin Burnett have been very productive this year. Wake them up! Ask them to attack instead of letting offensive linemen run over them. Blitz them up the gut. The CB blitzes are a joke and now predictable. And how about a higher percentage of zone blitzes? Teams like Baltimore and the Jets get unblocked rushers taking shots at quarterbacks. I hardly ever see that from the Dolphins. How about administering to the Jets some of their own medicine. Not tons, but on a couple of special downs.

Special teams:

Bench Davone Bess as the punt returner. Reggie Bush returns every single punt. Give him enough at-bats, he might break one or two. Bess has never broken one because he hasn't the speed to break any. Oh, you're worried Bush might get injured? Well, um, it's football. It happens. And as to the idea of using an offensive star on special teams, Bush is not producing like an offensive star and Wes Welker, who is a legitimate offensive star returns every punt in New England. So whatever.

Are some of these unorthodox? Maybe. Are they an aggressive approach to the rest of the season? Undoubtedly.


Because going orthodox and playing it more conservatively hasn't worked at all so far.

Add your suggestions please.

October 09, 2011

Troy Vincent: A winner on the field and off

Troy Vincent isn't suprised the Dolphins are struggling this season. He knows the Dolphins don't have a great quarterback and in the NFL, it's practically impossible to successful when your quarterback play is inconsistent.

""When you look at the state of the league, when you don't have consistent quarterback play, I'm not surprised," Vincent said this week. "I never forget when I came to the Dolphins and Danny [Marino] shared with me, 'You win in this league, Troy, with consistent quarterback play so you'll have a chance to win here every week.' He was talking about himself at the time. But as you develop as a professional you look around and see that when you don't have the quarterback play, and the quarterback down there is gone for the season now, and it's up in the air who's going to be behind the center, you're going to have challenges. It's tough to win in that situation. And over the last few years it's been that way in Miami."

Vincent played for the Dolphins from 1992 when Don Shula made him the No. 7 overall selection in the draft until 1995. He went on to play for the Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins in a career that spanned 15 seasons.

Today, Vincent is the NFL's Vice President of Player Engagement, formerly the league's player development organizaton. And from that perch Vincent deals with current and former players every day, trying to make sure they prepare and succeed in football today and their lives when the games and careers are finished.

"My sole responsibilty and purpose is to help those young men to transition -- those coming from college into the pros as rookies and then help those that are transitioning out," Vincent says. "Let's identify what you want to do with your life and identify the skills you learned as a professional athlete and put those to work as you go into the next phase of your life."

Vincent is arguably the greatest cornerback ever to play for the Dolphins. And the stories he shares of his first days with the Dolphins are priceless.

"When I came in I remember coach [Don]Shula picked me up in his Crowne Victoria and, fortunately at the time, the club was filled with veterans and he said to me, 'I'm going to drop you off when we get to St. Thomas and there's a gentleman I want you to go see. He will teach you how to be a pro. It's number 56. I want you to go to his locker and introduce yourself.' It was John Offerdahl," Vincent said. "And at the time I was embraced by John. But coming in from coach [Barry] Alvarez at Wisconsin I already knew football was a game, it wasn't a career. It wasn't something I could do the rest of my life. Coaching you can. Playing you can't."

(Can you imagine Don Shula going to Miami International Airport and picking up his first round draft pick in his own personal Crowne Victoria? Classic.)

"It was a Crowne Victoria," Vincent repeats. "I was sitting in the back seat. He said to me, 'Son, I can only hide for you for two years.' I said, 'Hide me? What do you mean hide me?' He said, 'I can hide you for two years and after that the league will find you. The league will know who you are and will expose your greatest weakness. But if you become a student of the game, you'll play this game as long as you want to.'

"And that was my first conversation with coach Shula. I was so surprised and taken aback, I'm looking out on 836 and thinking, 'I can't believe the coach said he's going to need to hide me.' But what he was trying to instill is that your athletic ability will only take you so far. But if you make a commitment, and that's why he wanted me to engage with John Offerdahl, because he will tell you what you need to do to be a pro, then things can be diferent. And I had no idea what he was talking about. But once I got in the league I found out what he meant because everyone is talented. And those that make the additional sacrifices Monday to Friday are the ones that really give a team a chance to win on Sunday. I want to say it was the greatest words of advice that any coach has shared with me."

Vincent is 41 years old now. He's got a family. He's a success. And he's the made with advice for current Dolphins players. Yes, the players he knows are winless and obviously professionally hapless now.

"Continue to believe in your coach," Vincent says. "Come back [from the bye weekend] refreshed, recharged as you start the second part of your season. It's not over. Continue to believe in your coach. As a former player and the head of Player Engagement, engage ... The club has many resources. You have to engage so that we can assist you both on and off the field."

Vincent has overseen the changes in the player programs. It was necessary because while the programs to help the players had evolved and the services had evolved, and even as the league evolved, the office of player program services had not evolved. Vincent brought about that change.

"It needed a new facelift," he said. "It needed a new look and feel and quite frankly new objectives."

Some of those objectives?

Develop a better student athlete.

Develop the best group of professionals on and off the field.

And create a lifetime fraternity of men who are successful in society that happened to play professional football.

"We've seen it grow," Vincent says of his Player Engagement Organization. "... I would probably say we have a little over a third that truly maximizes the resources at the club level and league level."

Vincent obviously wants all players to embrace the programs that are available to them. He gets graduates of programs to come back and talk to current players about the advantages of using the resources. He even has ways of reaching out to players' significant others to get them to encourage the men s to seek the resources available to them.

"At some point in time, none of them know when their careers will end," Vincent says. "There is no policy or instruction when the game will end for any of us. We want you to begin to think about what life will look like after the pads are off. As professional athletes, we're often high-strung. We're often our own worst enemies. We don't like thinking about tomorrow. But tomorrow will come with or without us. And we want to make sure they're prepared."

I have a theory about NFL players post-retirement. Most fall into one of three categories: There are those that go into coaching on some level or another. There are those that go into the media on some level or another. And there are those that are broke about five minutes after their career ends.

The middle class, the folks that go on to open businesses or work in industry, are few and far between.

"Those are the guys we want to reach most," Vincent said. "We concentrate our efforts on the every day guy. We have an array of programs to introduce the men to the business world and the entrepenurial world. Just because you played the game doesn't mean you're going to be great coach or great commentator. Most of our service offerings are for the every day guy."

To me the most impressive program Vincent's office has is the tuition reimbursement program. The NFL pays the player to go back to finish his education. The league even pays for post-graduate education. That covers books, tuition, everything -- up to $15,000 per year. That is available while the player is current and up to three years after he's out of the game.

"Most of our players, about 45 percent of our population have their degrees. One of our degrees is to get that to around 60 percent which is far more than any other sport. It's double actually of any other sport."

Obviously there are down and out guys. Vincent sighs deeply when I asked him about them. He obviously has a place in his heart for those guys because many suffer from post-career medial issues. Many more deal with emotional problems, including depression.

And Vincent understands because he, too, dealt with a form of depression after leaving the game.

"I probably had a phase of that," he says. "When you read about the symptoms ... Look, we're prideful individuals and no one wants to be tied to that stigma. That's a stigma. That depression is weak. Depression is not weak. It's what am I doing? What's my value in society? What value do I bring to my family today? I would say after reading about it, studying it for so many years, being on the other side of the table, being 24, 25, 27 years of age and never talking about it growing up, but now understanding the signs and knowing the medical research, I would say I had my phase.

"We're seeing high levels of men not transtioning well. And we see depression set in. And they don't understand it's depression. They're just looking. They're trying to identify who they are. Where they want to be in life. What we look at when we say, down-and-out, we try to assess the individuals where they are. I was there once, that individual that after 15 years, now I had to transition to another life. It's adjustment. I'm still adjusting.

"I'm coming to work every day. Happily married But I'm still adjusting to life after football. The locker room comraderie [is missing]. I miss going into a locker room and being on that same schedule that I saw for 15 years. Traveling on a plane. The meetings at night. The strategy. I've had to shift that skill set to the place I'm working now. But I'm still adjusting."

I would tell you Troy Vincent has been more than successful at making the adjustment. He was a winner on the field and has become a winner off the field. Now, he's trying to spread that culture of success to current and past NFL players as Vice President of NFL Player Engagement.

October 07, 2011

So David Garrard saga wasn't about money

There is one side's story. There is the other side's story. And there is the truth.

And, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.

I am the idiot always trying to chase the truth while both sides often run for cover or tell different versions of the same story. Such is the David Garrard saga.

As you know, the common thinking as to why the Dolphins did not land Garrard this week is because they would not guarantee certain portions of his contract or would not meet certain contract requests. This version of the story comes from Garrard's agent who spoke with The Herald, the NFL Network and ESPN and gave that general accounting as the reason his client did not join the Dolphins.

[Update Sunday, Oct. 9: Garrard sure enough echoes these sentiments in an ESPN report meant to respond to this report. (Glad I could set thing in motion for the World Wide Leader). In the report, Garrar is quoted as saying the Dolphins "were not willing to guarantee me the kind of money that reflects a real commitment and what I believe would protect me from being cut twice in one season.]

This version, by the way, enraged Dolphins fans because it made their team look ridiculous. It made the Dolphins seem cheap. It made the Dolphins look like they had thrown in the towel on the 2011 season after losing four games and starting quarterback Chad Henne.

This version, I am now quite certain, is not accurate.

I am hearing from multiple team sources that, in fact, the reason Garrard is not on the Dolphins today has nothing to do with money. I'm told that if Garrard wanted his base salary guaranteed, the Dolphins would have done that. I'm told that although reports are Garrard would have played for $1 million, the club might have gone to three times that amount and "probably" paid it.

I'm told that the reason the Dolphins didn't get Garrard is, in fact, because he simply didn't feel like playing right now. Garrard apparently talked to the team and showed no great desire to play. He is, according to this version of the story, quite content sitting out this season, spending time with his family, and hitting free agency next March.

This version of things is obviously much more logical because it wouldn't make a ton of sense for the Dolphins to balk at paying Garrard $1 million guaranteed when his veteran minimum for signing is $910,000 anyway. I cannot see how any team would refuse to sign a good player because of the prorated portion of $90,000. That just doesn't pass the sniff test.

But here's the thing, neither does it pass muster that Garrard has turned into a total couch potato. So I did a little bit more digging, more pressing. And the next version of the story I was told is ...

Garrard sure enough wasn't all that enthusiastic about playing right now -- but mostly because the team that came calling has such little chance of winning as the 0-4 Dolphins do. If, say, the 3-1 New England Patriots suddenly lost Tom Brady and needed a starting QB, he'd be on a plane in a heartbeat.

[From the ESPN report: Garrard also sounds like a guy that I'm told got on the phone with Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and himmed and hawed and didn't sound enthusiastic at all about playing in Miami. He speaks of his wife being 13 weeks pregnant (congrats, sir). He wonders if coach Tony Sparano is going to be fired in a couple of weeks. He speaks of not being familiar with a situation in which he comes in cold and is expected to help turn a team around. "I'm one man," he says.]

So yeah, Garrard sounds unenthusiastic about playing with Miami. You simply don't want someone on your team that isn't 100 percent certain he wants to be there -- particularly in these tough times.

So now that covers the gamut of explanations and counter-explanations why Garrard was not signed by the Dolphins this week. I'm not certain which part of all that is really, truly the truth. Again, the folks telling me this stuff don't want to offend each other, don't want to even contradict each other publicly although they do it for a living privately.

I don't care about any of that. I do care about this:

I'm now quite comfortable telling you money was not the reason the Dolphins did not get David Garrard. You can rest easy knowing that your team is not going around like a hobo offering a used toothbrush as payment to quarterbacks wanting million-dollar contracts for their services.

The Dolphins were, in fact, in the game financially on this one had it been a financial issue to overcome. It simply wasn't. At least not exclusively.

That is the truth.

October 06, 2011

2011 starting to resemble 2004 and 2007

Chad Henne is done for the season. He has been told he will require season-ending shoulder surgery and expects to have that surgery next week, a source has confirmed to The Herald's Barry Jackson.

The Dolphins are working on adding quarterback Sage Rosenfels to replace Henne on the roster, a source tells me. Rosenfels needs to pass the team's physical, which is the only hurdle left for him before rejoining the Dolphins.

And this is starting to feel more and more like the disaster of a season I've already covered in Miami before.

What do I mean by that?

This season is feeling a lot like 2004. This season is feeling a lot like 2007.

This season, only a month old and still 12 games from being complete, is every day looking more and more like one of the worst seasons in Dolphins history.


Those other seasons had a theme. They had a vibe to them. They had certain characteristics to them.

And this one is starting to be just like them.

Those terrible, awful, forgettable seasons included starts that simply didn't feel right: 2004 started with the surprise Ricky Williams pulled when he walked away less than two weeks before the start of training camp. 2007 also began in uncomfortable fashion. Cam Cameron frayed nerves with veterans such as Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor immediately, was off-putting with the press, and was caught unprepared for the start of camp when Daunte Culpepper was still around in the locker room and on the field despite the team's intentions to get rid of him.

This year? Well, the lockout and labor strife put the Dolphins behind the proverbial eight ball. The club seemed unprepared to get things done right away. While the New England Patriots were able to trade for a player such as Chad Ocho Cinco and get him on the field immidiately (because they didn't need to redo his contract right away), the Dolphins traded for Reggie Bush but he had to miss the first couple of weeks or practice under the new CBA because they did have to do a new contract with the running back.

Even after new players joined the practices the big focus was Miami's seach for a new quarterback instead of the players on the field. That much-anticipated search for a quarterback capable of challenging Henne failed to turn up a QB capable of the competion.

In the midst of that, Henne heard chants of "We want Orton" from Miami fans.

And fans stayed away from practices that were open and free in ways they had not before.

Then there was the disatisfaction with the head coach. In 2004, fans were done with Dave Wannstedt. They had grown tired of his double-speak and failure to deliver improvement. In 2007, folks scratched their heads when Cam Cameron declined to coach in the final preseason game so that his assistant Dom Capers (who had more NFL head coaching experience) could take over and get the feel for being head coach -- a strategy meant to guard against Cameron having to miss a game for family reasons or in case of some other emergency.

This year, folks had Tony Sparano on the hot seat before one game was played because Stephen Ross unwittingly put him on that seat last January with his Jim Harbaugh flirtation.

Ther are more common themes.

There are the quarterback problems, of course.

In 2004, it was a misbegotten competiton between Jay Fiedler and A.J. Feeley. In 2007, it was the misbegotten acquisition of Trent Green to be the starter -- a move that caused Jason Taylor to utter the famous words, "scrambled eggs," in reference to Green's brain which had suffered several concussions including a season-ender the year before.

This year? I think we already know half the folks out there wanted the team to draft or sign a franchise type quarterback and the club intended to do just that. Then failed to do just that.

Then the injuries came.

In 2004, it began with starting WR David Boston, then starting DT Larry Chester, then starting RB Lamar Gordon (after he played his one an only quarter for the Dolphins), then Junior Seau, then Miami lost Fiedler for the season, then Yeremiah Bell was gone. The other member of the starting backfield, fullback Rob Konrad, went on season-ending IR later. The fact linebacker bust Eddie Moore went on IR later was less about hurting the talent on the roster and something more akin to being fitting for the abortion that was the season.

2007 followed similar themes on the injury front. Starting safety Yeremiah Bell blew out his Achilles' tendon. Then Trent Green suffered a concussion trying to make a block on a broken play (a fumble by Tedd Ginn) and was lost for the year. Then Ronnie Brown blew out a knee trying to make a tackle on another interception the following week. Then starting strong safety Renaldo Hill blew out a knee trying to stop Randy Moss from scoring a touchdown and Cameron Worrell suffered an injury on the same play. Then Worrell was later placed on injured reserve. Then Zach Thomas was placed on IR with migraines, effectively ending his Dolphins career. And Channing Crowder was not far behind, out for the season one week later. Then Andre Goodman went out for the year.

This year?

Obviously Henne is the biggest hit so far. He was placed on injured reserve after blowing out his left shoulder on a broken play. A broken play, I say.

Jake Long is playing injured and not at his usual high level. Karlos Dansby is playing injured and not at his highest level. Daniel Thomas has missed two of his career's first four games with a hamstring pull. Vontae Davis couldn't finish the first two games of the season and then couldn't start either of the last two games because of various malfunctions. Safety Chris Clemons hasn't been right all season and that's why he hasn't been a factor.

And we're only one month in!

There are other themes that make up a catastrophic season. One of those is dysfunction at the top -- with much of it the team's own making.

In 2004, Dave Wannstedt lost his "Final Say" powers to Rick Spielman when owner Wayne Huizenga instituted that change. It was awkward because Wannstedt had hired Spielman and had been Spielman's boss since 2000. Now Spielman was telling Wannstedt what was going to happen on the personnel front.

Spielman went out and got A.J. Feeley from Philadelphia for a second-round pick. Wannstedt wanted to start Jay Fiedler. It didn't go well. I wouldn't say they argued. It was more a passive-aggressive tug of war.

In 2007, Cameron forced Randy Mueller to trade for Green. Mueller wasn't enthusiastic about the move but did it anyway because he figured the coach deserved to have his QB. Mueller, in turn, pretty much forced Cameron to take back Ricky Williams because the team needed running back help midseason. Cameron hated the idea but lost that battle.

It was an odd pairing. Nope, it didn't work.

This year, I have reported for some time that the friendship coach Tony Sparano and general manager Jeff Ireland once shared is no more. They are not friends. They are now strictly involved in a professional venture and trying to work as professionally with one another as possible.

Neither really trusts the other. It is what it is.

In 2004 and 2007, as the losses began, the chippy nature of team staff with the media grew with each passing week.

Wannstedt hated The Herald and made us to be the villians with players and assistants. I guess he didn't like the fact I reported how he had an assistant coach mutiny before the season when Joel Collier had to step down as offensive coordinator for personal reasons.

So Wannstedt gave the job to Marc Trestman. But offensive line coach Tony Wise hated Trestman and threatend to leave and take some other assistants with him if the promotion stood. So Wannstedt, who had given Trestman the job one afternoon, took it away the next morning. He promoted Chris Foerster instead.

I found out and that made the Herald the villian. Wannstedt told players the media in general and The Herald in particular was at the root of their problems. He made what should have been a professional working relationship into an adversarial one.

(NOTE: Wannstedt was not aware making The Herald and me into an enemy is not smart.)

Some players followed the coach. Others didn't buy in. Division followed. Wannstedt lost the locker room.

In 2007, Cameron was off-putting with the media from the beginning. He believed himself always the smartest man in any room he walked into. He talked down to the media. He misdirected. He made it very clear it was "us against them."

As the 2007 Dolphins had trouble winning any "us against them" matchup, division followed. Players mocked the coach for spending more time reading the Internet than actually curing the problems that were being written about on the Internet. Cameron had no friends in the media. Had no friends in the locker room. And ultimately found himself on an island -- with no friends anywhere.

Not smart.

This year? Well, the Dolphins have fostered an anti-media stance since Bill Parcells took over. That is no secret. Parcells used the media as a foil to rally the troops. But it was done with sophistication. Even as he told his people to avoid the media he made friends in the media and always got his message out the way most favorable to him and the team.

He was in a word, shrewd, in his approach. It worked for him particularly because the man is a future Hall of Famer and has Super Bowl rings.

When he left, Parcells told the team -- including coaches and personnel people -- to stay together and not splinter. (It's too late for that now. Folks went in different directions last January.)

Anyway, this group has its media issues already. Inside linebacker Kevin Burnett and a Sun-Sentinel reporter had an issue last week when Burnett complained publicly about something the reporter had tweeted. The issue apparently is not resolved even after the two men met for about 30 minutes earlier this week. Burnett has even had conversations with teammates about the reporter, as if gathering information on a reporter is a wise use of time when there seem to be other more pressing issues to attend to.

Like, say, finding ways to make more tackles.

Leaks are springing everywhere. Even today, one person in the personnel department leaked to ESPN's Adam Schefter the list of QBs -- other than Sage Rosenfels, Brodie Croyle and Trent Edwards -- the club seriously discussed when deciding on a replacement for Henne.

The source, whose name I know because other people in the organization have told me he's leaking stuff to Schefter, told ESPN the Dolphins looked at Kellen Clemens, JP Losman, Jim Sorgi and Charlie Frye before settling on Rosenfels.

Makes you really confident about Rosenfels, doesn't it?

Look, everyone has sources. I have a couple. But as much as I want my sources telling me stuff, there is a gulf between the kind of source that speaks on background to provide information favorable to the team or correct facts, and the kind of loser that gives a blow-by-blow account of a chase for a quarterback replacement that paints the team as desperate and even inept. It's lame and cowardly, really.

Finally, the last common theme I can think of that followed the 2004 and 2007 seasons and now seems to be following in 2011 is the unexpected total state of suck.

The Dolphins were 4-12 in 2004. Terrible. But you must remember they were 10-6 in 2003 so the drop to 4-12 was sudden, unexpected and painful.

The Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007. But in 2006, they opened the year as Sports Illustrated's Super Bowl pick. There was optimism the year before and the 2007 team seemed plenty talented -- with Jason Taylor coming off a Defensive Player of the Year award, with the secondary seeming solid, the receivers mostly a veteran group and multiple high draft picks offering optimism. And yet ... they were terrible to a degree never matched in Dolphins history.

This year is only a quarter way through. But it is surprising to what depths Miami has already fallen. The defense, good a season ago, has rolled off the table. The running game that was supposed to be rebuilt is still under construction at best. Reggie Bush hasn't produced and I don't think he's even being used in a correct role.

It has been so bad that even with Henne not being the liability he was the past two seasons, the Dolphins have not been very good on offense.

I'm not saying the rest of the season will mirror the nuclear winters that the franchise suffered in 2004 and again in 2007. But, geez, the building common themes are sobering.

October 05, 2011

Ladies and germs, your new starting QB ...

Matt Moore.

Yeah, that's probably the ticket.

Matt Moore. The Dolphins have had multiple conversations with David Garrard but neither side seems to be budging on guaranteed monies at the time of this writing. I guess that could change, but not right this second.

And while the haggling continues (or not) and the picking over of other discard QBs continues (or not) the team has wasted three days without hiring someone new or better than Matt Moore to start Oct. 17 against the New York Jets.

Understand, this week is basically over. Thursday is the final work day. Players will be off Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. They will come back Tuesday and be off again on Wednesday. So unless the new QB is on the field tomorrow afternoon, four days passed without a resolution of a QB issue.

I suppose Chad Henne could be the backup to Moore or even start if the miraculous happens. But I really don't see too many miracles happening so far this 0-4 season for the Dolphins. So I'm betting on Matt Moore as the starting quarterback against the Jets.

I'm sooo excited.

Anyway, don't be down on Moore. He's a good guy. He's something of a gunslinger. He's fearless. He's just, just, well, limited.

He spoke with the media on Wednesday -- as starting QBs do. And this is what he had to say:

(On working with the first team) - “It’s been good. It’s been good getting a lot of work in, much needed work. Getting upset with these guys and just getting reps, those are things that I need as a player and that are good as a whole and for everybody to get reps with me as well.”

(On feeling rusty or behind since the season started) - “No, I mean, those just much needed reps, that’s all. It’s good to get on the same page with everybody and the only way to do that is practice with them and get reps with them and all the obvious reasons so it’s good being in there.”

(On your mindset if you’re going to start) - “I don’t know, it’s all up to Coach (Tony) Sparano. Right now, I’m taking reps because they’re telling me to take reps so that’s where we at.”

(On the importance of the offensive line believing in you) - “Yeah, it’s big, I think as a quarterback if you’re O-line doesn’t believe in you, then you’re in big trouble, that’s a big deal. Your way to earn their belief or trust is going out and playing well, putting us in the right situation. Games like last week, being in battle and things like that, but it’s definitely a big deal for us and them to have a mutual respect for each other.”

(On trying out two other quarterbacks) - “I don’t know, if that’s what they’re doing. Don’t mean much to me, but if that’s what they got to do, that’s what they go to do.”

(On your feelings after watching film) - “Obviously, there’s some things I wanted back at the end of the game. Some good things I think that I’m happy about and I want to continue to do these things. Been in that situation before, coming off the bench and so disappointed that we lost, some bright spots, but obviously, some things we need to work on.”

(On having time to preparing during the bye week) - “Yeah, I mean, with the circumstances, getting reps is good, just trying to get better in the time that I’m in there and hopefully be ready if needed.”

(On anything you learned last week from playing) - “Like I said, I’ve been in that situation before, played minimal games in this league. I kind of knew how it’s going to be, kind of take it back a little bit, just practicing from the scout team to live bullets, it’s a little quicker than you anticipate on the sideline so I kind of have to get use to that quickly, but all and all, but once I got in there and got into a little rhythm, it’s was kind of back on the horse again so it felt good. Like I said, in every game, you’re going to have plays you’re going to learn from and there were some from that game, but it felt pretty good.”

(On knowing the history of quarterbacks after Dan Marino’s retirement) - “Yeah, I don’t really, to be honest with you. All I can worry about is this team right now, making myself the best player possible. Obviously, (Dan) Marino was a great one, it doesn’t matter who’s back there, the guy who’s going to make the plays and win ball games ultimately, is going to be the guy. Whether that’s 15 guys in 15 games, or one guy, they’re going to find the right guy so I can’t really speak on that.”

(On the adjustments needed for the players to feel comfortable with you) - “Well, I don’t know if I have to adjust. I think every guy’s different. Well, I take that back, I have to adjust a little bit, but at the same time, with more reps, they’ll get use to like my cadence quickly. The running backs the past two days have gone through ball handling drills where we’re working with each other and they’re kind of feeling me out because there are some differences from any quarterback not just between Chad (Henne) and I, but every quarterback is different. So just little things I need to work on and there were some cadence things in the game that we got squared away, the OL to myself so some little things we need to keep our ears open for and those guys will tell me what I need to change, what I need to do, and we’ll go from there.”

(On what you learned about the offense from watching) - “A lot, that’s one of the positives from being on the sideline I guess and when you’re not out there, you see the game from a different perspective and see it from a different angle, it definitely helps you. Things you might not see on the field, you’re able to see in different situations, you’ll be more heads up to certain things you might get from seeing it on the sidelines.”

(On the team wanting a win) - “Yeah, no doubt (laughing). Yeah, no doubt, that’s the name of the game and I can’t speak highly enough of this group in here. I know it’s not what we want right now, but these guys we’re working, and we’re hungry.

(On you wanting a win) - “Yeah, it’s been rough, but like I said, you don’t have time to think about the past in this game, you have to keep moving forward and keep grinding and working towards the next one, that’s my mindset.”

(On talking to Chad Henne about how he feels) - “A little bit, I don’t know, I think it’s a day-to-day thing with him. I hope everything will be alright, but really don’t know much right now.”

Are Dolphins in on Garrard or are they going to suck for Luck?

The Dolphins worked out NFL washout quarterbacks Trent Edwards and Brodie Croyle on Tuesday and who knows how much more time/money for plane tickets/effort they'll waste on guys that never made it in the league before we know what they're really going to do at QB the rest of the season.

And that brings up today's greater question: What are the Dolphins doing the rest of this season? What is the point?

If the point is to get through and basically survive, then so be it. I get that. There's a movement on the street espoused by a growing number of fans backing this approach to the rest of the 2011 season.

It's known as Suck for Luck.

The movement's premise is that this Dolphins season is over. The movement wants the Dolphins to lose every game they can in hopes of getting in position to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck next year.

It is tortured logic. But I get it.

There's another less popular movement out there, too. I know it's there because I'm its leader. It's called never give up, never give in, play hard every down, try to win every remaining play, every remaining quarter, every remaining minute and see where the chips fell once the season is over.

If that means the Dolphins win four games this year, so be it. If they salvage eight wins, so be it.

The movement even holds out hope the Dolphins can try to get maybe nine wins and back into the playoffs. (Yeah, I know. I'm stupid.)

But it is my nature to be competitive. It is my nature to not give up -- even when the situation seems impossible and the odds are as long as east is distant from west.

So which camp do the Dolphins fall into?

Until today I was convinced the team was still in the scratch-and-claw to the end mode.

Now, I have to wonder.

The thing that gives me pause how much the Dolphins really, really want to win is how they're handling their current quarterback problem.

As you know, Chad Henne is injured. It is serious.

Henne likely will miss a couple of games with a separated (non-throwing) left shoulder but could also be done for the remainder of the season if he requires surgery. The probability he needs surgery and will miss the rest of the year is quite real and serious. Henne doesn't want that route, which is why he's expected to hear back on a second opinion this week, but the matter is not really in his hands.

In the meanwhile, the Dolphins have been searching for a quarterback. And that's where the problem festers.

Aisde from wasting time with never-was types, the Dolphins talked in the past 36 hours to David Garrard's representation. They tried to sign the former Jacksonville Jaguars starter but talks stalled over that which drives or stalls practically all talks -- money.

Garrard, who threw 23 TDs to 15 INTs in Jacksonville last year, wants at least a portion of his pro-rated salary guaranteed, according to various reports including one in The Herald. Garrad doesn't just want to come to Miami one week and find himself unemployed a week or two later. He wants to go somewhere to find some solid footing and the way to get that is through guaranteed money.

The Dolphins apparently have balked at such a thought of signing Garrard to such a deal, according to the reports. After all, they have a budget, you know.

So the team that guaranteed all or parts of the 2011 salaries for Benny Sapp, Dante Rosario and Larry Johnson and last week signed Nate Jones, paid him for a week, then cut him on Tuesday, doesn't want to give Garrard, who is better than all those guys combined, that kind of deal.

It is obviously a money-saving move. But to me it seems like much more than that.

It is a move that speaks to not doing all that can be done to win. Garrard happens to be the only quarterback on the market not named Favre that has won and taken a team to the playoffs and played at a Pro Bowl level. There is no issue of talent here.

He is better than Croyle and Edwards and any of the other scrub the Dolphins are apparently toying with now.

No, Garrard's not in his prime. He's 33 years old. No, he isn't a long term answer as a starter, but I got news for the folks over at Dolphins camp -- seize the day, people, because your tomorrows are not promised. Trust me on this.

Garrard might not take the team to great heights. But that doesn't change the fact he's more talented than anyone else out there -- even I know that. So maybe he could catch lightning and do the improbable given the chance.

The Dolphins cannot say, for example, they believed (insert name of scrub here) has more talent than Garrard or is better than Garrard because no one on the QB market believably fits that description.

So failing to sign Garrard in the next few days means the Dolphins will have picked saving money over possibly saving the season or at the very least saving face.

That's the message they're sending if they continue to pinch pennies on players they'll eventually end up cutting again in a week or two. They took this tack before. They pinched pennies and we got Marc Colombo instead of Bryant McKinnie. We got Dante Rosario instead of say, Jeremy Shockey or Greg Olsen.

And we got Matt Moore instead of any legtimate QB that was on the market when free agency opened -- some of which are doing quite well, thanks.

Bottom line?

The Dolphins can pretend they're still trying to win this year. But when the personnel moves don't shadow those words, we can no longer believe the words. If they sign players we all know are inferior instead of adding players that are clearly superior -- only one month into the season and with 12 games yet to play -- the moves will uncover them as a team that has waved the white flag.

If that happens at the quarterback position and the player they pass up is even better than the guy (Moore) who is likely to be starting their next game, that is worse than waving the white flag. That's commiting fraud against the fan base and the veterans in the locker room who still want to win and think they can.

It is walking away from a solution, however imperfect, in order to offer a worse, much more imperfect solution everyone knows cannot fly.

So the Dolphins have a choice now. They can sign David Garrard because they're looking for a quarterback and he's the best available and normally professional football teams are in the business of adding the best possible players available to them.

Or they can go another direction. Yes, they can go cheaper. And then we would be forced to start believing the Dolphins are truly in Suck for Luck mode.

[NOTES: As I told you above, the Dolphins cut cornerback Nate Jones on Tuesday. No, they didn't announce it because they don't give a crap about you knowing the comings and goings of their roster. They signed offensive lineman Will Baker from the Tampa Bay practice squad and no, they didn't announce that, either ...The club waived RB Nic Grigsby and OL D.J. Jones from the practice squad, not that they announced that either.

The team also added some Asian dude to the practice squad. Guy looks like a mini-Sumo so I suppose he's a nose tackle or fullback. Yes, he was in the locker room and no, the team did not release this transaction, either. I'll get you the name when I find it out. [Update: Name is Isaako Aaitui]. I'm starting to get the drift the Dolphins don't care about us. It amazes me they announce ALL their roster moves in a league-wide memo to the 31 other teams they're in competition with -- telling the people who are trying to take their heads off everything they're doing. But they don't bother announcing those same transactions in a timely manner to you, the fans who follow the team and buy tickets. Andy they wonder why they can't sell out games.]