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Miami Dolphins recovery good, slow starts bad

The Dolphins have changed and that is a good thing, a thing that deserves some notice and some praise. This team of late is more full of life, particularly early in games. The offense attacks and does the unconventional, like a Wildcat flea-flicker against Washington. The defense blitzes, flies around and celebrates.

There is simply more life to this team early in games and lately it is carrying over into full-fledged results we didn't see early this year. Those results, by the way, are called victories.

And those victories have come with the starting quarterback on the shelf and his backup in the games. They've come with the full knowledge that there will be no playoffs in 2011 and folks are getting canned at the end of the year.

The flat lines have definitely jumped. The Dolphins live in 2011.

You have to applaud that.

And that leads me to the next logical question: Why did it take so long?

Can you imagine if the Dolphins were playing like this when the season began in September instead of waiting until November to wake up?

They probably would have beaten Cleveland. And Denver. They are better than both those teams and yet wasted opportunities and basically seemed to be going through the motions against those team to the point of being upset by them.

If only this team had found itself earlier. They might be staring at 4-5 and in the hunt instead of 2-7 and out of it.

Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

The truth is this Dolphins team is no different from every Miami team under the current administration in that it stunk early in the season. Simply, they weren't ready to win and didn't win early on.

And that cost them and left them lamenting what might have been once the alarm clock finally sounded.

Consider that since the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano administration took over, the Dolphins have a 3-9 record in September in four seasons. They have a 6-9 record in October in four season. And when November hits, stuff finally clicks and they're a very competitive 18-12 through the end of the season.

Let that marinate, for a second.

This organization, as currently constructed, is good enough to figure things out, and keep players interested, and keep working hard in the face of adversity to salvage its reputation with wins once the leaves start to change colors.

But they're simply not very good at getting ready for the start of the season.

The Dolphins this year suffered their second winless September in three years -- they were 0-3 this year and 0-3 in 2009.

Even in 2008, when they eventually won the AFC East, they started out 1-2. (Remember when that was unacceptable and such a huge surprise that the desperate coaching staff installed a brand new and unconventional wing to the offense called Wildcat?).

Anyway, this year's typical slow start might be blamed on the lockout and the fact the offense is brand new and blah, blah, blah. Except that Miami started slow in 2008 and 2009 and the 4-3 start in 2010 wasn't exactly awe-inspiring either, although outstanding by comparison.

The lockout also doesn't explain how the defense, which didn't really graduate any seniors, was terrible early in the season despite playing a familiar system with familiar personnel under familiar coaches.

The Dolphins, folks, are simply a slow-starting team -- lockout or not. The record speaks for itself.

Now, that can be overcome when the streak that typically starts in November and lasts throught the remainder of the season is defined by an 8-1 record as it was in 2008. That type of recovery saves seasons.

But that kind streak is simply hard to do in today's NFL. No one should bank on that to save a season.

So why do the Dolphins get off to such frustratingly slow starts?

This year the question must be asked how well conditioned was this team? Karlos Dansby told me after Sunday's victory over Washington that he weighed 270 pounds when he reported to camp? Was that typical of other players?

I know John Jerry wasn't ready to compete when camp started -- that's why he was running third team after starting much of last year. I know Vernon Carey struggled early in camp -- and that earned him a paycut and move from guard to tackle. I know Jake Long wasn't healthy, which has nothing to do with his weight but still affected his conditioning and play early on this season.

So there's that.

And then there's the idea that this coaching staff takes a good while to figure out its players. It is only recently that Reggie Bush has been settled into a niche he's comfortable with and effective in. It's just recently that these guys figured out Kevin Burnett would be better off not calling the plays for the defense.

(Story I'm told: During the San Diego game, Burnett calls a defense. The Chargers shred the Dolphins on the play. Afterward, players in the huddle are chattering about the call and Burnett tells them he didn't call that play even though many of them heard it and went with it.)

Karlos Dansby now calls the plays up front full-time.

One cannot blame early-season injuries on Miami's recent uptick even though cornerback Vontae Davis and running back Daniel Thomas have lately been more healthy and ready to contribute. Why do I dismiss those injuries as excuses?

Because everyone else in the NFL suffers injuries! It is an unacceptable rationalization to say, we have injured players so we stink.

The Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl last year with 15 players -- including seven starters -- on injured reserve. They won it starting Erik Walden at OLB after the Dolphins cut Walden (nice decision, by the way).

So I am at a loss. Why the constant early struggles? Why does it take so long for this team to roll, to reach potential?

I remember Don Shula's teams typically played great early in the season. For decades, the Dolphins had the NFL's best record in September and October. That carried on through Dave Wannstedt. (Unfortunately, Wannstedt's teams wilted in December and beyond, but that's another story.)

Yet, even late swoons seem better than having zero chance to play meaningful games in December because you failed to sprint off the line when the gun sounded and everyone else started running.

Frustrating? You bet.

I could more readily accept a team that is simply overmatched from the start of the season until the end than a team that is consistently slow in starting but teases by meeting its potential later in the year -- after it's clearly too late to really matter.

[Video reminder: If you want to discuss this or any Dolphins topic with me, you can call me. My radio show, Armando and the Amigo streams live video every Monday thru Friday right here at The Herald website. You may call in toll free from anywhere in the United States at 1-888.640-9385.]


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Big test coming up after the Buffalo game...In big "D"...Against a good defense and one of the best catching tight ends and WR in the game...

we lost 5 straight at the end last year after being 7-4

One thing is for sure..........DC has proven to be very relevant in this blog......multiple posts about him and he hasn't even been in here yet today!

Maybe I'll be that famous in here someday :)

Too bad Armando can't rid us of the trolls, they are annoying

DC is a hot head really, unnecessarily abusive and arrogant. When you instigate, you get retaliation. It's no big deal really, the blog is strictly entertainment.

Aloco @10:10,

If I`m really hungry I personally prefer the Wendys triple with everything super sized accross the board.

Dr Roberts, fair f that is your experiece. DC has been respectful for the most part as far as what I have seen. Everyone "loses" it on here every once in a while. But to each their own.

Guys your thoughts...

I am contemplating picking up Matt Moore (Yea I said it) big ben on Bye and back-up was Cassell. 14 team league so slim pickins, Options are Vince Young, Skelton, Painter, Pafko, Moore, Groosman, T.Jackson. UGH!

Poizen, Looks like your QB wont be getting you any points this week


Who put together that League, I don`t want them on my College teams?? In any event those are the best picks considering what you have to work with.

By the way, where has Buffalo Bill gone???

great points.....even if fins were to win out and go 9.7 i still think we nead a change at the coaching position....way to many slow starts....even 2008 fins needed to go 8.1 just to make the playoffs because of the slow start

Whats up guys?, The fins 2 victorys are great and all that but lets remember who they beat., Buffalo can put up some points, If they score more then 1 the fins start a new losing streak., They may not be the worse team in the NFL, but there cloose.

Sorry, More then 17.


Well, it is a 14 team league, everyone has 2 QB's. I offered to buy the team from my best friends wife who drafted it. (His league). He toold me she drafted well, so I agreed. Then see that I got stuck with:

Peyton Manning, with Jason Campbell back up.

RB's Tomlinson, and L Blount. Cadillac Williams back up with Jason Snelling

WR. Desean Jackson, Wes Welker, Santana Moss

So, you can see where this all started bad.

Guys, check your keyboards and mice for sensitivity. Kris is reporting they changed his blogger name.

Spiderman I agree. But does anyone agree Moore is the best of the bunch for a week?

I now have

Ray Rice, Vincent Jackson and Michael Bush. so all is not terrible.

Also doe I start the Dolphin D vs. The Bills?

Or the Eagles D vs. the Giants?

I am so confused this week.



I don't know ALoco, I think Kris = Kris and DC=DC.

i think you may have let a troll trick you into thinking otherwise.

Poizen, get your money back.

I'd go with Moore.


I see that Lil Aloco is huffing the Estes glue he uses for his models, Aloco, Do you have something with substance regaurding football or are you just running laps?

Start Moore simply becausae the others suck worse. Start Dolphins D, simply because the "dream team" defense is horrendus. G Men will take it to them!

Ohio has a crush on DC. This much we know.


I`d take the Dolphin D right know over a sputtering Bills O. The Eagle - Giants game will come down to Pass Rush and I like Pierre Paul and Tuck`s speed containing the edge from Vick. Also see G-Men run game effective here with B.Jacobs and D.J. Ware Vs. suspect Pilly LB`s

Giants run game sucks. Just saying.


Don`t feel to bad I gambled on Manning as well being back by week 4 at the latest like early reports had said.



How's the Lizard???

Great story Armando .. I'm NOT sold on Sparano & Ireland, the way they select and coach players year after year! I would rather see them sign P.Burress then Marshall, to me TD's win more games than a WR that can put up big stats but always failed to deliver in the Red Zone.


Agree G-Men run game ineffective this year especially now with no Bradshaw but seen Philly a few times this year and when teams get push on the interior DL getting runners to the next level their LB`s have been run over. You think our LB`s looked bad through 7 weeks then wait till you get a load of what Philly has and Jacobs with Ware backing up are big boys that will run you over if given holes which the G-Man OL should do Vs. weak Philly interior DL. I`m really left wondering why they didn`t trade Samuel for a LB straight up.


Wang Chung, Burress doesnt even try to get open unless he's in the red zone or he just cant get open.


I hear Howie Long is coming out of retirement as well to play LDE opposite his son in St Louis.


Well said Armando,

Just when I think that you have abandoned solid blog writing for that radio-show of yours, you break out the big guns and remind us that -- when motivated -- you are capable of first-rate sportswriting.

Speaking of motivation, there definitely is a coniditioning issue with the Dolphins that extends well beyond fatboy Carey.

Of all of the losses this season the two that stick wiht me the most are the Cleveland debacle (for obvious reason) and the opener agaisnt New England, where (as you pointed out at the time) the Patriots were far better conditioned for the South Florida heat thatn the Dolphins.

I don't care if training camp is three months, three weeks, or three hours -- having your team coniditioned to play is a function of coaching. It was embarassing to watch the Dolphins wilt under the heat of the city that they live and work in every single day, while the Patriots stayed fresh.

I was a bit of a Tony Sparano apologist up to that point. But not any more. If you don't start a season ready to play -- you have bad coaches. It's that simple.

Giants are 29th in rush offense, Philly 17th in rush defense. That doesn't spell mismatch to me. If the giants win it will be with their usual recipe, with Eli carrying the load.



That to me is a mind blowng stat, have you seen the Philly run D this year??

Blah blah blaw. , Blah blah blah blah.


ALoco | November 16, 2011 at 11:10 AM


LMAO!! Agree the name sounds more like a pornstars name and the sponge Bob thing hadn`t really noticed before, good call!!

Thank you for all your inputs on this. It helps me big time. I will go with Moore.

the D is still up in the air. Turnovers are big for D points and Sp teams. 2 things the phins seem to suck at. But if the Bills of last week show up, my goodness the Dolphin D would get big points.


So since I have common sense I have a crush on DC?



This is typical Miami Dolphin football - they play well when the pressure is off. Now that they have no chance to make the playoffs they are going to become world beaters. I have seen this scenario play out numerous times over the past few years. With that said - I predict a victory over Buffalo this week. I'm not bold enough to predict the score.

Philly's run defense is not great but I think the giant run game is that bad.

Then again, stats may lie here. Philly is 5ththe in offense, 11th in pass offense, 2nd in rush offense, 13th in defense and 11tha in pass defense. How are they 3 and 6?

Probably because turnover ratio is the most important thing to success of a football team. Philly is 27th in that category. The top 10 teams in turnover ratio have a combined winning percentage of .659. So you can talk about running the ball, pass the ball and stopping both but if you don't have an offense that takes care of the ball and a defense that takes it away, you won't win.

Mark @11:40,

Agree 100% with that post it`s the very thing that killed the Giants last year now that you mention it and what allowed a weak Fins O in 2008 to flurish by leading league in that stat, again good stuff.

To your points Mark and fin4life,

Green Bay doesn't have the greatest ranked Defense, but I do believe they have the most interceptions in the league

They are a perfect 9-0

I don't care if the team wins out, the top of the org chart has to be roto-tilled...or roto-rootered, whichever is more appropriate.

The team can't continue to be allowed losing streaks at both the beginning and end of any given season. A 4-game window of glory is unacceptable.

With the new CBA, the trend is toward less off/pre-season preparation, practices, etc. and where this flock of coaching goofballs has proven to be lacking in the preparation department, less time to prepare = SEASON DOOMED BEFORE IT BEGINS.

I really thought a shortened offseason would be an equalizer, just as a 'slow' field usually is, but the fins have proven that theory to be FALSE.

You have to contrast this staff with that of Mike Harbaugh and what he's accomplished in his first year. The 49'ers haven't even hit the easy part of their schedule yet. Five of their last Seven games are against the NFC West...sheesh. If not for games against Pittsburgh & Baltimore, you may as well hand them the #2 seed in the NFC.

I'm not buying in. The Phins beat two crappy teams....two teams that are just as crappy as the Phins are. The Phins can beat or lose to a crappy team on any given Sunday.....they can only lose to a good team on any given Sunday.

You have to contrast this staff with that of Mike Harbaugh and what he's accomplished in his first year. The 49'ers haven't even hit the easy part of their schedule yet. Five of their last Seven games are against the NFC West...sheesh. If not for games against Pittsburgh & Baltimore, you may as well hand them the #2 seed in the NFC.

Posted by: Blog Fodder

I am unclear as to who Mike Harbaugh is? I thought Jim Harbaugh was the coach of the 49ers. Just kidding. I know what you mean...if the 49ers can start with a completely different coaching staff and be playing like they are, there is no excuse for Miami and new coordinator, etc. Coaching stinks and has stunk for 4 years.....that's what happens when you promote an O-line coach to head coach.

Hey, for a positive note...

I really like Tony Suprano as a man, after three years of being head coach, it seems he is learning on the job, and getting better, although an intense micro-manager. In the past, players had difficulty adjusting to his style of coaching, which probably seemed frustrating, especially the veterans, who were dealt with differently with other coaches. Tony obviously believes his role is to manage each minute detail, and it seems that now, it is working, and will continue to work, because the players are becoming accustomed to this, buying into it.

It makes perfect sense that it took so long for it come together, considering the major changes to his system, and the lack of time available to develop his strategy, but also, it seems to me that these wins are no FLUKE. It's real.

Of course, lady luck falling their way, the dolphins could have a won at least a few of the first seven games, and things would be a whole lot different, but, be that as it may, the team is strong, healthy, well coached, physical, and fast. With the micro managing style, it seems to me that a foundation has been established for the team, that will continue, and get better.

Anyone who knows anything about sports knows that at the highest level the fundamentals are needed even for those jocks that are blessed to be over-talented. We know the dolphins have got talent, some of the best players in the league. With their buy-in to Tony's style, that foundation of strong fundamentals will stay with the team for years to come, as long as it is nurtured, and management keeps the faith in him.

This was the strength of the Shula era with the dolphins, his fundamentals coaching survived the early years, and brought the best out in the talent he had. I'm sure Bob Griese would agree. The pounding, grinding, clear fundamentals coached into each player had the good fortune of luck and stuck in each players confidence, allowing them to excel, to believe in themselves. But remember, even with Dan Marino, he couldn't win a Super Bowl in his out years.

I hope Tony gets the chance and has a little bit of the luck he needs to pull this off. I've never given up on the dolphins, they're my home team, and perhaps wrong but I think Tony can build a dynasty here.

Of course, his probable gay relationship with Clyde Tolson is a necessary part of the picture but it doesn't dwell upon it. Good stuff!

Posted by: jp | November 16, 2011 at 11:56 AM

Good stuff? The sex scenes or the movie as a whole?

Ohio, that is correct. Top 2 teams in turnover ratio, SF and GB - 17-1.

thanks for the stats Mark....that's what I thought

An offense that doesn't turn it over and a defense that takes it away.

That's a great combo even if you are great at stopping the run or pass

*not great at stopping the pass/run is what I meant

That's right Ohio. The league is full of exampes in action. Our opponent Sunday has an awful defense and an average offense. But their defense is oportunistic and is 7th in the league in turnover ratio. Thus they have a winning record.

Flipside - San Diego is as talented as they come. Top 10 offense and defense. However, they are 28th in the league in turnover ratio = underachieving.

Keys to the game:

1. Solid offense
2. Solid defense
3. Solid special teams
4. Win turnover battle.

We do that and we WIN!

Congrats Ohio, you have a follower.

Wolfman, I may have had a stroke right there. I tend to have mine in installments...maybe I should blame it on my mouse?

They had just come off a disastrous season, a lockout/major contract dispute and were facing another season with a seemingly clueless owner in Ross, the proven failure of Ireland, the unqualified, overpaid cheerleader of Sparano and Henne, possibly the worst starting QB in the league. Throw in a head case main WR, a questionable draft and the odd acquisition of Reggie Bush, throw in the new, just-fired O Coord. Daboll. The team was to remain in perpetual rebuild mode. The season ticket holders and fans frankly, were at the end of their patience. What pray tell was there for the players to be happy about, really?

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