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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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Yeah, has anyone noticed the passing teams kick a lot of fieldgoals, because they can't punch it in?

I give Sparano another year to get to the winning seasons before I can him.

BTW Bill Cowher is a run first coach, so who you got coaching the Dolphins next year?

Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and San Francisco are running teams with good defenses.

Thanks Mark, I guess I've made it as a regular on here then :)

To be fair, I think the troll is always a follower of DC's

Enough with this give Sparano another year!

As far as Ireland being retained, I would think his days became numbered when he allowed Ross to go on that illegal coaching search to try to acquire Harbaugh. The tremendous, professional embarrassment he brought on Mr. Ross and the organization, you would think sealed his fate that day. And then there's the complete and utter failure he has been as a talent evaluator and team builder. Certainly the relationship between he and Sparano must be one of professional tolerance and courtesy, and nothing more after Ireland tried to help replace him behind his back.

Hope you're being facetious with that Sparano comment Hawk. Wasn't feeling like posting today but that stirred me up.

Ohio, you got joint credit on the sign off name so it counts!

Ross is the owner, he can do whatever he wants, Ireland didn't have to "allow" him to go on the coaching search.

Ireland should go though, but the reported "relationship" between Ross and Ireland could be an issue

There he is!!


I'm late to the party but pick up Moore and the Dolphins defence. Probably your best choice in a limited field.

I just lost Cassel and it looks like Schaub this week too. Dalton was still there to replace Cassel but I'm going to hold off dropping Schaub right now. There are still a couple of options out there in Palmer and Leinart but I don't want to foolish drop Schaub to find out he'll be back in 4 weeks. Looks like it'll be Fitzpatrick for me this week against our 'D'. I'm fortunate the guy I'm playing looks like he's already thrown in the towel on the season.

Ohio...welcome to the blog....its not official to you have your very own Troll...

Also.....thanks for having the common sense earlier to post what you did....I am sure many can see that as well....but only a few have te guts to say how they really feel....

Hey Mando don't forget that we had Henne as the starting QB early in the season, prior to his injury. It's not just the QB, but it is nice to see that Moore's QB rating has improved. Henne was never a starting QB in the NFL. So some of the credit has to go to him.

As far as Ireland being retained, I would think his days became numbered when he allowed Ross to go on that illegal coaching search to try to acquire Harbaugh.

Posted by: ccherald2 | November 16, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Dingbat...Ross is the owner of the team. You think the GM, one of his employees, is his boss? If the owner asks his employee to go with him, the employee goes or risks being fired for disobedience. Get a clue.

@1:00............i just said that

Yea, I even have had a few trolls. :)

Craig, Thanks for the advice, I forgot about Leinert I am sure he is avail. but who the hell is taking that chance. :)

I may take a chance on him NEXT week Poizen. Good running team, will help him. They have a bye this week.

There are a good amount of options I would go with before Leinert, but I guess if you are desperate......lol


What is Reggie Bush's contract with us?


I believe he signed a two year contract with us. I think for something like $5.2 mil....something along those lines.

yes 2 years. aprox 5 mil for R bush.

If Sparano gets axed, which if they win out maybe he stays. I am hoping for Grueden. Its a fact he got a lot out of his old/aging players in Oakland and TB. Imagine how he would create an offense for Bush and Marshall. His teams won games with Gannon and a SB with Johnson. Seriously he could make Matt Moore look like a hero.

and I spelled Gruden wrong. Oops.

You know what the difference is between Miami and Green Bay; everything!

I hope our next coach comes from McCarthy's staff.

The reasons why we have lost our early home field advantage are simple.

1. The stupid (Prick Satan) practice bubble.

2. Ross's dumb schedule request.

I'm hearing more and more rumblings about Andy Reid being let go after season is over. Hmmmm. The guys wins without premiere QBs, so what in the world will he do with a really good one (taking the leap that our draft QB will be up there)? I'm really starting to come around to this idea. Cowher won when Big Ben came into his own; Dungy couldn't buy a winning season w/out Manning; Belichik was fired from jobs w/out Brady. Fisher is another of a few that won with and without QB talent. Fisher and Reaid would be my tops, Cowher 3rd.

biggs 13,

I agree with your post as far as our readiness and conditioning, HOWEVER.

Our coaching has just sucked, specifically the O-line. and the choices of who is on the O-line.

Columbo has had one good game, every other game our QB is getting destroyed. could of had Mckinney. 3 years, and no gel at o-line=complete crap.

Even if we are 9-7 and make the playoffs by some fluke meltdown miracle. Unless we win a SB, I want a new coaching staff.

Andy Reid would be great. Imagine Marshall, bess, and bush in a west coast offense? And he grooms a young qb as well as anyone.

Thanks Craig and Poizen,

Glad to hear it wasn't just 1 year, I would like to keep him around right now

Craig, Schaub is done for the season.

Even if we went to the superbowl with Sparano I want him gone after the season. It will just be a fluke

The only way we go to a Superbowl w/ Sparano is if every team in the NFL (besides us)comes down with severe swine flu, and they hire the lingerie league girls to replace them. Even then we lose the SuperBowl 42-3.
New coach, new QB - job #1 next season, period.

Nothing good can come from winning games at this stage. Later pick, worse selection. If they woin too many, Sparano and that village idiot Ireland get to stay and further destroy us next year.

Also, I cannot believe how many people on the PBP and SS blogs are actually saying that Matt Moore has it and should be our future. OMG do these people know anything? I mean he is a very nice back up and I like his play better than Henne but the future at QB for Miami? Only if Sparano and Ireland are kept on.

I hear there are a couple of really nice Guards available for a top five pick. Arrgh.

To those here that are on disability income, or that your parents support you, and of course the "other$", please be considerate with us that have to spend time earning our $, so, write shorter posts. Please.

Dan, I'm grateful for your Reid insight. I don't know much about him besides his coaching style, and football history. Very well could be the reason he is going south this year. It could also be the Miaimi Heat syndrome: The players see themselves higher than the coach, and do it their way regardless of coaching. Vikings w/Favre same thing, but Chilly did suck as a coach.
I hear loads of grumblings that Gruden is a fraud, but I simply don't know what stock to place on that. Fisher, Cowher I guess. I'd like to know more about Reid's situation.

JS in LA,

I think Andy Reid will be done in Philly come the end of the year too. It will make it harder on the 'Phins to get Jeff Fisher to come to town. To me he'd be the perfect fit in Philly. I'm off the mindset that Reid could use some time off to recoup after 12 hard years coaching in Philly, but if he feels he'd still have the energy for the job entails I'd also be in favour of him coaching this team. Fisher is first on my list and assuming Cowher isn't interested, Reid would be my second choice. I said it before and chastised for it but I also wouldn't be surprised if Synder shows Shanahan the door if the 'Skins finish 4-12 or 5-11. It might allow them to get their QB but Synder's not a patient man. He won't care that there will still be three years left on Shanahan's contrct. If he feels like it he will rip up Shanahan's contract and start over. Synder is nothing, if not unpredicatable.

Bla,Bla,bla,bla..Bla blabla bla.


I'm hearing that too but I'm waiting for the Texans to come right out and say it before making a move. Apparently, he's getting lots of opinions on it. Doesn't sound good but I don't want to get burned by dropping him foolishly.

Mando, so how can we fix this? every year we know the slow start is coming, every year the bloggers try to remind those in charge of the previous year and NOT to start off slow AGAIN, it seems crazy, it's like, if we are aware of it, how could the coaches and players NOT be? do we need some kind of reminder, a billboard or poster in the tunnel so to be the very last thing the team sees before they hit the field. it doesn't seem to work for notre dame(play like a champion), but maybe it will work for the fins. GO FINS

I still can't escape the feeling!

All the planets are lining up. Buffalo's on a downward spiral and things are coming together for the Fins.

Christ, Fasano is playing like Jason Witten for God's Sake!

Dansby gets to call the defense and BLAMMO, he's instantly playing like the Dansby of old.

Sean Smith hasn't gotten burnt in two weeks and Davis sobered up long enough to get an INT!

I got an "Un-Peaceful - Un-Easy Feeling".

SpOrano's not even wasting timeouts(well, not as many)anymore!

I just can't get used to this worrying about winning! I can't even drink away this Ragtime Feeling".

I'm no Nostra-Homous, but I can see the future and it ain't pretty.

Fist Pumps 4 Ever!!!!

I still can't escape the feeling!

I'm Nostra-Homos.

Posted by: odinseye | November 16, 2011 at 02:15 PM

You'll escape the feeling once the batteries run out on your vibrator.

Um, Mando,

2 things:

first, there is no hidden secret as to why this team has started slow. It's because of the friggin' atmosphere in South Beach!!!!!!!!! Partying, night life, so much distractions down here, it's ALWAYS been like that. I'm 21 and can speak for myself.

second, playoffs are still a remote possibility. Houston lost matt schaub, matt leinarts a scrub, that team is headed for a fiery crash. Bills have been going down as well, and if miami beats them sunday, and the jets keep sliding down the chute, then we have a shot.

Your pessissimim truly defines you.

I've heard nothing about Shanahan being fired, but his blocking schemes are legendary, and makes any offense with a fair QB and RB great. Washington has no Qb, hence the problem. The only thing about Shanahan that worries me is he's a my-way-or-the-highway fellow, and if he doesn't have control over his GM partner, there could be a lot of in fighting. But hell yeah I'll take Shannahan.

second, playoffs are still a remote possibility. Houston lost matt schaub, matt leinarts a scrub, that team is headed for a fiery crash. Bills have been going down as well, and if miami beats them sunday, and the jets keep sliding down the chute, then we have a shot.

Your pessissimim truly defines you.

Posted by: ringels | November 16, 2011 at 02:22 PM

Playoffs? PLAYOFFS? You kidding me? Playoffs?

Hence why I said some meltdown miracle about making the playoffs.

I want Sparano gone. Jimmy Jam, I guess I agree with you on Moore. He has played well at times, he is by far not the answer. Henne is far better than Moore, if this team played this well around Henne we would be in a playoff race. We need to move on from both Henne and Moore. there are better matches for this team with a NEW coach, and hopefully a supportive fan base excited for the future.


You are a younster, so you don't know yet. Every major city in the country, including every one that has a football team, has all the same distractions - girls, girlie bars, partying, night life, and many towns outside the bigger cities are wilder because the laws often loosen up...for example more adventurous girlie bars then what you have right there...and more fun if you know what I mean... You'd be surprised...

second, playoffs are still a remote possibility. Houston lost matt schaub, matt leinarts a scrub, that team is headed for a fiery crash. Bills have been going down as well, and if miami beats them sunday, and the jets keep sliding down the chute, then we have a shot.

Your pessissimim truly defines you.

Posted by: ringels | November 16, 2011 at 02:22 PM

A shot, really? Miami is fighting for 3rd place. Playoffs have been a dream, even before the season started.

When you say Miami might have a shot that would mean Miami will have to finish with more wins than 2 of the potential Wildcard teams.

Ten/Houston, SD/Raiders, NYJ/NE/BUF or Pitt/Baltimore. Presently, 4 of those 7 already have us beat in head to head.

Saying Miami has a shot at a playoff run is the same as me saying I could be a millionaire someday if I ever decided to play the lottery.

Love the optimism though. Enjoy the potential playoff run!

I love girlie bars!

Looks like I missed a lot today. Let this be a lesson to all, watch out who's feelings you hurt, they may be a troll-in-waiting. Guess I have to watch my verbal beatdowns. I'm a cyber-bully, kinda exciting.

Sparano is an NFC-East guy, he comes from a division where you can struggle, then turn it up later and win the division or make the Playoffs with 9 wins. That doesn't work in the AFC. Here you need like 11 wins to get in. So you can't get too far back if you want to have a chance.

I miss the days when we were on top in Sept. & Oct. Sure, we fell back in Dec, but we were in it for 3 months every year. Now, we're lucky if we're in it for 3 weeks.

Just to add some perspective on our playoff picture:

Of 16 AFC teams, the fins are in sole possesion of 15th. Only the colts have a worse record (dirty rat bass-turds).

I think it's realism, not pessimism, that implies the fins miss the playoffs.

I'm pulling for 5 wins in the last 7 games.

Just because I want to be 7-9 for the 3rd straight season.

What's that definition of insanity that everyone likes to quote?

Here's your new season, same as the old season.


I stole your troll for like an hour today, you can have him back now

LOL Ohio. They're catchy, like a cold.

Blog Fodder, the people talking about Playoffs don't appreciate history. When's the last time an AFC team has gotten in the Playoffs (without winning the division) with 9 wins? Cause that's the best we can do this year. Remember '08, we won with 11 wins, NE, out with 11 wins, Jets out with 10-11 wins. Yet, somehow, we'll have a chance with 9 wins.

It's more than naive to think we could ever get in the Playoffs this year. The chances are mathmatically infintesimal.

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.

wolfman1313 | November 16, 2011 at 12:06 PM

Very good point about promoting position Coaches to the head job with no Coordinator experience. Other notables to make the leap Joe Bugel, Art Shell, Bill Callahan

LOL Ohio. They're catchy, like a cold.

Blog Fodder, the people talking about Playoffs don't appreciate history. When's the last time an AFC team has gotten in the Playoffs (without winning the division) with 9 wins? Cause that's the best we can do this year. Remember '08, we won with 11 wins, NE, out with 11 wins, Jets out with 10-11 wins. Yet, somehow, we'll have a chance with 9 wins.

It's more than naive to think we could ever get in the Playoffs this year. The chances are mathmatically infintesimal.

Posted by: DC Dolfan | November 16, 2011 at 03:02 PM

I think I just heard bubbles bursting in rapid succession.

DC & Blog Fodder

Besides looking at history, think about the games themselves. Even to hit 9 means literal perfection, and no room for error. Maybe if we were playing the Browns, Rams, and Redskins for the remainder of the season, but that's not the case.

I do appreciate the optimism though, I must say it is refreshing after a year of being down in the dumps

Misplaced optimism if you ask me Ohio.

I'm optimistic we can finally get a GM in here that will reel in the big fish (starting with a franchise QB). And a HC that can work with the players and develop an efficient system that can form an identity for this ballclub.

That's where our goals can be achieved. This team, while valiant, will only play one week in January.

Agreed. I'm still more excited for this off-season than the remainder of this season.

The past 2 weeks have been nice though. Maybe the few stars we have will stay now, and we can add more after January.


I can't believe you haven't "really" raised an eyebrow on something so brazen it can't be talked about in your profession.

Indy CAN NOT be this bad unless they are doing it on purpose. There is no way this team is that bad because of Peyton Manning.

Jeff Saturday acting like he can't block anymore. Everyone on the team is acting like they never played football before.

I think it might also be possible they are all ticked off with Peyton. This dude got 20 million dollars for nothing. Absolutely nothing. I think they paid Peyton off because Peyton has played his last snap. Peyton is not coming back and they paid him off so they didn't have to trade him.

He will retire once Indy drafts Luck. Not because he felt dissed but because that was his part of the bargain for that 20 million dollars he got.

DC, I'm not convinced Ireland will be following Sparano to the unemployment line.

He may stay until after the draft at least to aid the transition. Possibly remain GM. Will depend on if we hire a big name or a 1st timer.

Big name will want his own guy but will likely keep Ireland, at least until after the draft. Young candidate & Ireland may remain the GM.! Heaven help us!

Don't get too excited just yet!

Just WTH does 7 and 9 accomplish for this team beside the fact we lose out on another franchise QB. Dont worry we'll be back on our losing streak after the Bills game. :)

DC, Ohio,

We have yet to play the Eagles who will throw it up and down the field on us or two div. foes that will be in the thick of it and believing they can run the table to a title. You guys really think if this team were to by some miracle run the table that anybody in that Locker Room will believe they can go the distance?? It`s time for everybody to get real alot of these guys are basically playing for there collective futures. That is what is going on here nothing more and nothing less.

I don`t buy the perverbial hype that there doing anything for Sparano but themselves. It`s like people that say the passangers of flight 93 were fighting to save some landmark and what they did was incredible and there hero`s no doubt but if they could speak today I promise you to a man they wanted to get home to their families 1st and foremost before worring about the White House,it`s human nature we fight to preserve our lives, loved ones and money before were worring about some idiot HC that can`t get out of his own way. I can see them winning about 4 to 5 to close the year.

Before you say this team is back on track, they will have to beat a team with a winning record. Chiefs stink again & Washington lost 5 in a row now.

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