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71 posts from December 2011

December 21, 2011

Marshall, Fasano not practicing today

Receiver Brandon Marshall was on the field but not working with the rest of the team during the open portion of practice today. Marshall remained off to the side doing rehabilitation work.

Tight end Anthony Fasano also did not work today but he was not on the field at all. Fasano has been dealing with a ribs injury and coach Todd Bowles hinted Tuesday he would rest the player as it's more important to get him ready for Saturday rather than have him on Wednesday.

What kind of day is it in South Florida for a Dolphins practice?

Simply beautiful.

But don't take my word for it:

Today's Patriots a picture of yesterday's Dolphins

I am not going to predict the Dolphins will beat the Patriots this week. I made that mistake once already this season and got burned. No, I wasn't roasted as badly as the Dolphins secondary was in the regular-season opener. But I was definitely left hot under the collar.

So there's that.

The Patriots are a good team -- a very good team by any regular-season measure. But, you see, that's it. They're a good team by regular-season measures. They are 11-3 and the AFC East champions once again, but the problem for them is that's not enough.

The folks up in New England think differently than Dolphins fans do. They think Super Bowl. They measure the success of a season by how close the team comes to winning it all, not how close the team comes to being .500. They view their Patriots as perennial title contenders.

NOTE: The NFL has announced running back Reggie Bush has been named the AFC offensive player of the week. I tweeted this minutes ago. If you wish to get the latest information on the Dolphins from me via twitter, kindly follow me.

I view their Patriots much the same way I view the early 1990s Dolphins. The Pats have Tom Brady. Those long-ago Dolphins had Dan Marino. The Patriots have a nice complement of wide receivers and tight ends. So did those Dolphins. The Patriots have a bottom-third running game. So did those Dolphins.

The Patriots defense is not championship caliber. And neither was Miami's back in the day.

The Patriots will get in the playoffs as long as Brady is Brady. And that's what the Dolphins did with Marino.

But lately that hasn't been enough because playoff football is different. Playoff football requires some playmaking on defense. Playoff football means you sometimes have to turn to something other than your strength -- such as a running game or some significant stops on defense -- to overcome those moments when the other really good team takes away your strength.

The old-time Dolphins didn't have that other thing. And neither do these Patriots.

None of this means the Dolphins will beat the Patriots on Sunday. Miami simply isn't on the same level as New England. But if I'm right, this is what it all means:

The Patriots will probably run into a more complete team in the postseason and all their regular-season noise-making will be muted by the filter of the tournament. Then, eventually, Tom Brady will begin his decline. Perhaps it'll come gradually at first and faster as the years pile up. But it will come.

And there, again, today's Patriots will be like the Dolphins of yesteryear -- hoping the next quarterback or one of the next ten quarterbacks can live up to the work Brady did.

December 20, 2011

Name change on horizon for Sun Life Stadium

It is only a matter of time before the stadium the Miami Dolphins call home is called by yet another name.

Sun Life Stadium will be no more within three years industry sources are saying because Sun Life Financial, the parent company behind the naming rights to the stadium, announced last week it was pulling up stakes in the United States.

The Canadian company is retreating from two staples of its U.S operation, according to various news reports, because it has been stung by the dark economic outlook and unpredictable market volatility that has made it difficult to sustain the traditional life insurance model.

After a strategic review by new CEO Dean Connor, Sun Life says it will no longer sell life insurance and variable-rate annuities in the U.S. The company is expected to turn its sights toward Asia.

And that means that in three years when the naming rights agreement between the Dolphins and the financial giant expires, the name Sun Life will come off the stadium the Dolphins call home.

A Dolphins spokesman was unavailable for comment.

The Dolphins are expected to begin a search for a new naming rights partner in the very near future.

This isn't really a new thing for the stadium where Miami plays. Originally it was called Dolphins Stadium, then it was renamed Joe Robbie Stadium in a 1986 announcement by the Robbie children to honor their father, the Dolphins original owner.

In 1996 Pro Player, a division of Fruit of the Loom, took over sponsorship naming rights. Pro Player Apparel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1999 but before the name came off in 2001, the facility was also renamed Pro Player Park.

Then came Dolphins Stadium. Then came Dolphin Stadium. Then from May 2009 to January 2010 the name was changed to Land Shark Stadium, after the beer. Sun Life Financial came on the scene in 2010 when the company tried its now-failed expansion in the United States.

Sun Life and the Dolphins signed a five-year agreement at the time and that deal is two years old. Three years remain.When that time elapses the stadium known more for its name changes than actual names will change names.

Again.

The dual assault on Dan Marino's season yards record

The same week the Dolphins' legacy fended off an assault on the franchise's most treasured mark ever -- the perfect season -- with the loss by the last undefeated team of the year, there is another mark that is very much at risk.

In 1984, fresh-faced quarterback Dan Marino proved just how deadly prolific he could be when he threw for an NFL record 5,084 yards in a single season.

Now, 27 seasons later, not one but two quarterbacks are within reach of breaking that record.

Drew Brees has thrown for 4,780 yards so far this season. With two games to play he needs only 305 passing yards to break Marino's mark.

Tom Brady has thrown for 4,593 passing yards. He needs only 492 yards the final two games of the season to surpass Marino. As it currently stands, Brady is on pace to finish with 5,094 yards.

On the Brady front, the Dolphins can do something to slow him down and that would be fitting because they turbocharged his reach for the record in the season opener when Brady lit up the Miami defense for 517 yards.

That season-opening fiasco against Brady put the Miami pass defense in a tremendous hole. It made them the 32nd ranked pass defense for nearly a month. They have since climbed out of the hole but aren't exactly considered impenetrable. The Dolphins are today 25th in the NFL against the pass, having allowed 3,466 passing yards or 248 passing yards per game.

So the cause of not allowing Brady to surpass Marino's and avenging that earlier embarrassment is one the Dolphins might like to take up.

(Sidenote: This year it has felt like the Miami pass defense is better than last year. The Dolphins certainly have more interceptions as the 11 since the Nov. 6 game at K.C. are the most in the AFC. Coaches are also more satisfied with the relatively low number of chuck plays yielded. But the fact is this last year's pass defense was No. 8 in the NFL. Miami gave up only 209 passing yards per game in 2010. So much for how things feel.)

Me? I wish the Dolphins wouldn't play so much zone. Their cornerbacks -- Vontae Davis and Sean Smith seem more comfortable playing man in general and man-press in particular. Yet coaches continue to defer to the zone and it has been toasted at times -- as in the fourth quarter against Buffalo last week.

But I digress.

As to the pass record, the Dolphins can't do anything about Brees trying to rewrite the record. Miami doesn't play New Orleans this season and obviously not in the final two games.

And no ... I am not going to mention that Brees might have been a Dolphin. That's been written a couple of times already.

December 19, 2011

All things Jeff Ireland following Sunday's victory

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- During yesterday's Dolphins victory in this hazy, cold town, I conducted an unscientific survey of my twitter followers (please follow me, if you aren't already).

I asked if people have confidence in owner Stephen Ross making a good head coach hire. It's a yes or no question. I also asked if people people have confidence general manager Jeff Ireland will make the right call on finding the Dolphins a franchise-caliber quarterback this offseason, another yes or no question.

Neither fared well. And, believe it or not, Ross fared better than Ireland.

Within the span of 30 minutes, 46 people answered "no," to the question Ross would get it right on the coach hire. Thirteen (13) peope said "yes," he would get it right. One person answered, "Hell no!" that Ross would not get it right. So not much confidence in Ross.

It was worse for Ireland.

Forty-one people said no, they have no confidence in Ireland getting the QB pick right. Eight said, "yes," Ireland would get the QB issue right. And five people said, "Hell no!" Ireland has no chance of getting it right.

So 49 of 54 respondents have zero confidence in Ireland.

I told Ireland after the game that folks simply don't have much confidence in him. He was somewhat surprised, asking me what people? Fans, I answered.

I tried to convince Ireland to speak to me, and thus to you, after the game. He declined. But I wrote about him and his situation in today's Miami Herald nonetheless.

Simply, Ireland is in a no-win situation right now. Most folks don't dig him too much. And, as I wrote, it doesn't seem to matter to those folks that Ireland picked Matt Moore and he's worked out. It doesn't matter that Ireland picked Reggie Bush and tha he has also worked out.

But, as I wrote in my column, the guy whose opinion of Ireland really matters is Ross. And I tell you in the column what Ross thinks of his GM. I also tell you what Ireland's exact role in the looming coach search is and how far along that search currently stands. I also tell you about the caveat that might get Ireland fired despite Ross claims that he is safe for 2012.

I have news for you on what the Dolphins think of their chances to get Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden. And I tell you why I believe Jeff Fisher is today -- even without an interview -- the leading candidate to get the Dolphins job. I also tell you who will lead the coach search -- no, not Ireland.

Please read the column.

But I must warn you if you are anti-Ireland: The column makes the point that however you feel about him now, you will definitely change your mind if the Dolphins get the right quarterback in the offseason. It is what it is. You folks are fans. And fans are a fickle what-have-you-done for me lately bunch.

Ireland gets the QB call right as a GM, he is going to be in a win-win situation for a long time. 

December 18, 2011

Dolphins beat Buffalo to escape AFC East cellar

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Dolphins are no longer the worst team in the AFC East. Well, they're tied with the Buffalo Bills, both with 5-9 records. But the Dolphins have swept the Bills so they are effectively ahead of the Bills.

Hey, you take every smidge of good news with the 2011 Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins beat the Bills 30-23 today.

This is good: Todd Bowles got his first career head coaching victory.

This is good: Reggie Bush rushed for 203 yards and became the third person in franchise history to gain over 200 yards rushing in a game for Miami. It marked only the fourth time it happened in team history. (Ricky Williams did it twice, Lamar Smith did it once.)

This is good, too: Matt Moore played well Sunday despite suffering a mild concussion last week. He only completed 50 percent of his passes but threw two TDs, without an interception.

This was bad: Brandon Marshall dropped two TD passes. That left Miami to settle for field goals and thus make a clearly easy victory into a nail-biter.

This was bad: Marc Colombo gave up a strip sack that resulted in a Matt Moore fumble.

This was good: The Green Bay Packers lost today. Yes, the Dolphins remain the only franchise with a team that finished the season undefeated.

This was bad: The Dolphins have to, at some point, man up on defense. The zone defense simply shows its wear after a while. Seems to me Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are better suited for man coverage.

And then this: The Dolphins did not allow the Bills to convert a third down play this season. Buffalo was 0-for-12 in Miami.they were 0-for-11 today. Wow!

Dolphins lead Bills 20-7 to start fourth quarter

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- We've seen good Brandon Marshall -- as in when he caught a 65-yard TD pass from Matt Moore.

And we've seen bad Brandon Marsall as in when he dropped two TDs and fumbled away another catch.

The Dolphins nonetheless continue to lead this game because Ryan Fitzpatrick has been horrible -- inaccurate, throwing into double coverage, running into sacks. The fact Reggie Bush is over the 100-yard mark for the sixth time this season also has been huge.

So the Dolphins lead 20-7. Can thy hold it? Join me in the comments section and let's see.

Dolphins lead Bills 13-7 to start third quarter

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- The Dolphins have been in the red zone three times today and have failed to score a touchdown in any of those trips.

Brandon Marshall has dropped two potential TD passes to hurt Miami's chances of getting more points. Nonetheless, the Dolphins defense is playing well enough to make up for the issues.

The Bills have only 7 first downs and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has a 57.3 NFL passer rating so far.

So Miami leads 13-7 to start the third quarter. And the live blog continues in the comments section. See you there.

Dolphins and Bills tied 7-7 in the second quarter

ORCHARD PARK NY -- The Miami defense is having a hard time tackling. Really hard.

And that's one reason C.J. Spiller went 24 yards for the only touchdown so far today.

The Dolphins haven't been able to do much damage on the ground, something they expected to do. But they did get big 30-yard pass play from Matt Moore to Charles Clay as the first quarter ended.

They're in field goal range. Let's see how that goes.

The live blog rolls in the comments section. Meet me there.

[Update: Matt Moore completed a 22-yard TD to a wide open Anthony Fasano on the first play of the second quarter. Tied game.

Jake Long out; live blog in for Dolphins vs. Bills

ORCHARD PARK, NY -- Jake Long is inactive for today's game versus Buffalo. It will make the first game of his career he misses after 61 consecutive starts. Long has been nursing a back injury.

The Dolphins did not announce who will start in Long's absence but John Jerry took most of the snaps at the position during practice during the week.

The other inactives are Steve Slaton, Koa Misi, Will Barker, Ray Feinga, Jeron Mastrud and Ryan Baker.

QB Matt Moore, who suffered a lisght concussion in last week's game against Philadelphia, is active. He was out working with his receivers on the field earlier today. He starts.

I would not be surprised if both Moore and JP Losman play here today. Just a hunch.

Also, TE Anthony Fasano, who had sore ribs all week, also will start for Miami.

As to the live blog, it's absolutely active and ready for the start of today's game. We're rocking the live stuff in the comments section. See you there.

The looming decisions facing the Dolphins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Brrrrr! It's cold up in here although it is a beatiful day in western New York.

Before we start today and well before we get to the live blog at kickoff, I present to you my Sunday column that tries to strike an optimistic chord for those optimists among you that see Miami's looming search for a coach, quarterback and football operations czar something positive.

Sure, there's a negative way to look at this. The Dolphins have to search for a coach, quarterback and may hire a football czar because, as the column notes, previous searches have failed.

But that does change the fact this coming search presents opportunities. Don't you agree?

The column does not cover this question: Do you believe in the current ownership to find the right coach and right football czar? Do you believe in the current personnel department to identify and draft the right quarterback, regardless of what moves need to be made to do that?

I do say this, in the column: If how they fired Tony Sparano and promoted Todd Bowles is an indication how this is going to go, that is not a good sign. Read how it happened and tell me what you think.

And, of course, I will be here for you for the live blog. See you in the comments section.

December 16, 2011

How enticing is the Dolphins coaching job?

When this season is over there may be no less than seven, and as many as 12 head coach vacancies to fill in the NFL.

Think about this: Every team in the state of Florida might be searching for a new head coach.

And while different teams will use different criteria to fill their vacancies -- the Dolphins want a big-name star while Jacksonville is going to go young and cheaper -- there simply aren't enough good head coach candidates to go around to fill as many as a dozen openings.

That means, on some level and at some point, there will be competition for the top talent.

That also means the scale that usually tips in the organization's favor as it judges candidates might tip more evenly toward candidates who thus get the luxury of judging competing organizations. In other words, sometimes the scarcity of great candidates allows them to put the organizaton on trial as they choose rather than being chosen.

This offseason might offer that kind of climate.

And that means the Dolphins coach-searching organization could be judged against other coach-seeking organizations. So how strong is the case for the Dolphins organization? How attractive is the Miami job? How prepared is Miami to compete for the coach it wants against similar organizations that might be hunting the same coaches?

To weigh this first we have to understand which teams might be seeking coaches. I have a list that is compartmentalized into two divisions -- the almost certainly will have a vacancy division, and the possibly will also have a vacancy division.

The almost certainly will have a vacancy division: Miami, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Indianapolis, San Diego.

The might also have a vacancy division: Dallas, Washington, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Chicago.

Let me say the Dolphins better hope none of the teams in the latter division have a vacancy because all those jobs, except for Minnesota, are better jobs than the one in Miami. Dallas has a more talented roster than Miami and at least you know the structure and whom you're dealing with as a coach. Washington plays in front of a sold-out stadium, the owner is something of a meddler but less than he used to be, and he's still willing to spend tons of money. Philadelphia has a great owner, good personnel people and better talent than Miami. Chicago has hands-off ownership that is willing to spend without over-spending and the talent is better than in Miami.

Those clubs -- all of them -- would be in the market for the kind of coach the Dolphins are searching for if they fire their coaches. They'd be buying their next coach at Tiffany's as surely as the Dolphins are.

Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and St. Louis would more likely be shopping at K-Mart. San Diego and Indianapolis would probably find themselves somewhere in between.

So let's eliminate the teams in the last paragraph because, let's face it, the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't going to pay the $7-$10 milion per season it would take to get a Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Jeff Fisher or Brian Billick.

Let's concentrate on Dallas, Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago. My take is the Dolphins cannot offer a better job than any of those franchises. Like it or not, all of those franchises are more stable than Miami -- yes, even Washington, which tells you something about Miami's stability.

None of those franchises have the obvious and dysfunctional divide between the football side and business side that the Dolphins currently suffer.

None of those franchises have inexperienced owners and the Dolphins do.

Three out of four of those franchises have stable quarterback situations. None have elite quarterbacks, but Jay Cutler, Tony Romo and Michael Vick are plenty attractive to a big-name coach that wants to compete as quickly as possible. The Dolphins obviously have had the NFL's most unstable quarterback situation the past decade. (The weight of that truth really hit me when I typed that last sentence).

Simply, if I'm an elite coach and the Philly job and the Miami job get offered to me, I go to Philly before Miami. I also go to Dallas, Chicago and even Washington. Washington owner Dan Snyder, by the way, is not considered a great owner. But his major failing -- meddling -- is also something of a blessing. He wants to spend money. He wants to push the envelope on attacking the draft.

He's not a bad owner in that he's interviewing coaches behind his current coach's back. And again, the Redskins enjoy a much better home-field experience than the Dolphins. They sell out. They do not celebrate the other team's quarterback with a special day for his university. And, most importantly, there would be the opportunity for the new coach to pick and choose his own personnel people to work with when he enters the organization.

The Dolphins lose on all those counts to a team with as bad a public perception as the Redskins. Amazing, isn't it?

The Miami job does have advantages and is better than other jobs that are currently out there or might be on several front. Miami is better than Jacksonville. Miami is better than Tampa Bay in that Stephen Ross is willing to spend money while the Glazers are not so inclined. The Miami job is better and more stable than say, Minnesota, because there is no current threat to move the Dolphins.

But when it comes to a comparison with San Diego, Indianapolis, Kansas City and even St. Louis, I'm not absolutely certain one can say the Miami job is way better.

San Diego and St. Louis have quarterbacks. Miami does not. Miami has a better roster than St. Louis but not better than San Diego. Indianapolis has a great general manager in Bill Polian who has constructed Super Bowl teams in Buffalo, Carolina and Indy. Miami does not. Indy also has the first pick in the draft. Miami does not. The Dolphins, however, have a better salary cap situation.

Kansas City also has a quarterback, although Matt Cassel is not elite. Again, Miami does not. The Chiefs coach must tie himself to GM Scott Pioli. I like Scott. He's a bright man. And, like him or not, he helped build the Super Bowl teams in New England. So again, the Chiefs offer a GM whose done Super Bowl-caliber work while Miami does not.

I am not saying the Dolphins cannot compete with the other franchises that have openings or are likely to have openings. I am saying this:

The Dolphins fancy themselves as having an elite job opening. And they truly do offer an opportunity for a top-flight coaching talent that Jacksonville and Tampa Bay and some other teams cannot compete with. The fact Ross is willing to pay handsomely for his coach is testament to that.

But the truth also is the Dolphins job also comes with some warts: There is not franchise quarterback on the roster. The general manager is unproven. The owner is still learning on the job. There is not any significant home field advantage in that the stadium isn't full of passionate fans every home game -- indeed opposing fans often number in large quantities. And there is a divide between football operations and the business side of the franchise.

Yes, the lure of huge money can mask those issues for a big-name coach. But if another club is also offering gobs of cash, those are issues coaches weigh before they make a final decision.

December 15, 2011

Matt Moore ready, set to start vs Buffalo

Matt Moore was back at practice today. (So was LT Jake Long, but that's not the point of this post).

The point is with Moore back at practice and a majority of the repetitions with the first team at practice, a source said he has been cleared of his concussion-like symptoms and he will start for the Dolphins versus the Bills Sunday. Moore is obviously under that impression because he said he expects to start Sunday.

So that is what we should expect will happen.

Moore addressed the media today after practice. This is what he said:

(On how do you feel) - “I feel good. Had a couple days off, feel good.”

(On how did the testing go yesterday) - “Everything went well. I’m sure you guys can talk to the medical staff or head coaches. They’ll have more for you.”

(On how did you feel during practice today) - “It felt good, nice to get back in and get reps, get ready for Buffalo. We got a big stretch here the last three games and so we just got to be ready to go.”

(On how did you feel after the game) - “A little banged up obviously but feeling good now and that’s the most important thing and we’re moving forward.”

(On starting Sunday if available) - “Yeah, absolutely no doubt, if I’m ready to go I’m excited for the opportunity.”

(On if you were diagnosed with a concussion) - “(The) medical staff can answer that for you.”

(On who took the most reps today) - “I took most of them. Both of us got reps, but I took a lot of reps.”

(On going through the sideline procedures with concussions) - “Yeah, they did they’re standard protocol if you will. So I went through all that yeah.”

(On ever having a concussion before) - “I have. Last year, week one.”

(On that being your first concussion as far as you know) - “Yeah.”

(On keeping your helmet on during the game, did you think you’ll be able to re-enter the game) - “Yeah, just feeling out the situation. As it turned out I didn’t go back in, but it was just gathering myself afterwards.”

(On hearing Todd Bowles voice today) - “It was different obviously. I guess that’s the way the business is. Tons of respect for Coach (Tony) Sparano and he’ll do fine whatever he does, but yeah, absolutely a little different. Guys are getting use to it, but it’s been good moving forward.”

What if Todd Bowles turns out to be a revelation?

There is only one candidate to replace Tony Sparano that we know will absolutely, positively interview for the job: Todd Bowles.

Bowles, 48, will coach the Dolphins in the final three games of the regular season as their interim coach. He has been told he will interview for the opening once the season is over and that makes sense because he is black and that meeting will fulfill the Dolphins' Rooney Rule requirement. (That may sound cold, but the NFL is a cold business.)

That is not to suggest Bowles is not worthy of the interview.

The truth is Bowles has already interviewed for three NFL head coaching jobs -- in Detroit, Kansas City and Denver. And, according to one NFL source, Bowles came very, very close to getting the Detroit job that eventually went to Jim Schwartz.

Detroit General Manager Martin Mayhew loves and believes in Bowles. The two played for the Washington Redskins together in the 1980s and early 90s.

Bowles is also a guy that former Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells believes will eventually make a good football coach. So there's that.

All that, of course, will have very little sway in whether Bowles gets a legitimate opportunity to land the job after the season. You must understand that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is intent on hiring a big-name candidate to fill the post.

But ...

What if Bowles wins this week at Buffalo? And then wins next week at New England? And finishes undefeated with a season-finale victory over the Jets?

I know, I know, it's improbable. But that's precisely my point ... what if the improbable happens?

Suddenly you have a coach on your hands that took over a terrible (4-9) team and made them perfect. You have a coach who went into games against division opponents that had a 2-1 record against the Dolphins earlier in the season and gives you a 3-0 return. You have a coach that beats Bill Belichick. You have a coach that throws a wrench into the Jets' playoff run.

You have a hot coach candidate, no?

I am not saying the Dolphins will actually be able to raise their game for Bowles to the level of being able to win out. Even if they accomplish the feat, Bowles would remain a second-tier choice for Miami.

But would that be correct? What if the Dolphins have the next big thing in coaching right under their noses and don't know it?

Discuss ...

What Dan Marino REALLY said on his podcast

Yesterday I shared with you Dan Marino's take on Bill Cowher and the quote he gave dolphins.com relative to whether Bill Cowher would be coming back to coaching or not.

The folks at the website made the media aware of the quote on their podcast through emails. They included the podcast link and a transcript of the pertinent quote from Marino that gave strong indication Cowher is to be believed he's not coaching in 2012 and that Marino thus believes his CBS collegue.

This is part of that transcript sent over by the folks at dolphins.com that was of most interest. Marinno is speaking of Cowher here:

"... I don't think his mindset is that he wants to coach again. And he may change that over time but my feeling is that he's a pretty straightforward guy that tells the truth all the time and he said on TV that he doesn't have any plans to come back (to Coach) and I believe him."

Great. So Marino says Cowher is an honest guy and so he believes he won't coach.

Except that's not what Marino actually said. I listened to the podcast this morning. And this is what Marino actually said:

"... I don't think his mindset is that he wants to coach again. And he may change that over, you know, time now but my feeling is that he's a pretty straightforward, you know, guy that tells a kind of the truth most of the time, I would say, or all the time, and he said on TV that he doesn't have any plans to come back and I believe him."

Not a huge deal, but believing a person who tells the truth all the time is a lot easier than believing a guy who tells a kind of truth most of the time.

I wanted to correct the record because a couple of you who listened to the podcast noticed the difference between what Marino said and the transcript and pointed out.

Does that mean Cowher will coach in 2012? Not necessarily. Does it mean he will coach the Dolphins? I keep hearing from people in NFL circles that he will not.

But what Marino actually said leaves wiggle room that the transcript didn't.

Todd Bowles in his own words

Todd Bowles held his first press conference as the Dolphins interim coach today.

This is everything he said:

(On how he moves forward from now after being named the head coach under these circumstances)- “I don’t think you can get a head job on a 14-2 team so the circumstances are different. Me and Coach (Tony) Sparano are extremely tight. Moving forward we have a tough team. We’ve been in every ball game as far as that is concerned. We need to make sure we finish that way. There are no playoffs to look forward to but we have three AFC East division rivals. We’re going to come out and play hard, play smart and try to win the last three.”

(On what it was like when he got the news that he would be taking over the head coaching job from his friend)- “He called me in. I didn’t hear it from anybody but him first. He told me the news and I was shocked initially. Me and Coach Sparano go way back even from the Dallas days. About six or seven years we’ve been together. We both know this is a high performance business and we understand the risk going in. We’ll still continue to be very good friends. I’ll try to finish what he started.”

(On how he addressed the team today knowing that some were disappointed by the news)- “As we all were. We’ve told them to send out their condolences and talk to Coach Sparano. He’s done a lot for everybody including myself. It’s a business. It’s like players leave, coaches leave and we got to continue on that way. We take body blows and we’ll move on.”

(On what he can show in this league)- “We have three games left. It’s not really about me. It’s just trying to keep the team afloat and making sure everybody plays hard and try to win three ball games. I’m a coach; I understand the conversations and the businesses very well. Whatever happens to me after that happens.”

(On what today was like for him running practice for the first time)- “Normally I know most of these guys from a defensive standpoint and the offensive skill people. But addressing the guys today felt in front of a big room it’s not really a big deal. We speak in front of the defensive room all the time. Addressing the situation and then getting them ready to go out to practice. I think the guys are positive. The captains responded. I thought everything went good.”

(On his message about the last three games)- “Just that we’ve been a mentally tough team, we’ve been a resilient team and we’re going to try to finish that way. Everybody is auditioning as they do every year whether the coach stays or goes. Everybody is professional, everybody has a job to do and we’re going to continue to do it that way.”

(On his coaching philosophy and what he expects out of the players)- “I expect them to play hard. I expect them to be tough. This late in the season it’s 13 weeks you’re not going to instill a different coaching philosophy but three weeks left in the season. We have a pretty good thing going in. Just going to play smarter, play together and try to play cohesive football and try to win a ball game.”

(On how important it is to separate himself in these games as a head coach)- “I don’t think it’s about separating myself. I just think it’s just about winning football games. Believe me this is not about me. I don’t stand up here… I’m not trying to be Don Shula. I’m trying to win football games. We have guys in place to win football games. I just have to make sure I manage the game smartly.”

(On Jared Odrick saying he is sarcastic in a detail oriented way)- “I’m extremely sarcastic in a joking kind of way sometimes in a professional kind of way. But I get my point across. We have a great understanding as far as what I expect from them and what they expect from me. I expect everybody to do their job and sometimes you needle people here and there as we do on the field all the time. I think they just take it that way.”

(On his personality compared to Tony Sparano)- “I think the message is the same. The approach may be different. Just hearing it from a new voice I think is the main thing. I think the coaching will be pretty much the same coming from me coming from a defensive side of the ball as opposed to coming from him with an offensive mind and being an offensive line. I’m more of a defensive back/defensive coach on that side of the ball. But the message is the same. We got to win.”

(On the Bruce Springsteen Christmas song at practice)- “No it wasn’t mine. We have offensive and defensive guys pick songs each week. Today was the offensive side. That was Jake Long’s Bruce Springsteen song. That may change next week (laughing).”

(On Matt Moore and if he had a minor concussion)- “No, he has a head and neck injury He’s taking tests right now. When he gets back and the training room gets back to me, we’ll evaluate that later and I can better tell you at that time.”

(On who took the majority snaps at practice today)- “J.P. Losman took some and (Pat) Devlin took some.”

(On new coach and possibly new quarterback and how it raises the degree of difficulty)- “I don’t think it raises the degree of difficulty. If you look around the league there is a lot of injured quarterbacks right now. People have to step in. J.P. (Losman) has been around for awhile. He understands what we’re asking him to do and understands the game. We’ll just try to make sure that (we give him) the game plan that he can work with.”

(On being soft spoken)- “You don’t have to change anything. When you have a head coach you have one voice. Assistants just normally have their loom and their positions. I can speak louder when need be and I have. It’s not really a big change for me. When you’re a defensive back coach you deal with the wide receivers most of the time as well as the linebackers and (defensive) line. Some of the guys you know but they don’t really get a chance to see your personality. These next three weeks they’ll see it.”

(On also described as hard-nosed and straight forward)- “I’m probably more fundamental and technique sound. I’m hard on my guys at a position. Now that I have everybody I’ll be hard on them. They know what they expect from me. I know what to expect from them. You see guys work and you have a trust in them. They have a trust in me. At this point in the year we’re not fooling anybody so we’ll continue to go out and do what we’ve been doing.”

(On Coach Sparano not being in his office)- “It’s a little strange. It’s a little weird but it comes with the job. Big office, big shoes, big chair to fill.”

(On if Tony Sparano Jr. is still on the staff)- “Yes he is.”

(On if he was surprised that he was named interim coach with former head coach like Mike Nolan on the staff)- “We have a few people on the staff that were capable of the job including Mike Nolan, Karl Dorrell, Brian Daboll as well as a couple assistants that haven’t been named. It could have gone to anybody. I’m just thankful to have this opportunity. Coach Sparano trusted me and Jeff Ireland trusted me and Mr. Ross trusted me.”

December 14, 2011

Recap of Dolphins day 1TB

Today was Day One of the Todd Bowles era.

Why do I have this strange feeling of deja vu? Oh, yeah, Jim Bates!

Anyway, Bowles learned that he was taking over the team from Tony Sparano. Bowles said Sparano called him in and said he'd been fired and that Bowles was taking over on an interim basis. That's how Bowles found out.

Seems odd, no?

You'd think Stephen Ross might have broken the news to Bowles. Or general manager Jeff Ireland.

Anyway, for a a couple of hours Bowles says he felt a bit overwhelmed until he got his head around the notion that every great coach in NFL history had a first meeting, a first week of preparation, a first game. "Once I settled that, it all kind of slowed down for me," Bowles said.

And once it slowed down, it was tiime to hit the ground running. In his first meeting in front of the entire team Bowles told the players to give Sparano and call or text and encourage the former coach. He told players "everyone is being evaluated."

How true. Bowles is being evaluated by everyone in the NFL, not just the Dolphins. "I'm not trying to be Don Shula," Bowles said. "I'm trying to win football games."

And the players better get comfortable with the idea that a new sherrif is coming to town next season so they better ride straight the final three games this year if they plan to be around.

The Dolphins travel to Buffalo and it is quite possible J.P. Losman will be starting against his old team because Matt Moore missed practice with a head/neck injury. Bowles said Moore does not have a concussion but added that more tests are pending.

Jake Long (back) and Koa Misi (shoulder) also missed practice today. John Jerry worked in at starting left tackle in Long's absence. What of Nate Garner, you ask? He played for Long last week and yielded three sacks. Enough said.

Garner is a fine swing player. He's a natural guard whom the Dolphins can force in there at right tackle in a  pinch. But he's not a left tackle. Just isn't. I'm not certain Jerry is a left tackle, either. But not too many of those are on the market right now.

I've advocated the Dolphins move Vernon Carey back to left tackle but Carey is still hobbled by an ankle injury, which kept him limited in practice. So there goes that idea. Yeremiah Bell (foot) and Anthony Fasano (ribs) were also limited in today's practice.

Losman said he and Pat Devlin shared first-team snaps today.

Follow me on twitter please.

Marino says Cowher doesn't want to coach; Miles spokesman says no interest in Dolphins

Dan Marino and Bill Cowher work together -- every weekend on the CBS pregame show.

Marino is also a Pittsburgh guy and Cowher is a former Pittsburgh coach who can be considered an adopted Pittsburgh guy. So one would think Dan Marino has some insight as to what Bill Cowher is about.

And Marino doesn't think Cowher is about coaching again anytime soon -- not with the Dolphins, not with anyone.

"I would love to see him be the Dolphins coach or if he wanted to coach again because that would be great for the NFL," Marino said on a 13-minute podcast at Dolphins.com, "but I don't think his mindset is that he wants to coach again. And he may change that over time but my feeling is that he's a pretty straightforward guy that tells the truth all the time and he said on TV that he doesn't have any plans to come back [to coach] and I believe him."

This apparently is the common thinking among NFL people. I reported to you earlier that an astute NFL man told me it is commonly known in NFL circles Cowher isn't going to coach the Dolphins. I've heard this also from a source who speaks with Cowher's people.

So the case continues to build against Cowher being the Miami coach. It is also building against Les Miles, if his spokesman can be believed. Following reports that Miles would be among the candidates the Dolphins might consider based on his ties to the NFL, a wildly successful program at Louisiana State, and the fact he's a Michigan man like Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Miles has been linked to the Dolphins job.

But Gannett Newspapers is reporting that Miles had a message for reporters asking about his interest in the job.

"He wanted everyone to know that he is not interested in the Miami job," LSU sports information director Michael Bonnette said Wednesday after speaking to Miles. "He said he is full steam ahead for the national championship and not interested in any other job."

It must be notes Miles is a veteran of playing the media game. Notice he didn't say anything. And notice he said he'd never be interested in the job. Miles has parsed words previously when he negotiated with Michigan and other programs before ultimately staying at LSU.

But for now, Miles is out. For now.

Breaking down the coaching possibilities

Stephen Ross said the Dolphins are "open to everything" in their search for a new head coach.

"I'd like to find a young Don Shula if that's possible," he said.

Then during the next 14 minutes the Dolphins owner and general manager Jeff Ireland, who will help conduct the search, said they're looking for someone "with experience," someone who is a head coach but not necessarily someone who wants control or final say on personnel matters, and obviously someone who can work with Ireland.

Hmmm. That limits the field more than you might guess, assuming Ross and Ireland can be believed.

Anyway, let's look at some of the certain candidates, possible candidates, and some candidates that are already eliminated:

1. Bill Cowher: I dont see it. He's not going to coach the Miami Dolphins. I spent 40 minutes on the phone with a very plugged-in NFL man today and he tells me there is no way Cowher comes to the Dolphins. Not a fit. Cowher wants to walk into the perfect situation -- which the Dolphins definitely are not -- and he is willing to wait for that situation. Is he great motivator? No doubt. Keith Sims said on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, today that Cowher was the coach of the AFC team one year he was in the Pro Bowl. Sims said Cowher gave a pregame speech that had the entire squad wanting to play hard. In the Pro Bowl! But he has been out of the game for several years now and one might question his desire to start from the ground up with a team that isn't playoff-ready. I would say this, his philosophy on defense matches the Dolphins 3-4 scheme. But he's a longshot, at best.

2. Jon Gruden: A big name. An offensive mind. He's won the Super Bowl so he knows how to do it. Having said that, he has a reputation of being hard to work with. He has reputation for never being satisfied. That's one reason he always had a dozen quarterbacks in camp but never a truly great one. He likes to think of himself as something of a mastermind. He does know how to push people's buttons and motivate. He might eventually want to get back in the game. But, again, it would have to be the perfect situation. The Dolphins don't seem to be a perfect situation, folks.

3. Brian Billick: I like this possibility. He is offensive minded. He can adjust -- as he did with the Ravens in that he allowed that amazing defense to dictate and dominate the personna of the team. He has a reputation for being able to work with QBs. He hasnt coached in four seasons, since 2007, and one has to wonder why? He's only 57 years old so it's not like he's too old for the game. I don't worry that he hasn't been hired since his last job, I wonder why he hasn't even been considered? Billick has three losing seasons while with the Baltimore Ravens. His last losing season was 2007 when the team went 5-11 and were beaten by the Dolphins for the only victory that team enjoyed all year. I remember that Billick played it safe and decided not to go for a potential game-winning TD on fourth-and-goal from the 1 yard line, opting instead to tie the game with a field goal. The Ravens lost the game in overtime. Not exactly Billick's finest hour.

4. Jeff Fisher: I know, I know, he had only six winning seasons in 17 years. He only had six losing seasons in 17 years as well. He is, what I would call, a solid, solid coach. He's not a genius, but he is very bright. He knows how to motivate. His defenses play with passion, although he like the 4-3 instead of the 3-4 so that might require the retooling of current personnel. He is a favorite of Jerry Jones, so that says something very good for him because Jones knows coaching talent. He has not won the Super Bowl but took his team there in 1999 and lost to the St. Louis Rams "greatest show on turf" team in what was one of the classic endings in the history of the game -- his team fell short of tying the game by one yard. The fact Fisher hasn't won a Super Bowl suggests he'll still be hungry. He didn't step away from the Titans of his own will. He was fired. So I assume he would want to be coaching if he could. Fisher is well-respected around the league. He'd bring instant credibility.

5. Les Miles: He is a Michigan man. Stephen Ross is a Michigan man. Miles is a candidate. He's 58 so he's no puppy, but he seems to be hitting his stride in recent years. He's taken Louisiana State to the top of the college football world and might be quite comfortable staying on that plateau. Or he might be convinced to try to climb higher. Miles has some, but not a lot of NFL experience. He coached under Chan Gailey in Dallas and then stayed on when Dave Campo took over in 2000. So he gets the pro aspects of the game. Miles is not a compulsive person. He is very well-balanced. He doesn't work 21 hours a day and sleep on the couch in his office the other three the week before a big game. He has a family and a family life. This can be both a good and bad thing for an NFL coach.

6. Chip Kelly: He is 48 and regarded as one of the most innovative offensive minds in college football today. The Oregan Duck run an offensive play once every 13 seconds. Can you imagine what that would do to NFL defenses? They would go, pardon the pun, daffy. Oregon is on the NCAA's radar for possible violations relative to a recruiting company. It is not considered major stuff so it's doesn't necessarily mean Kelly would want to exit. But I'm putting it out there because one never knows what folks are thinking. The obvious drawback here is Kelly has never coached in the NFL in any capacity. It would be audacious to even interview him. I love audacious.

7: Rob Chudzinski: He's the offensive coordinator in Carolina. He's been an assistant at the University of Miami, and the offensive coordinator in Cleveland. He also spent time under Norv Turner in San Diego. He will be an NFL head coach some day. And with his fine work in bringing Cam Newton into the NFL game in a relatively short span of time, I would not be surprised if he gets interviews after this season. But are the Dolphins willing to turn over the keys of their franchise to a man with zero head coach experience? I think that's a long shot. Chud, 43, wouldn't be the sexiest hire and wouldn't sell tickets. But he would be interesting.

8. Rob Ryan: God, please, no! Like his brother Rex, the New York Jets coach, Rob is a defense-minded guy. Unlike his brother Rex, Rob's defenses don't inspire any confidence, or intimidation or enough wins. Yes, that was Ryan's defense collapsing in the final moments as Eli Manning rallied the Giants to victory last Sunday night. Ryan, in my estimation, talks a better game than he coaches. NFL people also say he's not as good as good a coach as his brother. Otherwise, he's wonderful.

9. Herman Edwards: The truth is that Ross's non-denial denial of the looming Carl Peterson hire matters in this search. Peterson is definitely helping Ross gather ideas, thoughts, and yes, candidates. Peterson once hired Edwards to coach in Kansas City. It failed. Edwards had previously washed out with the New York Jets. I like Herm. He's very charismatic. He motivates. But I've heard stories of how the New England Patriots coaches snickered at the thought of Edwards matching up with them twice a year back in the day. They apparently believed they had an advantage on Edwards and his staff. That's not the kind of reaction I want for the Dolphins before they play the Pats twice a year.

10. Eric Mangini: Strange bird. But Ross likes him. Birds of a feather? Mangini somehow endeared himself to Ross while he was the New York Jets coach. Ross sees him as something of a Belichick Jr. Ross likes the fact he gave the Patriots a run there for all of about one year. Problem is, Ross just fired a coach who gave the Patriots a run there for all of about one year. Mangini denied it, but I heard he's been speaking with Ross even while Sparano was coach, not undermining Sparano, but certainly adding his two cents. It reeks to me. Mangini is on ESPN currently and that shouldn't play any role in this search, but I fear it does. It gives him a bit of star power. He's seen, known. And Ross likes that. Never mind that he's been fired by the Jets and Browns, didn't have a winning record with either franchise, and his overall 33-47 record is worse than the record of the coach Ross just fired.

The The Wildcards: What if Tom Couglin or Andy Reid get fired? I don't see it, but what if? Both good choices ... Marty Schottenheimer is in play because of the Peterson factor. So is his son Brian, who is the offenisve coordinator with the Jets. But I don't see either because the elder Schotty is 68 years old and is yesterday's news and seems like a putting a band-aid on a deep gash. His son, Brian, will be a head coach someday, but the truth is he's not at the top of the coordinator ladder yet, so how can one ask him to climb the next rung to the head coach level? .... Norv Turner is a fine coordinator but the bloom is off on him as a head coach. He will likely go in San Diego and he isn't coming here. Jack Del Rio? Not interesting and not interested ... Todd Bowles will definitely be interviewed. He's the only candidate we know will get an interview with any certainty. I have no idea what the guy stands for or is about. I do know if he finishes 3-0, people will be clamoring for him to be hired permanently because he will have beaten Bill Belichick and Rex Ryan in back-to-back weeks.

I know I didn't mention the hot OC in Green Bay. I know I didn't mention Dom Capers. I know I didn't mention any really hot assistants. Look, I've been told this hire will be a man with a reputation, a man with experience and a man who people can get excited about. And so I'm going to believe that until I have reason not to.

[Radio announcement that the haters can't stand: I'll be discussing all of this, the apparent looming Peterson hire, and the latest gossip and insider information on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, this morning 6-10 a.m. You can WATCH the live stream broadcast of the show by clicking the link here. You can also participate as we take phone calls from anywhere in the United States, the greatest country in the history of Earth. The toll free number is 1-888-640-9385.]

 

December 13, 2011

Sparano releases statement through agent

Tony Sparano often texted me during his time as Dolphins head coach, sometimes to suggest columns, sometimes to criticize my columns, sometimes to thank me for columns or blogs. I reached out to him the past two days after his firing and he has not returned my texts.

That's fine. I get it.

He's an emotional guy. He's hurt. He probably doesn't understand that I had to write about his eroding job status -- because that's my job -- when that was the last thing he wanted in the newspaper.

But several people have told him he needs to make some sort of public statement to close the Dolphins chapter on his career. As he apparently doesn't want to speak or isn't ready to speak to the media, he's doing the next best thing:

He just released a statement through his agent, Jimmy Sexton.

It reads:

“I want to take this opportunity to thank the Miami Dolphin organization, my players and coaches and our fans for all the help they gave me  during my time in Miami.  It was an honor and a privilege to have been the head coach for such a storied franchise as the Miami Dolphins. Visiting with Coach Shula before games, getting to know the Hall of Famers and so many other great Dolphin alumni, and being surrounded by the team’s tradition every day of the year are memories that will stay with me forever.

"I can’t say enough about our players  --  I love and appreciate them all and I value the effort they gave me from the very first moment I walked in the door. They practiced and played hard every day, and always put the success of the team ahead of themselves. It was a joy to work with these special men, and no one can ask for more than what they gave me. For this they will always have my gratitude, and I am proud to have coached them. My coaching and support staff were wonderful  --  I’ve never been around a better group of guys. There is no way I can thank them for their commitment and their loyalty. We worked hard together to reach a common goal and I appreciate their sacrifice and dedication.

"And finally, my wife Jeanette and I want to thank our great fans here. They made us feel at home the day we moved down and welcomed us with open arms. We enjoyed making so many friends and are grateful for the opportunities they gave us to contribute to the South Florida community. It’s a special place with special people, and we appreciate all their warmth and friendship. My heartfelt thanks to everyone who supported me during my tenure with the Dolphins. It was a special time in my life, and I’m looking forward to continuing my coaching career very soon.”

Coach is taking the high road. He's showing future employers he's a classy guy. He's boiling with venom toward Jeff Ireland and Stephen Ross, which he does not mention in his statement, but not showing any of that because, well, what is that going to accomplish?

Sparano never threw players under the bus even when they deserved it. He's not throwing the organization under the bus even though some members of his family have been told they're no longer allowed around the Dolphins facility for any reason whatever.

Good move by coach. Just as he was advised.