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2 posts from April 3, 2013

April 03, 2013

Coaches sometimes hurt the personnel process

During the Bill Parcells era the Dolphins did what most teams do this time of year. The personnel department tried to mesh with the coaching staff and come to a consensus agreement on the worth of draft eligible players.

This is an interesting shotgun wedding that occurs every spring because, let's face it, it's at some level dumb to do this. Coaches are paid to coach. They are paid to develop talent that is right in front of their faces. They are paid to maximize an individual.

They're not paid to project. They're not paid to evaluate.

Indeed, most coaches are not great talent evaluators.

Yet, year after year, NFL teams ask coaches to do the very thing they are not specifically paid to do: Evaluate talent.

And it has become quite clear to me in recent days that while the Dolphins personnel department of 2008-2010 had its share of misses, that was augmented by the fact the coaching staff was generally not great at evaluating college talent.

For example:

In 2010, the Dolphins were asked to serve as one of the coaching staffs at the Senior Bowl. Me, being a dummy, assumed this would give the staff firsthand knowledge of the players they were coaching and that would be a draft-day advantage.

Wrong.

During that week of practices, both head coach Tony Sparano and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo fell in love with a guard/tackle from Mississippi. His name is John Jerry.

They liked Jerry's aggressiveness. They liked his punch. And because they liked his awareness and intelligence so much, they tried the player who played right guard and right tackle in college on the left side because he was smart enough, they reported, to handle the move.

Moreoever, Googs also reported Jerry had no issues learning quickly.

And so on draft day 2010, the Dolphins looked at their board in the third round -- the one that had tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami still sitting there -- and picked Jerry instead.

In training camp the team tried him at left guard. He was actually the starting left guard the first day of camp. And that lasted only one day because Jerry was a disaster there. He couldn't figure out the position at all.

And later in the year when Jerry's inability to get on the field came up in a conversation with a Miami personnel man, DeGulielmo, the same coach that months earlier had said Jerry was bright and had no issues picking up the system, reported that Jerry's problem was he wasn't picking up the system.

And thus Jerry couldn't do either of the things Sparano and Googs reported to the personnel department that he would be able to do. He couldn't make the transition to left guard. And he couldn't learn seamlessly.

Coaches hurting the personnel evaluation process.

Two years earlier, the Dolphins had been searching for a quarterback. And as I've recounted to you before in this blog and in my column, the Dolphins sent out Sparano, offensive coordinator Dan Henning as well as general manager Jeff Ireland to see, meet with and work out three quarterbacks.

Matt Ryan.

Joe Flacco.

Chad Henne.

And Henning, who fancied himself something of a quarterback guru, came back convinced, CONVINCED, that Henne was and would be every bit the equal of Ryan and Flacco. CONVINCED!

And he reported this to his close friend Bill Parcells. Sparano and Ireland had some misgivings but generally went along with that opinion as well.

Obviously, in hindsight, we now know that Henne isn't the equal to the other two because despite his fine arm and great work ethic and prototype body, something just doesn't click for Henne as an NFL QB. Something inate is missing. And so he is and will always remain a backup type while Flacco carried his team in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl and Ryan is among the top 10 QBs in the league.

Coaches acting as personnel men.

Why do teams do it?

It's interesting to me that personnel men don't don whistles and go try to coach players during training camp. Why do coaches get to play personnel men in February and March?

I will say this:

Recently, on my way back from the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix, I shared a flight with ESPN insider Chris Mortensen. We chatted about a number of issues and shared and compared notes on different things and one thing he told me perked my ears.

He reported that in talking to various NFL people the word he was getting was that current Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was gaining respect as a solid talent evaluator.

One source told Mort that Philbin is the best coaching evaluator he's ever worked with.

Now, that doesn't mean Philbin is ready to take over the Miami personnel department. Indeed, he still has to prove he's a good head coach because today his career record is 7-9.

But if the opinion relayed by Mort's sources turn out to be fact, perhaps the synergy the Miami coaching staff and personnel staff are forced to share this time of year won't be a hinderance.

Not like it was in previous years.

Two meetings with potential draftees that truly interest

I'll admit it, I used to get caught up in the hype about which college players the Dolphins would meet privately or workout this time of year. I used to be interested in what players the team would bring to town in its top 30 visits or what local prospects made the cut to visit the facility.

This was a big deal back in the Jimmy Johnson era. Basically, if a player was coming to Davie to meet with the Dolphins the chances of him being drafted by the team were quite high.

Lately, the truth is a majority of the players the Dolphins bring to town don't end up getting drafted by Miami. Many are borderline guys the coaching staff needs to meet up close to gauge. Many are simply priority free agent types for after the draft.

So the process is not as interesting to me except, well, when it's interesting to me.

This is interesting to me:

This week the Dolphins are bringing in their local prospects and according to a league source, one of the players the Dolphins are expected to host is a defensive lineman named Jose Jose.

I'm not kidding. Jose Jose.

Jose is a Miami kid. He was All-Dade at Central High twice. He was recruited by Miami, Florida, Tennessee, West Virginia and Rutgers before accepting a full scholarship from the University of Central Florida.

And then things went terribly wrong.

In March 2010, one month after signing his national letter of intent, Jose was arrested in Miami-Dade for carrying a concealed firearm without a permit and aggravated assault with a firearm.

UCF cut him loose but Jose was not convicted. He was sentenced to a six-month administrative probation. So Jose went the JUCO route. The following January he was again offered a scholarship at UCF.

And for 14 months things went smoothly. Until March of 2012.

After making a transition from offensive line to defensive line and battling weight issues, Jose apparently got into a heated argument with head coach George O'Leary.

And the argument escalated.

And O'Leary kicked Jose off the team.

"Really it wasn't, well ... yeah it was an argument," Jose told the Orlando Sentinel. "I do not really want to get into what was said in the argument, and I said some things that I probably shouldn’t have said. He took action and did what he had to do and that's just kind of how it is. I can’t really take back what I said."

Indeed, Jose now is trying to get himself either drafted or picked up as a priority free agent after the draft. Because he's from Miami, the Dolphins can host him along with other local products.

I'd love to know how that conversation with Joe Philbin goes.

Among the Top 30 players scheduled to visit with the Dolphins is former Washington State wide receiver Marquess Wilson.

Wilson is a 6-4 and 198 pound receiver with good speed and solid albeit not spectacular production in college. So why does he interest me?

Wilson, if you can remember, quit the WSU football team last November and then alleged abuse by coach Mike Leach before eventually recanting the allegations. And then when all seemed settled, in February Wilson recanted the recant of the allegations while he was at the Indianapolis Combine.

Wild, right?

Wilson actually released a letter to the media claiming he was the victim of "physical, emotional and mental abuse" at the hands of Leach and the WSU coaching staff. Wilson timed the letter's release on the day WSU played a nationally ranked UCLA in a nationally telecast game.

The PAC-12 and WSU conducted an investigation and cleared the coaches.

And that left Wilson off a team and looking at expecting hard questions from NFL suitors, including the Dolphins now.

The likely questions?

Why did you quit?

Can you be expected to quit when any situation turns difficult?

Have you turned on any other people you know?

If you come here, would you do the same here that you did at WSU?

Why should we trust you to keep problems in-house?

It's an intriguing situation because Wilson was expected to be a second-round caliber receiver before he left the team. Now, nobody knows where he'll be drafted if at all.

Obviously, the Dolphins are doing their due diligence. They're seriously beating the weeds here in hopes of landing a bargain player.

Me, I'd love to be a fly on the wall on the Jose Jose and Marquess Wilson meetings with the Dolphins.