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68 posts from November 2013

November 19, 2013

Mike Wallace calls it like it is

It's not what Mike Wallace says but how he says it. Basically, the man cannot lie and you see how transparent he is when he talks about the season he's had with the Dolphins and the so-far disappointing chemistry he's had with quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Wallace, who has 44 catches for 534 yards (12.1 yard per catch) with one touchdown, today was asked what type of season he's having.

"It's alright, it's OK," Wallace says, a sly smile coming his to his face.

Could be better?

"A lot better," he says.

Indeed, the Dolphins have a count for the number of times he's been open deep down the field for potential touchdowns and the ball was either underthrown, poorly thrown, or thrown to another receiver short. The number is in the double figures.

So no wonder Wallace feels it could be better. And make no mistake, scoring points is what Wallace sees as the thing when discussing personal goals. It's not catches. It's not yards. Points. And on that front, he knows it isn't happening for him.

"Sheesh, I got one touchdown," he said.

Wallace was asked if, because of his speed, Tannehill should simply try to overthrow him and at the very least allow him to run under passes. Wallace's chuckes.

"Maybe."

Wallace was asked if he's frustrated with Tannehill and he answers, "Nope, I'm not frustrated. I'm fine. I just want to win football games."

Wallace is definitely frustrated that the things he did in Pittsburgh for four years have not translated. He mentioned earlier this year after Week 4 that he was worried but it wasn't time to panic. He said, however, if we reached Week 8 and nothing had changed, that would be time to panic.

"Ha, it's Week 11," Wallace noted. "

The amazing thing is there seems to be a disconnect in what Wallace sees as success and wants to accomplish -- which is probably in line with what the rest of the world wants -- and what the Dolphins see and want.

You'll recall after Wallace caught four passes for 39 yards against San Diego, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman was effusive about Wallace.

"I thought Mike had a tremendous ball game," Sherman said. "He ran hard, and he ran his routes very disciplined.  He was open on a number of occasion and sometimes it was protection issues and we didn’t get him the ball, other times we just didn’t get him the ball, but I thought Mike had a tremendous impact in that ball game, because he changed how they played us and allowed us an opportunity to control the game with some runs and what not.  He started the game with a catch and a first down where he broke some tackles.  It kind of set a tempo for us, I thought, in that ball game."

Wallace was asked what he thought of Sherman raving about him.

"He raved about the game I had?" Wallace asked incredulously. "I had 39 yards."

Good to know Wallace is still a resident of Earth -- along with the rest of us.

 

 

Tuesday afternoon practice report

The Dolphins are practicing today even as NFL investigator Ted Wells is in the building and more video surveillance cameras were being installed.

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson, who left Sunday's game with his recurring groin injury, worked at least on a limited basis during the portion of practice open to the media.

Center Mike Pouncey, who missed Sunday's game while hospitalized, was still not present and is believed to still be under doctor care.

So Pouncey's status for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers won't be decided until late in the week.

You know what that means?

Well, as I wrote in today's Miami Herald, the offensive line will remain at the center of attention as it has been throughout this season.

November 18, 2013

Review: PFF and Salguero look back at Chargers win

The Dolphins won amid chaos Sunday and the grades from this week's ProFootballFocus.com and Salguero tape and insight post reflect the good outing.

Here they are:

Offense

Tight end Charles Clay (+4.2) and Daniel Thomas (+3.3) had their best grades of the season to pickup a struggling offense. Clay’s rampaging TD catch came with Manti Te’o in coverage. Of Clay's 90 receiving yards, 77 came after the catch.

Lamar Miller still out-snapped Thomas 40-26, despite being out-touched 11 to 6.

Salguero: Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman continues to say he considers both Miller and Thomas as co-starters: "Pretty much. When I’ve been asked that question, that’s what I’ve said all along. I look at both of those guys as starters, and you kind of just go with the hot hand. I thought during the course of the game I thought they both ran well. Lamar (Miller) had some runs taken away from him because of penalties, some were ours and some were there’s. I thought Daniel (Thomas) ran very physical. He didn’t practice much last week. He missed some time, but he came out ready to go. When he was in there, he took full advantage of his opportunities. Sometimes it’s just a matter of opportunities when you are in there. It just happened to come up where he had some very well-blocked plays, but he certainly had some great after contact runs which I thought since I’ve been here the best we’ve been on runs after contact whether it be a pass, a catch or a run."

Rishard Matthews played 57 of 66 snaps after his breakout game last week.

Left guard Danny Watkins played 5 snaps at left guard in his debut as a Dolphin.

Tight ends Michael Egnew (18 snaps) and Dion Sims (8 snaps) saw time almost exclusively as run blockers.

Quarterback Ryan Tannehill struggled to connect with his receivers downfield again. He was just 4 for 11 for 66 yards and a pick on passing attempts of 10+ yards. Tannehill made it a point to attack Derek Cox in coverage, targeting him 4 more times than any other defender. But, he connected just 4 of 9 times against him.

Salguero: Let's face it, when we're talking about downfield issues, what we really mean is Tannehill cannot seem to get the ball to Mike Wallace in stride. The ball is seemingly often underthrown or thrown late or thrown out of bounds. The irony here? Wallace is slowed by hamstring issues. So he's being underthrown despite not running as well as usual.

Check it out from Sherman:  “They’ve done that and part of it, Mike’s still feeling, still resting and working with his leg issue.  I thought Mike had a tremendous ballgame. He ran hard, and he ran his routes very disciplined.  He was open on a number of occasion and sometimes it was protection issues and we didn’t get him the ball, other times we just didn’t get him the ball, but I thought Mike (Wallace) had a tremendous impact in that ball game, because he changed how they played us and allowed us an opportunity to control the game with some runs and what not.  He started the game with a catch and a first down where he broke some tackles.  It kind of set a tempo for us, I thought, in that ball game.  (Brian) Hartline had one, obviously the running backs have theirs, (Charles) Clay had his for the touchdown, I thought the first one was Mike’s (Wallace) and I thought that kind of set the tempo for the game.  I think there’s familiarity that the two of them just have to an understanding with how that’s going to work.  We certainly underthrew him on a touchdown pass that we can’t do.  If they had scored at the end that could have been the ball game, we needed those points, we didn’t get them so that’s something that’s been a point of emphasis and it will continue to be.  We have to get them on the same page.  They are two willing participants and they want it to work, I think it’s just a matter of two guys getting used to each other.  It just takes a little bit of time."

The Dolphins had their most success running the ball behind the right side of their line, picking up 48 yards on eight rushes. However, they still produced 56 yards on their other 11 carries

Daniel Thomas picked up 32 of his 57 rushing yards after contact.

Brian Hartline had two uncharacteristic drops against Johnny Patrick.

Salguero: Not mentioned by PFF, but major props to Nate Garner. He spent the entire week working at left guard and then moved to center on Sunday. And he had only one line call mistake.

Sherman: “Nate really had only one mistake in communication. Mike Pouncey has been a stalwart in there.  For him to go in there and do what he had to do, just phenomenal.  I thought he did an excellent job.  Along the same lines, I have to take my hat off to (Ryan) Tannehill as well.  I don’t think there’s many quarterbacks in this league that, when they wake up on Sunday morning and the guy they’ve been taking snaps with since they’ve played in this league all of a sudden isn’t playing, he doesn’t bat an eyelash (he says) ‘Ok let’s go, no big deal.’  I think that’s a credit to him and that’s kind of the way he looks at things, he doesn’t sweat things very much.  It’s a credit to him and there’s things that he has to work on and get better at but one thing about him, he doesn’t get flustered or concerned about things like that.  (He says) ‘Ok, who’s up lets go.’  I do think Nate (Garner) did a fine job stepping in, in the absence of a very good player.  Those are big shoes to fill when you’re filling Mike Pouncey’s shoes.”

Defense

Dion Jordan settled back into his 20 snap role with 22 plays. In addition to two hurries rushing the quarterback, he helped out in the run game with a defensive stop on 7 plays.

Salguero: Last week defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle talked about Jordan being a part-time player the entire rest of the season. He told us to get used to it. This week, the tune has changed a bit.

Consider from Coyle: "Dion is like a power forward in basketball. He’s a very smooth athlete. He’s got great length, and he can run like a deer.  You put those qualities together, he’s not intimated, he’s actually bigger and taller than most of these guys or at least as tall as s some of these tight ends.  They’re used to smaller guys covering them and that’s a big advantage, the body positioning and boxing out and playing basketball which a lot of them do.  (Antonio) Gates is a perfect example, he’s a guy that can just muscle up on people like he’s waiting to get the ball in the low post and just catch a little hook route.  Dion covered him a few times yesterday and did a very good job, he’s very natural at those kinds of  things.  The more we can get him involved in those type of things as well as he had some good rushes in the game yesterday too.  We have to expand his role and keep him working because he can contribute and he is one of those guys that has the capability of making big plays for us."

Jimmy Wilson is the nickel cornerback no matter what. When Dmitri Patterson aggravated his injury, Wilson stayed at nickel corner, while Nolan Carroll took over the #2 spot. Wilson had 52 snaps to Carroll’s 47.

With Will Davis inactive and Jamar Taylor not playing any defensive snaps, the two rookies have combined to play just 45 defensive snaps on the season.

Philip Wheeler had his best grade in pass coverage all season (+1.5). Against Antonio Gates, he didn’t allow a catch on two targets, including a pass defensed. He allowed just two catches overall.

Turner, Pouncey objects of investigator's scrutiny

NFL investigator Ted Wells will begin interviews with Dolphins personnel at the team's facility as early as Monday and offensive line coach Jim Turner and center Mike Pouncey will be of particular interest to him, The Miami Herald reported in its Monday editions.

ESPN first reported Turner being under the microscope. A source told The Herald that Pouncey, who missed Sunday's game against San Diego with what the team termed an illness, also will be heavily scrutinized over the possibility he witnessed mistreatment of erstwhile teammate Jonathan Martin.

Dolphins players are aware the interviews are coming.

“I think everybody is going to be interviewed," quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.

And there you have the troubles of a scandal intersecting with a football season.

The Dolphins, fresh off a 20-16 victory over San Diego, would typically start their preparations in earnest for Carolina on Monday. Instead, players and coaches will begin an up to three-day period of questioning on the part of the NFL's representative.

No, that doesn't change what happened on Sunday.

The Dolphins got excellent individual efforts from Charles Clay, who caught six passes for 90 yards including a rumbling 39-yard touchdown catch and run. They got an interception and game-ending pass defensed from Brent Grimes. They got very good defensive end play from Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon.

They got a solid team win with the Clay play standing out. Charlesclay

“It was huge,' Tannehill said of the tight end's touchdown. "I saw a void, threw it to him in the opening and never thought it was going to be a 39-yard touchdown. He’s a tough runner, big physical guy who showed his physicalness and toughness getting in the endzone.”

Rookie offensive lineman Sam Brenner had a fine debut. You have to understand, Brenner was not only starting his first game of the season but doing it on minimal notice. He found out Friday he might be active. Then he found out Saturday night he might be starting.

And all the while, Brenner was filling two roles in practice.

“That’s the hard thing about being on practice squad is you’ve got to be able to give the looks for the defense throughout the week and still work on getting the game plan down for the team you’re playing on offense," Brenner said. "I just tried to prepare myself the best I could every week and be ready and prepare like I was going to be playing in the game, even though I wasn’t."

November 17, 2013

Dolphins beat Chargers 20-16

They did it.

With a makeshift offensive line, with a scandal still looming, despite their usual inconsistencies and "interesting" play calls -- such as the roolout pass with 2:14 to play that Ryan Tannehill carried out of bounds at 2:08 -- the Dolphins won today.

Dolphins 20. Chargers 16.

This is a good day for the Dolphins. It is a good win.

Enjoy it.

Because the next few days and weeks -- with NFL scandal interviews beginning Monday and the Carolina Panthers coming up -- promise to get tougher.

Live blog: OL in shambles, Patterson active

The Dolphins offensive line -- the source of off and onfield issues this season -- is the focus again today.

The Dolphins staring offensive line versus the San Diego Chargers will be: LT Bryant McKinnei, LG Sam Brenner, C Nate Garner, RG John Jerry, and RT Tyson Clabo.

Garner, who played left guard the previous two games, moves over to center because Mike Pouncey is out. Brenner was added off the practice squad Saturday. He was an undrafted free agent who was with the team since training camp.

The amazing things?

Danny Watkins, a former first-round draft pick acquired nearly two months ago, is active but obviously not better (in the coaching staff's opinion) to start ahead of the rookie.

And Dallas Thomas, who was worked both tackle and guard since the start of the season, is active but also not considered better (in the coaching staff's eyes) to start ahead of the undrafted rookie. By the way, Thomas was a third-round draft pick.

The good news?

Cornerback Dimitri Patterson is active today but he is not starting.

There's a live blog today. It happens below:

Source: Pouncey out against Chargers

Mike Pouncey, questionable for today's game against the Chargers, is not playing, according to a source close to the Dolphins center.

So with Mike Pouncey out, the Miami offensive line will now be down three starters from opening day -- Pouncey, Richie Incognito, and Jonathan Martin. The Dolphins also put backup OT Will Yeatman on IR this week when he blew out a knee in practice Wednesday.

Pouncey was Miami's best lineman.

What a mess.

The Dolphins may move Nate Garner over to center from the left guard spot and use Danny Watkins at left guard.

This season has become something of a nightmare, folks. And as I'm familiar with nightmare Dolphins seasons, the script is often this:

1. Problems with coaching/personnel.

2. Losses.

3. Off field issues (i.e. coach mutiny, player mutiny, discord among staff). This year it's the harassment scandal.

4. Ownership steps in to assure everyone everything is alright or will be alright -- which means things are falling apart.

5. Injuries mount.

6. More losses.

We are in the more injuries stage. Expect more losses.

And that leads me to this: I've already written the Dolphins need to clean house.

In my column today I tell you a possible solution for the Miami mess: Tony Dungy. Read the column Tell me what you think.

November 16, 2013

How to fix the top of the Dolphins organization

Shortly after the 2012 season ended, the Dolphins and Dan Marino talked informally about the possibility of the Hall of Fame quarterback one day joining the organization in some undetermined capacity. Marino, who works for CBS Sports, did not pursue the opportunity but the door was left open to the possibility.

Today I also reported in my column that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross tried to hire former Colts and Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy in an advisory capacity.

Well, that's all well and good.

But the Dolphins, in full retreat on the field with five losses in six games and fielding more letters and calls from angry fans than they can answer, need to be more aggressive with Dungy. I believe the Dolphins should chase Dungy as their top executive to help turn this hapless organization around.

I am not advocating Dungy should be hired as the head coach.

Let me repeat: I don't want Dungy as the coach. Even Dungy doesn't want Dungy as the head coach.

I want Dungy as the face of the franchise to pick a new coach (check his record on finding coaching talent) or making a career decision on the current one. I want Dungy leading an organiazation that clearly lacks leadership. I want him hiring a general manager, if indeed Ross is of the mind to go in another direction there.

I want him setting the culture. I want him bringing respect back to the Dolphins. I want a football man who has come up throught the football ranks heading the football team.

Let's face it, Stephen Ross is not a football man. He is a wonderful business man and real estate developer. But that does not qualify him as a football man. Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel is likely a fine corporate officer. He comes from a baseball background. But he is not a football man.

I don't want either of them picking the next Dolphins coach or GM if that is the direction the Dolphins are going. I don't even see them as qualified to decide the fate of the current Dolphins coach and GM. Seriously, what does Ross or Garfinkel know? Anyone looking at Ross's track record would question that. Anyone looking at Garfinkel's inexperience would question that.

Anyone who would be comfortable with that is apparently quite comfortable with the past four seasons of Dolphins history.

Keys to the game: Dolphins vs. Chargers

I'm picking the Dolphins to beat the San Diego Chargers on Sunday. Yes, I know. What am I thinking?

The Dolphins are in full freefall. There's a scandal. They're not responding on the field. They have injuries. A bad offensive line is worse. There are chemistry issues. And the home field advantage?

The fact of the matter is the Dolphins might get the smallest crowd of the season for this game. There might be fewer than 52,000 fans showing up for this one -- and a lot of those in attendance will be there to show their displeasure.

But I think the Chargers are flawed on offense (poor red zone offense) and defense (poor secondary and pas rush) and they did travel across country Friday evening to play the game. So I believe the Dolphins can pull one off.

Here are the keys to the game:

When the Dolphins pass the football: Remember when Mike Wallace said he was worried about not being in synch with quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Remember he said it wasn’t yet time to panic but if the situation persisted past the eighth game of the season, then it was time to panic? It’s time to panic. Wallace and Tannehill are not getting it done together because the QB has been inconsistent with his deep passing. Sometimes the ball is underthrown. Sometimes, like last week, it’s thrown out of bounds. Tannehill has had no such problems throwing to Rishard Matthews, who last week was Miami’s leading receiver. The chemistry between Matthews and Tannehill has been curious because the receiver hardly got any snaps until a couple of weeks ago when Brandon Gibson was injured. This is great for Matthews, who is playing above expectations. But the Dolphins paid $60 million for Mike Wallace. And for several reasons they are not getting a good return on their investment. As to the Chargers DBs … Methinks they’d love to have Antonio Cromartie back as the Chargers are 28th in the league against the pass. ADVANTAGE: Miami (only because Chargers are so bad).

When the Dolphins run the football: The Dolphins were on a nice little roll, with consecutive 150-yard rushing performances against New England and Cincinnati and then they hit a wall against Tampa Bay. They gained two yards against the Bucs. Six feet. It was the worst performance running the ball by an offense since 2007. The Dolphins have an opportunity for redemption because the Chargers allow an average of 4.8 yards per rush. That’s No. 29 in the NFL. It stands to reason the Dolphins might be able to do some damage if only they do not abandon the run. Unfortunately for Miami, there have been multiple games this year when the team was solidly in the game and still offensive coordinator Mike Sherman went pass-happy to his team’s detriment. So anything is possible. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Chargers run the football: Former Dolphins first round pick Ronnie Brown returns to Sun Life as the Chargers change-of-pace back. He is playing behind Ryan Matthews who so far this season is staying away from the injuries that have derailed him much of his career. The Chargers run the ball as a set-up to the pass. They are not a great running team as their No. 19 rush yards per game average proves. The Dolphins were once a prideful rush defense. In 2011 under a different coaching staff, they were No. 3 in rush defense. Last year they were No. 13 in rush defense and this year they’re at No. 20. The Dolphins have given up more than 130 rushing yards in six of their nine games this season. ADVANTAGE: Even.

When the Chargers pass the football: Phillip Rivers is enjoying a renaissance this season. He’s averaging 328 pass yards per game on road this season, which is the second-best mark behind Peyton Manning’s 359.3. Rivers has completed 20-plus passes while completing at least 80 percent of passes in three games, tying for most such games in season in NFL history. Rivers has also feasted on Miami defenses in the past. Has passed for 300-plus yards in the past two games against Miami. He doesn’t have the same receivers as in the past but tight end Antonio Gates is healthy and having a fine season. The Dolphins are again licking wounds in the secondary, as cornerback Dimitri Patterson’s status for the game is questionable. ADVANTAGE: San Diego.

Special teams: The two teams trade edges in this category. The Chargers have a better field goal percentage and are better returning punts. The Dolphins are better on kickoff returns. The major difference is in the punting itself. Brandon Fields is among the league’s best and his work has the Dolphins rated No. 7 in the NFL in net punting. The Chargers are rated No. 17. In a game where field position could be a major factor, this area could be key. ADVANTAGE: Miami.

Coaching: Joe Philbin beat out Mike McCoy for the Dolphins head coach job in January 2012. Philbin has since failed to win more than he’s lost, is winless after byes, and his team often starts slow. McCoy is in his first season and is being credited for the resurrection of Phillip Rivers. Unfortunately the defense has regressed and the results so far aren’t any better than what Norv Turner had. This is clearly a match up of giants. ADVANTAGE: Even.

November 15, 2013

The Empire strikes back with truth, context

I'm not a big science fiction buff but I am aware of pop culture. You've heard of Star Wars? You've heard of the Empire Strikes Back?

The Dolphins are in full strike back mode the last few days.

On the heels of my report this morning that Dolphins people were indeed not aware of any harassment of Jonathan Martin and the team is confident no evidence of prior knowledge will come out in the NFL investigation, we can now turn our attention to two other matters that lately seemed to damage the team's brand:

The first is the idea that someone within the organization ordered a "Code Red" to "toughen up" Martin. The idea is that someone -- presumably a coach -- told Richie Incognito to make Martin tougher. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post reported that story.

But ProFootballTalk.com on Thursday reported early indications are there was no such order and those reports are wrong. And today I have confirmed there was no such order given to Incognito from anyone within the Dolphins organization and the team is comfortable that will come out when the NFL investigation is completed.

(Understand that all these media reports and allegations have to stand up to scrutiny and proof. In other words, if Incognito or anyone says he was told to "toughen up" Martin but cannot show an email or text or a confession or some tangible evidence of that order, what we have is an unproven allegation. And by the way, Incognito refused to address that issue altogether in his FOX Sports interview, obviously aware he was going to face NFL investigation scrutiny and the requirement of providing actual proof).

So there was no order to "toughen up" Martin.

Something else ...

The report that Jeff Ireland told one of Martin's agents the offensive tackle should have punched Incognito when the agent complained to the general manager about the guard's treatment is not fully in context, I'm told.

The report made it seem that Ireland was suggesting Martin's response should have been to punch Inognito. That has made Ireland seem insensitive to Martin. Indeed, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith referred to Ireland during a pre-game interview with ESPN on the topic. 

"The union will be looking at whether or not management in the Dolphins either encouraged or allowed a workplace to become unprofessional," Smith said. "Certainly we know the history of the GM [Ireland] in this case with other issues. Those actions were unacceptable then. If there are actions that were taken or not taken to allow this unprofessional environment to fester, if there were things done to intimidate another player, that's a thing the union will look at."

But here is the problem:

The truth, I'm told by a source, is Ireland did not suggest Martin should have punched Incognito. He instead was asking why Martin had not confronted Incognito on the matter and perhaps even punched him if the treatment was so onerous.

In other words, Ireland was asking why Martin hadn't done anything about the treatment he was alleging.

Different context to the same conversation.

The bottom line is the NFL investigation will not deal in stories citing "at least two sources" that are anonymous or dubious. It will not deal in he-said, he-said allegations. It will deal in cold, hard facts. It will deal in text messages, voice mails, emails, corroboration, provable communications. And it will get the full context of those communications.

Then, and only then, will the true or truer picture of this situation come out.

Source: Dolphins did not know of harassment

A primary reason Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked the NFL to investigate the harassment allegations leveled by Jonathan Martin against Richie Incognito -- aside from the fact he probably wouldn't know where to start his own investigation -- is he wanted accountability.

The Dolphins owner wanted to know if his coaches or their assistants or the personnel department was aware of the harassment and did nothing about it -- thus making those people complicit in the behavior.

And while the NFL investigtion will have final say on this matter, the Dolphins have done some self-scouting per se on the matter and a person familiar with the direction this is going tells me there is no hard evidence Dolphins personnel people or coaches knew Martin was under duress until after he left the team.

(And assuming that is true, which I now believe it is, the sound you are hearing is a lot of people within the organization feeling much more secure about their jobs).

Understand that we're talking about provable evidence here. We are talking phone texts or e-mails or voice mails that would prove someone was aware of Martin's problem with Incognito. There is apparently none of that.

The source would not go so far as to guarantee there was never a conversation or passing exchange that might remotely link the Dolphins to knowlege of the Incognito-Martin problem.

"I cannot guarantee that because no one knows every single word uttered in every single conversation that has ever taken place within or without the walls of the facility," the source said. "But as to hard evidence, we're comfortable. There's none."

This information, by the way, falls in line with what the Dolphins have pretty much been saying all alone. Coach Joe Philbin has said he was not aware of any harassment of Martin. Players have universally said they were not aware of any harassment. And on Monday, owner Stephen Ross said no one else in the organization knew of such behavior.

“I never heard that," Ross said. "Coach didn’t hear it, nobody heard that. I think you heard from the players, I have not heard that.”

Obviously, this has legal as well as league ramifications. Aside from pointing away from Dolphins personnel under fire, this could also relieve the Dolphins of some but not all responsibility in a workplace violence or harassment suit by Martin. Lawyers tell me Martin doesn't need to prove the Dolphins knew to bring a suit but the team's liability would be lessened.

But here's the thing that still looks bad as a result of this: Apparently nobody on the Dolphins knew anything.

A prominent member of the organization (the starting left tackle) claims he was being harassed by at least one other prominent member of the organization (the starting left guard and a member of the leadership council) and nobody seemed to notice.

Not the head coach.

Not any of his assistants.

No one in personnel.

Not the trainers or equipment managers or anyone else.

Yes, that suggests a disconnect. And that is not good.

But I'm thinking the Dolphins will happily take that because the alternative is much, much worse.

 

November 14, 2013

Shotgun weddings are a bad idea

I have reported that if Stephen Ross is moved to fire someone as part of the blame game for the locker room harassment scandal or as a result of a season not meeting expectations, he is more likely to fire general manager Jeff Ireland than head coach Joe Philbin.

Ross said nothing to separate himself from that report when he spoke to the media Monday night and poured the love on thick for Philbin and didn't mention Ireland at all, other than to say the general manager is on one of his two newly appointed committees.

The bottom line?

Barring a significant change in the course for the season and the NFL investigation, it is clear Ross is apt to get rid of Ireland and keep Philbin.

And that is a terrible mistake.

No, I'm not saying firing Ireland is a mistake. I'm saying half measures are a mistake. I'm saying scapegoating is a mistake. I'm saying everyone in the Dolphins football side of the organization is responsible for the current state of affairs and picking one guy here or there to pin it on is a mistake.

I advocate full measures. If you're going to fire, then everyone should go. If you're going to keep folks, then keep everyone.

Why do I say this?

Because I'm tired of the Dolphins being a poorly run, embarrassing act that everyone else in the NFL views as a clinic for getting it wrong the past decade or so.

To me, firing an underperforming GM but keeping an underperforming coach is like identifying a cancer but getting chemo for only part of the tumor. I see it as an incomplete measure. I see it as a set-up for continued failure.

Why?

It is clear, if one studies the NFL, that teams that take these half measures typically fail.

Let's start with the Dolphins themselves.

In January 2000, Jimmy Johnson who served as both coach and GM for the Dolphins retired. But rather than go out and start anew and seek a fresh direction, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga allowed the man who was leaving to name his successor. Think of that. Don Shula, the winningest coach of all time, was ushered out by Huizenga and not allowed to name a successor. But Johnson was given that privilege and he named a friend to be Miami's next coach and final personnel authority.

And the organization got the Dave Wannstedt error as a result.

Wannstedt quit or was told he'd be fired thus left late in the 2004 season. Nick Saban was hired as coach in January 2005. And he kept Rick Spielman as the general manager.

It was a nightmare for both men.

Spielman left after one season under Saban. It was a mutual parting. (Yeah, right).

Saban hired Randy Mueller as his new GM.

And after one more season Saban left.

And Huizenga kept Mueller and promoted him, giving him final say over personnel. And in return Mueller had to accept the hiring of Cam Cameron. And Cameron was of a coaching stature that he had to accept Mueller.

And the Dolphins went 1-15.

When Bill Parcells was hired he cleaned house. It was painful to Mueller and Cameron, but the Dolphins were going in a new direction and Parcells wanted new people. Hey, you know what, it ultimately didn't work. But I get the approach. I agree with the approach.

When the Parcells-Tony Sparano-Jeff Ireland trio obviously didn't work, I would have expected owner Stephen Ross to start anew.

Of course, he did not.

He kept Ireland and, as a result, multiple high-caliber coaches declined to even consider the Dolphins open coaching job in January 2012. Jon Gruden didn't. Bill Cowher didn't. The Dolphins got to the interview stage with Jeff Fisher but he wanted to bring his own personnel people and Ross wanted to retain Ireland.

So Fisher went to St. Louis.

So Ross had to resort (yes, resort) to interviewing coaches who did not have the prominence, history or cache to be able to pick their own personnel people. So Ross hired Joe Philbin.

And now that things are going poorly (again) the team (again) seems poised to get rid of one part of the leadership that authored the problem but not the other? Is this Groundhog Day?

The Dolphins are not the only team that has had this issue.

Teams such as Green Bay, Chicago, Denver, Kansas City, Cleveland, Carolina and the Jets have made changes to one end of the organization but not the other. You know what? It rarely works.

The Packers hired Ted Thompson and relieved Mike Sherman (yes, that Mike Sherman) of his GM duties. Sherman stayed as coach. A year later, Thompson fired Sherman as coach, completing in two years what should have been done in one.

The Bears hired a new GM last year and he was told to keep Lovie Smith. Then after one season, he fired Smith after a 10-6 season.

The Broncos kept GM Brian Xanders when they hired John Elway and Elway hired John Fox. And then Xanders left (was pushed out of) the organization.

The idea of addressing one part of a failing product but not the other is a setup for drama -- even when it succeeds. The New York Jets last year fired GM Mike Tannenbaum but not coach Rex Ryan. The Carolina Panthers similarly replaced their GM but kept coach Ron Rivera.

You know where Ryan and Rivera found themselves at the start of this season before even one game was played? On the hot seat. Under the microscope. All of the attention was about their impending divorce from GMs that had been forced to keep them.

And, yes, both those coaches have done a fine job and rallied their teams. But that has surprised people because it is the exception rather than the rule. And even recently when Jets GM John Idzik was asked if he was now sold on Ryan, he gave some cryptic answer about everyone being evaluated at the end of the season.

Shotgun weddings don't work, folks.

They are usually followed by unhappy times and drama. They typically end in divorce.

Anyone with any sense of Dolphins history would know this because the team has lived it first-hand. Anyone with any knowledge of the NFL has seen it time and again.

And yet, looking off into the next few weeks, that's the direction the Dolphins seem headed.

Again.

Drafting Jon Martin was a consensus decision

When the second round of the 2012 NFL draft began, the Dolphins knew they wanted to add an offensive tackle. Two players were at the top of general manager Jeff Ireland's horizontal draft board at the position and both were graded as virtual equals.

The Dolphins, with the 42nd overall selection, liked Georgia offensive tackle Cordy Glenn and Stanford offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.

And when the the Buffalo Bills selected Glenn with the 41st pick, there was no hesitation inside the Dolphins draft room. The focus immediately shifted to Martiin.

A scout who was most familiar with Martin was brought in and asked to go over the scouting report. And the file was clean. Martin was described as Andrew Luck's blindside protector, as smart, as a potentially good locker room guy and as a tough player.

When the scout was done with the report everyone in the room was sold. Everyone in the room agreed. No one -- not owner Stephen Ross, not coach Joe Philbin, obviously not Ireland, no one -- said anything that would suggest Martin shouldn't be picked.

Indeed, the idea that Martin is "soft," was never brought up. There were no red flags as to his psychological or emotional state. There were no medical issues.

And based on that strong organizational consensus, the Dolphins selected Martin.

Fast forward 19 months and it is clear the narrative on Martin has changed. His emotional state is such that he's getting treatment for an unspecified "illness." He was considered to be soft by some teammates.

So did the Dolphins completely miss it?

Or did Martin, under heavy and unrelenting pyschological attack, simply lose it once he got to the Dolphins?

Was Jonathan Martin troubled before he came to the Dolphins, suggesting the personnel department missed something, or did the Miami culture ruin him, suggesting the coaching failed him?

To hear former Stanford players such as Coby Fleener and Andrew Luck talk, they back up the initial scouting report the Dolphins had on Martin.

That, however, is not the point. The point is now Martin has fallen away and his representatives say he's not comfortable returning to the Dolphins. So aside from the sad nature of this Incognito-Martin issue, the bottom line is the Dolphins have probably wasted another second round pick.

And the popular thinking among fans is it is all Ireland's fault.

Well, sure, it is Ireland's ultimate responsibility for picking a player that did not return the desired investment. But what happened that day in the draft room was a full-throated approval of what Ireland was doing. That includes Joe Philbin. That includes owner Stephen Ross.

Everyone.

To his credit, Philbin publicly has not distanced himself from Ireland at a time Ross has seemingly done so and fans are on a Fireland rampage. On Wednesday the coach made certain everyone knows Ireland does not act alone on personnel matters. Philbin, you see, is also responsible for personnel wins and losses since he was hired.

“Jeff and I have worked closely since the day I’ve gotten here," the coach said. "He’s been very supportive. We all work together. This is not a one-man operation in any regard. Everybody works together. Everybody contributes."

And when responsibility must be attached or fault found, everyone shares in that.

So if Ireland indeed loses his job for this pick, this controversy, it bears saying he had lots of company in Jonathan Martin becoming a sad chapter in Dolphins history. Philbin approved of picking Martin. As did others.

No one said no.

Meanwhile, there is something to be said for fate because Glenn, who the Dolphins just as likely would have picked before he was selected by the Bills, is turning into a very good player. He has started every game for the Bills this season at left tackle. 

November 13, 2013

Look back at Tampa Bay courtesy PFF

There was a time the worst news the Dolphins could possibly fathom was dealing with a loss. Then the scandal and suddenly losing was a secondary part of a larger depressing state of affairs.

Today, with the help of my partners at ProFootballFocus.com, we try to make some sense of the Tampa Bay loss on Monday night. As always, they come with the film study while I add insight.

Offense

Despite finding no room to run, Lamar Miller has taken full control of the backfield, out-snapping Daniel Thomas 43 to 13.

Salguero: Miller earned the add snaps as he entered the game having averaged over 5 yards per carry the previous three games and had had his best game of the season in the previous outing against the Bengals. Thomas, by the way, was tackled in the end zone for a safety.

Rishard Matthews played his highest snap percentage (73%) of the season. Matthews was targetted seven times and caught five of them against Michael Adams for 55 yards. His touchdowns, however, came against Dashon Goldson and Leonard Johnson. Matthews had more yards after the catch than all other Miami receivers, tight ends, and backs combined.

In his return from injury, tight end Dion Sims logged 14 snaps behind both Charles Clay (43) and Michael Egnew (19).

When Ryan Tannehill was blitzed, he went 3 for 9 with 28 yards and was sacked once. On throws 10+ yards down the field, Tannehill was 8 for 19 with 92 yards.

Darrelle Revis was targeted in coverage six times. All six targets were to Mike Wallace and he hauled in three of them.

Salguero: I recognize that Wallace is not a fan favorite. But I must share that he generally won against Revis and yet had very little to show for it. On the play where he caught the football out of bounds, Wallace was open by a couple of yards but the ball was poorly thrown. There was another instance when Wallace was not targetted that he beat Revis deep and Tannehill threw to Matthews instead. The Dolphins simply do not maximize Wallace.

Defense

The Dolphins struggled against the run. The Bucs gained 140 rushing yards. It seemed as if the Dolphins got bulldozed. But the truth is most of the yards came on the edges not between the tackles. Randy Starks was dominant against the run. He had five tackles, two of which went for a loss.

Dion Jordan played just nine snaps, but produced two hurries on six quarterback dropbacks.

Salguero: Third overall pick. Nine snaps. Dolphins don't trust him on running downs. But honestly, are the guys playing in front of him playing run defense any better?

Philip Wheeler played 49 out of 67 snaps, with Jelani Jenkins (7) and Jonathan Freeny (9) picking up some snaps. Was Wheeler benched for his poor play in the second half?

Salguero: No, he wasn't benched for poor play. He was benched for dumb play. He committed a roughing the passer penalty midway through the fourth quarter that turned a third down incompletion into a first down. The Bucs didn't score as a result, but Wheeler took a seat on the bench.

 

Coverage

 

  • Vincent Jackson caught just 3 of his 8 targets, but two came with Dannell Ellerbe in coverage and the other came against another linebacker, Jason Trusnik.
  • Brent Grimes was targeted four times by Mike Glennon, giving up just one catch to Tiquan Underwood.
 

Dolphins vs. Chargers pits No. 1 coach choice vs. No. 2 choice

In January of 2012 the Dolphins were searching for a head coach to replace Tony Sparano. And they interviewed Joe Philbin, among other men. And Mike McCoy was one of those other men.

And while the people that did the hiring, including owner Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland and others obviously picked Philbin, I am told by a club source the No. 2 choice for the job was ... McCoy.

"Joe was just very well prepared," the source said. "Everyone was impressed with how detailed he was. But Mike was an outstanding candidate also. He was very impressive."

Fast forward to this week. The Dolphins will play the San Diego Chargers. Philbin still coaches the Dolphins. McCoy is the first-year Chargers coach.

You have McCoy, who is doing a good but not great job in San Diego, against Philbin, who is doing a ... well, a job here in South Florida.

And while both men are 4-5, the prism by which they are being viewed is diferent.

In South Florida, Ross thinks Philbin is awesome. Players think Philbin is doing a good job. Some fans and media, meanwhile, don't quite share the same opinion.

This isn't a bash Joe Philbin post. But his 11-14 record speaks for itself and so does this: His teams don't play well after byes, having lost after both byes since he was hired and Monday night after a 11-days off. His team doesn't necessarily seem all that aware, from the quarterback whose pocket presence is inconsistent to a defense that seems talented but has serious lapses.

We've know about the Go vs. Go-Go issue for months but Philbin refuses to acknowledge it. The Dolphins still don't move Mike Wallace around all the much and have successfully turned one of the NFL most dynamic deep threats into a possession receiver.

By the way, let me share this little known fact following Monday's game: Tampa Bay's first TD of that game was a 1-yard TD pass to offensive tackle Donald Penn on a tackle eligible play. That play happened after an extended time out because Bucs running back Mike James injured himself.

Well, during that time out, the video board operators at Raymond James Stadium played a tribute to Penn for playing a high number of games for the team. Part of the tribute included highlights of Penn and one of those highlights was of him catching a TD pass on a tackle eligible play.

Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said Tuesday that after the play was shown to the entire stadium, the coaching staff debated calling off the play for fear that the Dolphins were now alerted to the possibility of the play.

Ultimately the play call remained the same. And the Dolphins, apparently unaware of the video that tipped them off, were surprised by the play. TD.

It is that kind of stuff that makes people cringe about a Philbin coached team. Right then and there, the other coaching staff caught you off guard after basically showing you a play they might run.

McCoy, on the other hand, is generally thought to be doing a good job so far. He is being credited for the renaissance of quarterback Phillip Rivers and the offensive line that was a mess under Norv Turner has held up surprisingly well this season.

But not everything is sunny in paradise.

If you read this piece and this piece you can see McCoy has detractors.

"Despite a vastly more effective Philip Rivers, aided by the acquisition of Danny Woodhead, and protected by a surprisingly solid offensive line, the Chargers have still only managed to win 4 games," San Diego's Ben Higgins writes.

"If you’re so inclined, you can give Mike McCoy and his new coaching staff the credit for the revival of Rivers. But that still doesn’t explain why the Chargers haven’t been more productive in the win column.

"The defense has taken a step back, to be sure, and injuries have played a part in the decline. Still, the coaching miracles on the offensive side of the ball don’t seem to carry over to a unit giving up more yards than any other team in the NFL.

"Maybe the late-game failures are simply masking this team’s improvement. After all, the Chargers could easily be 7-1 had they avoided a second half collapse vs. Houston, a defensive lapse in Tennessee, and a goal line gack in Washington.

So did the Dolphins make the right choice?

We cannot possibly make that call quite yet. But Sunday will help.

November 12, 2013

Tuesday: Philbin does his media thing

Joe Philbin and his friends in the media gathered together Tuesday afternoon. And much the way they've done for a while now -- particularly since the start of the you-know-what scandal -- the two danced around each other like two swordsmen without really accomplishing anything.

This is how it went:

(Opening statement) – “After reviewing the game further, obviously we didn’t get off to a very good start in the football game. I thought our guys competed and got back into the game. We took the lead, and we didn’t play particularly well in the fourth quarter either. Once again, Tampa Bay deserved to win the football game, credit them. We have almost an opposite situation we had last time. I just told the players last time we had 11 days in between games. Now it seems this one is coming right around the corner. We are going to have to put together a great plan for San Diego. They are a very similar situation to what we are in. We are going to have to perform better.”

(On assessment of reasons for Monday night's slow-start) -  “I think it was collective in all three phases of the game. We kind of talked to the team about it. We decided to kick the ball off to Tampa Bay. Tampa hadn’t scored on an opening possession all year. They go 76 yards, I believe, on the opening possession of the game. They hit a 30-yard pass. They hit a 24-yard run on what we would call a football 101 play. They executed it very well. We got the ball on offense. Instead of having a 3rd-and-1, we got an uncharacteristic penalty that forced us into a 3rd-and-16. We punted the ball. We got a penalty on that initial punt. They got great field position. We held them to a field goal. Again, the field position, it was all three phases. We just didn’t execute very well. The one run that broke out, we just didn’t fit it properly. We spend a lot of time on the run-fits making sure all of the gaps are covered. We didn’t do it well enough. We have to do better. But it was clear, it wasn’t the offense. It wasn’t the defense. It wasn’t the special teams. It was all of them."

(On when he became aware that he was appointed to one of Steve Ross’ newly created committees) - “Steve (Ross) and I have been in constant communication throughout. We are in constant communication throughout the course of the whole season. Obviously we were last week as well, and I’m for anything that can make our organization better, I’m fully supportive of. Steve and I talked about this, and I’m in total agreement and support."

(On if the leadership council has been a failure this season) – “Not at all. We are going to have a leadership council meeting later today as a matter of fact."

(On the difference between the Green Bay and Miami locker room) –“Again, I’m not into comparisons between different locker rooms. I’ve stated many times my faith and confidence in these players that they are very good teammates, professional. They work hard representing this organization the right way on and off the field. It’s important to them, and I believe that whole-heartedly."

(On his current players not representing the organization the right way) – “Well you are certainly entitled to your own opinion."

(On Richie Incognito saying in an interview that tasteless jokes are within a locker room culture) - “It’s all part of the review process. We’ll see how it plays itself out."

(On if he knew about the locker room culture) - “We discuss appropriate behavior and the type of work atmosphere we want to create. We talk about that every single day, absolutely."

(On what he would say to fans who have lost faith in the team) - “Number one, I’m happy that they’re passionate. We have a loyal fanbase. We all want the same thing. We want to have a football team that’s consistently competing for championships and represents the organization the right way on and off the field. And I’m glad that (the fans) are passionate and want to be great just like we do."

(On what would a few wins mean to the players on the team) - “This is a performance-based industry that we are in. We all know that, and winning football games is what we all get paid to do. It’s important we play better. I just told the team. We were just in a team meeting. There were a lot of teams in a very similar position that we are in right now. In November and December, that decides a lot. The teams that have the great character, the great chemistry, they find a way to fight through the obstacles and adversity, and perform at a high level this time of the year. That’s what we have to do."

(On if he told his players to tune outside noise out and to focus on what the team needs to accomplish) – “We have to focus on football. We have to focus on improving. We have to focus on our own performance. There are a lot of things, if you look at last night’s game, that we didn’t do well enough to win the game. You go back to the Cincinnati game. You look at the Cincinnati game. We got behind in the fourth quarter, but we were able to put together a drive to send the game into overtime and make some plays. We well behind in this game in the fourth quarter and didn’t play smart enough or well enough in the fourth quarter to either send the game into overtime with the field goal at the end or not. You know we had the penalty at the end of the fourth quarter that hurt us. We fielded a punt on the 5-yard line to start. We did some things that didn’t contribute to winning football games in this league, and that’s exactly what happened. The outcome was what it was."

(On how concerned he is about missed tackles and what could be done to fix this) - “I’m very concerned about the missed tackles. It’s a basic fundamental of football that we need to do better. I told the team, per NFL rules we are allowed three-more padded practices. So it’s not like we are going to go out there and have live tackling for the next seven weeks three times a week. That’s not realistic. With that being said, we have to practice the fundamentals better. We still do drill it. We do it in team periods. We do it in isolated and individual periods and we have to continue our focus on it."

(On if he feels what is happening off-the-field affected the team’s on-the-field result last night) -“No. Like I said, we had a lot of time to prepare for Tampa Bay. We had good practices on the football field. We had good meetings. We had good meetings at the hotel."

(On long-term picture of the off-the-field distractions affecting the team) - “Again, I don’t think so. There’s always to a certain degree there are going to be things that happen whether they are professionally, personally that can impact your job. But when we come in here, when we come into this facility, we go to work every single day. We are professionals. We have an obligation to the Dolphins. We have an obligation to one-another to give our total effort, focus and control to things that we control. We have to do this on a daily basis. That’s been a focus of our program."

(On if he knows about a report that Jonathan Martin was fined by his teammates for being too soft) - “Again, I’m not going to comment on any of those things. That, I would imagine, would fall under the NFL review. I don’t think it is appropriate to make any comment on that at this point in time until the review is complete."

(On Stephen Ross’ supportive comments of him last night) - “Number one, I’m appreciative of Stephen (Ross’) comments. I think the only way you succeed if there is support within the whole entire organization. It starts at the top. Stephen is the owner of the football team. I appreciate his support. I didn’t really particularly read the comments, per se. I can’t comment any further.”

Dolphins lose to (previously) winless Tampa Bay

TAMPA -- Don't ask me to explain this one. Don't ask me to explain this team. Don't ask me to explain this organization.

The Dolphins lost to Tampa Bay on Monday night, 22-19. The Dolphins are lost for reasons well beyond the fact they lost to the previously winless Buccaneers.

Forget for a second the Dolphins rushed for only 2 yards this game, the lowest rushing production of any NFL team since 2007. Forget for a moment they had 70 yards in penalties or that they only converted 4 of 12 third down attempts or that their only rushing first down came on a quarterback sneak.

All that is football. It happens sometimes.

But as I write in my column in Tuesday's Miami Herald, the troubles plaguing this team are deeper. And I'm not even talking about the ongoing Richie Incognito-Jon Martin soap opera.

I'm talking fundamental problems like how the Dolphins in the past month have lost to a glorified practice squad quarterback and a rookie who threw for only 139 yards.

I'm talking about how the Dolphins show no fire. They came out flat against Tampa Bay. If you read this blog or my column Monday you know I expected this team to come together and try to prove a point to everyone.

Well, they proved a point alright.

"Anytime you start out in a 15-0 hole, you're not expecting to do that," cornerback Brent Grimes said. "But we kept playing. We could have easily folded and said, 'No we're not ready for this game. We didn't come out to play.' But we came out slow but kept fighting."

Here's the problem, in this fight, the Dolphins were counter-punching. The Bucs were punching. They were the aggressors.

And yet the players say nothing is wrong. 

"We're a tight-knit team," Grimes said. That's why I'm really confused with people saying this is not a good locker room. This is a great locker room. We were ready to play. We came out and wanted to win but had a slow start. We started off bad and that hurts in this league. We fought back but down the stretch they made plays and we didn't."

"We are a close-knit group on the defensive line, defensively. and the whole team," defensive tackle Jared Odrick said. "The whole team hangs out with [each other]and it's something we brought upon ourselves. We call ourselves a tribe. So you're not going to see a separation of anybody. The more adversity. The closer we get."

Well, these guys will be soon meshing into one another because the mercury is ready to pop through the adversity meter.

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is going to make changes. And, reading the signs Monday evening when the owner gushed about Joe Philbin and didn't mention Jeff Ireland until he said the general manager is on some internal policy committee, everyone is seeing that Ireland is looking more and more like the scapegoat.

This goes with my report Monday afternoon that said if Ross makes changes, he's more likely to keep Philbin than Ireland. I have a problem with this approach. I hope the Dolphins don't go that way.

It's clear, however, something is going to be done eventually. I'm just not sure it's going to be the right move. Can you blame me?

November 11, 2013

Stephen Ross shows a lot of love for Philbin

TAMPA -- This is what Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in his opening remarks tonight when he met with the media.

You will note the love he shows for Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. You will note he does not mention Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland:

In the past two weeks, our primary concern has been for Jonathan Martin.  Immediately after learning that Jonathan left the team, I spoke with Head Coach Joe Philbin and Joe visited with Jonathan in person that evening.  Over the ensuing days, both Joe and I reached out to Jonathan to express our concern and to offer our support.  Jonathan and I have exchanged texts as recently as this weekend, and I am scheduled to meet with him in person to see how he is doing and to listen to his concerns.   As I noted last week, I reached out to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and asked him to conduct an independent review of these allegations and I am grateful that Ted Wells will be leading the effort.  We have pledged our full cooperation in that endeavor. In addition, last week, we began our own internal review of policies and procedures to determine if there are immediate areas which can be improved upon.  I have asked President and CEO Tom Garfinkel to lead this effort.

Joe Philbin is a big part of that review process.  Joe is a man of high character who routinely communicates to our players our expectations of behavior and he espouses the values that we stand behind. He genuinely cares about our players—you can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice. A final step is the creation of an independent advisory group to review our current organizational conduct policies and to make recommendations on areas for improvement. I have asked former NFL Head Coaches Don Shula and Tony Dungy, along with former players Dan Marino, Curtis Martin and Jason Taylor, to be a part of this group and we will announce further additions in the coming days.  Together, these men bring integrity, respect and diverse experiences to the discussion, some having just recently retired from the locker room.

Joe Philbin and others will be a part of the process, as will current Dolphin players.  I want to be clear: this effort is to improve the Miami Dolphins only and is not intended to be a blueprint for other franchises. The working group will begin its charge after the season.  The NFL locker room is a special place, no doubt, but that does not mean that different rules of decency and respect should be in play.  Winning championships is what we are all about, but we cannot do so if any of our family members are challenged from reaching their potential. I want to thank the Dolphin fans and alumni for their patience as we work towards a stronger organization.

Live blog on Dolphins vs. Bucs

TAMPA -- The inactive for the Dolphins today are Dimitri Patterson, Pat Devlin, Mike Gillislee, Koa Misi, David Arkin, Dallas Thomas and Jonathan Martin.

The loss of Patterson means Nolan Carroll starts at cornerback. The loss of Misi mean Jason Trusnik starts at outside linebacker.

We have a live blog.

And as you know, there is the other news. I will add that to another post if you're interested.

Join me for the live blog.

Ross: It's been a 'nightmare," "appalling," "an embarrassment"

TAMPA -- Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced today he has named two committees to help the Dolphins address the current Incognito-Martin contoversy.

One of those is impressive. It will include: Tony Dungy, Curtis Martin, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor and Don Shula. That committee will be an advisory group to make recommendations on conduct in the locker room.

The other will include: Joe Philbin, Jeff Ireland, Dawn Aponte and team CEO Tom Garfinkel. That committee will review Dolphins policies.

Ross also said he will meet with Jonathan Martin Wednesday to further understand a situation he called "an embarrassment," "appalling" and a "nightmare" during a 15 minute press conference. 

The highlights from that press conference:

Ross said he texted Martin to ask him how he felt and to lend support. Of the coming meeting, "I'd like to hear from him what happened." Ross did not mention meeting Incognito until he was asked about it. He seemed uncomfortable with the idea of actually talking to his former player. I have reported Incognito has played his last game for the Dolphins.

Ross said there will be no racial slurs, nor harrassing nor bullying in that Dolphins locker room. Ross said, "I apologize to the fans for being in this position."

Ross said he doesn't want to make excuses and wants "to make our workplace the best workplace in NFL."

Ross was very, very supportive of coach Joe Philbin. It was clear the owner is comfortable with Philbin. Other than to say he was naming Ireland to that second committee, he didn't mention his general manager.

As I have reported if Ross is going to choose between one and the other, it will be Philbin. And not Ireland.