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5 posts from June 2014

June 05, 2014

The right Dolphins role for Dan Marino

The Dolphins and Dan Marino have been talking about a job with the organization for more than a year, and yes, the topic has intensified (at least to the public) because CBS fired Marino in February and, as predicted, everyone assumed the proverbial son would return home once his time on national TV had ended.

But despite a face-to-face meeting between Marino and club owner Stephen Ross in April, which The Herald's Barry Jackson first reported, nothing is signed, sealed or delivered yet.

Dan Marino may someday again work for the Dolphins.

... Or he might not.

Why the uncertainty?

Well, I guess to hire someone you have to have a job available to them. And then that person has to want that job.

And Marino and the Dolphins seem to be floating in a netherworld of not quite there on either front.

The Dolphins would love for Marino to rejoin the organization. But it is quite clear they want him as what he naturally seems to be -- a face for the franchise that is recognizable and respected and a reminder of how good things used to be.

(Playoffs almost every season is much better than no playoffs every season).

Such a position does not require a lot of preparation. Such a position does not require a fulltime, breakneck commitment. Such a position is a great fit for Marino.

And I commend the Dolphins, specifically club president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, for seeing that fit.

But ...

Marino doesn't seem to be sold on that fit. He seems to want to be more than a marketing tool that is trotted out at events and then set back in the shadows when real football business is handled. Marino apparently would like some actual power.

The problem is Marino is not currently suited for a role that includes any power. He's not ready to be a coach. He's not ready to be a general manager. He's not ready to be team president. Just as importantly, the Dolphins power bureaucracy is saturated as it is.

And then there is this: No one is certain exactly how much desire Marino has for putting in exceedingly long hours. I'm certain if this 52-year-old man wanted to work hard and long and be away from his family and commit, he would be an amazing success at whatever position he wanted to fill.

But there is no surety about that commitment at this point.

And so Marino is not hired yet.

In truth, if the commitment hurdle could be crossed, Marino could turn into a major asset for Ross if the owner would read the next few paragraphs carefully:

Dan Marino would be perfect as the owner's eyes and ears. Call him the special advisor to the owner.

Remember that Ross is an absentee owner. Like it or not, the Dolphins are one of his business ventures, but not his primary business venture. Like it or not, the Dolphins are more a billion-dollar hobby. Ross lives in New York. He works in real estate. And he dabbles as an owner.

That's simply the truth.

Ross relies on the people he has hired to run the Dolphins. He relies on coach Joe Philbin. He relies on general manager Dennis Hickey. He relies on executive vice president Dawn Aponte. On the business side he relies on Garfinkel. He relies on advisor Matt Higgins.

And none of that is any different as any other NFL owner except that Ross is absentee. He's not around the team on a day-to-day basis. He does not witness firsthand what is happening. He is a commander-in-chief who relies on his generals to report to him.

The problem?

Sometimes generals have an agenda. And that agenda is always keeping their job and staying in good favor. Sometimes the commander-in-chief is simply out of the loop.

That is how a general manager and a head coach can go almost an entire year losing respect for one another and much of a season not speaking and it festers until one of them is gone.

So what I propose is inserting Marino into the gap Ross needs to fill between knowing what is actually happening within his organization and what he's told is happening within his organization.

I would turn Marino loose and have him sit in on meetings, talk to the coaches, hear what they think and are planning. And then once he sees the results of those plans and what actually is happening on the field, report to Ross what actually went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose over the personnel department and let him ask questions. What's Hickey's vision? What are the issues he's concerned about? How is he addressing them? Who is he trying to sign? Who is he planning on discarding? And then when we see how that vision translates to reality, he could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose over the cap and the legal matters Aponte oversees. What is her vision for handling the coming Mike Pouncey extension, especially given the fact Pouncey seems to have some maturity issues? What is her strategy for handling the coming Ryan Tannehill second contract? Why aren't the first three draft picks signed yet? What was her legal advise on the firing of multiple people who are now threatening to sue? And then when we see how that strategy and vision play out, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

I would turn Marino loose in the locker room, where he would already have a ton of respect based on his credentials and history. If the vets are tired late in the season and need to lighten up in practice, he'd know. If the players don't trust the trainer, he'd know. If the players come in drunk or hung over to practice (it has happened on multiple occasions the past four years), he'd know. And then when we see how locker room issues affect the performance of the players on the field, Marino could report to Ross what went right ... and wrong.

(Who knows, he might even be able to head off some problems if they're addressed early enough).

Eyes and ears.

Without any agenda. Without fear of having to say what he feels the owner wants to hear to keep his job. 

That's what Marino could provide. Frankly, someone like Jason Taylor could similarly fill that role.

After I gave a brief outline for this role on my twitter account (you should follow me), some people called the job I propose one as a snitch.

That's a crass way of looking at it. The role is meant to increase the level of accountability throughout the organization -- and boy, has it needed it the past decade. The role is one that reports the good news as well as the bad. The role can help the team when its heading toward a ditch similar to last year's harassment scandal. The role can help fairy tale stories about what is going on get brushed away but what is true and accurate.

The role could help Ross be a better owner.

Would that role require an investment in time from Marino? Of course. That's why it's called work.

But it would not require the Hall of Famer keeping coaches hours. He doesn't have to meet with everyone every day. He doesn't have to sit in every meeting. But game plan meeting? Big draft meetings? The meetings where the grand strategy is crafted? Of course.

Marino could work smart hours rather than long hours. Oh yeah, and instead of traveling to New York every week for a pregame show, he'd travel only when the Dolphins are on the road or only to the Senior Bowl and Indianapolis Combine.

By God, people in the media travel to those events for a fraction of what Marino would make.

But what the person in that role could provide might prove invaluable.

June 04, 2014

Louis Delmas feels "great," which is good

Talent has never been a question with Louis Delmas. Playmaking ability has never been a question with Louis Delmas. Durability?

That's been a question for the Dolphins new starting safety.

Delmas played 16 games only once in his five-year career with Detroit. And even after that 2013 season, the Lions decided to cut Delmas.

So how's Delmas's health now.

"I’m great. I’m great," he said recently after a Dolphins OTA practice. "I haven’t missed a day of training, haven’t missed a day of practice. I’m feeling good right now, the best I’ve felt my last four years of football. So I’m very excited about this year."

Re-read that please. Delmas, ready to start his sixth NFL season, is feeling the best he's felt since his rookie year in the NFL.

That's good news for he Dolphins because they desperately would like Delmas to stay healthy in the coming season because healthy mean available and when Delmas is available, he generally makes plays.

Last year Delmas had three interceptions. Plays.

He had two sacks. Plays.

He's averaged nearly one fumble recovery per season. Plays.

He returned one of those fumbles and an interception for a touchdown as a rookie. Plays.

The Dolphins defense wants more playmakers and Delmas offers that possibility.

But he cannot do any of that if the durability issues haunts. Delmas is doing what he can to make sure it does not.

“Rest," Delmas said. "That’s something my first couple of years I didn’t take pride in is resting. After the season, I always started immediately with workouts. I think, as the years started going on, I started earning more miles on these legs, I needed to rest a little more. The coaching staff and the trainers are doing a great job of managing me. I’m comfortable right now."

It must be said one of the flaws Delmas has is also one of his strengths.

The man plays at ludicrous speed (Spaceballs reference) all the time. That's great for a Miami defense that is looking to attack more and set the tempo on the field.

But that approach has sometimes in the past led Delmas to give up big plays in the back end when he over-reacts.

And this:

Delmas gained a reputation in Detroit as a vicious hitter who gave no quarter. When he hits, he delivers the blow with everything he's got. But his full speed approach sometimes got him hurt. And his full speed approach at times got teammates hurt as well in situation where an offensive player duck beneath his hit and Delmas ends up hitting one of his own.

Perhaps Delmas can tame that aspect of his game some. Being home in South Florida might help in that regard. Enjoying his environment perhaps can be the settling influence Delmas might need. 

"It’s a fun environment," Delmas said. "I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity that I step foot on the field."

June 03, 2014

See why Dolphins want upgrade at MLB

Watch the video below.

It is a compilation of Alex Mack highlights from 2013. Mack, the center for the Cleveland Browns, truly is among the best at his position in the NFL. But that's not the reason the video is on here.

The reason comes around the :34 second mark.

In that play you see Trent Richardson taking the ball around his 48 yard line and gaining 11 yards to around the Dolphin 41 yard line.

In that play you see Mack getting to the second level and locking on to Dolphins middle linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. And you see Mack driving Ellerbe back ...

... and back.

... and back.

Richardson is tackled by Dolphins safety Chris Clemons. Meanwhile, a couple of more yards down the field, Ellerbe is still being blocked by Mack.

The Dolphins middle linebacker got locked up just beyond the line of scrimmage. He didn't get off the block, like, at all. And he got driven off the line of scrimmage some 15 or so yards by the time the running play ends.

And you wonder why the Dolphins run defense struggled in 2013?

And you wonder why the Dolphins are working with Koa Misi as the middle linebacker now and Ellerbe, signed to a five-year, $34.75 million contract last year, was a bust in his first year with Miami?

Yes, Ellerbe was second on the team with 101 tackles. But only three of his tackles were for a loss. Three tackles for losses is the same number Reshad Jones had in 2013.

And Jones plays safety, often 15 yards off the line of scrimmage. 

(Anyway, watch the video before I continue below. Remember, the play in question starts at the :34 second mark.)


The Dolphins hoped Ellerbe could be their new Zach Thomas or Bryan Cox (he played MLB for a year in Miami) or John Offerdahl. He had been a solid fill-in for Ray Lewis when Lewis was injured in Baltimore.

But the move simply did not translate in Miami.

And so what to do with a player who is making $6 million this year, is costing $7.425 million against the salary cap, and cannot be cut because the move would weigh the Dolphins down with $11.6 million in dead money.

So Ellerbe is headed outside, with Misi now the MLB.

Why Misi?

Well, the attempt to sign D'Qwell Jackson in free agency did not pan out. He went to the Colts. The idea of drafting Ryan Shazier did not pan out. He was drafted by the Steelers before the Dolphins could even make a decision on the clock. And Jordan Tripp, drafted in the fifth round, is not ready.

Sooo ...

Koa Misi, everyone.

"Since I’ve been here, one of the things that we’ve emphasized strongly have been fundamentals on defense whether it is block protection, pursuit, tackling, creating turnovers," coach Joe Philbin said Monday. "One of the things we’ve liked about him, that I’ve liked in particular, is when we do a year-end cut-up and we show examples how to take on a block, how to tackle properly, how to pursue the football. He shows up on a lot of those cut-ups.

"Football, as I like to tell the team, is not complicated. Defensively, we want to do those things. We want to see him do those things and we want to take a look at him from the interior, from the middle. We think he has great leadership qualities. We think his play has certainly exemplified that over the course of period of time that I’ve been here. He plays football the right way, so we are going to see how we adjust to that position and how he relates to the other players at his position and the defense in general. So far he’s done a nice job."

Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said he's not ready to commit to Misi as the starting MLB just yet. But, honestly, what choice does he presently have?

Brian Urlacher is not walking through that door. (Well, maybe he might in Dallas.)

So ... Misi.

“I’ve always been open to anything," Misi said, thus dismissing an inaccurate report that he was unhappy with the move to the middle. "Like I said to these guys, since I got here, I’ve been switching positions. I’m always open to try something new. Like I said, if it works, it works and, if not, we’ll go back to the way things were."

So far, it is working as far as adjusting to the new spot and comfort level are concerned.

"I’ve played defensive end, I’ve played outside linebacker (and) all of our reads were from the outside in," Misi said. "I was walked out on number two. I’m playing Mike (linebacker) now, I’m in the middle. I’m reading everything inside out. I’m dropping in the middle. Everything’s different. I’ve got a lot more calls to make. I’ve got a lot more reads. With work, it will get better.”

 "Once I get this defense down playing, playing Mike, I think I'll be all right.

"I’m already feeling a lot more comfortable."


The team didn't ask him what he thought of the move.

"They just told me they were thinking about some things," Ellerbe said. "I’m down for it. Where ever I can stay in and get comfortable and be able to help the team and play my best, I don’t care where they put me."

The Dolphins are still in the middle linebacker market. As they should be. They'll keep an eye out for possible candidates as teams make cuts between now and training camp and then again before the regular season.

The next phase of this experiment is obviously to see how Misi handles the middle when hitting begins. Then everyone will see how he handles the middle when the preseason games begin.

Amazingly, a team that paid so much to fill its middle linebacker spot a year ago still has uncertainty with the quality of play at that position.

June 02, 2014

Coyle defends his defense ... but facts

The new Dolphins offense is going to be more diverse. Today (one day) we saw motion, tight end screens, a reverse, a little read option -- and the Dolphins were only working in the red zone.

(And not one go or go-go heard all day).

So things are going to be interesting for the 2014 Miami offense, as has been well chronicled.

But the defense is undergoing changes of its own as well.

"We're always looking to improve," defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle said. "We take the offseason and study teams around the league. We look at ourselves. We look at ways we can be better and utilize personnel better.

"We'll do some different things come the Fall, but I'm not going to talk about them with you guys."

Well, some of the things the Dolphins are experimenting with are apparent. The team is giving Koa Misi the middle linebacker repetitions this offseason while Dannell Ellerbe is shifting to strongside linebacker. The experiment continues and has been something of a success in the offseason, but Coyle stops short of saying it will be what the Dolphins do in the regular season.

"Right now, I can't commit today that it's a done deal," Coyle said, "but certainly I like what we're seeing."

Coyle, speaking for the first time since the end of the 2013 season, made a prideful case for the quality of his defense.

"We have a great foundation that we've built here. We feel real strong about what we've done," he said. "The bottom line is if you ask any defensive coach or head coach or anybody that really understands football for that matter, the bottom line is keep the points off the board.

"We've been very good at that the last two years. We finished seventh in 2012, eighth in 2013. There's only been four teams in the league that have been in the top 8 --San Francisco, Cincinnati, Seattle and us. We've been third in the AFC for two consecutive years in scoring defense. So the bottom line is keeping people out of the end zone and giving yourself a chance to win." 

Those statistics that Coyle repeats are impressive. But here is what the coach is missing ...

The Miami defense was playoff caliber before Coyle arrived. Nothing against him. He's a good coach. He's a good man. But he's not a historian.

The problem is I'm partly a historian.

The truth is the same Dolphins defense that was No. 8 in scoring defense (20.9 points per game) in 2013, and No. 7 in scoring defense (19.8 PPG) in 2012, was No. 6 in scoring defense (19.6 PPG) in 2011. So, ahem, the defense was already built to high standards before Coyle arrived.

And that defense the past two years has gotten worse results, not better, if the standard is points allowed -- the statistic Coyle points to as the one football people think most important.

Also, the idea of talking of how great the defense is should recall two more things: On Nov. 15 of last year, the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills. On Dec. 23 of last year, the Dolphins lost to the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills averaged 21 points in those two games. With Thad Lewis as their starting quarterback.


Coyle: Dolphins considered putting Jordan on IR

Everyone knows the Dolphins didn't get enough out of rookie Dion Jordan last season. The team wasn't happy with it. Jordan wasn't happy with it. Fans weren't happy with it.

It beats what might have happened.

That's because the Dolphins late during the 2013 training camp considered letting Jordan spend the entire season on injured reserve, according to defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.

"We came very close during the preseason to have to make a decision whether or not we were going to try to redshirt Dion or know we were going to get limited snaps from him," Coyle said Monday after the Dolphins OTA practice.

"We had to make a decision whether to have him active for the year," Coyle said. "We talked about that late in the preseason in camp to make a determination whether we could get enough out of him. As it went, we wish we would have gotten more, but situationally, we knew where his strengths were and where he had not gotten enough work and so we didn't want to expose him nor the team."

Jordan played the fewest snaps of any defensive end on the active. He played less at the end of the year than even in the middle of the season. That was last year.

But this is a new year and "this is a different Dion," Coyle said. Jordan is up over 265 pounds. He's obviously involved in the offseason program.

And Coyle thinks the player drafted No. 3 overall a season ago is going to do great things this season. Like, really great things. 

"All the talk in the offseason that centered around he wasn't utilized, he didn't do that, we knew going into the year he hadn't had an offseason," Coyle said. "He was coming off of an injury. But it would be in the best interest of our team to have him, even for limited snaps. We made that decision. Certainly, Dion wished he had a bigger rookie season and so do we.

"But we have great expectations for Dion Jordan coming into this year. You cannot have enough great pass rushers and we feel with Dion at full speed we have a prime time player that's going to explode this season. "