December 12, 2010

We get evaluated, Dolphins should be evaluated top to bottom

All of us that have jobs are evaluated at least once a year to mark the progress or regression we've made on the job. Am I right?

So an evaluation isn't an insult.

So, as I write in my Sunday column, the Dolphins need to perform a comprehensive top to bottom evaluation of the entire football side of the franchise.

In other words, coach Tony Sparano needs to be evaluated.

General manager Jeff Ireland needs to be evaluated.

All the players need to be evaluated.

All the assistants need to be evaluated.

I tell you in the column what result the evaluation of Sparano and Ireland should be, barring a final month collapse by the Dolphins.

I also tell you why the Dolphins need to encourage a couple of other high-ranking assistants to find something else to do next season because their work in 2010 won't stand up very well to an honest evaluation, regardless of what happens in the final four weeks of the season.

Those final four weeks begin today, by the way, with the Dolphins facing the New York Jets. We will have a live blog around 4 p.m. I will update the blog and and get us set up for the live blog, with pregame news, well before then.

So come back. 

December 06, 2010

Ross skips out on postgame locker room -- again

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano or general manager Jeff Ireland or both have a problem -- and it has nothing to do with what you think.

It doesn't have to do with the fact quarterback Chad Henne is inconsistent and both are tied to Henne as the franchise QB. It has nothing to do with the fact no one in Miami's defensive backfield can be trusted to catch a potential interception delivered directly to the hands. It also has nothing to do with the fact the running game, around which the offense is supposed to be built, has been absent the entire season.

Those problem pale for Miami's top football men compared to this: Owner Stephen Ross is clearly not happy.

And Ross makes the final call on both Sparano's and Ireland's job status.

Ross was at Sunday's 13-10 loss to the Cleveland Browns at Sun Life Stadium. But when the Dolphins lost, he made himself scarce. Unlike other games in which Ross goes from his suite to the team's locker room, Ross skipped the trip on Sunday.

And it was at least the second home loss after which Ross skipped joining his team in the locker room after the game. He wasn't there after the shutout loss to Chicago Nov. 18. So that's two consecutive games after which Ross does not go see his team.

This, by the way, may not seem significant to you. But how the owner's feels about his team is something the football people must be keenly monitoring if they want to enjoy some sort of job security. And it is clear those absences are a sign of disapproval.

It doesn't end there.

Ross is clearly not happy with Miami's 1-5 home record. That record is terrible for any team, but particularly frustrating for a team that has managed a 5-1 record on the road. Clearly, if a team can win on the road, it should be able to manage some wins at home as well. If that isn't happening, it suggest they are under-achieving at home. Certainly, Sunday's loss to the previously 4-7 Cleveland Browns suggests that.

And that is bad because Ross wants his home games to be fun and entertaining and an event. He has spent many resources -- celebrities, concerts, noise, etc ... -- on making home games a bigtime experience.

The problem is all the appetizer and side dish stuff loses its meaning when the main course, the actual football team, is not palatable on its home turf. What's more, the Dolphins are not only seldom successful at home this year, they are boring in the process.

The Dolphins are averaging 16.3 points per game at home this year. They are averaging 19.5 points on the road.

That is not good. And it is especially not good when the owner is so keen on entertainment and showtime and offering people a compelling reason to attend games.

That leads me to the next issue: The Dolphins have two more home games at Sun Life Stadium this season. Never mind whether they win or lose those games against Buffalo (Dec. 19) and Detroit (Dec. 26).

The fact is neither one of those games is sold out at this time. The fact is, barring some unexpected series of events, neither of those games is likely to sell out in time to avert the local television blackout.

That sets a bad tone, folks. Home games that are not sold out make the owner (more) unhappy.

And that is increasingly an issue for folks like Sparano and Ireland.

[I'll be discussing this very topic on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, today from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. I'm sure the other local morning hosts that read this blog for material will pick up on this, but I would encourage you to listen to me directly so I can share other tidbits on this topic with you. Armando and the Amigo is on 640 Sports in South Florida.]

September 15, 2010

Wednesday afternoon's happenings for Dolphins

Lots to get to. Let's work:

Last week an item in related a radio show interview's Vic Carucci did with a Buffalo radio station, during which this very good journalist said Bill Parcells was very disappointed with Chad Henne.

That report was repeated on and by numerous outlets and although I immediatedly tweeted that the report was not accurate because Parcells is not disappointed in Henne, the perception remained out there that Miami's consultant is disappointed.

Sooo, I wanted to give that thing something of a funeral today. Sooo, I asked coach Tony Sparano if in any of his conversations with Parcells he has gotten any inkling that the Dolphins consultant is disappointed in Henne.

"No," Sparano said. "I read the little blurp there, but no, nothing."

Trust me, guys, Bill Parcells is not disappointed in Chad Henne. Now, if Henne doesn't live up to expectations, it might come to that. But at this point? Not disappointed.


Defensive end Jared Odrick was in the locker room today (photo by David J. Neal).

He confirmed his right fibula injury is indeed a hairline fracture and said he's "week to week."


And while he had no definitive timetable for returning, Odrick didn't act like someone that is going to miss a significant amount of time. [I reported yesterday it would two weeks.] Odrick said the cast and wrap he's wearing over it is a precaution.

Odrick did share that he's broken the same right leg previously. And he has a metal plate in that leg. Interesting.

"Anytime you lose a player, particularly a young player, and one whose coming off a good game, it's tough, but the next guy's got to step up," Sparano said. "These are things our team is educated on. We call them body blows. It's a punch in the stomach but the next guy's got to step up."


There is talk the Dolphins might solve the Odrick absence by moving Randy Starks from nose tackle back to defensive end. Starks played defensive end the past two seasons and had a stellar season there last year, collecting seven sacks.

Well, that stuff is just speculation.

I asked Starks if he would welcome such a move. "I'll play wherever the coaches ask me to play," he said. "I'll do whatever they need for the team to win."

But ...

No one has asked Starks to do such a thing. I asked Starks if he's taken any snaps at defensive end since camp started.

"No," he said.

I asked Starks if he took any snaps at end today.

"No," he said.

I don't see how you can ask a player to play defensive end if he hasn't worked at the position since the 2009 season. Just sayin'.

The Dolphins will more likely go with Tony McDaniel to fill in for Odrick.


This week will be something of a reunion for CB Benny Sapp and the Minnesota Vikings. He's playing against the team he was traded from to the Dolphins in preseason.

But Sapp had other things on his mind today when he went out to practice than that coming return to the Metrodome. He was thinking about that possible pick-6 interception he dropped Sunday at Buffalo.

"I thought about it until the moment I got on the field today," Sapp said. "Then I prayed for God to help me focus on this game that's coming up and leave that behind."

Sapp sought Devine intervention to help him forget but he also did the natural thing to help him succeed if he's in a similar situation in the future:

He and the rest of Miami's DBs apparently took time after practice catching passes on the jugs machine. The Dolphins dropped two pick-6 opportunities Sunday, with Jason Allen being the other DB to miss the opportunity.

"Trying to make sure it doesn't happen again," Sapp said.


ILB Channing Crowder (groin) and SOLB Ikaika Alama-Francis (illness) did not practice Wednesday. 

September 09, 2010

Thursday roundup from Miami Dolphins

My question to Tony Sparano on Thrusday was simple enough: Give me your No. 1 key to victory against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

“Number one key to be able to win this game in my opinion I would tell you would have to be the turnover situation," Sparano said. "I think we need to win the turnover situation. We can’t come out 0-0 in this game. I think we need to be ahead of the curve in the turnover situation, and I think that if you can do that and you can minimize the minus plays, the negative plays when you’re in somebody’s else’s place, I think you have a chance."

Understand that it is not new for a coach to say he doesn't want turnovers. But it is interesting that Sparano not only thinks, but stresses that the Dolphins must win the turnover battle to "have a chance." 

That wouldn't be a big deal to me if the Dolphins were playing the New Orleans Saints or Indianapolis Colts. But they're playing the Buffalo Bills, for goodness sakes. The Bills aren't winning any titles this year, folks. They'll be lucky to rise from the division cellar where they finished last year.

And the Dolphins need to have the Bills make more turnovers to beat them? The Dolphins cannot beat the Bills if both teams play error-free?

I am extremely nervous about this game. We all expected the Dolphins to easily be the better team. But looking over the Bills and Dolphins, I don't see an enormous gap. I don't see a 31-14 blowout for the Dolphins in a return slap for the beating Buffalo administered Miami in Orchard Park last year.

I predict a very, very close game.


Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said today he was not sure if the Bills would have all three of their running backs -- C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, and Fred Jackson -- available to him.

I think I know.

During a segment on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said all three RBs will play against the Dolphins.


I don't see how Channing Crowder (groin) plays against Buffalo. He hasn't practiced in nearly a month. He isn't running or cutting. He cannot possibly be in football shape now because he hasn't hit anyone for a long time.

Sparano kept hinting he was not worried about Crowder's availability for the Buffalo game as late as last week. He obviously has information we do not and he's not sharing it right now. So maybe the miraculous happens.

(The Dolphins, by the way, fine players if they speak to the media about their injuries -- something the players will eventually figure out gives the team an advantage over opponents, but also gives the team an advantage over them, too.)

Anyway, my naked eyes tell me not to expect Crowder playing the Bills. Tim Dobbins would be the starter there, if the depth chart can be believed. How's the "throw-in" in the draft-day trade with San Diego looking now?

We get on the Dolphins for blowing it when they pay guys such as Jake Grove $29.5 million and he turns out to be a bust. We should also note with appreciation when they find nuggets like Dobbins.

And, oh by the way, if Dobbins indeed starts and plays well, I'd be getting a little worried if I'm Channing Crowder. He is not promised anything. If he can be replaced by a less-noted, lower-paid player who is healthy then what is the point of keeping him?

Crowder should think about what happened to Grove during this uncapped year in that regard. Or maybe he should think about what happened to Justin Smiley or Matt Roth. Injured guys don't play. And guys that don't play don't stick around here.

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[BROADCAST NOTE: Huge show on Armando and the Amigo on Friday. Guests will include Miami SS Yeremiah Bell, CBS information man Charley Casserly, ESPN's Marcellus Wiley, Bernie Kosar, former Bills coach Marv Levy, and the New York Post's Mark CannizzaroArmando and the Amigo is on every weekday morning 6-10 on 640-AM. If you're not in the area, listen on the web here.

August 22, 2010

The postgame analysis of Dolphins 27-26 victory

As I tell you in my column off of tonight's 27-26 preseason victory for the Miami Dolphins over the Jacksonville Jaguars, there is plenty of good to celebrate and some bad to be worried about.

But the bottom line is the Dolphins showed improvement from preseason game one to preseason game two. I saw it. You saw. Coach Tony Sparano saw it.

 "I feel like we got a little bit better this week during the course of practice and I think Chad [Henne] and Brandon [Marshall] played a little bit better," Sparano said. "Chad was efficient with the football ... And I thought Brandon made some plays. One of the things I really enjoyed was Brandon with the ball in his hands. He's exactly what I thought we might have when he gets the ball in his hands.

"We weren't very good a week ago so making improvement this week was critical. And we have a long ways to go and there's a lot of areas out there we can get better in. I'm fine right now where our team is but we got to make the same kind of jump this week in practice.

"We're nowhere near where we plan to be, but I do believe we made some progress tonight."

The biggest jump was made by Henne, which is important because he plays the most important position on the field. He completed 11 of 14 passes with two of those incompletions the results of drops -- one by Ricky Williams and one by Brandon Marshall.

"The first series was a slow start but overall we're seeing things clearly out there and trying to be more effective and efficient in our offense," Henne said. 

Henne had a 55 yard TD pass to Anthony Fasano and an 11 yard TD to Fasano. Both showed how Brandon Marshall helps even when he's not catching the football. On the first, Marshall blew up two defenders with the block that sprung Fasano for the score. On the second, Marshall's presence opened things up for Fasano.

"They split the safety and tried to double-cover Brandon out there so Anthony came open with a linebacker and I threw it because the linebacker wasn't looking," Henne said.

All in all, the outing was a confidence-building experience for Henne.

"Coming out here and performing well definitely builds it up and helps you going into the next preseason game and going into the season," he said. 

The Dolphins went into the game thinking Chad Pennington would play only if Henne got his work in the first half. If that happened early enough, Pennington would get his preseason opportunity. That's how it played out as Pennington completed 3 of 4 passes and led a touchdown drive.

"I thought Chad did fine," Sparano said. "First of all it was tough duty. He knew going into the game that depending on what the situation was like at the end of the half, he may or may not play. So it's tough being in that kind of situation and as I've been saying all along, he gets it. He wanted to underthrow Brandon just a little bit on the deep throw and Brandon did a good job of working back to the ball ... He even ran one there so that was pretty nice."

Although much about this night came in a good-new package, there were the sour moments, too.

Pass protection was good early. Later it was bad. The team gave up five sacks. One of those sacks was yielded by the starting offensive line, the rest by the reserves.

The special teams were troubling.

"We had another kick blocked tonight which, to be honest, was a flat-out concentration error," Sparano said. "And they have some good returners. I thought it was up, it was down, It was inconsistent. Nolan [Carroll] had a couple of decent returns. It was up and down, a little inconsistent."

To be fair, the kick coverage team has been a mish-mash of personnel as coaches try to find the right combos. Sparano promised that will be resolved in the coming week.

While Henne looked good against the Jacksonville defense, David Garrard performed surgery on the Dolphins secondary. He completed 6 of 8 passes for 79 yards with one touchdown. His passer rating was 145.3.

"We had things there in man coverage that we didn't take care of," Sparano said. "That concerns me because it's two weeks in a row where the ball is completed down the field on us a few times. We had a couple of chunk plays. They're a good group, but we have to be able to clean some of that up."

I asked Sparano his thoughts about getting or not getting Pat White in the game. He said, "It's circumstance right now. I can't get four guys in the game every week. So I didn't get him in the game this week and that's the way it went."

My guess is that was only the thought he felt he could share. He probably really thought that White is the team's No. 4 QBs and getting No. 4 QBs in games is not really a big priority. After the game, White said he was told he would not be playing.

As you have read here already, he's on his way out, which is surprising because he was a second-round pick, but not surprising when the second-round pick is the No. 4 QB. Right now, it seems only a matter of when, not if, the Dolphins will jettison White.

Maybe they can get something for him in trade.

What can I say? I'm an optimistic kind of guy.