FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
Jason Taylor begins his ESPN analyst gig in a few weeks, and he’s glad his former Dolphins boss has no control over his new career.
Considering Bill Parcells dumped Taylor twice when Parcells ran Miami’s front office (once in a trade, once by not re-signing him), Taylor cracked that it’s a good thing Parcells – now an ESPN analyst - has no say in the network’s personnel decisions.
“If Bill had anything to do with hiring me,” Taylor said, “they wouldn’t have hired me or they would get rid of me…. I haven’t talked to Bill since he got rid of me a second time.”
Taylor, articulate and media-savvy, has all the tools to be a capable studio analyst, provided he doesn’t curb his candor.
He was cautious at times in media interviews as a player, when he often was asked predictable, repetitive questions. But he spoke succinctly about the Dolphins defense in a recent phone conversation, and his past appearances on Dan Le Batard’s radio show have produced substantive exchanges.
Taylor will start the gig in early August, appearing on SportsCenter, NFL Live, NFL32 and contributing to Sunday Countdown.
The job also begins a new chapter in his life – one that he said might include books, films and other TV projects. He finished as a runner-up on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars in 2008, and that could open non-sports avenues.
In his ESPN role, he said he will have no hesitation criticizing players if warranted, but he sees his job largely as “helping fans understand what a player may be thinking, why a play happened. I’m not here to make waves. I won’t criticize just to criticize.”
Taylor, who retired with 139 ½ sacks (including seven last season) and six Pro Bowl appearances, offered an assessment of the Dolphins defense:
### On the change in scheme to a 4-3 base: “I don’t think it’s an uncomfortable fit. Some would say they have 3-4 personnel, and you had the [third-ranked run defense], so why mess with it? But they have guys with good crossover ability. Cameron Wake fits well in a 3-4 and 4-3.
“Jared Odrick fits well in a 4-3: big run stopper, athletic guy, can rush the passer. Randy Starks and Paul Soliai fit well in both defenses. Soliai will take up two guys.” He likes how the linebackers project in a 4-3, too.
### He hopes the new scheme will use Wake exclusively as a pass rusher on passing plays. Former coordinator Mike Nolan used Wake in pass coverage several times last season, and Taylor said, “I don’t want Wake dropped into coverage” because of his value as a rusher.
### Taylor questioned the Dolphins’ release of safety Yeremiah Bell, who signed with the Jets.
“There are no deep-rooted loyalties in the NFL, but I thought Y.B. was good enough to be there,” he said. “I would not have gotten rid of him.”
Taylor said even beyond Bell’s play, he has value “getting guys lined up. The type of locker-room guy he was, he has a calming effect. A lot of things go into the value of a player.”
### Taylor challenged Reshad Jones, a likely starter at safety. “You can’t play, ‘I’m the young card’ forever,” Taylor said. “You’re a pro. Now it’s time to eliminate mistakes and be a leader.”
That includes things like “paying attention in meetings,” he said. Speaking about Jimmy Wilson’s move from cornerback to safety, Taylor said, “We all know he can play.”
### On cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, Taylor said, “They both have talent and it’s time to show that on a consistent basis. Vontae is a special athlete. If you can keep him focused, he’ll be fine.”
Taylor said he likes how Smith “cut his hair” – eliminating the dreadlocks – and changed his demeanor somewhat, “and hopefully that translates.”
ESPN has high hopes for Taylor.
“Jason worked as a guest analyst in studio on a few shows last year, and we were extremely impressed with his performance and the depth of knowledge he was able to share with the viewer,” ESPN senior coordinating producer Seth Markman said.
### Taylor and Reggie Bush will co-host a football camp for boys and girls, ages 7 to 14, on July 23 and 24 in the Dolphins’ practice bubble. Cost is $150 – with proceeds benefiting Taylor’s charity foundation – and each camper receives merchandise worth more than $150. To sign up, call 888-389-2267.
AROUND THE DIAL
For the first time, the NFL is allowing teams to lift the blackout if they sell only 85 percent of the non-premium seat tickets to a game by 72 hours before kickoff --- as opposed to 100 percent, which has been the case for many years.
The Dolphins might use a number higher than 85 percent -- presumably because teams must give a greater share of the gate revenue to the road team for every seat sold over the "blackout" percentage that a team is using. The Dolphins haven't decided what number they're using, but a final decision is not due until Aug. 9. The Dolphins say they have sold 6000 new season tickets - the most in several years.
As usual, the Dolphins' hope is that every game will be on local TV. The team hasn't had a regular-season game blacked out since 1998.
"Every year it's our goal to sell every seat to have the games on TV," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said Thursday. "We feel it's important to have games on local TV."
But Dee stopped short of saying every game would definitely be on local TV, saying every season "brings a different dynamic" but that the team will "work tirelessly" in its marketing efforts to try to make it happen.
### No surprise here: NFL Network analyst and former Hurricanes and Dallas Cowboys great Michael Irvin is not expected to remain host of WQAM-560’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. show much longer. His contract expires shortly. Irvin and the station have discussed the possibility of a more limited role. Irvin likes living in Texas and WQAM was never thrilled with him doing a show from Dallas rather than South Florida.
Jorge Sedano, who left 790 The Ticket’s morning show in April to concentrate on a TV career, is the heavy front-runner to replace Irvin. His 790 non-compete clause doesn’t end until Aug. 9 and he cannot begin negotiations with WQAM before that.
### It’s likely that Marc Hochman – the highly creative producer for Le Batard’s radio show – will become a permanent co-host on the 790 morning show after filling in the past three months. He probably will be paired with Jon Weiner, Jonathan Zaslow or some combination of the two.
In June, the Hochman/Weiner combo ranked ninth in the market, among men 25 to 54, from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., while WQAM ranked 20th. (The Ticket’s morning show assuredly got a boost from the station owning Heat radio rights.)
Weiner is adamant about remaining Le Batard’s co-host and isn’t sure if he can realistically juggle a morning gig, too. Unless he spends the rest of his day napping.