FRIDAY MEDIA COLUMN
(Note: Please check the previous two posts from Thursday with highlights from Al Golden's news conference and Dolphins news and notes from Thursday's practice.)
You'll know the Dolphins are truly back as an NFL mover-and-shaker when they warrant a regular-season appearance on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, the league’s premier TV package. That hasn’t happened since September 2010.
But at least they will receive NBC prime time exposure during preseason, with Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth calling Sunday’s Dolphins-Cowboys Hall of Fame game.
Collinsworth, who has won the Sports Emmy for outstanding game analyst each of the past four years, is eager to see the Dolphins’ augmented offense. He believes they will be a playoff contender but isn’t ready to pick against New England in the AFC East.
“You look at everything the Dolphins have added – they’re interesting,” Collinsworth said off the air, adding that in some ways, he expects them to be “fantastic.”
But, he added, “No matter how much the scale appears to tip in the Dolphins’ direction in other areas, 80 percent is quarterback. And it comes down to Tom Brady on one team and Ryan Tannehill on the other. Not that Tannehill is not going to be a player. Maybe he’s going to be a superstar. I don’t know.
"But every time I get away from the formula of ‘follow the quarterback’ to figure out who’s going to be in the playoffs, I come off looking stupid.”
That’s why, in forecasting the AFC, Collinsworth leans toward Denver (“they are truly expected to win it all”), New England, Baltimore (despite personnel losses) and Pittsburgh (“their offensive line was decimated” by injury last year). “And you don’t want to pick against Houston.”
That would leave Miami competing for a final playoff spot with the Bengals, Colts, Chargers and any surprises.
“I make the Patriots the favorites in the AFC East but with some hesitation,” Collinsworth said. “Is it possible they’re going to fall apart? They lost Brady for a year  and still went 11-5. They’ve been special and unique for a decade.”
Collinsworth said if the Dolphins can go 4-0 against the Jets and Bills, “they need to go only .500 the rest of the way to make the playoffs.”
There’s a lot he likes about the Dolphins. “They’ve got the defense and receivers that can play. They’ve got a pretty good pass rush. Brent Grimes is a difference maker. They’ve got depth in the secondary. They’ve got a lot more speed at linebacker than what they’ve had. Mike Pouncey, if he’s not the best center, is close.”
But… “offensive line, quarterback, running game are questions. I’ve got to see Lamar Miller run the ball. I’m still concerned about the offensive line. If your quarterback is getting hit and you’re not running the ball, that’s a bad combination --- I don’t care who you have playing wide-out if that happens.
“Jonathan Martin is plenty athletic, but every once in a while someone does a bull rush on him and takes him into the quarterback. [Besides Pouncey], I don’t know that there’s somebody on that offensive line where you can say, ‘I can leave him one-on-one and the world is OK.’”
And what about Tannehill?
“Watching tape of the 49ers game, you say, ‘How did he miss that throw?’ And then you watch another throw, and you say, ‘That was strong, that was good.’ Do I think he belongs in the class of young quarterbacks [with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson?] Not yet. But it’s way too early to tell. He’s athletic enough and the most inexperienced of them all.
“He doesn’t have to be a runner like [Griffin], but he has the athleticism to buy time like a Ben Roethlisberger or Wilson. If they can develop Tannehill with the read option stuff, that slows the pass rush.”
Collinsworth is particularly eager to watch Dion Jordan: “He is maybe the most interesting guy in the draft for me. He makes a lot of scrambling athletic tackles in the open field. I can see [defensive coordinator] Kevin Coyle having him do anything.”
### Michaels, incidentally, will be honored with the Pete Rozelle Radio & TV award this weekend.
AROUND THE DIAL
### Dumped by WQAM-560 in March, Dan Sileo has landed a new gig, as WMEN-640’s 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. host beginning Aug. 5. That means three of WMEN’s four weekday hosts will be former WQAM employees: Sid Rosenberg, Orlando Alzugaray and Sileo. The one exception: early afternoon host Andy Slater.
Procuring former WQAM talent “has given us the ability to put together a very competitive lineup,” WMEN general manager Steve Lapa said Thursday. “Dan is a personality, a unique talent.”
Of the three former WQAM hosts on WMEN, only Alzugaray left WQAM by choice. But WMEN's signal remains spotty in parts of Miami-Dade.
Sileo will host during the same time slot he handled for WQAM before the station fired him and replaced him with John Renshaw. Duane Starks is replacing Sileo on UM postgame shows.
### WQAM is in no rush to replace Jorge Sedano, who will work through Aug. 29 before leaving for a nightly ESPN Radio show. WQAM likely will use current staffers to fill in before hiring a replacement. Moving Channing Crowder to Sedano's slot is one option that cannot be ruled out. But his early-afternoon co-host, Adam Kuperstein, couldn't accompany him to a later time slot because of his duties as lead news co-anchor on NBC-6.
### WQAM had a preliminary conversation with the Marlins, whose radio contract expires after this season. But 790 The Ticket has a good chance to retain the rights… One other 'QAM note: The station hired former Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain to join Brandon Guzio on Dolphins postgame shows. During off-air interviews in recent years, Surtain impressed us with his ability to thoughtfully articulate his opinions.
### One reason the Cincinnati Bengals agreed to do HBO's Hard Knocks, which debuts Tuesday: Coach Marvin Lewis said he studied every episode of the Dolphins' Hard Knocks series last year -- looking for clues on snap counts and anything else -- and Miami still beat Cincinnati during the regular season. So he concluded there is no competitive disadvantage to participating in the program.
### The NBA schedule will be announced at 6 p.m. Tuesday on NBA TV. Four Heat games already have been revealed: the Oct. 29 opener at home against the Bulls, Nov. 1 at Brooklyn (the first Friday of the season), the night before the Super Bowl at the Knicks, and Christmas at the Lakers.