January 14, 2016

Kiper explains why Clemson DE Lawson makes sense for Dolphins at No. 8

A lot can change in the four months before the draft, but the likely options for the Dolphins’ pick at No. 8 probably can be limited to a half dozen players at the moment.

ESPN's Mel Kiper, who released his first mock draft today, told me on a conference call a few minutes ago that he considered two players strongly for the Dolphins: Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson and UF cornerback Vernon Hargreaves.

Kiper knows Miami needs cornerbacks, linebackers and a defensive end. And Kiper’s first mock draft has a cornerback (Hargreaves) and linebackers (UCLA’s Myles Jack and Alabama’s Reggie Ragland) going in spots 9 through 11, directly after Miami.

So why pick Lawson at No. 8?

Simple: Kiper said he’s simply the best player of those four that he slots between 8 and 11.

“I thought about Hargreaves to Miami,” Kiper said this afternoon.

But ultimately he thought Lawson was too good to pass up. Lawson led college football in tackles for loss with 25.5.

“Shaq Lawson against Alabama showed his guts and determination,” Kiper said. “A lot of people didn’t think he would play.  Miami should add another edge-rusher because Olivier Vernon is about to become extremely expensive if he can even be kept around as an unrestricted free agent.

“Lawson is just extremely consistent in his ability to beat tackles and make plays. If they can improve that pass rush and get a corner, they have a chance to be a much better football team next year.”

Here’s how Kiper assesses the three players he has going after Lawson:

### On Hargreaves: “This is just a truly gifted cover man, with the ability to press or play off and really just mirror a pass-catcher all over the place. He's been doing it since he arrived in Gainesville. The Bucs do have a need at cornerback, but there isn't a team in the NFL that wouldn't want this kind of talent on the roster.”

### On Jack: “Jack isn't your classic downhill run-stuffer -- the guy can flat-out cover, and he epitomizes what teams need at least one of in 2016. He's a special talent.”

### On Ragland: Kiper believes he can be an immediate starter at middle linebacker.

Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, who was once considered in Miami’s range, slipped to 20th in Kiper’s initial mock draft because he’s coming off a major knee injury.

“There's at least the possibility he won't play football in 2016,” Kiper said. “That said, I'm not exaggerating on the kid's behalf when I say he was arguably the best player in this entire draft.…. Smith is an absolute monster if he's back -- a Pro Bowl-caliber talent even if he loses half a step.”

Which of those four aforementioned players would be best for Miami will be dictated at least partly by which needs are filled first in free agency. If the Dolphins keep Cam Wake and Vernon, defensive end obviously becomes less of a need.

The Dolphins naturally would love to have the option of picking a handful of players slotted ahead of No. 8 in Kiper’s first mock.

Kiper’s top 7, in order: Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa, Cal QB Jared Goff (Miami isn’t looking for a quarterback in the first round); Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (can also play guard);  Oregon defensive end DeForest Buckner; FSU cornerback/safety Jalen Ramsey (Kiper has him fifth to Jacksonville); Notre Dame offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley;  and Mississippi receiver Laquon Treadwell (Miami isn’t looking for a receiver).

Ramsey would be appealing to Miami, but Kiper says he expects him to go third, fifth or sixth.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 13, 2016

Marlins strike deal with Gordon; Dolphins notes (Gase, Philbin); Ex-UM star lands job; "Lowlife" apology and broadcast notes

A six-pack of notes, plus some media news, as South Florida awaits late night viewing of Heat-Clippers and Panthers-Flames:

### The Marlins will have their two best offensive players under longterm contracts after agreeing in principle to a deal with Dee Gordon tonight.

As Fox’s Ken Rosenthal reported and The Herald confirmed, it’s a five-year deal for $50 million, with a sixth year vesting option at $14 million.

The deal buys out three years of arbitration eligibility for Gordon and at least two free agent years.

Last year, Gordon became only the second NL player ever to win the batting and stolen base titles.

Gordon's contract comes 14 months after Giancarlo Stanton signed a 13-year, $325 million deal with an opt out after six.

### After employing a comatose former coach in Joe Philbin, the question will inevitably be asked of Adam Gase, and NBC’s Peter King asked it well in his brief interview with Gase on his Monday Morning Quarterback web site.

King said: “You’re a fairly mild manner guy, and I’ve heard that affected some teams’ opinions of you. Can you command a room?”

Gase’s response: “That would be a good question for the people who interviewed me. Josh gave me an opportunity [in 2009] to present in front of our offense … I was the third-down guy. I did that more and more since then. In 2013 and 2014, as coordinator in Denver, I had a pretty high-profile group to be in charge of. Sometimes what you see publicly is different than what’s happening behind closed doors. I feel I bring a passion, an attitude you can’t fake. What goes on in most of what I do in this job, you haven’t had a chance to see.”

### Pro Football Focus said one reason that Gase is a good fit for Ryan Tannehill is “there are a number of similarities between the offense Gase ran in Chicago and some elements of Tannehill’s offense under offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Both use the read-option in the run game to hold the backside defender. Gase is likely to keep those features, suggesting an overhaul isn’t required in Miami.”

### If the Chargers join the Rams in Los Angeles in 2016, the Dolphins will be the only team that will play exactly two games there next season. Miami also plays at Seattle.

The NFL is under no obligation to schedule two of those three games on consecutive weeks, but it would assuredly be helpful.

### ESPN’s Keith Law, on the Marlins’ signing of lefty Wei Yin Chen: “Chen is worth a couple of wins more than whomever he replaces, but they're still looking at a couple of below-average starters behind him in the rotation.

“Chen is a solid mid-rotation option who kills left-handed hitters thanks to a plus slider and has had the control to survive some real trouble against right-handed hitters, but the lack of an average changeup or splitter means that righties will continue to give him fits; they have a .457 career slugging percentage against Chen in his four seasons.

“He'll have to face a few NL East lineups that can be righty-heavy when needed, especially the Mets and Nats, which doesn't help his cause any.

[But two years, $28 million or five years, $80 million] is about the going rate for a starter of Chen's overall caliber -- average to slightly better, good for 31-32 starts in most years -- even though he's very unlikely to be worth that to the Marlins, who would have a hard time filling their stadium if the Pope was throwing out the first pitch.”

### Former UM and NFL star Ed Reed joined the Buffalo Bills’ as assistant defensive backs coach.

MEDIA NOTES

Fox Sports Panthers analyst Denis Potvin today apologized for calling Vancouver Canucks forward Daniel Sedin a “low life” after Monday’s game.

Potvin made the comment because he was angry that Sedin was “goading” the Panthers bench, which was one element of a postgame fracas between the teams. (The Vancouver press later reported that Sedin was merely responding to disparaging trash-talking by the Panthers.)

"My choice of words at the conclusion of the Vancouver game on Monday should have been more appropriate,” Potvin said in a statement. “In the passion of the moment and under the circumstances of how the game ended, they came out wrong. For that I'm going to extend my sincere apologies to Daniel Sedin, Trevor Linden and the Canucks organization."…

This year’s national championship game ended up drawing substantially fewer viewers than last year’s (26.2 million to 34.1 million). That includes viewers who tuned in the non-traditional cablecasts on ESPN platforms. Miami/Fort Lauderdale’s rating was 49th of 56 metered markets.

 By the way, the Duke-Wisconsin NCAA basketball title game drew about two million more viewers than Alabama-Clemson on Monday. But that game was on free TV, the football game on cable…

ESPN today unveiled a new Sunday night MLB announcing team: Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone and Olympic gold medalist and retired softball star Jessica Mendoza. Curt Schilling shifts to Monday nights and John Kruk was re-assigned to the studio…

ESPN today mourned the passing of Jim Simpson, one of its prominent voices during its first year on the air (1979), and beyond. He was the first person to ever call a college football game on ESPN. In the 1960s, he was NBC’s No. 2 voice behind Curt Gowdy. He also called the first Super Bowl on radio and many Orange Bowls on TV. Simpson was 88.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 12, 2016

Details on Marlins' acquisition of starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen and IF Chris Johnson; Dolphins, Heat, UM

The Marlins have had a quiet offseason, but that changed in a big way on Tuesday when the team agreed to contracts with left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen, who's a potential No. 2 starter, and infielder Chris Johnson, a career .280 hitter.

Neither deal has been announced, but both were confirmed by a source with direct knowledge. Chen must still pass a physical.

The Marlins landed Chen with a five-year, $80 million deal that could become a six-year, $96 million contract if Chen pitches 180 innings in year five of the contract, according to a source.

But there’s a catch: Chen, 30, can opt out after two seasons. The Marlins will pay him $6 million in 2016 and $14 million in 2017. He also is receiving an $8 million signing bonus. 

So if Chen leaves after two seasons, he will have made $28 million over two years. If he stays beyond that, he will make another $52 million over those next three years, or $68 million over the next four years if he meets innings pitched stipulations.

Chen was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA for Baltimore last season, his earned-run average ranking seventh in the American League.

He is 46-32 with a 3.72 ERA in his four-year career, all with the Orioles. His best season was 2014, when he went 16-6. He’s 1-1 with a 4.70 ERA in three postseason starts.

Chen doesn’t walk a lot of hitters; he walked 1.7 per nine innings in 2014 (ranking fifth in the American League) and 1.9 per nine in 2015 (ranking seventh).

But he is prone to allowing home runs. He relinquished 28 last season, sixth-most in the AL, after relinquishing 29 and 23 the previous two seasons.

Born in Taiwan, Chen pitched for the Chunichi Dragons from 2004 through 2011, going 36-30 with a 2.59 ERA, with his career briefly interrupted by 2006 Tommy John surgery.

He also pitched for Chinese Taipei in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.

Chen figures to slot in as the Marlins’ No. 2 starter, behind ace Jose Fernandez. Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler also are expected to be a part of the rotation.

The fifth spot could go to Edwin Jackson, David Phelps, Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley, Jose Urena or Kendrys Flores.

Chen's fastball has averaged between 91 and 92 MHP the past four seasons, according to fangraphs.com. He also throws a changeup, slider and curveball

The Marlins negotiated the Chen deal with agent Scott Boras, who was upset with the Marlins for leaving outfielder Marcell Ozuna in the minors for 5 ½ weeks last summer, thus delaying his arbitration eligibility by a year. But Boras and the Marlins appear to have repaired their relationship.

Boras also represents Fernandez and Cosart, giving him three of the Marlins' top four starting pitchers.

Meanwhile, Johnson, 31, fills the need for a right-handed bat off the bench. Johnson has played for Houston, Arizona, Atlanta and Cleveland in a seven-year career and has 58 career homers and 315 RBI.

He batted 255 with three homers and 18 RBI for Atlanta and Cleveland last season and .263 with 10 homers and 58 RBI for Atlanta in 2014. He finished second in the National League in batting average (.321) for Atlanta in 2013.

Johnson will back up left-handed hitting Justin Bour at first base and figures to get playing time against left-handers.

Johnson appears to be ideal complement for Bour. Johnson hit .326 vs left-handers last season, while Bour hit just .221 against lefties, albeit in just 68 at-bats.

Bour, conversely, hit .271 vs. right handers, while Johnson hit .212 vs. right-handers.

Johnson is a .314 career hitter against left-handers, .268 against right-handers.

Bour figures to get the majority of the playing time; he's coming off a season in which he hit .262 with 23 homers and 73 RBI.

In his career, Johnson has played 627 games at third base, 49 at first base, 75 as a designated hitter and two as an outfielder.

Johnson, you may recall, expressed displeasure after Fernandez flung his bat, watched the ball clear the fences and took a slow trot around the bases after his first career home run, hit against the Braves in September 2013.

Johnson, who was playing third base for Atlanta that day, exchanged words with Fernandez. As Fernandez approached third on his home run trot, TV replays showed Johnson spitting toward the ground, and Fernandez then spit toward the base.

"The kid is a good pitcher," Johnson said afterward. "He's got some other stuff going on, too, that upsets people sometimes. There were some guys in the dugout who weren't too happy with the smiling after getting people out and all of that kind of stuff. But it's fine."

Meanwhile, the Marlins also remain in negotiations with second baseman Dee Gordon on a long-term contract.

Gordon is arbitration eligible and the deadline for teams and players to exchange figures is Friday. The Marlins historically have stopped negotiations after the player and team exchange figures.

Please see the last post for Heat, Dolphins and UM notes from overnight... Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

Heat thoughts, notes after Warriors loss; Dolphins reportedly close to adding familiar name to staff; UM, Panthers, Marlins

Notes on a Tuesday morning (or very late Monday night):

### This 111-103 Heat loss in Oakland --- Miami was down by just three after three -- certainly was a respectable effort against the league’s best team. Ultimately, Miami became the 36th opponent to succumb to the Warriors in 38 games.

Credit Gerald Green (15 points), Tyler Johnson (13 points on 6 for 7) and Luol Deng (14 points, 10 boards) for doing their part on a night that Chris Bosh shot 6 for 15 and Dwyane Wade 6 for 20.

Bosh did have 12 boards (to go along with 15 points) and Wade contributed a season-high 11 assists (with 20 points). 

“Our guys are competitive; we didn’t feel good about this,” Erik Spoelstra said of staying close to a team that has now won 36 consecutive regular season home games. "Every time you have a chance, if you make a mistake, they capitalize on it."

With Hassan Whiteside sidelined by a knee injury, we also got a peek of how the Heat would look opening a game with a small lineup. That group --- with Justise Winslow starting --- played better to start the first quarter than it did to start the third.

And for his many admirable qualities (excellent defender, commendable poise, high basketball IQ), Winslow’s shooting simply must improve if he’s going to eventually become a quality starter on a good team.

The Warriors often left him unguarded and with a 3-of-8 effort from the field, Winslow now has made at least half of his shots only twice in his past 17 games. He’s shooting 27 for 75 over the span, dropping his season percentage to 39.2.

Overall, he’s 15 for 66 on threes (22.7 percent).

### Wade, incidentally, is now 9 for 37 over his past two games. He said he's playing through a shoulder injury sustained in the third quarter of Saturday's game at Utah.

The NBA’s highest-percentage shooting guard over the past decade, Wade stands at an uncharacteristic 45.2 percent from the field, which would be a career worst.

Wade ranks second in the league among guards (minimum 100 attempts) in shooting percentage at the rim (68.4 percent). That trails only Ben McLemore. But he hasn’t been nearly as consistent with his mid-range game.

### Amare Stoudemire had six points and two boards, but Spoelstra played him only five minutes, instead opting to use Udonis Haslem slightly more (seven minutes) in Whiteside's absence. Stoudemire's playing time, assuredly much less than he expected when he signed here, has grown in Josh McRoberts' absence, but Spoelstra very seldom goes to him in the second half.

Mostly, though, the Heat went small tonight.

### MVP favorite Stephen Curry had 31 points but the Warriors were outscored by three points with him in the game --- which, according to Warriors writers --- is remarkably the first time he has been a minus in plus/minus in any game this season.

### The Panthers’ win streak is over at 12, ended by a 3-2 loss to Vancouver in overtime, but at least Florida picked up a point, leaving them six ahead of Detroit in the Atlantic. What’s more, Florida is 18-3-1 over its past 22.

With 57 points, Florida is 11 points up on the 9th seed (Tampa), so a playoff berth – which would be Florida’s third this century – looks highly likely barring an unexpected collapse….

Coach Gerard Gallant will miss Wednesday’s game at Calgary to attend his mother’s funeral.

For more on the fight that followed the game, check out George Richards' Twitter account from overnight.

### The Dolphins on Monday interviewed Titans receivers coach Shawn Jefferson for the same job and are expected to hire him, according to ESPN’s Adam Caplan and Paul Kuharsky (via Kuharsky’s Twitter account).

Jefferson caught 470 passes in a 13-year career but has drawn mixed reviews as a receiver coach.

Justin Hunter and Kendall Wright, two high draft picks, haven’t fulfilled their potential under Jefferson’s watch, with Wright regressing after a exceptional 2013. (Though in Jefferson's defense, a strong case could be made that both players were overdrafted.)

Before joining the Titans in 2013, Jefferson was the Lions’ receivers coach.

### Jarvis Landry, appearing on Sirius XM Radio, said he’s excited about the coaching change and pointed to two necessities for this offense: “putting guys in space” to make plays (he called for more screens) and protecting the quarterback (obviously).

### With UM rising to No. 8 in the AP poll, this marks only the third season that the Hurricanes have cracked the top 10 since the program was reinstated in 1985. The others: 2012-13 and 1998-99.

UM (13-1) plays at No. 11 Virginia at 7 p.m. Tuesday on ESPNU.

### The Marlins are on the lookout for a right-handed hitter. They haven’t reached out all offseason to the representation for Casey McGehee, who hit .182 in 110 at-bats after being claimed off waivers from the Giants.

MLB Network's Jon Heyman mentioned Jeff Francouer as a possibility. He hit .258 with 13 homers and 45 RBI for the Phillies last season. He can play every outfield position but has never played first base, a position where the Marlins could use a right-handed backup behind lefty Justin Bour.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 10, 2016

Dolphins planning to address offensive line; Updates on other Dolphins' offensive positions; Heat, Marlins, Canes, Panthers nuggets

SUNDAY BUZZ COLUMN

Though much of the Dolphins’ heavy personnel lifting will come on defense, they intend to make a few changes to an offense that finished 26th in yards, 27th in points and 30th in third down efficiency. And those changes start with the offensive line.

Keep in mind that Mike Tannenbaum (with GM Chris Grier) remain in charge of offseason roster procurement. New coach Adam Gase will be consulted, then will have final say on who's on the team in September (though the front office assuredly will have considerable input).

What we’ve been told from inside the building:

### Guard: The Dolphins, who have been somewhat reluctant to spend much at guard in the past, now realize they will need to do what it takes to upgrade at one, if not both, guard spots. 

They believe they need better guard play to compete with the formidable defensive tackles in the AFC East, and a bunch of other teams. 

The Dolphins believe Dallas Thomas played a bit better than Billy Turner but thought both were inconsistent.

Pro Football Focus rated Turner 65th of 79 qualifying guards this season and Thomas 78th.

Thomas allowed 10 sacks, 10 hits and 34 hurries in 16 games; Turner relinquished eight sacks in 12 ½ games.

The Dolphins like Baltimore’s Kelechi Osemele --- the best of the impending free agent guards --- but whether they can land him depends on how high bidding goes. Osemele, one of the league’s better guards when healthy, is positioned to land a big contract after a late-season stint at left tackle.

Five other impending free agents who would be upgrades over Thomas or Turner: Denver’s Evan Mathis (rated fourth among guards by Pro Football Focus; Dolphins made him an offer in August); San Francisco’s Alex Boone (rated 39th among guards), Houston’s Brandon Brooks (35th among guards) and two veteran guards who played center this season: Houston’s Ben Jones and St. Louis’ Tim Barnes.

Though Mississippi tackle Laremy Tunsil, a projected top 10 draft pick, could play guard, it’s highly unusual to take a guard with a pick as high as Miami’s (eighth).

### Tackle: The team feels good about Branden Albert (rated 32nd among tackles by PFF) and Ja’Wuan James (rated 35th before his toe injury sidelined him nine games) but intends to find a new No. 3 tackle to replace Jason Fox (who was rated 76th).

### Running back: The Dolphins want to keep Lamar Miller, who finished tied with Adrian Peterson and DeAngelo Williams for 10th in the league in per carry average (4.5), but whether they re-sign him “depends on the economics,” according to a club official.

Translation: This comes down to his asking price and Miami won't overpay.

If Miller wants more than the Dolphins are comfortable paying, they’re prepared to move on and let Jay Ajayi compete for the starting job. They believe Ajayi (who had a 3.8 per carry average) has starter’s talent. The Dolphins don’t expect serious talks with Miller for several weeks.

If the Dolphins cannot strike a deal with Miller, free-agent options to pair with Ajayi include Doug Martin, Alfred Morris, Chris Ivory, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Ronnie Hillman, James Starks and LeGarrette Blount. But Miami doesn’t want to spend big here.

### Tight end: The front office still likes Jordan Cameron and will consider keeping him but with a lowering of his $7.5 million salary and $9.5 million cap hit, possibly through an extension.

But that decision won’t be made for a while, and Gase will have input on that and other offensive decisions after he reviews game tape (though Tannenbaum, with Grier's assistance, has final say).

Miami would save $7.5 million against the cap by cutting Cameron.

As one Dolphins official said: “There’s a lot to like about him, but we wish there was more production.”

Dion Sims remains an appealing backup because he’s cheap ($675,000 salary) and can block.

If the Dolphins move on from Cameron, several other tight ends with pass catching skills are prepared to hit the free-agent market: Antonio Gates, Zach Miller (played for Gase in Chicago), Coby Fleener, Ladarius Green, Jermaine Gresham, Vernon Davis and Marcedes Lewis.

### Receiver: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Kenny Stills will be back, and free agent Rishard Matthews is expected to look for a prominent role elsewhere instead of settling for a potential No. 4 job here. It would be surprising if he returns.

Though he likes Miami and won't rule out a return, he said there's "a greater than lesser" chance that he will be elsewhere next season.

"I would have to be offered something I can't refuse" to stay, Matthews said.

Parker’s final six games (22-445-three touchdowns) “made me feel pretty good. Running routes is an area I want to work on. I want to get back to how it was during minicamp before my foot surgery.”

His yardage over the final six games would project to 1186 over a full season, which would have been in the top 12 in the NFL this season.

### Quarterback: Miami remains committed to Ryan Tannehill for 2016, but he cannot flop next season and expect to stick around for the big money that comes due in 2017.

Tannehill finished eighth in completions, ninth in yards and 15th in touchdown passes among all quarterbacks, but was 21st in passer rating (88.7), 24th in fourth quarter passer rating (85.1) and 23rd in third down passer rating (75.7). His 12 interceptions, while not an awful number, was 22nd among starters.

Meanwhile, Logan Thomas said Mike Tannenbaum told him he will have a legitimate chance to compete for the No. 2 job next season, which seems to leave free agent Matt Moore in doubt.

Thomas spent most of the year on the practice squad before being promoted in December when Cincinnati tried to poach him. Moore said he has no idea if Miami wants to re-sign him.

CHATTER

### Receiver Stacy Coley announced on Instagram today that he's returning for his senior season, bypassing the NFL draft. Coley, Braxton Berrios, Lawrence Cager and Malcolm Lewis give UM a solid top-four receiver group.

### UM people expect a lot of blitzing under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. Consider: Over the last four seasons as a coordinator (two with Texas before his September 2013 firing, 2014 with Louisiana Tech and 2015 with Mississippi State), Diaz’s defenses had 133 sacks. Miami’s defense, during those four years, had 93.

### Lake City two-star receiver Latrell Williams told Canesport's Matt Shodell that Miami offered him a scholarship on Friday night and UM has the "upper hand" against Virginia Tech in the battle for his services.

Ron Dugans, UM's new receivers coach, had been recruiting him when Dugans was at USF, where Williams was previously committed. Williams, 5-11, has excellent speed.

### Dwyane Wade, who said he was limited late in the Utah game with a shoulder injury sustained in the third quarter, is listed by the Heat as probable for Monday's game at Golden State.

### Among several new things Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has tried: Wade said this is the first time Spoelstra ever has held multiple meetings featuring only the starters and Spoelstra.

“It’s very interesting that coach decided to do that,” Wade said. “It helped us a lot.  I thought it was cool. It gave us all a chance to have a voice and listen to each other talk about what our roles are and what we feel other guys' roles are, and coach did a great job of that.”

Chris Bosh said “guys were able to get things off their chest” and adjustments were specifically made for Goran Dragic (more pick and rolls) and Whiteside (“we made some adjustments with me standing back a little more and using my shot blocking abilities more).”

Whiteside said of the meetings: “It was just saying what we expect from each other.”

The starters were a plus-nine together entering the road trip but are now at minus 4 for the season. That starting group still isn't playing consistently enough together.... Please see the last post for details and reaction from the Heat's loss in Utah on Saturday night.

### The Heat's most daunting challenge of the season comes Monday, when Miami plays a Golden State team that's 35-2 and has won 35 in a row at home (nine short of the 1995-96 Bulls' record).

Eventually, history will judge how these Warriors --- coming off their first Finals appearance --- will compare to the Big Three Heat team that made four Finals and won two.

“With us, it was so different,” Chris Bosh said late Saturday night. “They were built different. We came together different. The story is still so much story to be told. They’re just now getting started, really.

“They’ve got a nemesis out there in San Antonio. That’s how it always happens. I’m sure there’s another team out there that’s going to give them a run, like L.A. or Dallas or something like that. It’s quite compelling.”

### Zac Taylor, who finished the season as the Dolphins' offensive play-caller, will become the offensive coordinator at the University of Cincinnati, according to footballscoop.com.

### The Marlins called to express interest in pitcher Yasiel Sierra, a 24-year-old Cuban defector with a fastball that reaches 96, according to an involved party.

The team's pursuit of pitching is still ongoing, with Fox noting continued interest in Baltimore free agent Wei-Yin Chen, who was 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA last season and is a No. 2 caliber starter.

### To increase offense on balls hit to “the Bermuda Triangle,” the Marlins say they are bringing in the center field wall from 418 feet to 407 and lowering the center field wall from 13.5 feet to 8.5.

### Though Panthers home attendance has increased from a league-worst 11,265 average last season to 14,033 (27th, 82.4 percent capacity), Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu said: “If we can expand to 17,000, that’s what we’re looking for. We have a hardcore 10,000 to 11,000 fans.

"We don’t need to be in the top five in attendance. It’s not a religion here. I get it. [But] we need to be somewhere in the middle of the pack.”

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 09, 2016

News, reaction from Heat's loss in Utah; Highlights from Adam Gase news conference and radio interview; Saban, Elway, Manning, Cutler discuss new Dolphins coach Adam Gase; Gase trying to hire assistant coaches

Our post-game report from Heat-Jazz tonight:

SALT LAKE CITY ---

This night, and this road trip, started so promisingly, with Miami winning Friday in Phoenix and the Heat storming to an early 10-point lead in Utah.

Ultimately, though, there was too much to overcome here Saturday --- a second-half eruption by Gordon Hayward, 54.9 percent Jazz shooting, too many turnovers and an off night from Dwyane Wade, who missed 14 of 17 shots.

This 98-83 loss dropped Miami to 22-15, and the road trip becomes substantially more difficult from here, with defending champion Golden State awaiting on Monday, the Clippers on Wednesday, and Oklahoma City on Sunday.

There’s also a game Friday at Denver, where the Heat traditionally struggles.

The second-half shooting told much of the story. Utah shot 21 for 36 after halftime, Miami 14 for 46.

This one turned on the Heat in the third quarter, with Utah shooting 11 for 17 in the period to transform a four-point halftime deficit into a 72-68 lead after three.

Much of the damage was done by Hayward, who scored 18 in the third, making eight of nine shots.

Hayward closed with 34 points, including 23 in the second half, finishing 14 of 22 from the field, offsetting 24 points from Chris Bosh.

“They read our schemes of what we were trying to do defensively,” Dwyane Wade said.

Making matters worse, Wade scored just eight, closing 3 of 17 from the field, including 1 for 11 in the second half.

He missed the final 6:08 of the third quarter with a strained left shoulder, an injury that required him to go to the locker-room.

Wade said he still doesn’t know what the exact injury is. "It's something that happened with a crossover."

Asked if he’s in discomfort, he said: “There were a few things I couldn’t do. I felt I was able to come back in.”

He said he will see how he feels Sunday before determining his availability for the Golden State game on Monday.

Meanwhile, Goran Dragic, who scored 14 in the first half, finished with only 16. He left just two minutes into the third quarter with his fourth foul --- then sat out for the equivalent of a quarter.

Erik Spoelstra said he could have brought Dragic back sooner than two minutes into the fourth quarter.

But “in hindsight, we were still in control of the game,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t know if it would have mattered.”

The Heat played much of the night against the league’s lowest-scoring starting backcourt of Chris Johnson and Raul Neto, who averaged just 7.7 points combined.

But Miami couldn’t capitalize; Wade and Dragic scored just five combined in the second half.

“I thought we got good shots,” Wade said. “Shots just didn’t go down.”

Also, Dragic and Wade each had four of Miami’s 17 turnovers, and the Heat shot just 41.5 percent from the field.

Luol Deng had another quiet night (2 for 6 shooting, five points). Hassan Whiteside, who received treatment on his bothersome right knee before the game, had 10 points and 11 rebounds but missed three of four free throws in the fourth quarter.

After the game, he said the knee is limiting his mobility “a little bit” but “I’m going to keep playing.”

The loss prevented the Heat from moving nine games above .500 for the first time and also dropped Miami into second place in the Southeast Division, one half game behind Atlanta. Utah (16-20) broke a three-game losing streak.

The Heat led 29-19 after a quarter, thanks to Dragic’s nine first-quarter points and 12 for 17 shooting. The game was then delayed two minutes when confetti slipped through what Jazz officials called a leaky roof.

“We came out with the right mentality and focus,” Wade said.

With Dragic in foul trouble and Tyler Johnson missing the game with his recurring shoulder injury, Beno Udrih was needed for 20 minutes.

Udrih, who entered with 29 assists and six turnovers in his past seven games, committed two turnovers and missed four of six shots.

As soon as Dragic left, Utah took its first lead since the first quarter, at 53-51. The Heat trailed by one when Wade left to the locker-room with his shoulder injury. Frustrated with the game’s turnaround, Spoelstra threw his clipboard to the floor.

The Jazz then went on a run before the Heat closed to within 72-68 after three. But the Jazz kept hitting shots, not only Hayward, but others. Joe Ingles’ two threes pushed Utah’s lead to 80-73 early in the fourth.

“Hayward was in a great rhythm, put us back on our heels quite a bit,” Bosh said.

Said Spoelstra: “They kept on scoring in bundles. [Hayward] is a saby scorer, off drivers, off movement, off pick and roll.”

### Johnson missed his ninth game with a strained left shoulder, an injury that has bothered him since December. But Erik Spoelstra and Johnson said the Heat will continue to treat the ailment with rest and rehabilitation, not a surgical procedure.

Johnson said having the arthroscopic surgery during the season has “crossed my mind” but deemed it unlikely, saying the condition has improved and he needs to give it rest when it flares up.

He said recovery time for surgery is two months. “It has gotten a lot better,” he said Saturday, expressing optimism he would play Monday at Golden State.

Johnson missed three games with the strained shoulder last month, returned for one, missed another five with the shoulder, then played in the past seven before again feeling discomfort in the shoulder Wednesday against the Knicks. He said it wasn’t smart to attempt to play through the injury Friday in Phoenix.

### Chris Andersen, who has played just 33 minutes all season, said he and Spoelstra have “had several conversations” but Andersen has not asked for a trade and said “we’re both understanding of what my role is…. I will embrace it…. I am a highly competitive warrior.”

The Heat would be interested in moving Andersen’s $5 million salary to substantially lessen its luxury tax burden. But the Heat hasn’t found a taker, and Andersen said he knows “it’s not personal.”

 

DOLPHINS TALK

Highlights from the Adam Gase news conference (filed from Salt Lake City, where I'm covering the Heat today.)

### Steve Ross: "Adam Gase puts us in the best position to win Super Bowls.  What I was looking for was the most intelligent person I could find with the greatest amount of passion, great energy, who will become a great leader.... We really have turned this franchise around.... No big prediction here. It will take time. I'm excited to have him. For a Michigan guy to hire a Michigan State guy to lead the organization, that tells you that you found the right guy.

"I talked to a lot of people who had familiarity with him. Heard a recurring theme: one of the brightest young guys out there. Adam's name always surfaced in the top of that. Hearing how the players who played under him felt about him and really felt this guy would be a great head coach and is ready. When you hire someone who's 37, people kind of question you. I'm a builder. Having young people with a passion; Adam in the long term was the best thing for the Miami Dolphins.... A lot of people hate change. I love change."

### Mike Tannenbaum said 237 people were contacted for input/references/suggestions: "We didn't have any preconceived notions about offense, defense, first-time coach.... We wanted to get the right leader, somebody who could relate to young players, somebody open-minded with great football acumen.

"We felt Adam had all those attributes, somebody who looks at strengths they can get out of a player."

### Tannenbaum said his study showed there was "no correlation between first time and second time coaches. We looked at 25 people pretty seriously." Seven were interviewed.

### Tannenbaum said Gase will have control over the 53-man roster.

Tannenbaum and GM Chris Grier will make offseason personnel moves, and Gase will have input, naturally.

### Gase will call the plays. "I really enjoy it. As far as right now, I will be the play caller."

He said he will hire an offensive coordinator to do that, down the line, if he feels it's necessary.

### Gase, on his offense: "We've run multiple things. We're a fluid offense. On defense, we'll wait to see what we decide to do as far as a staff there."

### Gase interviewed Thursday and returned today to finalize the contract: "I felt good after I left here. It was a long day and a half. I came in [Wednesday] night, had dinner with everybody. Came in the next day, having to leave later that day, going to New York. It was hard to process where everything was until later last night."

### Gase said he got positive feedback on Ross from a friend and also knew Tannenbaum from years earlier. "Getting back in the AFC was something I was really interested in as well. There's some familiarity in this conference I really liked."

### Gase: "Never want to make predictions. We're going to focus on one day at a time. It's going to start with the right people. It starts with the players. We're looking for guys that want to invest in winning. We're looking for competitors every day we step into the building.

"I've been in this profession since I was 18. The last three years, being a coordinator for the Broncos and the Bears, it's been accelerated. The last three years have really prepared me for this moment."

## Gase on Ryan Tannehill: "He needs a guy who will have his back. I will be working directly with him. When we put a staff together, we're all going to help him get a little bit better. With Ryan, I've seen him play very minimal games. I've seen him play live once. I know he had a pretty good game that day. We are going to evaluate everything from the quarterback on down, as far as offensive personnel."

### He said he spoke to Tannehill and Ndamukong Suh when both were in the building Thursday. "It was more of a personal introduction than anything else."

### Gase: "I was lucky to start off under Nick Saban as a graduate assistant. Being able to go with him from Michigan State to LSU, I am pretty sure I was the only one. Between John Fox, Nick Saban, Mike Martz, I've been around some of the best. Jon Kitna told me players don't care what you've done in the past. It's how you can make them a better player, how you can get them paid. Guys can respect that."

### Gase on putting together a staff: "I've been here for two hours, so I haven't made much progress.... Mike keeps saying we have to stay on schedule here."

### Ross said it's Gase's call on whether to keep Dan Campbell.

### Gase said Tannenbaum tried to persuade him by noting the temperature is "75, with no state income tax." The Dolphins' offer was the only one at this moment, but he might have gotten others.

Agent Jimmy Sexton told Gase last night that Miami is his place. "This is an historic franchise. I want to make sure I do right by Mr. Ross and Mike Tannenbaum. I felt so comfortable around Chris and Mike. Their personalities are a good fit for myself."

### Gase said he had nine interviews the past two years.

### Gase told Dolphins.com that he liked: "the opportunity to work with Ryan. Just knowing there is a nucleus here with this roster.... I do remember taking a peek at Ryan [before the draft]. He was a unique player coming out because of position flexibility. What he's accomplished --- he had a lot of improvement from the beginning of his career until before this last season. Last year, he didn't go as smooth as he would have liked it. Now it's going back to the drawing board, starting over. We're going to figure out a way to build our offense around our players....

### Gase said: "I like that attacking type of offense, with a little bit of a swagger."

### Ross told Dolphins.com: "I didn't really go with my instincts. This time I said, it don't care what it is, I'm going to go with my instincts. That's one of the areas I've been successful, hiring people."

### Ross pointed to the Seattle Seahawks and their cohesion as a model: "[Pete Carroll] said the organization has to speak as one voice, work together. That wasn't happening [here] in the past. We have it together now like we've never had it before."

### Ross said his team is closer than 6-10 indicates: "We have one of the youngest rosters, a lot of weapons. I was really disappointed. I thought we would make the playoffs. We underperformed. Everybody I spoke with really believes the Miami Dolphins have a lot of great players. It's just a question of putting it together, working together. That's what Adam will do."

### Ross said Tannehill was "thrilled" with the hire.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

############################################

Some PAST reaction on new Dolphins coach Adam Gase, from those who have worked with him: 

Peyton Manning called him "smartest guy I know. Adam is a lot like me in that he's always thinking of how we can do something better or different — or both. And he has an almost photographic memory. He can recall a defensive scheme we saw from eight games back and remember our exact formation and the play called." (Manning's offense set an NFL record for points with Gase calling the plays in 2013.)

Broncos executive John Elway: "I wish I could have played for him. I think that he's so bright and he's working with Peyton and having been here with Josh (McDaniels) before that -- who is a very bright, young offensive mind -- he has just used all of that and learned from all that. With (Mike) McCoy here, then Peyton here and now him on his own, he's been able to put them all together and mold it as his personality and I think he's done a tremendous job. That shows up in the numbers we've put up."

Nick Saban:  When Saban left Michigan State for LSU in 2000, Gase was the only assistant coach that he brought with him. “It was a conceptual thing with Adam, he just understood how things worked and he was willing to work and start from ground zero,” Saban told The New York Times. 

Saban said Gase "learned rapidly, knew a lot of football beyond his years. So interested, learned so quick, didn't surprise me he developed so quick. "It was easy to tell right off the bat that he had the right stuff to be a good coach. Worked hard, got along great with the players, very bright, had sort of a natural instinct for football, picking up on things. Those kinds of guys you grow & develop. They see big picture more than some guys who have to grind to know it & memorize things." 

Bears coach John Fox, who had Gase as his coordinator in Denver and Chicago: Gase has “all the things you look for. I think he’s smart and he’s good under pressure. Meaning he’s a good play-caller. I think he’s creative. Very, very hard worker. He prepares his staff and the players very well. … He is our offensive coordinator. But I also think he’s a tremendous coach.”

Former NFL coach Mike Martz: "He was like 25, Here's this kid who didn't play football. I was overwhelmed by his knowledge and passion for the game, how smart he was. I trusted him completely with quarterbacks even though he was with me just a year. You just don't do that. I've never done that before with anyone."

Bears QB Jay Cutler on Gase's presence this season: "It makes a difference. He gets you through the game, he talks to you. It's an enjoyable experience." 

And Cutler told the Bears' web site today: “His work with quarterbacks is well documented and I know firsthand how good he is. He will now continue to have success in this league as a head coach. I thank him for all his hard work and look forward to following this next step in his career.”"

Broncos backup QB Brock Osweiler: "He’s a coach you want to play hard for, treats you with respect. Makes it fun coming to work and he’s brilliant at what he does.” 

Bears lineman Matt Slauson: He’s all about accountability. He expects guys to do what they’re supposed to do. He holds guys to a very high standard. As offensive linemen, we’ve got to be on the correct guys using the correct technique. He’s always hammering that home all the time. He doesn’t let anything slide.”

Receiver Marc Mariani said his interpersonal skills stand out: “That’s what has made him successful in the coaching business,” Mariani said. “He commands the room, but he engages his players and he has great relationships with all of us.”

### Fox's Alex Marvez reports Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph will be Gase's defensive coordinator, a role he has never held before. But NFL Net's Ian Rapoport and Albert Breer said Joseph has not made a decision and will have options, with Breer mentioning the 49ers. Marvez also said former UM assistant Clint Hurtt, implicated in the Nevin Shapiro scandal and given an NCAA show-case penalty, will leave the Bears' staff and become Gase's defensive line coach.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 08, 2016

The Heat's backup big man conundrum; UM notes (football recruiting, hoops); Panthers

A six-pack of Heat, Canes and Panthers:

Pat Riley gave this Heat coaching staff six natural power rotation players, all with quality resumes, albeit a brief one in Hassan Whiteside’s case.

But Erik Spoelstra has had little use for half of those six, even while another of those bigs, Josh McRoberts, misses game after game with a bruised knee.

On Wednesday against the Knicks, Spoelstra didn’t even bother using a third natural big man, opting to use four natural wing players off the bench instead of Amare Stoudemire, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen.

This is largely the byproduct of the evolution of today’s NBA game, with more and more teams playing small, and the Heat often using Luol Deng or even Justise Winslow at power forward.

But it does raise the question: Would one of those six roster spots (or bottom three, more specifically) be put to better use on another wing player?

Stoudemire, Haslem and Andersen have handled their limited playing time like professionals, but Stoudemire --- without any anger in his tone --- made clear this week that he’s hoping for a regular role and that he’s completely healthy.

After playing in only three of the Heat’s first 27 games, Stoudemire appeared in six of the next seven, with Spoelstra saying the Heat would benefit from his offense off the bench. But he shot 4 for 14 in his past six appearances and didn’t play at all in two of the past three games.

He’s still trying to work off “offensive rust and work on my timing and getting used to playing this speed again. Hopefully, [the playing time] stays consistent and I can start getting some consistent play.”

Stoudemire, curiously, doesn’t seem to be getting many calls from referees. “The more they see me out there playing, the more they see my competitive spirit, I’m sure I'm going to start getting calls,” he said.

Haslem said he’s enjoying his role “mentoring these guys. But you always want to play. If I start losing that, I might as well retire. I would have loved to have been in that Eastern Conference battle with Indiana, but I also understand what coach is doing, that we have a lot of guys we're molding, and there's a lot of ways I can help this team besides being on the court.”

He said the change in how the game is played has clearly impacted the roles of Heat big men.

“When I first got to the league, you had a 6-10 power forward and 7 foot center,” Haslem said. “Now power forwards are 185 pounds and playing on the wing and shooting threes and bringing the ball up the floor. I can handle that. The game has shifted to guys like myself who can guard multiple positions.”

Andersen has played the fewest minutes of the three --- just 33 --- but hasn’t complained. Everyone, including the Andersen camp, is aware that Miami would love to move his $5 million salary to substantially lessen its luxury tax payment. But the Heat hasn’t found a taker.

Raw offensive and defensive statistics suggest none of those three has been at his best in limited playing time, though that might partly be the result of irregular minutes.

Haslem, in 134 minutes over 16 games, is shooting 39 percent (11 for 28),and the player he’s guarding is shooting 51.2 percent (22 of 43), well above the 43.7 percent that those players generally shoot.

Stoudemire, in 87 minutes over eight games, is shooting 9 for 21, with 27 points and 22 rebounds, and the player he’s guarding is shooting 47.1 percent, slightly above what those players shoot overall.

Andersen, in his six short appearances, is shooting 3 for 9, with 10 points, 8 rebounds and two blocks. The players he guards have shot 47.1 percent, compared with their usual shooting percentage of 43.5 percent.

As perspective, Whiteside (44.7), Chris Bosh (43) and McRoberts (37.5) have all allowed lower shooting percentages.

Also, the Heat has been outscored by 20 with Andersen in the game, by 11 with Stoudemire and by four with Haslem on the floor.

“We consider the practices our games,” Haslem said of the three veteran bigs. “Before games, we go upstairs and play two on two to keep ourselves in shape. We understand it's a young man's game. Where I can still be helpful is prepare these guys in practice, and when coach puts me in, try to take advantage of my minutes here and there and set an example.”

As for McRoberts, he hasn’t played since Dec. 9 and has now missed 14 consecutive games with a bruised right knee, an injury the Heat said he sustained well before this extended absence. He is walking without any limp or limitations but remains out indefinitely, with the Heat declining to specify a timetable for his return.

### How good is the Panthers’ defense and goaltending? Florida is 17-0-1 when scoring at least three goals in a game. So when they get to three goals, they are literally unbeatable in non-OT games… By the way, the Panthers have now tied two other teams for longest NHL winning streak ever (11) by a team that didn’t make the playoffs the previous season. The NHL record for most consecutive wins period is 17, held by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993.

### Per Elias, Roberto Luongo, at 36, is the third-oldest NHL goaltender to post a winning streak of at least nine games in the last 40 years. Tim Thomas was 37 years old when he posted 10 straight wins for the Bruins in November/December 2011 and Dominik Hasek had turned 37 by the end of his 10-game winning streak for the Red Wings in February/March 2002.

### UM receiver Stacy Coley, who has been mulling whether to turn pro, cannot be happy about Mark Richt’s decision to dump receivers coach Kevin Beard. Coley liked Beard and was a big fan of his work. Beard did some good things, including having former Canes receiver greats address his group, but it’s common for a coach to want his own people. And this UM staff won’t have a single holdover from Al Golden’s staff.

The NFL Draft Advisory Board told Coley that he wasn’t projected to go in the first two rounds. And a UM official indicated the school sought additional information from the league (and board) and the feedback was that Coley would be a likely third-day pick (so not a first-, second-, or third-rounder).

###  Four star Flanagan receiver Dredrick Snelson, a Minnesota oral commitment, told Canesport.com that there is a “medium” chance he will pick UM. Snelson said UM didn’t recruit him initially, but that Jack Allison told him that Mark Richt plans to call him… Three-star Coral Gables running back Amir Rasul, who previously de-committed from UM and committed to FSU, told Canesport that UM is recruiting him again and he will visit the Canes. He calls himself a strong FSU commit but won’t rule out UM....

UM hoops is the 14th-best shooting team in the country, at 49.9 percent from the field. Center Tonye Jekiri is at 59 percent from the field.

### One other quick thing: Fox and MLB.com report that Dan Jennings, fired by the Marlins as manager and GM, is joining the Washington Nationals' front office.... Please see the last post for the weekly media column, if you missed it....  Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

 

January 07, 2016

Media column: WQAM bids for Dolphins radio rights; Heat nears radio deal; Challenges, difficulties for ESPN on eve of big weekend

 

MEDIA COLUMN

 

The Dolphins are shopping their radio rights, and WQAM-560 has emerged as a serious challenger to WINZ-940/ WBGG-105.9 FM, whose six-year deal is expiring, according to industry sources.

Meanwhile, 790 The Ticket also has been asked to bid on Dolphins rights and hasn’t ruled it out but instead has been focusing on retaining Heat radio rights. The station and the team are closing in on an agreement to extend their deal beyond this season.

The Dolphins sent several local stations a proposal making clear it’s seeking a substantial rights fee. As perspective, the Steelers receive nearly $6 million per season for their radio rights, and Pittsburgh is a smaller market than Miami-Fort Lauderdale.

The Dolphins also would like for the games to continue airing on both AM and FM.

Under terms of the expiring contract, iheart Media (which owns WINZ and WBGG) allows the Dolphins to keep a large chunk of the ad revenue and not only carries games but also airs a three-hour weekday afternoon Dolphins talk show, which has considerable promotional value for the team. (Two hours are simulcast on Fox Sports Florida.)

WQAM previously relinquished rights because the station was losing a bundle, according to a former station executive. But WQAM has changed ownership since then, from Beasley to CBS, and CBS has serious interest in landing rights.

Incidentally, the Dolphins choose their radio announcers, with input from the station. So while Joe Rose would remain in place whether games stay on iHeart or move to CBS, it's unclear what would happen to Jimmy Cefalo and Bob Griese.

Though Nielsen doesn’t release radio ratings, one local executive said Dolphins rights provide bigger ratings value for iHeart’s FM carrier than its AM carrier.

WQAM and The Ticket declined to comment.

### On the TV side, Dolphins games averaged a 15.8 rating in Dade and Broward counties this season, down from the 16.9 last season, and worst among NFL markets with only one team.

ESPN'S CHALLENGES

This will be a beat-our-chest next few days for ESPN, which carries two of the most significant events that it owns --- an NFL playoff game on Saturday and the College Football championship on Monday.

But whereas ESPN remains Disney’s most profitable company, the self-appointed Worldwide Leader in Sports faces new challenges that have begun to alter the way it does business.

Two factors are in play that have contributed to a surprising level of recent cost-cutting at ESPN:

### Huge escalation in rights fees. ESPN pays $1.9 billion annually for NFL games --- much higher than any other NFL package --- and a big jump over the $1.1 billion in its previous deal.

Other ESPN annual rights fees also have skyrocketed: The network pays $1.4 billion annually for the NBA, up from $575 million previously, and $700 million for MLB rights, up from $296 million. The College Football Playoff costs $608 million annually, well above the $124 million under the old BCS system.

### ESPN has lost nearly seven million households in the past two years, and 8.5 million over the past five, largely the result of more Americans canceling their cable or satellite service.

ESPN simultaneously has suffered the steepest loss in viewers among top cable networks, according to Bloomberg, with overall ratings and live editions of SportsCenter both down 10 percent. Though ESPN was cable’s most watched network in prime time last year, it ranked only seventh in overall viewership.

The soaring rights fees led to October’s layoff of 300 employees (four percent of ESPN’s staff), the shedding of a few high-end salaries (Bill Simmons, Keith Olbermann), the elimination of Grantland, the popular sports/pop culture website that Simmons headed up before his departure, and the decision to relinquish rights to NASCAR, U.S. and British Open golf and upcoming World Cups.

So in light of all the financial consequences, is the NFL worth it to ESPN?

Probably so, not only because of the marquee and promotional value and the ad revenue, but also because it has allowed the network to jack the price it charges cable companies and satellite providers. ESPN reportedly charges $6.64 per subscriber, by far the most of any basic cable network.

The NFL deal also includes the draft, the Pro Bowl, NFL highlight rights that benefit 30 different ESPN programs, Spanish-language rights for ESPN Deportes and several other perks.

But here’s the issue that should irk ESPN more than it lets on publicly:  NBC is paying half of what ESPN pays for the NFL ($950 million), yet continues to get a vastly more attractive schedule, plus a flexible schedule element that ESPN is not afforded.

NBC gets two playoff games, ESPN only one. With the NFL deciding to schedule both AFC wild-card games on Saturday and both NFC games on Sunday this year, NBC was given the more attractive game this weekend (Minnesota-Seattle at 1 p.m. Sunday), with ESPN carrying Kansas City-Houston at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

The NFL is fully aware that 1 p.m. Sunday games traditionally draw more viewers than 4:30 p.m. Saturday games, so NBC’s game assignment wasn’t a coincidence.

Meanwhile, with ESPN losing so many viewers in the past two years, the network and league have decided to simulcast Saturday’s playoff game on ABC.

Sports Business Journal’s John Ourand noted some believe “ESPN had the leverage to cut a better [NFL] deal and question whether another media company was within $500 million of ESPN’s offer.” 

What’s more, Ourand quoted a former employee as saying “it’s been a total mismanagement of rights fees, starting with the NFL renewal. We overpaid significantly when it did not need to be that way, and it set the template to overpay for MLB and the NBA.”

But the launch of NBC Sports Network in 2012 and Fox Sports 1 in 2013 undoubtedly led to higher rights fees and ESPN consequently needing to overpay.

Meanwhile, ESPN should be outraged by the College Football Playoff refusing its request to move the two national semifinal games from New Year’s Eve to Saturday, Jan. 2. The two semifinal games drew 15.6 and 18.2 million viewers, compared with more than 28 million for each of last year’s semifinals on Jan. 1.

Seven of the next 10 semifinals will be on New Year’s Eve, and the College Football Playoff said it has no plans to change that, despite the ratings plunge. Next season’s New Year’s Eve semifinals will be on a Saturday, which ESPN believes should help matters.

ESPN’S CFP PLANS

For Monday’s Clemson-Alabama championship, ESPN again will carry the game on 14 (14!) platforms.

There’s the traditional broadcast on ESPN (with Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit), the Film Room presentation on ESPN2 (with UF coach Jim McElwain, South Carolina's Will Muschamp and others) and an ESPN Classic cablecast without announcers but featuring stadium sound from 100 microphones.

There’s also the often-mockable ESPNEWS broadcast of celebs and ESPN personalities watching the game; Michelle Beadle, Jay Bilas, Teddy Atlas and Marcellus Wiley be among those featured this year.

And something new: A “Homers” telecast on ESPNU, featuring Joe Tessitore accompanied by two commentators essentially cheerleading for their teams: former Clemson quarterback Taj Boyd and ex-Alabama center Barrett Jones.

### ESPN assigned former Marlins announcer Dave O'Brien and Dick Vitale to Saturday's UM-FSU basketball game at 5 p.m. on ESPN2, from BankUnited Center.

### Twitter: @flasportzbuzz

January 06, 2016

Bosh troubled after latest disappointing Heat home loss; Dolphins, Canes, Panthers notes

Some notes on a Wednesday night:

### Just when you think the Heat has it figured out, something happens like Wednesday --- a disappointing 98-90 loss to the Knicks in which Miami was vulnerable defensively (55 percent Knicks shooting) and again shot errantly from three-point range (2 for 17).

This was the fourth time the Heat lost in an attempt to win four in a row. What's more, Miami (21-14) lost for the eighth time in 23 home games, with four of those against sub .500 teams.

“It’s a recurring issue: three in a row and fall short,” said Chris Bosh, who scored 28, with Dwyane Wade (18) and Goran Dragic (10) Miami’s only other players in double figures.

 As usual, Bosh didn’t try to conceal his disappointment.

“We’re not good enough to show up and think that’s enough,” he said. “Once again, it’s a step back. We’re not there yet. If we’re not [getting stops], we’re probably not going to win. If we’re not playing defense, everything else sucks. Obviously, this group likes theatrics. We’re still learning how to win. We know it’s not easy.”

He said the home heavy schedule might have made the Heat “complacent.” (Miami has played 23 at AmericanAirlines Arena, 12 on the road.)

“I don’t think we’re mentally tough enough to deal with that and do what we’re supposed to do,” he said.

### Wade’s take: “They had a good game plan. It just wasn't fluid.”

Miami now goes on the road for six, and 11 of its next 12, and Wade said: “I’m very confident this team can go on the road and win games. Sometimes when you are comfortable, you lose a game like tonight.”

He said on the road, the Heat might feel “uncomfortable” – in a productive way – and more “urgency.”

Wade called the road-heavy January schedule “our greatest challenge of the season” and "I don't think I've had a challenge like this January in my career."

“I look forward to seeing how this team responds,” he said.

### Hassan Whiteside wasn’t especially effective (8 points, 8 boards, one block, four turnovers and a minus 18 in 28  minutes) and said his knee was “bothering me.”

### Why did Whiteside stare down Kristaps Porzingis after dunking on him? "I couldn't feel my face after he smacked me so I just looked at him."

### We mentioned yesterday that three players who plan to enroll early at UM, in the next week: quarterback Jack Allison, defensive end Patrick Bethel and linebacker Shaquille Quarterman.

We received word today that the Hurricanes also are expecting two others to join that group: three-star Santaluces outside linebacker Zach McCloud and three-star Jacksonville linebacker Mike Pinckney.

Those are five of UM’s 16 current oral commitments.

### New UM coach Mark Richt has dropped several employees, both from his coaching staff and football operations, and one of them is assistant director of football operations Josh Darrow, the WQAM broadcaster who joined Al Golden’s staff last year. Joining Golden, who was on a short leash, was an understandable but risky career move for Darrow.

### One UM source strongly believes receiver Stacy Coley wants to see if receivers coach Kevin Beard is retained before deciding to whether to turn pro. Considering Coley was told he was a likely third-day pick, he might return regardless.

UM needs Coley to lead a receiver group also featuring Braxton Berrios, Malcolm Lewis and Lawrence Cager.

### Though CBS’ Jason LaCanfora said the Dolphins want to land Bears coordinator Adam Gase quickly after his interview Thursday --- before he gets a chance to meet with Philadelphia for a second time --- we expect Miami to follow through on other scheduled interviews this week: Doug Marrone, Dan Campbell and Hue Jackson, then make a decision.

Beginning with Jay Glazer on Sunday, several pundits have said all week that Miami’s preference is Gase, whose Bears offense finished 23rd in points at 20.9 --- narrowly ahead of Miami’s 19.4.

### Two neat factoids from the Panthers’ 10-game winning streak: Per AP’s Tim Reynolds, the Panthers have trailed only 14 minutes and 2 seconds during this streak.  

And this, according to Elias: The Panthers, who last made the Stanley Cup playoffs in 2012 (and before that in 2000), are the third team in NHL history to produce a winning streak of 10 games or more in a season following one in which they failed to make the playoffs.

The other teams to do that: the 1926-27 Montreal Canadians and 2009-10 Ottawa Senators. Both of those teams won 11 consecutive games.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

January 05, 2016

Introspective Wade, Bosh discuss their rejuvenation, reasons behind it; Dolphins, Canes, Panthers notes

 

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN

 

After losing here on Monday and watching Chris Bosh score 31 points and Dwyane Wade 27, Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel mentioned how the Heat has “two All-Stars that seem rejuvenated.”

During introspective late-night conversations on Monday, Wade and Bosh cited two driving forces behind that: health and the residual benefit of the longest summer of their Heat tenures, with Bosh noting that the human body is simply “not going to hold up” playing into June year after year, uninterrupted.

Wade’s decision to change trainers (from Tim Grover to Dave Alexander) and adjust his offseason workout routine clearly has paid dividends.

He hasn’t missed any games due to injury (missing only one because one of his sons was hospitalized) after sitting out 17, 13, 28 and 20 the past four seasons.

“I felt it was time for me,” Wade said late Monday of his offseason change. “Last year, I was disappointed I had two hamstring injuries that took me out of 14 of the 20 games I missed because I thought I was making the strides I wanted to make.

“I never had hamstring injuries and I was wondering: Why am I having these problems? I know the body all works together. If I’m having hamstring injuries, it’s because of something else. I sought out to find the information. I was able to do that with Dave, who really took a look at my body and was able to see what my strengths and my weaknesses are.

“The first month of the summer, that’s all I focused on --- to strengthen certain areas that were weak before I got into real training. I learned a few things.”

That was followed by a “lot of power and explosion work… I got fit.”

Parting ways with Grover “was very tough,” Wade said. “But I have to make a lot of tough decisions because it’s my life. Obviously, he wanted to continue to work with me. But he also understood I wanted to go in this direction and he was great about it. It wasn’t easy to have that conversation with him because he’s been in my life since my rookie year.

“I felt this was what I needed to do. I am not just saying Dave was the key. There are a lot of things that go into it. But I could tell I needed something a little different, coming off the last couple years, a little different kind of focus.”

The work on his body didn’t stop in the summer.

Nearly every day, Wade spends a “lot” of time getting himself right, before even picking up a basketball.   

“I do a lot of stretching and activating of my muscles, practically every day, because I want to make sure everything is turned on and everything is working,” he said. “Chris does the same thing every day, making sure we activate the hips, activate the glutes, make sure we turn things on. You play all these games; you would be amazed how things are shut down…. Very rare I take a day off and do absolutely nothing.”

Wade turns 34 on Jan. 17. When was the last time he felt confident enough in his body to attempt anything like the contorting, one-handed dunk off a Goran Dragic alley-oop on Monday, the one that electrified the building?

“I had a moment in the 27-game winning streak [in March of 2013] I was feeling great,” he said. “The [knee bruise] then hit me in Boston. After that, it was all downhill from there.”

Though he hasn’t set a number of games as a specific goal, he said his mentality is to play through discomfort “if I’m not going to hurt myself any more and I can go. There are times you’re going to play hurt.”

Beyond the change in offseason approach, the 5 1/2 month offseason also helped.

“You’ve all heard the saying, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ It did happen for a reason. I’m not saying Chris needs to get blood clots to get rest. I’m not saying that at all. Everything that happened last year, it seemed like nothing went right for us.

"Once we knew we weren’t winning the championship, I didn’t really care about making it to the first round [last season] just to say we made it to the first round. I ain't going to lie to you. I was happy. I enjoyed knowing I was going to have a long summer to focus on my body. It was good for us.”

Meanwhile, Bosh, 31, said he also feels re-energized; he has scored 20 or more in eight of Miami’s last nine games and is averaging his most rebounds (8.1) since his first year with the Heat. Even before the blood clots in his lungs last year, he was discouraged.

“I was playing with a lot of pain last year,” he said Monday night. “My wife and I were talking about it. She was like, ‘Do you remember that?’ I was talking about retiring. I was all over the place. It was the calf, mental things, regular pain,… could have been exhaustion. I was like, ‘I don’t know how much long I’ve got.’ And you’re like, ‘You’re only 30.’”

But after the frightening ordeal with the blood clots, “I said, 'This athlete thing isn’t that bad.' My threshold has gotten a little higher, mentally and physically.”

And, as Wade said of himself and Bosh: “You can see a difference in us. We had a long summer, but that long summer really helped us regroup.”

CHATTER

### According to an associate, the Dolphins haven’t shown interest in interviewing Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula about their coaching job, even though he guided the NFL's highest-scoring offense and even though his father is legendary coach Don Shula.

But a Shula associate said he doesn't want to interview for any other job before the Panthers season ends.

### By simple restructurings, the Dolphins can lower Ndamukong Suh’s 2016 cap number from $28.6 million to $10.4 million and Ryan Tannehill’s from $11.6 million to $4.7 million.

But Miami’s preference, heading into the offseason, is to do that with only one of the two so as not to add to the Dolphins’ cap burden down the road. Re-doing Suh would clearly be more helpful.

### Though Stacy Coley and Al-Quadin Muhammad haven’t announced their plans, the NFL’s Draft Advisory Board said neither would be picked in the first two rounds. UM received other NFL feedback that Coley would be a third-day pick and said that Muhammad potentially might not even be drafted. [Update: AQM said on Instagram that he's returning to UM next season.]

### Before he took the tight ends job at Tennessee, the new job Larry Scott was offered at UM was receivers coach, not tight ends coach, according to an associate. Incumbent receivers coach Kevin Beard said tonight that he hasn’t been told his fate. He interviewed with Mark Richt last week.

### More evidence of how UM’s boost in coaching salaries is helping: New offensive line coach Stacy Searels was ready to join Georgia Tech when UM swooped in with a larger offer.

### Elite quarterback recruit Jack Allison, who has hit it off with Richt, will enroll Monday. Linebacker Shaquille Quarterman and defensive end Patrick Bethel are also hoping to be early enrollees.

### The Panthers --- now winners of 10 in a row after tonight's 5-1 victory in Buffalo --- have allowed the fewest goals per game in the league, and any concern about acquiring the last eight years of Roberto Luongo’s 12-year, $64 million contract have evaporated. Here’s why:

Not only is he playing great at age 36 (he’s seventh in goals against average at a career-best 2.09), but his salary drops considerably in two years.

He’s owed $6.7 this season and the next two, but $3.38 million, $1.6 million and $1 million and $1 million in his final four.

"It’s a great contract,” Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu said. “Vancouver is paying 15 percent of it every remaining year. He’s a winner, in great shape, trains 12 months a year, hasn’t had a major injury. I hope he plays to 45.”

Luongo's win tonight was his eighth in a row, equaling the longest of his career. He already has set the Panthers' record for most consecutive wins by a goaltender.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz