October 20, 2015

GMs, TV analysts, coaches assess Heat; Eastern Conference primer; Dolphins buzz; Marlins meet with another managerial candidate; Canes



Legitimate questions swirl around this Heat roster; the 28 percent three-point shooting in preseason (third-worst in the league) hasn’t done anything to allay that concern, and there are still a lot of unknowns about how this starting unit will mesh, considering the lack of ideal spacing.

But among general managers, some opposing head coaches and network TV analysts, there’s considerable optimism.

Sampling opinion from each of those groups:

### GMs: In NBA.com’s annual general manager poll, released Tuesday, the Heat finished fourth in the East, behind Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta, but ahead of No. 5 Washington, Toronto and Milwaukee.

Nobody predicted the Heat would win the East (Cleveland got 96.6 percent of the votes, Chicago the rest), but 13.8 percent of the GMs forecast the Heat to finish second, 20.7 percent picked Miami third and 31 percent fourth.

“All those GMs that picked those other teams ahead of us, I want to beat them,” Chris Bosh said.

Also, Miami finished fourth in the most improved category (10.7 percent), behind Oklahoma City (25), Milwaukee (17.9) and New Orleans (14.3).

### TV analysts: “They are as good healthy as anyone [in the East] except Cleveland,” ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy told me… 

ESPN’s Jalen Rose e-mailed that he would rate the Heat third “behind the Cavs and Bulls. Hopefully, Dwyane [Wade] and LeBron [James] face off during the playoffs since neither has had an Eastern Conference rival.”…

TNT’s Reggie Miller told me Tuesday: “I could easily see this as a top four team. But if these guys are only on the court… for 50 to 65 games, I could see them barely scratching in to get to the playoffs. But talent wise, they’re a top four talent team. You don’t want to see them in a seven-game series… When you have a Pat Riley in your back pocket, and you’re trying to game plan in a seven-game series versus those two [Riley and Erik Spoelstra], advantage Miami.”

TNT’s Brent Barry: “I don’t know if they’re good [enough] to leapfrog… Toronto. There’s a lot of weight being put on the shoulders of Hassan Whiteside. He was a phenom last year. We had six months here to get him rounded into shape, be healthy and ready to go and that hasn’t happened. That’s got to be a little bit scary.

“On potential, you can say they’re a top four team, but I don’t know if they’re going to get the minutes or production of a team like Toronto, who has got themselves a little more together and was one win away from 50 last year and maybe is playing a little bit more hungry than what Miami is in the early part of the season.

“But [Miami] is a playoff matchup you don’t want to see. Bosh’s and Wade’s experience alone, the way Luol Deng can defend two positions, if Whiteside is healthy, that would be a very tough matchup for anybody come springtime.

“[Also], there’s way more consistency with Miami’s second unit this year with the way Mario Chalmers can play the backup point guard position. Gerald Green can get hot at any time. Amar’e StoudemireJosh McRoberts moves the ball around.”

### Opposing coaches: “They’re definitely a playoff team and I think they could be a top four team in the Eastern Conference,” Sacramento coach George Karl said. “They’ve done a good job with their roster. Their depth has gotten a lot better [with Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire]. Last year, I didn’t think they were a very strong team coming off the bench.”

Suns coach Jeff Hornacek and Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said Miami should emerge as one of the top challengers behind Cleveland, presuming, as Hornacek said, that Bosh returns to form. “The East is very underrated,” Gentry said.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr said that even before adding Green and Stoudemire, “Miami already was going to be good if they can stay healthy. The main thing is getting Bosh back. He’s obviously one of the best players in the league. They really improved themselves with the draft and free agency. Hopefully Bosh will be able to get back to where he was before the illness.”

As a primer on a busy offseason, here’s the Eastern landscape with the season starting in a week:

To be a four seed –-- obviously assuming Cleveland will be one --- Miami would have to jump two among five teams: Chicago (no major offseason pickups beyond rookie Bobby Portis); Toronto (lost Amir Johnson and Lou Williams; added DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola, Bismack Biyombo and Cory Joseph); Atlanta (lost Carroll; added Tiago Splitter and Tim Hardaway Jr.); Milwaukee (lost Ersan Ilyasova, Zaza Pachulia and Jared Dudley but added Greg Monroe, Greivis Vasquez and welcomed back Jabari Parker from injury) and Washington (lost Paul Pierce but added Dudley, Gary Neal and Alan Anderson).

There’s also Charlotte (which added Nic Batum, Spencer Hawes, Jeremy Lamb and Jeremy Lin but lost Lance Stephenson, Mo Williams, Biyombo and Gerald Henderson), Boston (added David Lee and Amir Johnson; lost Brandon Bass) and Indiana (lost David West, Roy Hibbert, CJ Watson and Scola; added Monta Ellis, Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill).

Brooklyn probably has regressed (lost Deron Williams, Mirza Telatovic, Mason Plumlee and Anderson; added Andrea Bargnani, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin).

But the rest of the others in the East added decent pieces. The Pistons snagged Ilyasova, Marcus Morris and Steve Blake (they lost Monroe and Caron Butler). The Knicks signed Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Derrick Williams. And Orlando and Philadelphia adding high draft picks (Mario Hezonja, Jahlil Okafor, respectively), with the Magic better positioned to compete for a bottom-tier playoff spot than the perpetually rebuilding 76ers.

### FYI: Mark Jones and Hubie Brown call Wizards-at-Heat for ESPN at 8 p.m. Wednesday.


### Cameron Wake’s snaps have plummeted (Derrick Shelby is now playing more than Wake), and though Wake’s hamstring injury has contributed to that, another factor is that Dolphins coaches like how Shelby has played against the run. Pro Football Focus rates Wake sixth-worst among defensive ends against the run.

According to sportingcharts.com, Wake – who has appeared in every game --- has played only 49.3 percent of Miami’s defensive snaps, ranking 371st among all defensive players and 50th among defensive ends. That’s way down from his 71.5 percent last season.

For perspective, Houston’s J.J. Watt leads d-ends by playing on 97.4 percent of his team's defensive snaps this season. Miami’s Olivier Vernon has played 60.2 percent of Miami's defensive snaps, and Shelby has played 55.4 percent.

Even if Wake remains hot after Sunday’s four-sack outburst, the question is whether the Dolphins will pay a part-time player the $8.3 million base salary Wake is owed next season. Wake’s cap hit would drop from $9.8 million to $1.4 million if he’s cut.

Most likely is an attempted restructuring with Wake. With Vernon and Shelby impending unrestricted free agents, there’s no position with tougher decisions for the Dolphins next offseason than defensive end.

### How could safety Jonathan Dowling go from being the first player mentioned in Dan Campbell’s post-game speech Sunday to being cut a day later?

We’re told the Dolphins like tight end Brandon Williams and received a tip that another team planned to claim him if Miami didn’t move him up from the practice squad. So Miami needed an opening on the 53-man roster for Williams. But the Dolphins signed Dowling to the practice squad tonight.

### The Dolphins internally discussed the merits of hiring former NFL coaches Greg Schiano and Mike Smith but decided against it and never contacted either. If they had been hired, it would have been as an assistant, not as defensive coordinator.

Schiano could emerge as one of numerous options for UM if Miami moves on from Al Golden.

### Rishard Matthews told Jim Rome today that even when Joe Philbin was here, Dan Campbell "was the guy they placed in front of us to speak to get us motivated and fired up for a game and any type of situation."

What does that say about Philbin? Sigh.

### A testament to Brad Kaaya’s decision-making: He’s one of only two quarterbacks in the country with at least 200 pass attempts but no more than one interception. He has one pick, 10 TD passes. Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott (no picks) is the other…. Please see my post from earlier Tuesday for a lot more UM nuggets.

### Add former Cubs manager Rick Renteria to the list of candidates who have spoken to the Marlins about their managerial job, according to a source. Renteria, who once played for the Marlins, was 73-89 in his one season as Cubs manager (2014) before being fired. 

He joins Larry Bowa (two meetings), Manny Acta, Bo Porter, Phil Nevin and Alex Cora among others who have interviewed. The Marlins, in no rush to make a hire, have been waiting to see if the Dodgers fire Don Mattingly, who would be a strong candidate if available.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

UM implements eye-opening plan to punish OL penalties; Tuesday Canes tidbits

Some Tuesday UM football nuggets:

### Coaches are so disgusted with penalties that each offensive lineman who commits one is now being required to do 250 up-downs after a game, offensive tackle Trevor Darling told me. Darling said up-downs are much tougher than push-ups.

The punishment for a penalty in practice is 50 up-downs after practice, Darling said. Only the person who commits the penalty is punished – not the entire line.

Darling said offensive coordinator James Coley implemented the new punishment, which comes in the wake of far too many false starts and holding calls.

“We can’t continue having certain penalties we’re having,” said Coley, who declined to discuss the punishment before Darling revealed it.

I asked Coley if yelling at his linemen helps.

“It helps me,” he said.

Offensive line coach Art Kehoe “is pretty mad,” Darling said. “Players in the room came to the agreement this has to stop.”

Darling said offensive linemen are contrite when they make mistakes. “Once I come to the sideline, I apologize to everyone,” he said.

### UM continues to alternate seven offensive linemen in practice, looking for the right combination. Trevor Darling, Kc McDermott, Alex Gall, Nick Linder, Sonny Odogwu, Joe Brown and Danny Isidora are essentially competing for five starting positions.

Coley said the competition to start is being limited to those seven; none of the freshmen linemen have entered the mix.

“We will work until we get the right one in there,” Coley said Tuesday. “No one has really solidified their spot."

### Al Golden, on the running game: “We would like to have a better yards per carry. We have to run the ball better. Clemson has an excellent front. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”

UM averaged 1.1 yards per carry against FSU, 2.5 against Virginia Tech.

### Weakside linebacker Jermaine Grace said no thought was given to him moving to middle linebacker to replace Raphael Kirby (who’s out for the season), but that Grace will assume Kirby’s play-calling duties.

Juwon Young will take over as the middle linebacker, and Golden said Young played well Saturday against Virginia Tech after Kirby’s injury. “On the first play, he leveraged a screen,” Golden said. “Really proud of him. He let it rip.”

Defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio said “we’ve been hard on Juwon. He’s got a great skill set --- 6-3 and can run.”

### Golden, on Artie Burns, who’s tied for third in the country in interceptions with five: “His mental toughness has improved. His capacity to do work has improved. He’s working like a dog.”

### I asked Golden how encouraging it is to see some of his young high-end front seven recruits starting to make a difference --- primarily Al Quadin Muhammad, Chad Thomas and Kendrick Norton.

“It’s starting to be fun,” Golden said. “Those guys are doing a good job. They are doing their job and plays are happening because of it. Ufomba Kamalu played well the other day. Kendrick, Courtel Jenkins are really growing up. They’ve got to keep going….

“It started with Quan vs. Cincinnati doing his job every play and making plays because of it. Chad, Kamalu, Heurtelou is really steady in there. Kendrick, RJ [Richard McIntosh] will get more time there.”

### But the entire front seven simply must improve against the run. UM ranks 103rd in the country in yards allowed per run (4.9).

"It starts with one guy being out of his gap,” D’Onofrio said. “We have to do a better job of guys not getting to the second level. We have to be stouter up front.”

### Nevertheless, D’Onofrio said he is “pleased” with what he’s getting from his defensive tackles. He said he’s using six of them: Heurtelou, Courtel Jenkins, Norton, Anthony Moten, Thomas (who also plays end) and Kamalu.

He said Heurtelou is playing more than Norton, and Jenkins and Moten are playing a similar amount. He’s comfortable with the playing time he’s giving each.

### ABC assigned Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and sideline reporter/draftnik Todd McShay to its national telecast of UM-Clemson at noon Saturday from Sun Life Stadium.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 19, 2015

Monday 2:30 p.m.; What Dan Campbell had to say in day-after press conference; Examining the tangible in-game changes made by Campbell

Highlights from Dan Campbell’s press conference Monday, a day after Miami’s 38-10 win in his first game:

### “I thought Bill Lazor and Lou Anarumo and Darren Rizzi did a heck of a job. They all had a very good game plan. They felt extremely good about it.”

### Before the game, “it was a lot of emotions,… a roller coaster of emotions. When I got back to the bus [after the game], I was blown out completely… Seven minutes left in the fourth, I felt I could breathe a little bit. We had a little bit of a lull in the third quarter.”

### Did you sense something was different? “The energy and the speed at which we played was [what] I was hoping we could get. I could feel that. The players could feel that. We played faster. Now you can start to believe. We didn’t play a perfect game whatsoever.”

### On whether his comment that the sleeping giant is awake is hyperbole or the truth: “I’m that high on what we have here. We have the right balance of impact players and lunch pail workers and those type guys in valuable spots. Our impact players stepped up yesterday. We had enough of our blue-collar guys that came to work, did what they were asked to do and did it well.”

### On Billy Turner’s first start at right guard: “Here’s what Billy brings: Billy brings a physical presence. He’s got to continue to improve on his fundamentals. There were some things he didn’t do a great job at, with pad level. But he played physical. I thought he did a nice job and only will build on that. He tried to finish every play.”

### On Earl Mitchell’s first appearance at fullback:  “He can play fullback in this league. He’s a starting defensive tackle. We love Earl Mitchell. He missed on a couple but that’s also his first NFL game as a fullback. He’s only going to get better. He got a look at it. We’ll keep working him in and he’ll be fine.”

### On whether his team was too physical (with regard to penalties): “I don’t see how that’s even possible… Yesterday was a day we needed to be aggressive.”

### On the value of what he’s doing in practice: “It’s been literally one guy vs. another guy, offense/defense. All your teammates are watching. You have nowhere to hide. Everybody is watching…. You put two guys out there and everybody is watching; the competition level goes way up. We did more Miami vs. Miami. It only helps your sense of urgency.”

### On Jelani Jenkins: “Jelani played one hell of a game. He was all over the field.”

### On Cam Wake: “Cam Wake is back, not that he was ever gone. The bye week did him well. He’s healing up. He was an animal out there. He had four sacks. He should have had two more. A couple were holds. For any doubters that say Cam Wake is slowing down, I don’t think so.”         

### He said the challenge now is “guys don’t pat each other on the back. We’ve been notorious for that around here. We get a big win and then a lull the next week.”

### On how Brent Grimes played through a knee injury: “It says a ton about Grimes. Everyone knows he’s not 100 percent. He played for Lou Anarumo and those guys. Anthony Fasano was wide open [on Grimes’ INT], Grimes bated him. That’s good old fashioned Grimes.”

### On Ryan Tannehill: “I thought Tannehill did exactly what we asked him to do. He directed that offense, led those guys, made some good decisions. We had one bad one right before halftime. He threw it a little bit early. He missed a throw; he threw one a little behind Jordan Cameron.

"Other than that, he played a really, really good game. Did a nice job on third downs. We had a really good tempo. He plays like he did yesterday, we’ll be fine. I keep telling him, just be you."

### On Brice McCain’s knee injury: “He’s in with our guys right now. We’ll know a lot more by the end of the afternoon.” [Update: The injury is not believed to be serious.]

### The Dolphins cut safety Jonathan Dowling a week after promoting him from the practice squad to the 53-man roster.


Interim coach Dan Campbell clearly interjected passion and energy and emotion into a Dolphins team that dismantled Tennessee 38-10 on Sunday after playing so listlessly in previous weeks.

But once the game started Sunday, more quantifiable, tangible changes also became evident – some glaring, others more subtle. Most produced positive results, and none backfired. Among them:

### A stronger commitment to the running game. Campbell reportedly poked his head in an offensive line meeting last week and said, “We will run the ball!” And he backed up that promise.

After passing 73 percent of the time in their first four games, the Dolphins on Sunday had more rushing attempts (32) than passing attempts (29). And the Dolphins didn’t merely run; they ran effectively, for 180 yards on 5.6 per carry, with Lamar Miller closing with 113 yards on 19 attempts.

Of course, it helped that left tackle Branden Albert and ace blocking tight end Dion Sims returned from injury, and that physical Billy Turner replaced Jamil Douglas at right guard.

“It’s just refreshing to run the football,” center Mike Pouncey said. “In the NFL, running the football sets up everything else.”

### Turner’s promotion. Several teammates were surprised when the Dolphins gave the right guard job to Douglas instead of Turner late in preseason. But instead of sulking, Turner continued to work on his technique, something which offensive line coach John Benton said had to improve.

Turner justified his promotion on Sunday. Pro Football Focus gave him a grade of 75.2, which places him 24th among all NFL guards this season. Douglas, conversely, ranks 100th at 31.6.

### Changes in the distribution of snaps among wide receivers. As usual, Jarvis Landry played the most, as he should (63 of Miami’s 67 offensive snaps).

But instead of playing Rishard Matthews, Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills a comparable amount, the Dolphins increased Matthews’ snaps (to 60), dramatically reduced Jennings’ (to nine), while giving 28 to Stills.

And the Dolphins smartly and successfully threw a 38-yard deep ball to Stills, who led the league in yards per reception in 2013. His deep ball skills hadn’t been exploited enough early in the season.

Matthews again justified Miami's faith with six catches for 85 yards.

Meanwhile, DeVante Parker logged just six snaps; coaches want to see more consistency.

### Simplifying on defense. Though several players said the Dolphins didn’t do much differently on defense, Fox Sports reported that new defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo reduced the number of defensive packages to only about 10 base play calls and that the defensive linemen were told to attack instead of thinking so much.

After Cameron Wake’s fourth sack, his agent, Paul Sheehy, tweeted: “Another sack by [Wake]… Amazing what happens when you let players play and don’t try to overscheme things. #DanCampbell Fan.”

Said NBC’s Tony Dungy: “The coaching change in Miami has made a difference. Much more aggressive on defense today vs. the Titans.”

The Dolphins, who ranked last in the league in run defense entering the game, allowed only 63 yards rushing (3.5 per carry). Miami also had six sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

### Subtle changes at running back. Jonas Gray, who had just one carry in the previous game, got the ball seven times, ran for 24 yards, and offers a generally effective option in short yardage.

Gray (11 snaps) played more than Damien Williams (nine), which is a change. Also, the Dolphins used defensive tackle Earl Mitchell as a blocking back on six snaps, more than ever before, and that also seemed to pay off for a team that doesn’t carry a fullback.

### Minor changes among defensive snaps. Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, inactive in the third game, played more snaps than usual (26), easily the third-most among defensive tackles.

After platooning middle linebackers Kelvin Sheppard and Zach Vigil at times early in the season, the Dolphins gave the vast majority of snaps to Sheppard (26). Vigil (10 snaps) played late in the game when the outcome had been decided.

Wake, incidentally, played just 30 of Miami’s 69 defensive snaps according to the NFL’s official game book, making his four-sack outburst even more impressive. Derrick Shelby (47 snaps) played far more than Wake.

Dolphins coaches continued to split safety snaps between Walt Aikens (45) and Michael Thomas (34), alongside Reshad Jones (59).

One other minor change: Even after losing Brice McCain to a knee injury, coaches instead opted to use Bobby McCain (11 snaps) in the slot and Jamar Taylor (62 snaps) on the boundary instead of using Zack Bowman (one snap) on the boundary and Taylor in the slot.

A few other notes:

### Tannehill was excellent against the blitz, completing 10 of 14 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown.

### The Dolphins’ 38 points were the most ever scored by Miami in the first game under a new coach. Previous high: 34 points, in Nick Saban’s debut in 2005.

### Jarvis Landry became the first Dolphins receiver to score a rushing touchdown since Brian Hartline in 2010 against Pittsburgh.

### The Dolphins scored a touchdown on their opening drive for the first time since last November against Denver.

### The Dolphins' 82 rushing yards in the first quarter was their highest first-quarter total since Oct. 25, 2009 when they gained 105 yards against the Saints.

### Wake’s four sacks in the first half were tied for most by an NFL player in a first half since 1991 --- something Seattle's Chris Clemons (2012) and Kansas City's Derrick Thomas (1992) also achieved.

His four sacks also tied for the fourth-most in a single game in Dolphins history. He joined Vern Den Herder(three times) as the only players in Dolphins history to have multiple career games with four-or-more sacks.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please check back in a few hours for Campbell's comments in his day-after news conference.

October 05, 2015

Tannehill's contentious exchange with teammates; Player reaction on Campbell; More unrest in Davie and more disturbing Dolphins trends

A dozen postscripts on the Dolphins, today's firing of Joe Philbin and promotion of Dan Campbell to interim coach:

### The player feedback we heard on today’s news was very positive. Players like and respect Dan Campbell. One person in the building said Campbell will do everything in his power to make this a tougher team (literally) and that nobody is going to be pampered anymore.

Players didn’t loathe Philbin but felt he was neither a motivator (obviously) nor an X’s and O’s savant (clearly) and didn’t bring any special talent to the job.

But one player sentiment expressed to us by multiple people was this: The benefits of a change from Philbin to Campbell will be marginal if defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle or offensive coordinator Bill Lazor isn’t replaced.

Coyle is as disliked by his players as any coach we’ve encountered here. Players pleaded with him in a meeting last Monday to change his approach, including his read-and-react style which keeps defensive linemen from attacking as much as some would wish. Coyle made some concessions but not enough to please them.

Campbell made clear today that he wants to play aggressively. But he said he hasn’t decided whether to replace Coyle. One person inside the building mentioned former Lions coach Jim Schwartz as an option that had been mentioned, but it’s unclear whether Campbell will pursue that.

Linebackers coach Mark Duffner is well liked and also could be a candidate for defensive coordinator if a change is made.

Last season, a lot of players appreciated Lazor’s abilities as a play-caller even though some were turned off by his personality. This season, though, there has been considerable internal questioning of his play-calling, including his lack of commitment to the running game, which frustrates several players.

### Philbin’s final Dolphins practice featured heated exchanges among quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive players, according to multiple sources.

According to a player, Philbin has consistently conveyed a message that during Saturday practices, the defensive players should take it easy on the offense and let them execute.

Tannehill, who was irritated and testy because he was throwing some errant passes throughout the week, reached his tipping point on Saturday when Chris McCain did something more aggressive than typical for a Saturday practice, forcing a turnover. 

According to two players, Tannehill then flipped, saying something to the effect that he would prepare a scout team trophy case for McCain. At least a couple of defensive players responded angrily and a minor confrontation ensued.

Shortly after that, practice squad safety Jonathan Dowling intercepted Tannehill and returned it for a touchdown, according to another player. The defensive players continued aggressively going after Tannehill passes until coaches implored the defensive players to take it down a notch.

According to The National Football Post, Tannehill also told another defensive player “to enjoy your practice squad pay check.” I have no confirmation of that and would be surprised if he said that.

The team declined to comment on the matter, and Tannehill was not made available for comment. Our feeling: It's not a big deal. This team has bigger issues and I doubt it will linger.

Tannehill has the league’s fifth worst passer rating among starting quarterbacks at 77.1, ahead of only Jameis Winston, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Mallett and Andrew Luck.

### Not only are the Dolphins last in the league in rush defense and sacks, but it's not even close. Miami has one sack; Detroit is next lowest with four. The Dolphins have allowed 642 rushing yards – 78 more than No. 31 Cleveland.

Offensively, the Dolphins are 30th in the league in scoring at 16.2.

### This is also troubling: The Dolphins’ investment in their young guards simply hasn’t paid off. Jamil Douglas has allowed 16 quarterback hurries (most in the league) and Dallas Thomas has permitted 13 (second-most).

Among 79 guards, Pro Football Focus rates Thomas 78th and Douglas 79th.

### That’s disappointing but not shocking. This, however, is: Cameron Wake, who has played 147 defensive snaps, has one tackle all season (he had 32 last year), no sacks (11.5 last year) and just four hurries.

Wake, who is still being affected by a hamstring injury, played just 34 of Miami’s 81 defensive snaps on Sunday. Olivier Vernon (no sacks, five hurries this season) played 64, Derrick Shelby 60 and Terrence Fede 18.

### PFF graded Ryan Tannehill as the Dolphins’ worst player on offense and Kelvin Sheppard the worst player on defense on Sunday.

Tannehill completed just 12 of 32 passes for 127 yards and two picks when blitzed on Sunday (a 34.2 rating). He was 7 for 12 for 71 yards and a 103.1 rating when he wasn’t blitzed.

### Couple more interesting things on Tannehill, from PFF’s Sam Monson today:

"This season Tannehill is being pressured on 43.7 percent of his dropbacks (highest percentage in the league), up from 38.4 percent last season. To make things worse, when Tannehill can get the ball to a receiver, he is seeing it dropped more often.

"Last year the Dolphins receivers dropped 29 passes from him. This year they have already dropped 10. Tannehill has only completed 56.7 percent of his passes those season, and while he has suffered from 10 drops, he has been accurate on only 69.9 percent of passes when those are factored out. That is just the 24th-best mark in the NFL, worse than Jay Cutler, Matthew Stafford and Josh McCown.

"Even at his best, Tannehill never really looked like the kind of quarterback who would raise everybody’s game and carry a team on his back," Monson said. "Within a well-functioning offensive system, though, he did look like a quarterback who could take the team far. With the system imploding around him this season, he just looks unable to halt the destruction."

### The receiver snaps need to be re-evaluated. Greg Jennings got 40 snaps on Sunday -- more than Kenny Stills’ 28 and DeVante Parker’s 23. That allocation of snaps is questionable, considering Jennings has caught only 7 of 15 passes through to him, for 54 yards, with three drops. Jarvis Landry logged 56 snaps and Rishard Matthews 42.

### In firing Philbin, Stephen Ross conceded the Dolphins might have overestimated their talent.

"Hey that could be,” he said. “That we’ll find out if I did or didn’t. Today, with the salary cap, there’s no such thing as having a perfect roster. But I think have a lot of great players.

"We knew where our weaknesses were and we thought we could overcome those weaknesses and develop players that could play at that level. No team has all stars, but they work together as a team and they make up for the deficiencies that other players have. I didn’t see that development happening.”

Ross said he gave no thought to firing either or both coordinators and keeping Philbin. “I believe at this point,… it was time to really replace at the top.”

### Asked, in retrospect, if he should have dumped Philbin during the offseason, Ross said: “That’s an easy thing to say now. In retrospect, sure. I didn’t believe it then.

“…I may be accused of having maybe too much loyalty, but I felt that we had the right people in place…. I don’t think anybody out there wants to win more than I do…. I put my money where my mouth is, and we’re doing everything we can to win.”

### Ross said he doesn’t believe players quit on the coach.

“These players, they play to win. They way people look at game tapes and if their future isn’t with the Dolphins, their future is with another team is really based on the way they play. I don’t believe that anybody really lay down because they didn’t care about Joe Philbin. He might not have gotten the best out of them, but that’s a different issue.”

Ross said firing Philbin was “tough” because he’s a “wonderful person.”

### So who could be the permanent coach for 2016? The Dolphins would like nothing more than Campbell winning games as much as he won the press conference today. If he makes this a playoff team or just misses, he becomes a top candidate for the permanent job.

If not, options (and this is purely speculative) could include:

Eric Mangini: 49ers defensive coordinator was 33-47 as a head coach with the Jets and Browns but worked with Mike Tannenbaum in New York.

Jim Mora: Had one winning season in five years as an NFL head coach (with Atlanta and Seattle) but is friendly with Mike Tannenbaum and has had success at his current job (UCLA).

Josh McDaniels: Patriots offensive coordinator was 11-17 as Broncos head coach in 2009 and 2010. Oversees excellent offense in New England.

Adam Gase: Bears offensive coordinator left same job in Denver after he was passed over for head coaching job this past spring. Interviewed for 49ers, Bills, Falcons and Broncos head job after last season.

Kyle Shanahan: Falcons offensive coordinator also served in that role for Houston, Washington and Cleveland. Generally well regarded.

Hue Jackson: Bengals offensive coordinator was 8-8 in one season as Raiders coach (2011).

TV analysts: Tony Dungy, who has a good relationship with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, has made clear he isn't returning to coaching.... Bill Cowher has said he's happy doing television.... Jon Gruden has given no indication he's looking to return to coaching and last year signed an extension with ESPN through 2021, though it's believed he could escape it if he wished. Gruden has a home in Tampa and said in September this would be the year of the Dolphins in the AFC East... Ross has never shown any interest in Brian Billick. 

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Our next post will be early the week of Oct. 19, barring something unforeseen before that. Please check back then. 

Stephen Ross addresses Dolphins coaching change; Dan Campbell, Mike Tannenbaum discuss Dolphins' coaching change; How it came down this morning

Dolphins owner Steve Ross addressed the media by conference call second ago. Here's what he had to say:

### He said interim coach Dan Campbell is a candidate for the permanent job and he spoke to several former coaches and others about him, including Bill Parcells.

### Here's what Ross had to say: "Today was a tough day. Someone you care a lot about as a person and you relieve him of his duties, it's a very difficult thing. I thought it was hard to do but something I felt needed to be done. I believe in our roster and didn't believe we're performing to the potential we had. I felt this was the time to make this decision. We've played four games. I haven't seen a lot of improvement. I've seen same old, same old. I believe this team has a lot of opportunities. My goal is still to make the playoffs. I thought this was best opportunity we had."

### He said he started considering a coaching change after the Buffalo game. "We won the first game, didn't look good. Jacksonville, a team we should have beaten - we outplayed them but didn't look good at all. Seeing same type of performance, we had to get off to a fast start. Our first quarters, the best way to call them, would be abysmal. There was a lot of the same type of play by the team. I felt I owed it to the fans, I run organizations, to be best in class, and I didn't see that happening."

### Did he overestimate the roster? "That could be. We'll find out if I did or didn't. With the salary cap, there is no such thing as having a perfect roster. We have a lot of great players on our team. We know what our weaknesses are but thought we could overcome those weaknesses. I didn't see development happening.

"In retrospect, sure. I didn't believe it then. Of course the answer is if you knew something then, you should have acted on it. I may be accused of having too much loyalty. I felt we had the right people in place. I bought this team to win. That's my obligation to the community. I'm a steward of this team. I don't think anyone out there wants to win more than I do.

"I have always observed, talked to people about our staff. While I never spent a lot of time with Dan, I've spoken to people."

"You want to promote from within instead of going without. I saw the way Dan answered those questions on dolphins.com [during his press conference] and the confidence he has the whole demeanor and something he represents is something I have a lot of respect for. It made me feel confident and happy we had somebody like him we could turn to."

Ross said he does not believe Dolphins players quit. "Word would get out and other people would be talking" if that happened.

He said he didn't consider changing coordinators instead. "I believed it was time to replace at the top."


Dan Campbell began the decade as a Miami Dolphins coaching intern, his first job after an 11-year NFL career.

Midway through the decade, Campbell has risen to the most prominent non-playing job in the organization.

Campbell, the Dolphins tight ends coach since 2011, took over as Dolphins interim coach on Monday after Joe Philbin was fired in the wake of a 1-3 start.

Campbell will be considered for the permanent job if the team is successful over the next 12 games.

The Dolphins picked Campbell because owner Stephen Ross and president/football operations Mike Tannenbaum are impressed by his enthusiasm, passion and demeanor and believe he can connect with players, according to a source.

Ross and team executives believe the team needs an emotional spark.

Campbell was given the authority to fire maligned defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and any other assistants. Campbell had not informed Coyle of a decision, as of midday, but several media outlets have reported Coyle is expected to be fired.

Ross concluded he needed to fire Philbin soon after the Dolphins’ 27-14 loss to the Jets in London and stuck by that decision when he woke up today. He was very angry about the team's performance the past two weeks and concluded the Dolphins were playing far below their talent level.

According to a source, he gave no serious thought to hiring an outside candidate, and the Dolphins were told they would be required to interview at least one minority candidate if they went outside the organization to hire an interim coach.

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi also received consideration for the interim job.

Ross, who is not in South Florida, could not immediately reach Philbin on Monday morning when he called to inform Philbin of the decision. 

When Ross informed Philbin he was being let go, Philbin asked if he could leave team headquarters to tell his wife in person, and then return to tell his coaching staff at noon, before an announcement was made.

The Dolphins granted that request, though ESPN already was reporting that a change from Philbin to Campbell was very likely.

Campbell, 39, was born in Bosque County, Texas, and attended Texas A&M, and was selected in the third round by the New York Giants in the 1999 NFL Draft. He played for the Giants, Cowboys, Lions and Saints. He missed the 2009 season with a knee injury and retired after that.

Philbin finished his Dolphins career with a record of 24-28 and no playoff appearances. He said in recent months that he had made an effort to connect more with his players, but some of those players have said Philbin lacked the ability to inspire or motivate them.

Please check back in the next 30 minutes for comments from today's news conference to introduce Campbell. Here's what Mike Tannenbaum and Campbell had to say:

### Tannenbaum: "[Philbin] gave us everything he had for four years. Obviously, things weren't going as well as we hoped. When we made the decision to make Dan Campbell the interim coach, the thinking was we could accomplish all of our goals this year.

"It's not a three-year rebuild. He brings leadership, toughness, energy. We weren't happy with the direction the team was going. This morning, the decision was finalized by Steve.... We're trying to figure out the best way to move forward. Dan's name come to the top of the list pretty quick. Based on Dan's leadership, experience, he gave us the best chance to move forward. It was a unanimous decision."

### Campbell, who spoke to Ross and Tannenbaum separately today: "I don't want guys just to do their job. I want them to dominate. Just doing you're job is this. You go 8-8, 7-9, 9-7.... 

This is the most talented roster we have had in [my] six years. We have plenty of talent. We have the people in this building. We may have some things that need to be moved or shuffled. I need to sort that out. We have to change the culture. We need to become a more aggressive front and team in general. Our front four on defense and the offensive line, we need to breed a culture of competitiveness, finish and intensity. That is where we have to change it. We need to change it in practice.

"We need these guys to go after each other. On the best teams I've been on, during the week, they go after it. It gets heated. It gets intense. It's not just going through the motions. That's what's got to change. If we start there, that will put us in the right direction. X's and O's will come later from there."

"I talked to Mr. Ross earlier today and this is the fifth organization I've been a part of and nobody on these teams has spent more resources or committed more on wanting to win than Mr. Ross. He told me, whatever you need, I will be there for you. Whatever you need to turn the team around, you've got it.

"I feel I relate to the players. I understand them. I feel like, whether a player or coach, can pull the best out of people.  There is different ways to motivate players. Some players need a kick in the rear. Some needed to be patted on the back. Some need to be told they're not good enough; that's when they rise to the top. That's my strength; I understand people very much; I understand players."

### Campbell was non-committal about whether he would make staff changes. He said defensively, "we have time to evaluate what we're doing, what we're not doing. I'll get to that."

"I feel there's a lot more we can get out of these guys and we need to get it out. We need to change the culture where it's so competitive on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, where it's very heated. That's when you really get good. That's when you get the most of your players. You can't just go through the motions on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and get the most out of them. They have to be challenged.

"As great as Mike Pouncey is, he needs to have someone pushing him. That's the first thing I'm changing. I'm challenging them."

### Campbell said getting the job "was a little surreal. There are only 32 of these spots. I'm ready for this. I can do this. I understand these players. I've been around some really good players. I know what it needs to look like."

### Campbell: "This team plays hard. But they're not competing. I have to get them to compete more. We have to go back to the basics. We have to learn how to fight for a win on any rep at any time.

"You can't just go out on Sunday and say, 'I'm going to win.' We have some very good players. I'm going to talk the talk and walk the walk and you follow me. I feel I've built relationships with these players through the years."

### Campbell: "I'm not here just to finish the season out. That's not my plan. My plan is for this team to be competitive, find ways to win games, win now. It's still early. We have time to turn everything around. But we can't wait. The bye can't come at a better time."

### Campbell said he's not ready to say if the team needs to run more or drop the read and react approach that defensive linemen aren't happy about.

He said his vision is having "hard nosed guys that go out every day for practice and they're ultra competitive and it's fueled with intensity. Very intense, very heated. We go out Sunday and it's that same team.

We are going to play by the rules. But we are going to be much more aggressive. We're going to walk that line. Not saying I want dirty players. I don't want us playing conservative and playing on our heels. We are going forward and going through more."

### Campbell: "I learned a lot from Bill Parcells. You either loved Bill or hated Bill."

### Campbell, on his playing career: "I was an emotional player. I was dependable. I could be counted on."

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 04, 2015

11 a.m.: Report: Ross preparing to fire Philbin; Ross mulling what to do with Philbin; Another managerial candidate surfaces for Marlins

As of Sunday night, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was preparing to fire coach Joe Philbin, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported this morning.

Schefter said the organization was preparing to make a move as soon as today, barring a change of heart by Ross.

Tight ends coach Dan Campbell is the leading candidate to replace Philbin, Schefter reports. 

Campbell played 11 years in the NFL, then joined the Dolphins as a coaching intern in 2010, before being promoted to tight ends coach in 2011. Campbell has never coached with any other team.

 Several people have asked whether Jim Schwartz, the former Lions coach and outstanding former defensive coordinator, is in play for a job on the Dolphins staff --- either as interim head coach or defensive coordinator.

As of 9:30 this morning, the Dolphins had not reached out to Schwartz, who is spending the season working for the league's officiating department.

Schwartz, who coached Ndamukong Suh in Detroit, is arguably the best available defensive coordinator. He would be an upgrade over Kevin Coyle, whose job is in serious jeopardy.

Schwartz was 29-51 in five seasons as Lions coach (2009-13) but did good work as defensive coordinator in Tennessee (2001-08) and the Bills last season (2014). Rex Ryan wanted to bring in his own coordinator when he took over the Bills.

For the first time in the history of the Philbin regime, the Dolphins -- as of this hour -- have not called a Philbin-day-after-game press conference, amid all the uncertainty. They still might but the team at this hour has declined to say if it will.

The NFL requires day-after-game press conferences for head coaches but the league said teams traveling from London are given flexibility.


A couple of quick Sunday night updates:

### Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is mulling whether to keep coach Joe Philbin and a decision is expected by Monday, NBC's Mike Florio reported tonight.

"Despite the absence of any obvious internal candidates, one of the big factors will be a desire by the owner to demonstrate to key players that he’s committed to improving the situation. Which is an ominous sign for Philbin," Florio said on his web site, Pro Football Talk.

"Making a move now also gives the team a head start on finding a new coach for 2016, which will make it easier for executive V.P. of football operations Mike Tannenbaum to make the best possible hire," Florio added. "Speaking of Tannenbaum, he’s surely livid about the outcome of the last two games, losses by a combined score of 68-28 to Rex Ryan, who worked for Tannenbaum in New York, and now the Jets, who fired Tannenbaum after the 2012 season."

Fox's Jay Glazer also reported that Ross is contemplating what to do with Philbin but did not want to make a knee-jerk reaction on Sunday.

Glazer said two factors are in play: 1) Are the players tuning out Philbin? and 2) Is there anyone on the staff capable of taking over as head coach?. Glazer said it does not appear there is anyone on staff ideally suited to be the head coach.

CBS-4's Kim Bokamper said he was told that Ross was livid at halftime. Ross brought friends and associates to the game, and the Dolphins were again embarrassed. But Philbin said his postgame meeting with Ross "went well."

Ross declined comment after the game and the Dolphins have not clarified Philbin's status tonight. Also, for the first time in memory at this time Sunday night, the Dolphins have not said when or if Philbin will hold his customary Monday news conference. The team is flying back from London at this hour.

The Dolphins, 1-3 entering their bye week, are 24-28 under Philbin. A Ross associate said before the season that anything less than a playoff berth would greatly disappoint him. 

Special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is one possibility for the interim coach job if Philbin is let go. 

 “I’m never a fan of making changes on the coaching staff during the season. I don’t think they help much, but something has to be done in Miami," NBC's Tony Dungy said tonight. "They are not playing anywhere near their talent level.”

Former Dolphins cornerback Patrick Surtain, on Twitter, said the Dolphins "need some new young blood in there to lead these new generation cats."

### The Dolphins' first quarter stats are beyond gruesome. They've been outscored 37-3 and outgained 622-125 in the first quarter. Opponents have 27 first downs; Miami has four.

### NBC pounded Ndamukong Suh on its pregame show tonight, with Rodney Harrison providing visual evidence in asserting that Suh "quit" on one play.

Regarding Suh saying he’s ‘not very emotional’ during his post-game press conference, Harrison said: “I'm a little surprised because when he played with Detroit, he was very emotional. He was a tough guy and sometimes he went past that line. But all the great players that I've competed against or played with --- the great defensive players --- they're emotional and when they lost, it hurt. Afterwards, you have to face the media, you have to be a professional. That's all part of it. It's not just signing a contract and then walking away and thinking everything is fine. You have to compete, but he (also) has to produce.”

Dungy on Suh“You have to get some production. Miami's defense is at the bottom of the league in run defense. They only have one sack this year. He was supposed to provide that and it's not happening.”

### The Dolphins have only one sack in four games, a pace for an absurdly low four. For perspective, Cincinnati was last in the league in sacks last year with 20.

### The Dolphins are averaging 14.4 points. Over a full season, that would be the lowest in the NFL since Kansas City averaged 13.2 points in 2012.

### NFL Network's Heath Evans, today: “The focus was put on the wrong things this offseason to make this team a playoff contender.” 

### The Marlins received permission to interview Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa for their soon-to-be-vacant managerial job, CSN Philadelphia first reported.

Bowa, 69, is the type of fiery personality that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria likes. As a manager, Bowa is 418-435 (49 winning percent) in parts of two seasons with San Diego (1987-88) and four with Philadelphia (2001-2004).

Manny Acta and Bo Porter have previously interviewed for the Marlins managerial job. At least a half dozen candidates are under consideration. 

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

October 03, 2015

Marlins to address pitching, Ozuna situation, other issues; More Dolphins/Coyle criticism; Dolphins, Heat notes; UM/Golden


Marlins buzz as another disappointing season ends:

### The Marlins can be mildly encouraged but should not deceived by a pretty good September, when they’ve excelled without pressure. They know they need to add one or two starting pitchers, will explore closer options and will discuss what to do with Marcell Ozuna.

The Marlins hope to find a No. 2-caliber starter to join ace Jose Fernandez (who might be on an innings limit in 2016), Jarred Cosart (“you are seeing the guy we traded for, and it’s pretty good,” manager-for-one-more-day Dan Jennings said) and perhaps Tom Koehler.

Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill has said the Marlins cannot comfortably project a rotation spot yet for Henderson Alvarez, expected back sometime next spring from shoulder surgery. He’s expected to be tendered unless he has a setback in recovery before the early-December deadline.  

If the Marlins can afford to add only one starter, they could go into March with one spot in competition among Adam Conley (4-1, 3.84 ERA) and Justin Nicolino (they both have had some good moments in recent weeks) and a recovering Alvarez.

“I hope we’ve given them something to consider,” Conley said. “I’ve shown I can get major league hitters out.”

Nicolino --- who was 4-4, with a 4.16 ERA entering his Saturday night start --- said: “I’m proud of how I’ve handled this.”

The Marlins like impending free agents Johnny Cueto (Kansas City) and Mike Leake (San Francisco), but they would be too expensive unless Jeffrey Loria is willing to spend a ton. Numerous cheaper options will be discussed.

### There’s some internal sentiment to trying to upgrade at closer and use closer AJ Ramos and Carter Capps as set-up men, but signing a closer might not be realistic financially.

Ramos (30 of 36 save chances, batters hitting .181 against) said he would “like to think” he has done enough to retain the job. He said he needs to right himself more quickly when he has location issues, and avoid stressful innings, because “my parents are getting older. I can’t do that to them.”

### Though some members of the front office would like to keep Ozuna, Loria is down on him and will consider trading him, multiple sources said. If Ozuna is dealt (possibly for a pitcher), a center fielder will be needed.

The Marlins like Mets impending free agent Yoenis Cespedes, 29, but he wants a six-year contract and probably would be too costly. The other free agent center fielders: Cubs’ Dexter Fowler and Austin Jackson, Washington’s Denard Span (recovering from hip surgery), Houston’s Colby Rasmus and Detroit’s Rajai Davis.

Ozuna is hitting .274 since his 5 ½ week banishment to the minors – much better than before his demotion (.249) and with more power (six homers since returning from Triple A; four in nearly twice as many at-bats before). “I like it here but if they don’t want me, I can’t control it. I will learn from this year,” Ozuna said.

### Christian Yelich has been buoyed by his strong finish; his .330 average after the All-Star break ranks in the top 12 in baseball (minimum 200 at-bats) and there’s no thought to trading him. “This is the player I know I can be,” he said. Yelich began tonight's double-header with eight hits in eight at-bats.

### Justin Bour (.263, 23 HR, 71 RBI entering Saturday's double-header) clearly has positioned himself to the starting first baseman in 2016, but he’s largely unproven against left-handers (.221, 15 for 68) and the Marlins might look for a cheap platoon option.  

 “The power has been good,” Hill said. “Defensively, there is room for improvement. He's a young player, trying to get his feet underneath him at the major league level and we're happy with the progress.”

The bulky Bour, who has six errors, knows he needs “to make strides body-wise. Not weight but more toned. If I take the right approach, I would be a guy who not just hits for power but hits for average and gets on base a lot.”

### Beyond the ongoing managerial search (there are at least a half dozen candidates), changes are also in the works in the baseball operations department. (Check out Clark Spencer's blog from today about that.) Hill remains first in command in the hierarchy, and that isn't expected to change, but Loria ultimately makes every decision. 


### Dolphins players continue to gripe privately about defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle --- everything from his substitution patterns, to his read-and-react approach for defensive linemen, to using practice time on things not used much in games, to in-game decisions.

One veteran defensive player expressed concern that Coyle's decision to split middle linebacker snaps between Kelvin Sheppard and Zach Vigil (a platoon that resumed last week) could be disruptive. Another said he has never seen anything like that before at mike linebacker and worried it could lead to errors.

And players aren’t the only ones complaining about Coyle.

“The Dolphins defense is so simplistic and predictable,” ESPN’s Louis Riddick, former Redskins and Eagles pro personnel director, tweeted this week. “Presents no mental challenge for the quarterback to decipher what they are doing pre-snap…. You give a player [Ndamukong Suh] $60 million in guarantees as a UFA, you make damn sure you do everything you can to recreate the environment/scheme he had success in before.”

Joe Philbin ordered Coyle to simplify his defense this past offseason, and players said Coyle spoke this week of simplifying even more, instead of adding creative nuances.

### To put into perspective what middling or worse quarterbacks are doing against the Dolphins, consider four of the past five they’ve faced have exceeded their career passer ratings by an absurd 30 to 87 points when they played Miami.

To end 2014, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater produced an 114.1 against Miami (compared with an 84.4 career rating) and the Jets’ Geno Smith a perfect 158.8 (career 71.5).

This season, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles was 102.2 vs. Miami (71.1 career) and Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor 136.7, compared with 80.3 career. 

One Dolphins defensive player, asked about this, said one reason for these astounding performances by average quarterbacks is that the Dolphins are not stopping the run, either. "We need to make teams one-dimensional, and we're not doing that," that player said.

### Consider passer ratings allowed by Dolphins defensive backs: Walt Aikens (143.3), Reshad Jones (136.5), Brice McCain (95.3 and allowed fourth-most yards in the league at 232) and Jamar Taylor (119). Brent Grimes is at a sterling 41.3.

### According to a player, several veterans spoke up in defensive meeting on Monday --- Cam Wake, Ndamukong Suh and others --- taking ownership and saying everyone needs to do their job. But while the players speaking up is fine, another player said talking isn't going to accomplish much.

### Hassan Whiteside, whose 50 percent accuracy on free throws last season would have been the NBA’s fifth-worst if he had enough games to qualify (78 for 156), said he shot 300 a day this summer and “there has been a lot of improvement. I filmed it. I worked on my mechanics. You’ll see. I’m trying to be 70 percent or higher.”

### I asked Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade what has impressed them through the first few days of training camp, and both mentioned guard Josh Richardson.

"I didn't know a lot about him," Wade said. "I like his poise, his ability to play the 1 and 2. He's impressed me."

Said Bosh: "[Both] rookies have impressed me. Justise Winslow is very smart. Josh plays under control, doesn't make many bad decisions."

### Erik Spoelstra twice mentioned this last week: "The ultimate compliment to a player is when everyone wants to play with him" (on his team) in practice. That's Josh McRoberts."

### Yet another reason why UM’s coaching remains justifiably under fire: Miami --- which had recruiting classes ranked 9th, 20th, 12th and 26th by Rivals over the past four seasons --- somehow lost to a Cincinnati team whose classes were rated 50th, 71st, 69th and 57th those years.

Cincinnati looked like it had comparable talent on Thursday night, and that may will be. But the most prominent recruiting site (Rivals) says there was a big gap in the talent of these players before they arrived on campus...

Al Golden is likely going to lose his job if he doesn't get this turned around this season, but one high-level Board of Trustee member said in an in-season coaching change would surprise him, barring a total collapse.

That Trustee said it is obvious coaching is the problem, a view shared by several Trustees with whom we've spoken.

### Next Saturday's UM at FSU game was set for 8 p.m. on ABC.

### When I asked elite St. Thomas Aquinas receiver Sam Bruce, before the season, whether UM needs to win to keep his commitment, he responded that UM would win 10 games. It's almost unfathomable to see that happening now.

Bruce also has been quoted as saying that he would look elsewhere if Golden is fired.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz          

October 02, 2015

Friday afternoon: Golden addresses possible lineup changes, other issues day after Cincinnati disaster; Lots of Heat chatter

Al Golden addressed several issues seconds ago in his day after press conference, following Thursday's 34-23 loss at Cincinnati. Some of his thoughts:      

### On how his defense could have looked so bad early coming off a bye week: “The second drive was a one-play, 10 yard drive because of the punt return. We obviously missed a tackle that led to the first one.”

### On what concerns him: “We’ve got to get better on the offensive line in protection. Even when they dropped eight and rushed three, they were able to collapse our pocket....

“We took a lot of points and a lot of scoring opportunities off the board [with penalties]. We have to get that fixed....

“We kicked the ball out of bounds and gave them a short field. Obviously the punt return was huge. When we have a punter of that caliber, we have to do a better job of protecting him."

### On Corn Elder getting beat on a deep ball in the second half: “We had allowed five yards [to that point]. I was telling the defense, we will get our three points and hold them and get the ball at midfield. It was a 2nd and 8. It was a double whammy.”

### He said lineup changes will be considered. Where?

“We’ve got to keep working the combinations up front to make sure we have the right combinations on the o-line. That includes [reserves] Joe Brown and KC McDermott.... With both safeties back, there’s an opportunity to play most of our safeties. I was proud of Raphael Kirby. He played WILL linebacker most of the night and played it really well" with Jermaine Grace missing the second half.

### Why not give Trayone Gray a chance at short yardage?

“It’s something we talked about at length. Trayone is getting closer. Walter Tucker is getting closer. On the 3rd and half a yard, we got knocked back up front [Joseph Yearby ran that] and the same thing happened on the third and 3. In those two cases, it doesn’t matter who the back is. In terms of a short yardage back, we’re looking at those two options.”

### On the play-calling in the fourth quarter:

Why a field goal on 4th and 5 on the 16 in the second half?

“They gave us the two high-look we wanted on third down and we didn’t cut off on the backside like we needed to. The running back [Mark Walton] cut back too quickly. We had positive yards to be had there. If we had gone down to 4th and 2 or 4th and 1, I may have gone for it.”

Golden also said he felt his defense would get a stop on the next series because Cincinnati had only five second-half yards up to that point. Instead, the Bearcats scored a touchdown.

### Golden said Grace (ankle) and Stacy Coley (hamstring) have a chance to be ready for the FSU game Oct. 10. The time for that game will be announced Saturday night or Sunday morning.



When Dwyane Wade and Heat players spoke in recent days about how the roster has changed for the better, they always mention the improved depth.

The upshot of adding skilled veterans Gerald Green and Amar’e Stoudemire and 10th overall draft pick Justise Winslow, along with the return of Josh McRoberts from knee surgery, means the Heat’s second unit --- which could potentially include those four and Mario Chalmers --- is “obviously a big upgrade from what we had last season coming off the bench,” Wade said.

But Wade also cited this potentially uncomfortable flip side of adding depth: fewer minutes for players unaccustomed to that.

"Everyone talks about how excited we are about our depth, but you've got to understand at times the depth will get in the way of your playing time,” Wade said. “How are we going to get past that? Those are the things people don't look at that affect teams. We've got to be able to get over that hump."

Two players who stand to be most affected by that: Chris Andersen, who played in 60 of the 65 games he suited up for last season, and Udonis Haslem, who played in 46 of the 77 that he was available for.

If McRoberts joins Stoudemire on the second unit as expected, then Andersen’s minutes would be curtailed significantly. He said he’s not concerned.

“I am just going to go in and do what I do,” Andersen said. “I can’t control that. I did what I had to do to make sure my conditioning was good,… to make sure I don’t get injured as [much] as last year.”

Haslem, too, could spend a lot of time on the bench for a team in the enviable position of having six proven power rotation players.

“It takes a special person to do that,” Haslem said. “When it takes a hit on playing time, it takes a hit on your ego. My job is to walk guys through who haven’t experienced it. I can instill a positive influence, keeping guys engaged in practice.”

Erik Spoelstra said the Heat does research to make sure it doesn’t sign players who are likely to complain about playing time. Asked about the six power rotation players, Spoelstra said all are selfless.

“This type of situation might not be for every veteran player,” Spoelstra said. “We try to over-communicate that early in the process of recruitment.  When we sign them, we over-communicate the role. With any great team, it’s necessary you have talent and depth.

“But you have to be willing to sacrifice to leverage all of that depth. We haven’t gotten to that point yet with [defining] roles. It’s not about minutes, it’s not about shots, it’s not about opportunities. It’s about an opportunity to come together and do something special.”

At the wing positions, the players who might not play as much as they’re accustomed (in college) are mostly young players --- Justise Winslow, Tyler Johnson, James Ennis (if he makes the team) and Josh Richardson.

But Mario Chalmers, who has started 383 of 519 games, must also now adjust to being a full-time backup, with fewer minutes.

“I feel [that second unit] can be a starting five on any other team,” Chalmers said. “Amar’e is a proven All Star. Justise is just now coming into his own. He’s big. Gerald is a prolific scorer.

“You know me – I’ve got the championship background and know what the Miami Heat family is about. It will be easy for me to translate to those guys and be able to lead that second team.”

McRoberts said: “We have a lot of potential with that [second] group. We’ve been talking about that. You can never have too many options. That’s my option to be out there and get it to the hot hand and make sure everything runs smoothly. I can help in that role and keep everybody involved and putting the ball where it needs to be.”

That second unit, Wade said, “is different from what we had in our championship years coming off the bench. There’s talent in that group. They might not do the same thing the first lineup does. But that lineup can be very effective if you give them the right offense and the right things to do.”

### Hassan Whiteside (calf) sat out practice for a fourth consecutive day. John Lucas III (leg soreness) and Greg Whittington (illness) also skipped practice.

### Chris Bosh said Friday he’s “more surprised than anybody” about how great he has felt during practices, as he returns from February’s blood clots in his lungs. “My soreness is limited.”

### Sun Sports will televise five of the Heat’s preseason games, including the 6 p.m. Sunday opener against visiting Charlotte. ESPN picked up the Oct. 21 game against Washington. The two untelevised preseason games: Wednesday against Orlando in Louisville and Oct. 17 at Houston.

Please see the last post for thoughts on UM's debacle last night... Twitter: @flasportbuzz     

October 01, 2015

Postscripts, notes, thoughts, reaction from UM's 34-23 loss to Cincinnati

A loss like this 34-23 setback would have been astonishing a decade ago.

Now, not so much.

This, sadly, is what the Hurricanes have become --- a middling, error-prone, barely relevant football program that continues to flail away in a sea of mediocrity, miles away from the Top 25.

Under Al Golden, Miami is now 10-13 on the road in the regular season and just 10-8 on the road against unranked teams (that last stat courtesy of AP’s Tim Reynolds).

This, though, is predictable when you have an offense that’s an absurdly awful 13 for 53 on third downs this season (including 4 for 15 tonight), a special teams unit that seemingly makes at least one big mistake a week (there were two costly ones tonight), a team that remains penalty-prone and a defense that can’t be trusted.

UM’s second-half offense was largely responsible for this loss. It's no coincidence the Hurricanes rank 126th of 127 FBS school in third down conversions this season, ahead of only Kent State.

But don’t gloss over this: The Hurricanes have allowed 30 points per game, on average, in their past 12 road games under Golden.

UM relinquished 300 yards and 27 points in the first half Thursday, then righted itself for a while, allowing only five yards on 14 plays over Cincinnati’s first four possessions of the second half.

But then, disaster: Corn Elder was beaten on a 53-yard pass, Dallas Crawford missed a tackle on a 17-yard run by Williams, and Tyriq McCord blew coverage on Tyler Cogswell’s 7-yard TD pass to put Cincinnati ahead 34-23.

UM once again allowed too many yards on the ground (167, 4.9 per carry) and too many yards overall (446).

Rayshawn Jenkins had a first-half pick, but he and Dallas Crawford were burned a bunch of times and Jenkins had the embarrassing play of the night when he allowed Hosey Williams to escape his grasp on a 29-yard touchdown run. (Chad Thomas and Raphael Kirby also missed a chance to corral Williams.)

The defense improved when safeties Deon Bush and Jamal Carter returned from suspension in the second half.

But enough about defense. UM’s offense deserves a large share of the blame tonight. Miami mustered only three points on six second-half possessions. Here’s how those series were doomed, in order:

### Alex Pace threw guard Alex Gall into the backfield, foiling a Joseph Yearby run on a third and one. UM punted.

### A Jaquan Johnson penalty negated a Corn Elder punt return for a touchdown. UM momentarily overcame that, helped by an Cincinnati end-zone pass interference on a throw to Herb Waters. But Brad Kaaya was sacked on a 3rd and 10 from the Bearcats’ 28, even though Cincinnati rushed only three on the play. Michael Badgley then missed from 52.

### Trevor Darling committed two penalties, a holding and a false start. UM overcame the first but not the second, which resulted in a 2nd and 13. Mark Walton was tackled for a loss on 3rd and 3. Another punt.

###  UM rode Joe Yearby on a long drive, but Kaaya threw incomplete on 1st and 10 from the 14 and blew two timeouts.

Then, the strangest call of the game: a run by Mark Walton on 3rd and 6 that didn’t come close to getting a first down. Badgley kicked a 26-yard field goal, with 8:59 left, for UM’s only points of the second half.

### On UM’s fifth possession of the second half, a 47-yard pass to Waters took UM inside the Bearcats’ 10, but the Hurricanes went nowhere, as is often the case for them in the red zone.

Cincinnati then scored to essentially settle matters.

### Al Golden’s reaction, on WQAM: “We kill ourselves on drives with operational penalties up front. I thought we left some yardage out there in the run game. We controlled the ball, but didn’t convert, didn’t finish, had some penalties go against us and missed some kicks as well. Too many times, they hit [Kaaya]. We’ve got to do a better job there. We didn’t do well enough on third down again….

“The reason I kicked the field goal at the 10 minute mark was I thought we were playing really good defense. We had the wind. I really thought we would get a 3 and out, get the ball back and have plenty of time. We ended up giving up [a big] play and they flipped the field on us.

"I told them we have to stay together. We haven’t played an ACC game yet. We have all of our goals in front of us. Everyone is really disappointed. We’ve got to fix what we’ve got to fix. Give them credit. I know we have the leadership to get this thing turned around.”

### Per AP's Reynolds, UM had won 15 in a row on the road against unranked non-conference opponents, dating to a 1995 loss at UCLA. That streak is now over, UM beaten by a Cincinnati team that lost to Temple this season and was starting a backup quarterback.

### Kaaya was mediocre, closing 24 for 39 for 255 yards. Tyre Brady dropped at least two of Kaaya’s incomplete passes.

### Yearby closed with 113 yards on 17 carries, a 6.6 average. He entered averaging 7.6 per carry, 14th in the nation… Walton mustered only 34 yards on 12 carries, a 2.8 average.

### Brady led UM in receptions with five for 54 yards. Waters had 4 for 60, Rashawn Scott 5 for 34. David Njoku, who UM players call their secret weapon, had one catch for 40. Braxton Berrios, coming back from a knee injury, had one catch for five yards.

### At 3-1, UM is in danger of this season unraveling if it doesn’t win at least one in a difficult stretch that includes at FSU next Saturday, Virginia Tech and Clemson.

### Linebacker Jermaine Grace sat out the second half with an ankle injury.

### This had to have been satisfying for Cincinnati coach and former Hurricanes assistant Tommy Tuberville, who had interest in the UM job when Randy Shannon was fired. But Kirby Hocutt didn’t have much reciprocal interest, preferring Golden instead.

### Michael Wyche, who had played sparingly, made a first half appearance, as UM alternated a lot of defensive linemen, including freshman Richard McIntosh.

At one point, UM played a front four of freshman Kendrick Norton and sophomores Chad Thomas, Al Quadin Muhammad and Anthony Moten. That’s a high-end quartet of recruits.

Each of those players had some good moments tonight, but Cincinnati scored a touchdown on the series when those four were paired together.

### What else is new? UM had six penalties for 50 yards, including the one that cost Elder a return touchdown for the second time this season. UM ranked 107th in penalties last season, and that problem still hasn't been corrected.

“I don’t know [why],” Alex Gall said on WQAM. “It’s been such a big focus for us. It really has been killing us and it killed us here tonight."

### Moten started alongside Calvin Heurtelou at defensive tackle, with Thomas also getting the start.

### UM was essentially 35th in AP poll this past Sunday. Temple was 34. But at least Temple (and Memphis, 37th) beat Cincinnati.

### These UM and Dolphins football seasons have begun to feel like an inexorable march toward coaching changes.

I don’t blame UM for giving Golden this season, primarily because of the enormous buyout and a strong recruiting class. But a change will obviously be needed if Golden doesn't turn this around in the next two months.

But there were no such financial concerns for billionaire Stephen Ross, who inexplicably concluded Joe Philbin was a better choice than Rex Ryan, Dan Quinn or several others available. It's a decision Ross might come to regret, if he doesn't already.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz... Please see the last post for Thursday Heat and Dolphins and Marlins notes.           

Ennis, Johnson hopeful after painful summer experiences; Dolphins, Heat notes; Marlins interview manager

Tyler Johnson left NBA Summer League with his jaw broken. James Ennis left with his spirit seemingly broken.

But both are healed, Johnson physically and Ennis mentally and physically, and each now looks to secure jobs on the bottom of the Heat’s roster.

Johnson appears very likely to make the team, with half of his $845,059 salary already guaranteed.

There’s less certainty with Ennis, whose entire $845,059 salary would become guaranteed if he’s on the roster on Oct. 28, when Miami opens the regular season against visiting Charlotte.

If Ennis impresses in training camp, he figures to stick, though it’s possible the Heat could restructure the guarantee deadline for a second time this summer.

If Ennis struggles, the Heat could release him and go with 14 players or sign a player released by another team.

The Heat’s 16th through 20th players are considered journeymen or D-League types, with forward Greg Whittington perhaps the best equipped for compete for a roster spot among those five long shots. The Heat, at the moment, isn’t inclined to sign a veteran such as Gerald Wallace.

Late in Summer League in Las Vegas, Ennis sat inside the bowels of Cox Pavilion after a game in mid-July, as despondent as any athlete could ever be in this type of setting.

“It seems like I haven’t gotten better. I have no answers right now. I don’t have a clue,” he bemoaned that day.

Ennis called his summer league play “terrible”: 29.7 percent shooting (19 for 64) in seven games, 2 for 23 on three-pointers, 7.3 points per game and more than twice as many turnovers (23) as assists (11).

Nearly three months later, Ennis appeared in much better spirits this week. One big reason: The tendinitis in his knees has subsided. He said that was a big factor in his summer struggles.

“I was down on myself because I expected more from me,” he said this week. “I’m really hard on myself. But I looked at it and said, ‘You’re injured.’ I was playing at 65 percent. I did a lot of treatment. My knee is a lot better. You’ll see it in the preseason.”

Ennis, who shot 40.9 percent from the field and 32.6 percent on three-pointers last season, believes the shooting will improve because of a subtle change in his technique.

“[Assistant coach Keith] Smart had me shoot the ball on my way up, not shoot the ball when I’m up in the air already,” Ennis said. “I feel it’s more fluid now. My shot is looking really good. I want to shoot above 40 percent this year from three.” 

The other priority is improving his ball-handling. He had 48 assists and 39 turnovers last season.

“The reason I was losing the ball a lot was I was standing straight up,” he said. “When I stay low, like I have been, it’s good. I’m handling the ball very well right now.”

He insists the summer league downer has not shaken his confidence. “I did good last year,” he said. “Summer league didn’t work out. I know I can do it the in the NBA. When you have an injury it’s hard to play your game because you’re always worried about the injury. Now my mind is cleared. Have a fresh start. No tendinitis. I’m 100 percent.  I feel free because I’m confident in myself.”

At his best, Ennis gives the Heat energy and athleticism, disruptive defense (17 blocks and 25 steals last season) and a finisher on fast breaks (20 dunks last season). He shoots free throws well (79 for 94, 84 percent last season) and has good chemistry with point guard Goran Dragic.

“He looks much better physically,” Erik Spoelstra said Thursday.

As for Johnson, the Heat’s efforts to develop his point guard skills during summer league were short-circuited when a collision with a Clippers player resulted in a broken jaw.

Still missing a tooth in the front of his mouth, Johnson was cleared for contact last month and worked at both guard spots during informal workouts in September and during the first few days of camp.

“I love his competitiveness,” Spoelstra said. “Tyler just finds a way to be effective.”

Though he enters fifth or six in the guard hierarchy (with rookie Josh Richardson), the Heat values Johnson’s versatility and athleticism.

“I’ve worked on my ball-handling and playing point guard and my shooting – I can improve my percentages from three [.375 last season/18 for 48],” he said. “And being able to guard multiple positions is important.”

He also knows he must finish more consistently; last season, he missed four of 14 dunks and shot 29 for 49 at the rim (59.2 percent).

Johnson has studied video of two point guards (teammate Goran Dragic and Kyrie Irving) and two shooting guards who have the ball in their hands a lot (Manu Ginobili and James Harden).

“I studied the way they attack the rim in transition and how they finish; Goran is very good getting into the body of the defender and keeping his dribble alive,” said Johnson, hoping to emulate that.


### Hassan Whiteside has missed the first five sessions of camp, over three days, because of a calf injury. Mario Chalmers was held out of much of Thursday’s practice with a leg issue.

### Rookies Justise Winslow and Josh Richardson have impressed teammates and coaches with their defense. “They’re different defenders,” Dwyane Wade said. “Justise is stronger. He’s hard to move. I look at him like a Ron Artest kind of player. Josh is quick, athletic, long.”

### The Dolphins practiced indoor, in pads, in Davie today, before flying to London for Sunday's Jets game. Dion Sims and Jonas Gray missed practice; Jordan Cameron, Earl Mitchell and Branden Albert were limited.

### I asked Cameron Wake if the defensive linemen are angry or frustrated by their inability to get to the quarterback so far. No, he said. “We’re determined, determined to make things better.”

Wake has been limited by a hamstring. “Any injury would hinder your burst or change of direction," he said.

“It looks like he’s had a good week of practice,” Joe Philbin said. “[Getting more pressure on the quarterback] is something that we’ve been emphasizing with our entire defensive front. Across the board, we need to do a better job of that.”

### Philbin said that Michael Thomas starting ahead of Walt Aikens last week wasn’t necessarily performance based, but more a reflection of different packages that Miami uses.

### Among the many things irking Philbin: “I’m not real pleased with our run game in general overall, period," he griped Thursday. "It’s been a little bit of everything, we just haven’t gotten a lot of conversions. We’re 35 percent on third down, we haven’t run as many plays as we typically have, our run per carry is down a little bit, what is it about 4.0 or something like that? [Yes, and that’s tied for 14th in the league]. So we’re down a little bit. I think there are a lot of factors. We just haven’t run as many plays at this stage of the season as we have in other points last year.”

Miami has rushed for only 218 yards in three games, tied for 27th.

### Former Marlins third base coach Bo Porter is the second person confirmed to have interviewed for the team’s manager job recently, according to CBS’ Jon Heyman. Manny Acta previously interviewed, and several more interviews are expected. Porter was 110-190 in nearly two years as Astros manager.

Dan Jennings was told a few weeks ago that he won't return as manager but has been offered a chance to return to his old GM job.

Please check back tonight for Canes-Cincinnati postscripts…. Twitter: @flasportsbuzz