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Moore and Wooden on the value of experience

Ran into a couple of former Dolphins players at the Jimmy Buffett concert announcement Friday. As I told you in an earlier post, Dolphins great Kim Bokamper and Dolphins mediocre Joe Rose were there. Receiver Nat Moore, a rightful member of the Dolphins Honor Roll, was there as was former safety Shawn Wooden, who is a class act by any definition.

I got to talking with Moore and Wooden when the topic of the new drafted receivers took a left turn and became the topic of the current draft class. That topic also took a detour and got Moore talking about how Ted Ginn Jr. and John Beck were basically thrown under the bus from a planning perspective.

"Look at what the plan was when both those guys were drafted," Moore said. "Beck was supposed to sit a year and learn behind Trent Green. Then Trent Green got hurt and the next guy got benched and now what was supposed to be a two-year timetable is a two-month timetable because Beck is starting.

"Look at Ted Ginn. He comes in as a guy who is going to help the team as a receiver down the road but initially the plan was for him to learn that position while contributing on special teams right away. That was the plan. But they trade away Chris Chambers and now the kid has to play and then they cut Marty Booker and the guy has no veteran teaching him how it's done."

I have long valued the presence of veteran leadership on a team because without it, a team is simply incomplete. Look at all the great teams. None are comprised of just young players. Or just old players. I believe all great teams strike a balance between experience and youth, and are served from both camps.

The same can be said of groups of players on the team. The Dolphins had experience in the quarterback group (Chad Pennington) last year. They had experience in the linebacker (Joey Porter, Akin Ayodele and Channing Crowder) group. They had experience on the defensive line (Vonnie Holliday and Jason Ferguson). They had experience in the secondary at every starting position. They had experience in the running back corps. They had experience at tight end.

But they had no experience of note at wide receiver. And guess which group of players frustrated most with promised potential that did not fully arrive?

The wide receivers.

Davone Bess was a rookie. Greg Camarillo was a first-year starter. Ernest Wilford, the veteran with most experience, was a non-factor. Derek Hagan, a third-year veteran, was a glorified practice squad guy. And Ginn, the No. 1 receiver, was only in his second year and first as a full-time starter.

In other words, the group lacked an experienced mentor among their ranks.

So why is that important?

"It's very important on a football team," Wooden said. "I remember when I came in, guys took me under there wings. Louis Oliver taught me how to break down film. When Sam Madison got drafted, T-Buck (Terrell Buckley) helped him learn the game. When Pat Surtain got drafted the next year, both of them helped him."

So I asked the question that has always floated in my head when this subject comes up. In the absence of an experienced veteran, isn't it the position coach's job to step up and be the mentor?

"It is but they don't do it," Wooden said. "They really can't do it. It's like a family. The coaches are your parents. But the veterans are the older brothers. You listen to your parents, but you try to pattern yourself after your older brothers. When they say things it has more authority because they've just been there. That's how it is on a team. The older players know the tricks, they're on that field, they know what you're going through because they're going through it, too."

And that, according to Wooden and Moore, is invaluable.

"Look, football isn't all about being the best athlete," Wooden said. "I can go over to Liberty City and find five guys who can run a 4.3. But that doesn't make them a professional football player. That doesn't mean they have it up here (pointing to his head) or can be professional or have work ethic."

That other stuff must be learned. And it is Wooden and Moore's opinion that having mentors on the team to teach it to younger players is important. Unfortunately, Ted Ginn Jr. hasn't had a mentor to teach him.

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