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63 posts from December 2010

December 31, 2010

Ross to consider many things, including $$$$$

The Miami Dolphins are not a disaster. Let's get that clear right from the top.

The team was a disaster three years ago when Bill Parcells was hired and he, in turn, hired general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano. In the last three years, Miami hasn't won a championship, but neither has is it become a stagnant organization.

The Dolphins are probably four or five starters from being a Super Bowl contender -- a quarterback, a running back, someone in the defensive backfield that is a dynamic playmaker, a speed receiver, and probably a really good interior offensive lineman.

[UPDATE: Some of you are noting that four or five starters is a lot to ask. Really? Miami's defense this year has a new NT, SOLB, MILB, WOLB, and FS. It would be five new starters if first round pick Jared Odrick had not been injured, which would have put him at RDE and Starks a first-time starter at NT. And the defense went from tied for 25th in the NFL in points allowed to tied for No. 9 currently. Miami's offense is 29th in the NFL in points scored now.]

It is against that backdrop that owner Stephen Ross will decide in the next couple of weeks whether to retain Ireland and Sparano or cut ties and search for a "star" head coach. A "star" coach, by the way, almost certainly comes with his own choice for a general manager, which is why Ireland is in play in this scenario, and his own staff.

Ross would fire Sparano only if he believes he can improve the situation with that star coach, I'm told by one person familiar with the owner's thinking.


Because, at its roots, this decision on a coach is a money decision. Ross hates losing, which is good reason enough, but beyond that, he is bitterly disappointed his grand plan to make Dolphins home games an experience and an event has been spoiled by the fact Miami finished 1-7 at home this year.

It doesn't matter how many concerts, celebrities and face-painters you have at the stadium on game days if the team on the field doesn't win. Fans cannot go home happy without victories. And those that go home frustrated, upset and angry are apt not to come back.

Beyond that, the fans Ross wants to attract who now have reasons to stay away are likely to continue finding other activities to fill their game days.

So Ross is apparently under pressure from within his own circle to make a change.

Those people are telling Ross that a star coach will reinvigorate the fan base, increase season ticket sales, and ultimately help Miami win. Notice the order I just gave you. Some of the business-marketing-partnership people talking to Ross see the business side of changing a coach first and the on-field result as almost secondary.

Money is first in their minds.

So, again, money is a major variable in this coming decision. Well, here's a money matter Ross should weigh before he makes his decision:

If he fires Sparano and brings in a "star" coach who then brings his own general manager type, the cost is going to be exceptional. Ross will be on the hook for paying the final year of Sparano's contract (approximately $3 million), he'll be on the hook for Ireland (approximately $2 million), he'll be on the hook for Bill Parcells ($4 million), he'll be on the hook for assistants (including Mike Nolan), and he hasn't even started paying the folks that will be actually working for him.

Ross will have to pay that "star" coach and that will cost approximately $6-$8 million. He'll have to pay for the new GM, which will be another $2 million or so, and of course, he'll be paying for a new coaching staff while stay paying off the contracts of the assistants still under contract that the new coach does not retain.

Do the math. Changing administrations could cost Ross between $18-$24 million.

No big deal, you say? Really?

Are you aware Ross moved heaven and earth to try to work a $7.9 million relief on his stadium debt payments recently? I'm not saying he's counting his pennies, but I am saying he's not going to dismiss having to possibly pony up $24 million to make a change without some serious thought.

The argument from the business people might be that Ross will make back the money in season-ticket sales. The Dolphins were slightly over 50,000 season tickets this year and believe a new "star" coach could push them another 6,700 to 10,000 more, depending on who it is and what moves the new guy makes in free agency and the draft.

That is, of course, a short-term view of the situation.

It should be noted when Jimmy Johnson took over from Don Shula in 1996, season ticket sales jumped by about 7,000. And the next year they fell back by about 5,000.

When Nick Saban, the hot coach at the time, took over in 2006, season sales actually fell by 2,000. And the hiring of Parcells as the Football Czar didn't help one iota, as sales fell off the table after 2007 from 54,646 to 46,131.

The point is the hiring of a big name doesn't come with a guarantee that ticket sales will soar. And when they have soared in the past, they have leveled off the following year.

So the season ticket argument is a short-sighted one, if history is to be believed.

Think about that. Stephen Ross probably will.

December 30, 2010

Henning (no surprise) not saying he's retiring

If you were expecting offensive coordinator Dan Henning to come into his final press conference of the 2010 season and announce his retirement to much pomp and circumstance, you are disappointed. There was no pomp. No circumstance. No announcement on Thursday.

As expected, the man who often says he only need answer to his supervisor Tony Sparano, isn't sharing anything with the media or fans.

"I'm coaching a game here, men," Henning said when asked if he is retiring. "I'm not thinking about nothing but coaching this game in New England ..."

Henning was in defend mode today. He defended Chad Henning, comparing him to Steve Young, Jim Plunkett and Phil Simms, saying they didn't hit their stride years and years into their careers. And he kind of defended himself, too when addressing the issue of scapegoats.

"It's easy to find scapegoats. It's not easy to find solutions. When you determine this guy is it and you take him out of the mix and find out it wasn't him, you find out you're wrong. So you better do the due diligence. You better dig. You better find out why you think its wrong. Why did this change. Why did the chemistry change. Are we doing the right things here, there and everywhere. That's the easy part to pinpoint someone out and take him out of the mix.

"If I am the problem, Dan Henning. If I'm the problem and you take me out of the mix and it works great after I'm gone with the same operation, hey, I'd love to be able to say, 'Take me outta here.' I don't believe that. I don't believe it's any other one individual on the offense that has caused the offense to settle down and not be as good as it has been in the past."

Correct, it's a bunch of individuals. Henning is not alone. But he has responsibility to bear for the problems, too. So does Chad Henne. So does the offensive line. So does Ronnie Brown. So does quarterback coach David Lee. So does Tony Sparano.

You don't get to be 29th in the NFL in points scored by having just one person struggle.


Bill Parcells has NOT spoken with Ross

It was "reported" Wednesday by the NFL Network's Michael Lombardi that Dolphins Consultant Bill Parcells had spoken to owner Stephen Ross and convinced him to retain coach Tony Sparano.

I am reporting today that Parcells has NOT spoken with Ross and obviously has therefore NOT convinced the owner about anything relative to retaining or firing Sparano.

It is logical to believe that a conversation between Parcells and Ross may happen once the season is over. But the season is not over.

It is logical to believe Parcells might back his proteges Sparano and GM Jeff Ireland. But has that happened yet?


December 29, 2010

The Miami Dolphins: An Empire of dirt?

We are in difficult times. The world around us has changed and gotten darker. The economy stinks. And the Dolphins are missing the playoffs for the eighth time in nine years.

No one knows what will happen Sunday in Foxboro, Mass. when Miami ends the 2010 season against New England, the best team in the NFL. Will the Dolphins respond to this opportunity to salvage what has been a disappointing season? Or will we see the Dolphins we've gotten used to -- no offense, and usually good, but sometimes inconsistent defense -- fail for the ninth time in 16 games?

And what about afterward?

What will happen in the weeks and days after the season's final play? Will owner Stephen Ross keep Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland? Or will he fire the last vestiges of the Bill Parcells era and start anew?

No one knows for certain.

I do know this: The glory days were long ago. And they haven't returned.

The Dolphins were once the winningest professional sports franchise on Earth. They boasted the fact every week in press releases. No more. Nowadays, they don't even acknowledge when they sign a player that might make them slightly less mediocre. That is not improvement.

Things have changed, folks. And for the worse. The end of this season reminds us. The franchise that was once a gleaming, shining beacon of excellence and, yes, even perfection for one fateful season ... gone.

More of today's Dolfans remember 1-15 than 17-0. Fewer of today's Dolfans remember their last playoff win. Or their last playoff game. Or their last back-to-back wins at home, for that matter.

The Dolphins, once a source of community pride, is now watching the community turn its attention to the Miami Heat. The Dolphins now more closely resemble, in the words of Johnny Cash, an empire of dirt.

 [Thanks to Dolfan Joe Alvarez who created this video and passed it along to me.]

York wants to talk to Parcells? Then York should pay

You know, I'm going to try to remain composed here as I share with you today's latest slap in the face move against the Miami Dolphins that, unless handled correctly, has the potential to be quite embarrassing and make the organization look like a convention of clowns.

Earlier today, several media outlets, including The Worldwide Leader in media platforms reported that San Francisco 49ers president Jed York intends to contact Dolphins consultant Bill Parcells and ask for advice as that team conducts a general manager search.

Let that marinate for a second ...

So, basically, the head of a competing organization intends to call a person whom the Dolphins pay approximately $4 million per year to consult for Miami and ask him to consult for San Francisco for free, with no benefit to Miami.


What are the Dolphins? The court jesters of the NFL?

The Dolphins pay Parcells and he would gift advice to one of Miami's 32 competitors? 

The nerve.

It is insulting to the Dolphins. It is galling that the 49ers think they can do this with a Miami employee any more than they can,say, Bill Belichick or A.J. Smith or the man running any other NFL outpost. And the bothersome thing is folks around the league think this is perfectly acceptable.

Remember last year when the Jets made the playoffs and Rex Ryan said he was going to contact Parcells for advice on how to handle the playoffs? The Jets, for goodness sake! The *&%?=#@$ Jets!

Thankfully, in that instance, Parcells put the kibosh on the whole deal by graciously declining to become involved. The hope here is he does the same thing this time around, regardless his relationship with York.

Otherwise, it makes the Dolphins look like a bunch of incompetent foofs who wrote themselve terrible contract terms with Parcells and now still pay him while other teams use him.

We all know Parcells is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of the Dolphins. He doesn't really watch practice film any more. He isn't calling GM Jeff Ireland every day, advising him on what moves to make next so that this disappointing season can be salvaged next season. I get that. We all have to accept that.

But to get paid by the Dolphins and give his future Hall of Fame opinion to someone else in the NFL? That's a slap.

Let it be known that Parcells is not parsimonious with his opinion. He called University of Miami athletic director Kirby Holcutt during Miami's coach search and gave a resounding endorsement of Al Golden. Parcells loves Golden's work ethic, thinks the young coach can recruit, and comes from great stock.

But UM isn't competing with the Dolphins for players or victories. The 49ers are a different matter.

Yes, Parcells has a sweetheart contract. He is reportedly being paid and can continue to be paid next year even if he walks away from the Dolphins and goes to work for some other team. But guess what? He hasn't chosen to go work for another team at this particular point in time.

That pretty much makes him a Dolphins employee -- albeit as a consultant -- until such time that he decides to go elsewhere.

And so I propose this: If York insists on making that call, the Dolphins should file a tampering charge against the 49ers. I have no idea if they could make it stick. But I do know the move would send a loud and chilling message to the rest of the league that Parcells is Dolphins property and he is not to be contacted without permission.

There is, of course, one exception to what I propose: If Parcells promises to advise York to trade his first round pick for, say, the quarterback the 49ers so desperately need, then go ahead Big Tuna, give the San Franciscos your two cents.

If Parcells can convince York to take Chad Henne for a first-round pick, then the conversation is worthwhile to the Dolphins. Otherwise, this conversation should never really get beyond, "Thank you," Jed, "but no thank you. I'm under contract to the Miami Dolphins."

That's really the only two ways the Dolphins don't come out looking ridiculous in this instance.

[UPDATE: 760-AM radio reporter Ken LaVicka, who asks tougher questions than most on the Dolphins beat, asked coach Tony Sparano about the topic just now. Sparano confirmed Parcells is still an employee of the Dolphins but declined to comment further.]

[UPDATE 2: An NFL source tells me there has been to this moment no contact between York and Parcells. Another source close to Parcells -- well, sort of close -- tells me Parcells has not ruled out speaking with York but will tread carefully. According to the source, Parcells believes York wants more of a handle on GM candidate Trent Baalke, who Parcells hired in 1998 to be a scout for the New York Jets. Parcells won't let the conversation seep into advice going forward that might give the 49ers an edge of the Dolphins, the source said. Makes sense.]

Belichick's view of the Dolphins in coachspeak

New England coach Bill Belichick spoke with the Miami media this morning. No, he did not reveal his plans for playing (or sitting) his starters in what is effectively a meaningly less game for the Patriots versus the Dolphins.

But he did give his opinions on Cameron Wake, Tony Sparano, the Miami running game and other issues of note. Here's what he said:

Q: How good did you expect your rookie tight ends to be and why were they able to immediately contribute to your team? 

BB: Well, I think anytime you get a new player on your team, especially a rookie, you never know how it’s going to go, so you just take it day by day and see how they develop and see how they are able to perform the skills that you ask them to do. It becomes a gradual process, but both guys have played a lot of snaps and taken a lot of plays in practice and worked hard and gotten better, so they’ve improved on their skills and been able to develop a role for us in our offense. 

Q: What was it about what you were doing after that perfect regular season in 2007? It seems like you guys were rebuilding while you were consistently winning. What was that process like and what does it all start with? Does it start with rebuilding that defense? 

BB: Well, I think every year we kind of go through the same process. At the end of the season, we look at what our results were and how our team performed and then try to look ahead as to what players we anticipate will have a similar role, what players’ roles may increase and what players’ roles might decrease, and try to take advantage of the opportunities we have to improve our team, whether that’s the draft, free agency, trades, other free agent signings and so forth. Really, it’s the same process every year; we try to evaluate our team and find a way to improve it, and that can come in a lot of different areas. And again, I think regardless of what your record is, you still have to give a fair and critical evaluation of your team, whatever the record was, you still have to look at how it actually performed and what areas you need to improve in and what areas you feel like you want to try to maintain that level of production that comes at a winning level. 

Q: I think we know the answer to this question, but we have to ask it anyway. It’s Week 17, obviously. What’s your plan for how much you want to play your starters? 

BB: Well, we’ll do what we feel like is best for our football team. It’s the same thing we do every week. 

Q: What have you seen out of Cameron Wake from the first time you guys went against him to where he's at now? 

BB: He's really a good football player. We saw that last year. We’ve seen it this year. He's good in the running game, good in the passing game. He's got good length. He's got a good motor. He's strong. He’s got a good variety of pass rush moves. He can get the edge. He can play with power. He can come inside. He's a hard guy to block. He really, I think, does pretty much everything well. He’s got a lot of strong points. 

Q: Does it surprise you that he had to take the route that he did? The first go around he didn’t even make it past training camp and now two years after Canada he's developed this far. 

BB: Well, I think you see that with players on every team. Every team has got their players that weren’t drafted or had their set of circumstances where, for whatever reason, they didn’t start as fast or didn’t have the opportunity early in their career, but then it came later on. So I think the big thing – and again, a lot of those players have improved, too. We’ve certainly had our share of players that where they were when we first got them and where they ended up were two completely different levels. I mean, I wasn’t with him early, so I’m not sure exactly how much that took place, but I’m just saying that I think that players have different paths to success. And you certainly have to give him a lot of credit for his consistency and sticking to it and improving and becoming the player that he has. He's really a good football player. 

Q: With this running game, in previous seasons The Dolphins have done pretty well. This year they’re averaging 3.7 yards per carry. What have you seen from the offensive line or Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams that you can attribute what’s going on to? 

BB: I think the Dolphins are a good running team. They’re well coached. They have good running schemes. They certainly present a lot of problems to the defense with their blocking patterns and formations and the way they run the ball. That’s not easy, but there are a lot of factors that go into it and again, the score and game situations and so forth, that has a lot to do with it. I know the Dolphins have had a little transition on the offensive line. [Vernon] Carey is an outstanding player. That’s in transition there at guard with [John] Jerry, [Pat] McQuistan and so forth. But Vernon Carey is a big player for them. But in the end, there are a lot of factors and it really comes down to team offense. It’s not just running or passing. All that has to be tied in together with everything: field position, third down, and balance in the offense. I think the Dolphins have a lot of good players. They move the ball consistently. They’ve gotten production out of three receivers. They get production out of their tight end. They’ve got backs that can carry the ball in regular situations [and Lousaka] Polite in short-yardage, so they have a lot of weapons on offense. They’re still a hard team to stop. 

Q: In your estimation, how long does it typically take a quarterback to develop in the NFL coming straight out of college? 

BB: I don’t think there is any set answer for a quarterback or any other position; it can vary. I know when we were at the Giants and had Phil Simms, he was a real high pick – sixth, seventh pick in the draft, whatever it was – in ’79. He had three or four years when the fans and the media and all were talking about him being a bust and wasted draft pick and all that. He's one of the best players that ever played for the Giants. So you look at guys like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in their first year or two [and] Phil Simms. There are a lot of examples of guys that didn’t go out and be rookie of the year, but they are some of the best quarterbacks in the league, too. 

Q: What has it been like to coach against Tony Sparano’s teams the past few years? How would you define his teams? 

BB: Tough. Disciplined. They don’t commit very many penalties. You’ve got to go out there and beat them. They don’t beat themselves. You’ve got to go out there and play well. They’ve always been a physical defensive team, hard to run against, a good tackling team, a lot of big, strong, physical guys. Same thing on the offense: good backs, good running game, explosive receivers. I think they’re a tough, physical football team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes penalty-wise and things like that. You’ve got to work to turn the ball over. You’ve got to play 60 minutes against them, and we’ve split with them the last couple of years, so it’s always a tough battle with the Dolphins. 

Q: I know you guys still have plenty of season left, but down here after this week it’s going to be the offseason. As a head coach, with the current labor crisis, how could all that uncertainty affect the way you prepare your team for the 2011 season? 

BB: Right now we’re thinking about this Sunday against Miami. That’s my focus: the Miami Dolphins. And that’s plenty for us to great ready for, so all those other things will come in due time. 

Q: Since the special teams performance that they had against you guys, the special teams coach has been fired and there have been a couple of personnel changes. From film study, what differences have you seen? 

BB: Well, a good return game, of course, with [Devone] Bess [who is] obviously one of the best returners in the league. [Nolan] Carroll – I think that was his first game against us when he returned kickoffs, and he's done a good job for them. [Patrick] Cobbs, you’ve got to be ready for him. I think their coverage players do a good job – [Reshad] Jones and Cobbs on the punt team. They’ve got some good, physical guys inside – [Lex] Hilliard and [Tyrone] Culver and [Jonathon] Amaya. So, I think they are a good, solid team. They rush the punter. They put pressure [on you], they test your protection. They’ve got good returners. They cover well. They scatter around on the kickoff a little bit and make it hard for you to figure out who’s exactly coming down where. I think [Dan] Carpenter is an excellent kicker. Like any kicker or any specialist, it’s not always perfect, but over time he’s been a pretty solid player for them and he's had some great kicks and some great plays – the 60-yarder or whatever it was. He's certainly capable of hitting them from pretty much anywhere. 

Q: The last few times you’ve played the Dolphins you’ve moved Vince Wilfork out to defensive end. Is that just a strategic thing or how often do you do that with Vince? 

BB: Vince is a versatile player. He’s played a number of different positions for us. He actually played defensive end here his rookie year, so we had Keith Traylor on the nose and Vince play end that year. Again, on a weekly basis, we’ll do what we feel like gives us the best matchup against our opponents to try to win.

December 28, 2010

Cameron Wake, Jake Long named to start Pro Bowl

Cameron Wake's improbable rise from undrafted and unwanted to CFL castoff to CFL star to the Miami Dolphins has taken a wonderful turn to Hawaii.

"It's truly an honor," Wake said.

Wake has just been named a starting outside linebacker on the 2011 AFC Pro Bowl team. He starts alongside Pittsburgh's James Harrison.

Jake Long, a Pro Bowl selection his first two NFL seasons, has turned the hat trick. He is in his third Pro Bowl and also was named the starter.

The interesting thing is Long made the Pro Bowl despite dealing with knee and shoulder injuries. He said he must consider those before playing the game, but "definitely" wants to play in the game.

"I had some up and down games and haven't played at my best sometimes," Long said. "...But I kept my high level of play even with some bumps and bruises."

No other Miami Dolphin is in the Pro Bowl.

Kicker Dan Carpenter, the Dolphins offense most of the year, is not in. Neither is receiver Brandon Marshall or punter Brandon Fields.

I asked Wake how he celebrates his first Pro Bowl selection -- for a game that will be played on his birthday.

"I'm a diet so I don't know if a steak is going to happen tonight. I don't drink so that's out of the question. And we got practice tomorrow early so I don't know what I'll do outside of take a deep breath for a minute and let it soak in. I'm going to be early and be back at the facility at 6 a.m. tomorrow. We still got a game to play so my concentration is going there."

The Patriots, with the NFL's best record at 13-2, led all teams with six Pro Bowl picks. They have six picks in the first three rounds of next year's NFL draft and three picks in the first 33 selections. 

Dolphins Pro Bowlers: Wake, Long, Marshall?

The NFL will announce their Pro Bowl team at 7:15 p.m. and the expectation in Davie, where the Dolphins train is that at least one and possibly two or three of their players might make the AFC team.

The Dolphins hope Cameron Wake will make the team as a starter or backup.

The Dolphins hope Jake Long will make the team as a starter or backup.

The Dolphins hope Brandon Marshall can make the team as a backup.

Long and Marshall were on the team last year but haven't either peformed at the same level as a year ago, or don'thave similar statistics to a season ago.

Wake, however, is clearly Miami's best hope for making the team despite the fact he finished well back in fifth among outside linebackers during the fan voting. Wake leads the NFL with 14 sacks.

Marshall, by the way, is ninth in the NFL with 81 receptions. The problem is Brandon Lloyd, Steve Johnson, Andre Johnson, Reggie Wayne, Dwayne Bowe and Mike Wallace are over the magic 1,000-yard mark for the season while Marshall is 20th in the NFL with 917 yards. And Marshall's three TDs is fewer than the seven AFC receivers with more yardage then him, too.


Steady. Solid.

He's probably making it based on reputation. That's just a guess. But has he been dominant? No. His most impressive feat this year has been his ability to stay play despite knee and shoulder injuries that probably would have sideline lesser men.

Regardless of whether Long makes it, the question will be whether he plays. Because he has been fighting off so many bumps and bruises and may require shoulder surgery, Long may opt out if he makes the Pro Bowl.

December 27, 2010

Sparano: Henne didn't grade out poorly

Tony Sparano will meet with his players at approximately 1 p.m. today and go over what happened during Sunday's 34-27 loss to Detroit. He will tell them what everyone knows: The Dolphins did not finish well and the result was turning a 10-point lead with five minutes to play into a seven-point loss.

But one thing Sparano will tell his team most of us -- certainly me -- overlooked: Chad Henne didn't play terribly.

During his 14-minute Monday press conference, the Dolphins coach said quarterback Chad Henne did not grade out poorly.

Let that marinate for a second.

Henne completed 29 of 44 passes for 278 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs for a 72 quarterback rating in a 34-27 loss to the Detroit Lions. He had a QB rating over 100 through three quarters. His fourth-quarter rating was like the Boston weather the Dolphins are about to experience Sunday when they play New England -- in the 20s.

But in grading the film, Miami's coaching staff came to the conclusion Henne wasn't as bad as everyone believed because the player got "only" six minuses. And that is his all-time best as the Dolphins starter.

"In two years it's his lowest," Sparano said. "Two years. I thought at the time the guy was throwing the ball into the wind really well. You guys were out there watching it. I don't know that you know the conditions and what it was like out there but they were pretty stiff during the course of that game. I thought he threw the ball pretty well at times and he completed whatever it was, 66 percent on the day. He had one or two of them that got away from him -- the deep ball to Brandon [Marshall] on the right sideline going into the end zone that he maybe overthrew a shade and a couple of locations. But other than that, it really came down to the last five minutes we didn't finish the game."

That is all true. All of it. Dead on accurate in every detail and fact.

But I think the truth is more important than the facts. So I want to know the truth. And I wanted to know if Sparano believed his quarterback, who was being serenaded with "Henne sucks" chants from the home crowd, played well against Detroit.

"We didn't finish the game in the last five minutes and he threw a couple of interceptions but other than that, one of the interceptions is not his, Armando," Sparano answered, no doubt wishing death upon me. "So yeah, I kind of think on the game, as a whole, when you grade the film, he didn't play poorly. Absolutely didn't play poorly."

Now, you may read theories elsewhere that Sparano was simply spinning the truth so as to not throw Henne under the bus. Not true. When the quarterback stinks rotten, Sparano doesn't defend him anymore. Shouldn't, actually. This is big-boy football and it's time for Henne to grow up.

On this occasion, the coach simply was trying to correct the perception of a terrible game by Henne because that's what the player's grade actually shows. And that's what he would then tell the team. And if he tells the media one thing and the team another, it ruins his credibility with his players.

So Sparano said that which is hard for some people to be convinced about: Henne wasn't awful Sunday.

Look, you don't have to like it. I don't. You know I no longer believe Henne is Miami's future at QB. And I also wouldn't give Henne a pass on that second INT that was returned for a TD because on the play, he had the choice of throwing to five different receivers and he picked the only one that was bracketed while not serving up an opportunity to the three facing man-coverage or Brandon Marshall against a zone.

Yet, the grade is the grade. And the grade did include some negative plays.

"That [first] interception was a combination of a few things," Sparano explained. "One, the decision wasn't great on the interception. Let me say this: First of all, Chad Henne probably, not probably, he only had six minuses out of the entire football game. One of them was on that play particularly and it was a combination of two or three things that happened. The tight end didn't sit down and he kind of drifted on him and they end up getting the ball in the short end of the field. We stop them, but we gave up field goal.

"We have a receiver open. He's open at the sticks and falls down. Slips. The ball ends up in [the defender's] hands. We're going to the right place with the football. He's throwing in the right area. The receiver falls down and they pick it off and we miss three tackles on the play."

I guess I got a football lesson today. A player can stink for five minutes and still not have his entire body of work in a game get slimed. So Henne maybe didn't play well when one considers the entire body of work. But he wasn't terrible, either, according to Miami coaching grades.

A stream of conscientiousness post about ... everything

So everyone wants blood.

After a 1-7 home record in 2010, it is clear the Dolphins not only need significant changes, they will make significant changes. But I wish I could report to you the changes will be the right ones done by the right people.

If today you are in the camp wanting Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland ousted, I am not with you. I still think those guys can get it done, although they make it harder to believe and defend every time Miami plays, particularly at home.

Let me present to you some facts about making a change so high up the organizational ladder:

First, who is owner Stephen Ross turning to for advice so that he makes a sound decision? He is not turning to Bill Parcells. Parcells put Ireland and Sparano in their current jobs and even he understands if you win, you stay employed. If you lose, you're out. Parcells would be a good voice for Ross to listen to. He knows football, the Big Tuna does. Parcells brought Mike Nolan to the Dolphins when the defense was broken. Maybe he can suggest an offensive coordinator to fix the offense. Maybe he can suggest another coach or GM, if that's what Ross absolutely must have. Or maybe Parcells can talk sense to Ross about Sparano and Ireland.

But Parcells and Ross don't typically discuss Ireland and Sparano. Oh, they talk, but usually it's about other topics such as labor issues. That seems such a waste of Parcells to me. But that is the way it currently stands.

So who is in Ross's ear?

Friend and former Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson? How many Super Bowls did he win? Do the Chiefs, who just won the AFC West, miss him?

CEO Mike Dee? He's a marketing genius and something of a baseball guy. If I wanted to fill Fenway Park, I know he'd be the guy to turn to. But that's not the assignment. The assignment is to fill Miami's trophy mantle.

Vice Chairman and Partner Jorge Perez? He's a very good friend of Ross's and has his ear. But Perez is a builder of building not NFL teams. His NFL experience and acumen is approximately zero.

Marc Anthony? Emilio Estefan? Gloria Estefan? Fergie? Serena Williams? Venus Williams? Which one of these brilliant football minds should Ross listen to with a sense that they know what needs to be done going forward?

Look, if the idea is for Ross to do the popular thing, then he should go ahead and simply listen to the fans. They want Jon Gruden. They want Bill Cowher.

Both will sell tickets.

But Gruden has had zero success when he has to build a team. And Cowher only reminds me of a more accomplished Tony Sparano in his football philosophy. Both, of course, would bring their own GM types. Gruden's past GMs have been terrible. Cowher's better, but only after years and years of patience.

Which one of those two guys comes with a franchise quarterback?

Oh, neither one. Well then, the change would be a waste, in my opinion. Simply the Dolphins will continue to struggle under any coach until the team has a star quarterback. It hasn't had one since around 1994ish. And so the Dolphins have been in a relative funk since 1995ish.

Solve the QB issue, you solve myriad issues. Don't solve the QB issue and I say it will not matter who the coach and GM are.

And since you are reading this, Mr. Ross, this is what I would do: Sit Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland down and tell them to find a QB. No excuses. They failed in not drafting Matt Ryan. They failed in picking Chad Henne. They failed in picking Pat White.

They get one more chance this offseason. Find the quarterback or they're done. No excuses.

I assume those marching orders would motivate these two to scour free agency, consider any trade seriously, and be willing to do that which no Dolphins organization had done lately during the draft -- trade up.

All those should be on the table for the sake of adding a franchise quarterback. Without one, it doesn't matter if Ross is able to bring back a cloned 40-year-old Don Shula. No coach can win in today's NFL without a quarterback.

That should be Job One. Forget about firing the head coach. Hire a franchise QB and the head coach will get instantly smarter.

That's my two cents.

December 26, 2010

Dolphins implode, lose 34-27 to Detroit

They managed to turn a 7-point lead into a 7-point loss today. The Miami Dolphins lose.

They finish the season 1-7 at home.


Dolphins lead Lions 24-17 heading to fourth quarter

The Lions and Dolphins are both out of it, but at least they're putting on a fairly interesting game.

Both teams scored TDs in fourth quarter.

We're headed to the fourth quarter with Miami ahead, 24-17.

The live blog continues under this post. Meet me there, please.

Dolphins lead Lions 17-10 to start second half

The Dolphins are on fire!

The defense is playing well, with the exception of Detroit's one TD scoring drive.

The offense, meanwhile, has scored in one half as many points as they did in four of their five previous games. Chad Henne has a TD pass to Davone Bess and Lousaka Polite has a score on a 4-yard run.

It's an outburst!

Let's see if Miami can keep it up. The live blog rolls on in the comments section.

Dolphins, Lions tied in 3-3 slugfest going to 2nd Q

Well, it is a slugfest if one notes the solid defense being played.

Sort of.

Actually, the Dolphins are playing good D. They were in a tough spot when Davone Bess dropped a punt and gave the Lions the ball inside the 25 yard line. But they held Detroit to a field goal.

Detroit's defense has been less solid but good enough to keep the Dolphins out of the end zone.

We are headed to the second quarter tied 3-3. The live blog continues.

Live blog of plow horses vs. thoroughbreds here

This time of the NFL season is interesting for teams such as the Dolphins and Lions only in that we can look toward the future.

And in looking at the future of the Dolphins and Lions, today's opponent, we know that both teams have much work to do to become playoff relevant. But their work must come in vastly different areas because the rosters are constructed so, so differently.

The Dolphins, you see, are a team of plow horses. They have a bunch of guys that can play pretty well, play pretty hard, and usually try to give a good performance when they step on the field. The Dolphins don't have a lot of terrible players, which is good.

But the Dolphins also do not have a lot of incredible, superstar players. And that is bad.

That is why after last week's loss to Buffalo at home, Tony Sparano lamented his team making no dynamic plays. What do you expect when you don't have many dynamic players? That is why offensive coordinator Dan Henning during the week echoed those remarks and expanded on them, saying the Dolphins lack dynamic players on offense, defense and special teams.

Hence, no 80-yard bombs or runs on offense, no fumble or interception returns 60 yards for a score on defense, no punt or kickoff TDs.

The Dolphins are a solid, but not a big-play, big-results team. And that is why they are 7-7.

The Lions?

They have a different makeup.

The Lions have a lot of holes in their roster. Their offensive line is leaky. Their running back corps -- traditionally a team strength -- is a weakness. And, quick, name me that young up-and-coming star linebacker on their roster? Ain't got one.

The Lions have myriad holes.

But the Lions have something the Dolphins lack: Dynamic players.

Ndamukong Suh? Dynamic.

Calvin Johnson? Dynamic.

Matthew Stafford? You might not agree, but trust me, he's dynamic.

Louis Delmas? Dynamic.

Brandon Pettigrew? Dynamic.

Stefan Logan? Dynamic on special teams.

The Lions have budding superstars at very important play-making positions and they have a freak in Suh who has turned the defensive tackle spot into a play-making position.

I'm not here to sing the praises of Detroit's dynamic players. You can look up their accomplishments for yourselves. But I know some of you will argue Stafford is not dynamic because, after all, he cannot even finish an NFL season without getting injured.

That's true. But perhaps if he had a solid offensive line in front of him he wouldn't be getting used like a rag doll by opposing defensive players and that might keep him in games.

When he is in games -- not today because he's still injured -- Stafford has shows signs that, frankly, Miami's young QB Chad Henne has not. Stafford has 6 TD passes this year to only 1 INT.

With Stafford in the lineup, the Lions scored TDs in nine of 10 trips into the red zone. Compare that to the FG kicking Dolphins and you see the difference.

He's got much work to do. But if he can stay healthy, he's got the goods. Compare that to Miami where the Dolphins have a QB that is hard to keep out of the lineup due to health concerns, but everyone is asking whether or not he has the goods.

I figured you might have questions about Logan as well. He is the only NFL player ranked in the top four in both kickoff returns and punt return average. His 105-yard KO return TD against St. Louis earlier this year is the longest in the league so far in 2010. He had a kick return of 50 yards or more in three of four games in October. He is, um, dynamic.

So here is the question: Is it easier to fill a roster of good-but-not-great players around your handful of dynamic players? Or is it harder to find a handful of dyanmaic players to lift your roster of good-but-not-great?

Is it harder to find a dozen or so plow horses or a handful of thoroughbreds?

I don't know.

I do know the Lions (4-10) are going to be drafting much higher than the Dolphins (7-7). I don't know it is easier to find plenty of plow horses and even more thoroughbreds higher in each round than it is to find superstars in the middle of the draft.

I know it is not impossible for Miami to find stars -- I mean, serious, honest-to-goodness dynamic stars -- in the middle of rounds, but I cannot remember the last time that happened. And sorry guys, Vontae Davis is a good player. He's solid. But dynamic?

Not so far.

We can discuss this further during the live blog. It will be going on during Miami's sold out meeting with the Lions. It begins in the comments section below just before game time.

Follow me on twitter.

December 24, 2010

The odd ties between the Falcons, Dolphins

Merry Christmas and Happy Holy Days, everyone!

I want to wish you and yours the best, brightest and most prosperous days as we celebrate today, tomorrow and heading into the New Year.

Can I share some football thoughts with you?

It is about this time three years ago that the Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons, two franchises in similar terrible states, made a bold and hopeful reach for finding credibility and excellence and a new dawn to what had been a very dark night in their histories.

They both made a play for Bill Parcells in late 2007.

Before I get to that ... a little history.

These two teams seemed strangely similar for a couple of years before December of 2007. The Falcons were 7-9 in 2006. The Dolphins finished 6-10. The Falcons fired Jim Mora. Nick Saban fired the Dolphins.

The Dolphins hired Cam Cameron and the Falcons hired Bobby Petrino to coach in 2007. Neither was NFL head coach material. Both seemed overmatched. Both lost their locker rooms as the season progressed.

Neither team had a quarterback to speak of. The Dolphins cut a one-legged Daunte Culpepper and signed a diminished Trent Green. Culpepper had been a terrible mistake because Saban asked him to play despite the fact his knee would never allow him to play at a Pro Bowl level again. Green was a mistake because his concussion while with Kansas City the year before had made him a candidate for more concussions in the future.

The Falcons were dealing with their own quarterback issues and, in most respects, their issues were more serious.

Michael Vick, talented but troubled, was suspended by the NFL after he pleaded guilty to charges stemming from his now infamous dog fighting ring in Virginia. The Falcons were sunk.

Their quarterback situation was so terrible to begin the 2007 season, Petrino handed the starting job to Joey Harrington, who the Dolphins had discarded after he failed with them in 2006.

 And so as the 2007 season got underway, both teams then set off on what could be optimistically described as disasters. Neither won with any regularity and, in Miami’s case, regularity was defined as all but once.

Players on both teams quit well before the failed seasons ended. But the Falcons had the special added bonus of having Petrino quit on the players three games before the season ended so he could take the job coaching Arkansas.

Petrino left his playes a note in the locker room telling them he was cruising.


Well, let's put it kindly. It is Christmas. Cam Cameron was a mistake.

By December, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga and Falcons owner Arthur Blank were shopping for help to fix their broken franchises. Both focused on Parcells.

Huizenga talked to Parcells first, actually, but couldn't land him because he planned to sell the team and Parcells wanted stability in ownership. So Blank swooped and had Parcells all but signed to come to Atlanta. Blank actually went to Parcells' home in Saratoga, New York expecting to get a deal signed with Parcells after the football man had told him he was ready to return to football.

But Huizenga came back and offered Parcells everything Atlanta could, plus an opportunity to be closer to his Jupiter home, plus a longer-standing relationship than the one Parcells had with Blank. Let me be clear: Parcells preferred to come to Miami the entire time. But he had initially rebuffed Huizenga when the Miami owner told him of his intention to sell the club.

It wasn't until Huizenga changed his tune and told Parcells he would keep the team that Parcells refocused his interest on Miami.

The Dolphins got Parcells and by December 20 when they announced he was hired, they were enjoying instant credibility again. The Falcons, seemingly cast aside and beaten to the punch, settled on former New England director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff as their general manager.

Sure, everyone knew Parcells wasn’t going to be around very long because his history guaranteed as much. But no one gave the relatively unknown Dimitroff any advantage in the pairing against Miami’s new football boss.

That didn’t last.

Dimitroff signed running back Michael Turner and traded for tight end Tony Gonzalez. And when Parcells, owning the first overall pick of the 2008 draft, selected future Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long, Dimitroff did him one better by drafting future Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Ryan.

Yes, that is hindsight. At the time, the Long pick was the more logical, safer selection. And Long might turn into a Hall of Famer some day.

But a Hall of Fame left tackle does not trump a franchise quarterback. And that is precisely what Ryan has become in Atlanta.

Both teams seemed to turn it around instantly. The Dolphins won their division with an 11-5 record in 2008. The Falcons similarly went 11-5 and made the playoffs.

But the Dolphins, benifitting from an easy schedule, were something of a mirage while Atlanta had actual staying power. Even though both teams regressed in 2009, Miami's took several steps back to 7-9 while Atlanta dropped to 9-7 while playing in the same division with the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.

And while the Dolphins got about the business of finding their all-important QB in 2009, the Falcons were already certain Ryan was their man. They also had a good, albeit not great left tackle in Sam Baker, an Alpha wide receiver in Roddy White, and consistent pass rusher in John Abraham, and a full complement of draft picks for 2010.

The Falcons have filled in with trades and free agency, but they have really been built through the draft. That's the New England way that Dimitroff learned.

All six draft picks made the team this year. In fact, on the day teams set their initial 53 man rosters this season, the Falcons had 31 of their own draft picks on the team, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. That was fourth highest in the NFL.

The Dolphins had 21 of their own picks on their roster which was tied with the Jets for the league’s second lowest total.

The Cleveland Browns and Washington Redskins – organizations that have often set the standard for how to mess up in the NFL – had the league’s lowest total of draft picks on their respective rosters. They each had 17.

And while the Falcons were building slowly and surely, the Dolphins at the start of 2010 found themselves rebuilding once again. Parcells quit as his contract allowed him to do. Huizenga had sold the team despite indications to Parcells he would not and so Parcells made his counter-move by stepping down as Miami's football czar.

It has been portrayed that Parcells walked out on the Dolphins. I would tell you if Huizenga was still the owner, Parcells would still be the football czar. Period.

No, there isn't a rift between Parcells and new owner Stephen Ross. The two men still speak but their relationship is not a friendship. They talk about the labor issues facing the league. It's business. Huizenga and Parcells were more friends.

Obviously, neither Huizenga nor Ross wanted to take the PR hit for losing Parcells immediately following an 11-5 season when they announced the sale of the Dolphins. So they gave Parcells the sweetheart deal he enjoys today of basically getting paid until the end of 2011 without really working for the team if he doesn't want to.

This year, Parcells began to use his option. He stepped back from daily operations, handing them to general manager Jeff Ireland. And now he is only a consultant. He doesn't make decisions about the team. He isn't involved in the daily grind. He doesn't have an office in the football facility in Davie and hasn't visited since he moved out, best I can gather.

Does he talk to Ireland? Sure. Does he text coach Tony Sparano? Sure. Does he tell either what to do? Nope.

And so while the Falcons are hitting their stride with their front office and coaching set up in Year Three, the Dolphins are kind of starting over with an independent Ireland and Sparano working without a Parcells net for the first time.

On the field, the differences are obvious. The Falcons are fast, they make plays, they're dynamic, and yes, they win at home. Atlanta is 6-0 in the Georgia Dome this year. They're 19-1 in their house the last 20 games.

The Dolphins are great on the road with a 6-1 record, but incredibly disappointing at home at 1-6. Miami lacks speed, dynamic playmakers on offense and special teams and even its No. 4 ranked defense needs work because it has had a chance to win -- WIN -- a couple of games this year and didn't do it. Cleveland comes prominently to mind.

The Falcons are 12-2 today, three years after they missed out on Bill Parcells. The Dolphins are 7-7 today, three years after they landed Bill Parcells.


The Falcons, by the way, are doing it with a Dolphins flavor. They have five former Dolphins coaches on their staff – offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, offensive line coach Paul Boudreau, receivers coach Terry Robiskie, linebackers coach Glenn Pires and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong.

In that regard also these teams are strangely connected.


December 23, 2010

Henning: Dolphins lack speed, changes haven't worked

I've been telling you for some time the Dolphins are team without enough speed and consequently that is one reason they don't have a lot of big plays. No revelation there as anyone with eyes can see this is the case.

Well, offensive coordinator Dan Henning agrees with me. (I don't know if that's a good thing or not.) Henning, however, thinks the lack of speed on the Dolphins is pervasive throughout the roster.


"On our football team overall, we're missing dynamics," Henning said today. "We haven't had a dynamic kickoff return or punt return to put the ball even on the plus side of the 50. We haven't had a dynamic interception return to take it back for a touchdown the entire year. And we haven't had but two or three dynamic plays on offense out of about 800 or so.

"So we're missing that. And somewhere along the line we have to find it for this team."

I asked Henning if he believes that lack of dynamic play-making has to do specifically with a lack of speed overall, and particularly on offense.

"There's no question about it," he responded. "The same people that are playing on special teams, play on offense and defense ... We're just not making the big plays. That is speed, that is ability, that is those things that come from dynamic individuals. We do a good job of catching the ball. [Davone] Bess does a good job just like he does on offense of making plays. But they're not 50- or 60-yard plays. He'll dramatically change a play from a 5- or 6-yard gain to 15-yard gain. A couple of weeks ago he got a 40-yard gain but that's what it is. When you have a body of work, whether it's one year or 15 games or whatever it is, usually, you are who you are."

Henning on Thursday gave the gathered media a recount of what Miami's personnel department has done and needs to do.

"I can tell you from an offensive standpoint specifically because that what I deal with," he said. "We won the division in 2008, They were 1-15 and came very close to being 0-16. They won an overtime game. We broke down the team, we tried to deal with the personnel that was there. We let some players go that people before us had a higher opinion of but we didn't have as high an opinion. And we elevated some people we had a higher opinion of and we won the division. We won 11 games. it wasn't easy. It wasn't exactly dynamic. But we had about 8.03 yards per attempt. We had 11.9 or 12 yards per completion and we had over 4 yards per carry with that team.

"After that season we all agreed we had a little bit easier schedule than we were going to have. If we were going to be where we wanted to be, we needed to change some things and get better. We haven't done it. That doesn't mean we haven't tried to do it. But this group is not as efficient and consistent as that group was. Therefore, they're not as effective as that group was. Basically we had the same coaches. We have some players in this group who are more dynamic than we had. But as a team, we're not as efficient, consistent or effective as we were in 2008.

"We need speed and we need it in the areas where if you break something loose, you have a chance to take it to the house regardless of whether we're on our 10 or their 10."

Henning, the offensive coordinator, considers himself well-versed enough on the Dolphins because he has been around the players and coaches and personnel department for three years now.

"I feel like I know some things about this team because I work with it all the time, I'm on top of it  with the players and so forth," he said. "I do think there are some things that need to be done. I've told Tony when he's asked me. And I'm sure he's taken in not only my opinion, but many opinions."

Dilfer: Dolphins give selves too little error room

Why has the 2010 season been a disappointment for the Dolphins?

Myriad reasons, really, but ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer has a fundamental reason: The Dolphins have built a team that gives itself too little room for error. And this year, when games are won or lost on one or two plays, the Dolphins have not made those one or two plays.

In other words, as Dilfer says in the video, the Dolphins have allowed themselves very little room for error.


The Cleveland loss? If Nolan Carroll catches that interception in his hands inside the Browns 25 yard line late in the fourth quarter, Miami wins. He dropped it. Miami lost.

The Pittsburgh loss? The Dolphins obviously didn't account for the refs working against them. They also got zero help from a running game that could not move the football despite the fact it was handed to the offense inside Pittsburgh's 30 yard line twice in the first half.

The Buffalo loss? Dan Carpenter missed four field goals. You put the game in a kicker's hands, er, legs, you pay the price for misses.

The Dolphins want to play games close and win in the fourth quarter. They think they won't lose the game as much as they will win the game.

Typical of this thinking is what quarterback Chad Henne said in this Miami Herald story that when everything is perfect, he can be a very good player.

"If they're giving us the right coverages, and we're in sync and everybody is executing the right way, we can be that kind of team. I can be that kind of player."

Unfortunately for Henne and the Dolphins, stuff isn't always perfect on the field. And that is a flawed approach which has betrayed the Dolphins this year.

Note to Dolphins: How about building a team that can, you know, actually take the fight to the opponent and either run so well or pass so well that they can win the game instead of hope not to lose it?

December 22, 2010

Preparation for Lions Wednesday: The highlights

Another day, another dollar for the Dolphins.

Here are some highlights of what is happening:

ILB Karlos Dansby (toe) missed practice today. Coach Tony Sparano said he simply wanted to rest the player.

Quarterback Chad Henne, he of the 14 TDs and 16 INTs, apparently has a pretty good grasp on his 2010 production so far.

"It's been up and down," Henne said. "Tough road. But at times I felt I've improved on a lot of things from last year -- some decison-making. But there is some good improvement I feel I've made and some strides. But there's stuff I have to work on and I'll evaluated in the offseason."

Henne offered somewhat of a better explanation why he didn't agree with Brandon Marshall when the receiver apologized to his defensive teammates after Sunday's 17-14 loss to Buffalo.

"I just keep relating back that you win or lose as a team," he said. "Obviously, offensively we could have done things better and scored more points and executed better. We're disappointed we didn't score more points and didn't execute, but apologies to our teammates ... I guess I don't know if I'd let a defensive player come in here and say something. I wouldn't accept that. I just think we win or lose as a team."

I believe Henne means he would not require or want an apology from a defensive player if, at some point, the defense played poorly and the offense carried the team.

In case you're wondering, Henne is expected to be the starter for Miami the last two games of the season, barring an unforeseen situation. Sparano is apparently thinking he wants to give Henne more chances to improve.

"I think you to continue and develop Chad," Sparano said. "We'll see where we are in these football games. If there's a point maybe you might be able to do something like that, you think about it. But right now we want to continue to develop Chad."

Speaking of the running game ...

Sparano was asked today what he believes is the biggest problem with the disappointing Miami running game.

Second-level blocking," he said. "I think we've been able to block them good through the first level. I don't think we've done a good enough job blocking linebackers ... I think the second-level blocking is where to me is where we've had the biggest struggles."

Sparano says the Dolphins haven't suffered minus runs to any worrisome degree. He cited some statistic that claims the Dolphins have had the third-fewest negative plays in the NFL. I have not seen any such stats. But it's getting past the defensive linemen that Sparano says Miami has problems.

"It's the difference between a 3 yard run and a 7 yard run," he said.

Of course, that says nothing for the third-level blocking that turns 7 yard runs into 57 yard runs. Haven't seen enough of those this year, either.

The longest run by Ronnie Brown this year is 51 yards. His next longest run is 17 yards. The longest run by Ricky Williams is 45 yards. His next longest run is 23 yards.


December 21, 2010

Dolphins should give some youngster a shot

Dolphins players have only professional pride and the future to play for while coaches have, I guess, the same motivation in these coming final two games of the 2010 season.

That future would be brighter for everyone if the Dolphins were to suddenly find the speed and playmaking acumen that anyone with eyes can see they lack. Coach Tony Sparano said Monday he isn't going to go nuts inserting untested players into the final two games simply for the sake of seeing somebody else play.

But he left open the door to some youngsters getting more of a look.

"I do think there could be opportunities for a few guys to play a few more snaps that maybe haven’t played X-amount of snaps," Sparano said. "It ain’t going to be anything different than the people that you’ve seen but I think maybe getting a guy in the ballgame a little bit more in some of these situations so you know a little bit more about him down the road I think would be important."

There really aren't a lot of places for Sparano to search on a 53-man roster for a revelation player that he was totally unaware of. But there are places he could look to find players that haven't gotten long looks until now.

I present to you Lex Hilliard, Roberto Wallace and Marlon Moore.

Hilliard has not carried the football all year long but the truth is the Dolphins will have to replace either Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams or both before the start of 2011. If the idea of replacing Ronnie or Ricky is jarring to you ... get over it. As I asked in my column on Monday, what do either of them do that is special?

This Miami Herald story, by the way, says Brown "hasn't given up hope" he might return for 2011. If he does it would be at a much cheaper price than he obviously hoped.

The Dolphins, which fancy themselves a running team, need to move on in the backfield and the assumption here is they'll do exactly that. But why not give Hilliard a look to see what they have in case the need Miami has actually is for one running back rather than two?

Just sayin'.

At the wide receiver spot, I am frankly baffled why this team might continue to give snaps to veteran Kevin Curtis, signed last week, rather than Wallace or Moore. Stated simply, Curtis is not the future. The Dolphins need to find out if either Wallace or Moore might be.

One error Sparano made at the end of 2009 when the Dolphins were also eliminated from playoff contention was not give Patrick Turner meaningful playing time the last couple of games. That failure led the Dolphins to bring him back early this year and that was a waste of a roster spot that might have been used on someone else.

The coaching staff had to go through another offseason and training camp and preseason to figure out Turner wasn't a player for them -- something they could have figured out if he'd gotten some snaps in anger during 2009.

Now Wallace and Moore sit in basically the same spot as Turner did although both have shown much more promise. Both are smart and fast. Wallace is a 4.46ish guy while Moore is a legit 4.4. Yet, at a time the Dolphins are looking for threats downfield, neither has gotten much of a shot.

Isn't it time to serve them up some shots?

Both players have had their moments. Moore has a couple of drops but he also caught a 57-yard TD versus Oakland, which is precisely the kind of play the Dolphins thirst for. And Wallace, tall and strong, has caught four passes for 46 yards, including a 19-yarder.

So whaddya say, coach?

Let the kids show you what they got ... or what they don't.

It would give you three fewer decisions to make this offseason.