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73 posts from October 2011

October 31, 2011

Dolphins close to being good? No way!

I never played in the NFL and made the Pro Bowl six times for playing offensive line like Dan Dierdorf did. And I am not a billionaire and the owner of the Miami Dolphins as Stephen Ross is.

So when both made the point Sunday that the 0-7 Dolphins aren't really that bad relatively speaking I had to do a self-check because I really, truly do not agree them.

Dierdorf, a color man who called the game for CBS Sunday, made the point during the game that the Dolphins are really not that bad. And to illustrate the point he said the St. Louis Rams, for example, are not nearly as good as Miami.

Of course, I disagree. And while Dierdorf is an expert and I'm a nobody, I know facts. And the fact is Dierdorf, a St. Louis resident, made this comment on a day the Dolphins dropped to 0-7 and the Rams beat the ever-living-snot out of the New Orleans Saints for three quarters before holding on to a 31-21 victory.

And the Rams did this with A.J. Feeley as their starter.

So there's that.

Ross, as I tell you in my column in today's Miami Herald, has big plans for the Dolphins for next year. Please read my column. During our conversation Sunday he mentioned that he doesn't think the Dolphins are that far from being a good team.

"Parcells said you are what your record says you are," Ross said. "But certainly we're a much better team than our record says it says. Last week, I was looking at some power ratings and we were No. 25. So I don't think we're No. 31 or 32 ... Everybody's always says we have a much better team than our record says it is. We're not that far away."

I've heard this for so long, I no longer believe it as a matter of policy and certainly don't believe it of the 2011 Dolphins. With respect to Dierdorf and Ross, you are wrong.

The Dolphins suck.

I'm not saying the cupboard is bare and the team is completely lacking talent.

But I am saying the Dolphins are not close.

They are, indeed, what their record says they are and that's one of only two winless teams in the league. The Dolphins are not, I repeat, not just the acquisition of one franchise rookie quarterback away from being a playoff team.

They need more than that. Much more. Consider:

Miami's secondary is incapable of producing interceptions which is bad because they also cannot cover well with any consistency. That's not my opinion. That is a fact. It has been a fact for some time now. That's because the Dolphins need a playmaking free safety and they need help at cornerback -- probably a starter.

One of the problems the Dolphins have in the back end is the front end. They do not get enough pressure on the quarterback. I would tell you that issue is primarily a result of Miami's outside linebacker play. Cameron Wake is good but he hasn't been as good as last year. And Wake is getting no help from the off side.

Jason Taylor isn't getting to the quarterback. He's also not get a lot of pressurewhich is just as important as sacks. The only reason the 37-year-old pass rusher's problems is an issue is because second-year linebacker Koa Misi is not doing it either.

The Dolphins need OLB help to improve the pass rush.

Not finished.

The team needs help on offense -- besides quarterback, that is.

This team lacks a consistent deep threat. After three seasons, we should get the drift that Brian Hartline is not that threat. Clyde Gates is a rookie and hasn't yet shown he can provide that threat. Gates hasn't even shown a hint of getting deep. Neither Brandon Marshall nor Davone Bess are ever going to be that threat based on their talents.

So Miami needs that deep-threat receiver.

Not done. Still.

Miami needs offensive line help again in 2012. Vernon Carey is unsigned for next year so unless the team re-signs him, there will be a need at right guard. There definitely is a need at right tackle because Marc Colombo is a sack-machine, which is only good if he were a defensive tackle but is actually really awful because he's an offensive tackle.

Once again on Sunday, Colombo yielded his almost weekly sack.

Did I mention Paul Soliai is also unsigned for 2012? The handling of his contract situation was a nightmare when it began in October 2010. And that continues because he expects to be paid in the offseason when he's scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. So that's an issue.

Bottom line? I just mentioned QB, WR, RG, RT, NT, OLB, CB, and FS as areas of concern or great need for Miami. I didn't even mention the fact Kevin Burnett, signed to be a star, has played like he might need to be replaced depending on who is putting the team together next offseason.

So does this sound like a team that is just about ready to contend? Does this sound like a team that would be great with the mere addition of Andrew Luck?

Sorry, fellas, but there's lot of work to be done here. 

October 30, 2011

Stephen Ross: No coaching change now

Another Dolphins game.

Another loss -- this one a 20-17 loss to the New York Giants.

Following the game, Miami Herald report Barry Jackson asked owner Stephen Ross if a change is coming. It is a weekly post-game ritual now as the Dolphins are 0-7 on the season.

"No,' Ross replied.

So into next week the Dolphins go. They travel to Kansas City next week.

Dolphins taking 17-10 lead into 4th quarter

The Dolphins didn't collapse in the third quarter!

Actually, they increased their lead on a Dan Carpenter field goal.

So can they hold on? Is this the first Dolphins victory of the season?

Join me in the comments section as the live blog continues. We will find out together if Suck for Luck is dead.

Dolphins lead G-Men 14-10 to start third quarter

One the one hand, you have to be proud of what is happening at MetLife Stadium.

The Dolphins are fighting the Giants and getting the better of them so far, 14-10. Miami scored its second TD in the second quarter when coach Tony Sparano passed on a FG opportunity and went for the TD on fourth down. Matt Moore scored on the quarterback keeper for the second TD of the game.

The Giants answer with an 84-yard TD drive before the end of the half.

Miami's corners are struggling. Jimmy Wilson is playing like a rookie. Sean Smith, checking Hakeem Nicks most of the game, is getting the worse of that matchup.

The live blog continues in the comments section below. See you there.

Hey, lookie, lookie, Dolphins lead NYG in 2nd quarter

The Dolphins are leading the New York Giants 7-3 to start the second quarter.

No, this is not April Fools. It is not a misprint.

The Fins held New York on fourth down to end its first series of the game and held again on third down to force a field goal on the second drive.

The Dolphins have a TD run by Steve Slaton.

The live blog continues in the comments section. Join me there.

Live blog of Giants-Dolphins (with Cowher transcript)

There's a game at MetLife Stadium today. Remember?

Dolphins versus Giants?

I will have a live blog of the event starting in the comments section below. Join me there.

Also, I have for you the complete statement from Bill Cowher on CBS today relative to his coaching future. As you know from my last post and tweets, Cowher has said he will not coach next year.

His comments:

"I'd just like to say this. I've not been contacted directly or indirectly by any football team or any organization. It's all speculation, and it's unfortunate because it affects the lives of many people that are in the profession. I am here to say to you today, I do not plan on coaching next year. I love where I work, and more importantly I enjoy the people that I work with up here. So I can put all the speculation to rest. And if I have to repeat this in December again, I will. But you know what, J.B., it's a tough profession, I know there is speculation out there. I'm flattered by it to be honest with you. But at the same time it affects too many
people's lives. I like what I'm doing right here, and I plan on being back in the same seat next year.

Cowher: 'I do not plan to coach next year'

Everything you've read about Bill Cowher going to the Dolphins?

Yeah, forget that one.

"I know the speculation is out there. I like what I'm doing here. I do not plan on coaching next year," Cowher just said on the CBS pregame show. "If I have to repeat this again in December, I will. I like the people I'm working for now."

Cowher also said he has not been contacted by the Dolphins or anyone else, thus confirming Miami Herald reports that the Dolphins had not reached out to him through any avenues -- direct or through intermediaries.

I am not quite sure what Cowher means by having to "repeat" things again in two months. Perhaps he takes a new look at the landscape and changes his mind. Maybe he just repeats himself to dash whatever speculation there is at that time.

But it seems quite strong and definitive what Cowher just said. 

Obviously this affects the Dolphins. As I've reported to you from very, very reliable sources, owner Stephen Ross intends to start his head coach search looking for a star.

That means he'll either try to find a star head coach who will have say over the personnel department, or he wants a star personnel man to bring in his head coach.

I cannot tell you what star personnel men there are out there. Star head coaches? Cowher's stance seem to leave only Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher at the moment, although others may emerge.

Gruden, by the way, signed a five-year contract extension with ESPN and has privately told the network he probably will continue to work on Monday Night Football. But, the contract does not preclude him from actually taking a coaching job.

Why Jeff Ireland must answer like everyone else

Jeff Ireland hasn't been a disaster.

He found Cameron Wake. This year's draft, while not exactly producing huge results right now, has upgraded the center position and may have brought a capable running back if Daniel Thomas can ever stay on the field long enough with hamstring problems.

But ...

Like everyone else in this winless Dolphins season, Ireland has a hand in the mess. He put this team together. Yes, he's gotten things right. But he's gotten things wrong -- just like everyone else.

So how is it he gets to fly under the radar and not answer for what is right and wrong when players and coaches do it every day? That's what I wrote about in my column today.

In my opinion, it simply is not right in a time of crisis for someone to stay under the cover of a team policy that Ireland himself has instituted since the departure of Bill Parcells and could easily make an exception for at his choosing.

The fact he's decided to stay in the background reflects poorly on Ireland. This is a grown man's business and grown men don't shy away from the truth of their situation. The truth of Ireland's situation is he's the guy who put together a winless football team.

I heard from some of you that Ireland needs to use his time to get the team right rather than speaking to me or other media. I'd say that sentiment is in the minority. It's also ridiculous because no one is asking Ireland to undergo a full day's worth of inquiries. We're talking minutes here.

I list for you some of the things Ireland needs to answer for:

This draft belongs to him. The 2009 draft belonged to him. (The 2008 and 2010 drafts were run by Bill Parcells).

He needs to tell us why no upgrade at tight end, free safety, and most importantly, at quarterback. Might be nice if he also explained the love affair with all the former Dallas Cowboys -- most of which have not really produced at a high level for the Dolphins.

The other questions I'd love an answer for are in the column. Please check it out.

And come back later for the live blog of the Dolphins visit of the New York Giants. The game kicks at 1 p.m. See you then.

Please follow Armando Salguero on twitter. If you do follow me, you'd already know the inactives today: Vontae Davis, Clyde Gates, Daniel Thomas, Will Barker, Richie Incognito, Will Yeatman, and Phillip Merling. Jimmy Wilson starts for Davis. Tyrone Culver continues to start at free safety although Reshad Jones is active. Nate Garner starts for Incognito.

October 29, 2011

Dolphins continue to be hamstrung by hamstrings

The Dolphins announced today that cornerback Vontae Davis and running back Daniel Thomas are out of Sunday's game against the Giants.

Unfortunately for both players and the team, this is neither a surprise for either player. Davis and Thomas have been undone by hamstring injuries for several games this season.

Davis will be missing his third start in seven games. Same story for Thomas, who earlier missed games against New England and San Diego.

Look, I recognize hamstring injuries can be nagging and frustrating. But at the point where two players are missing their combined sixth games, one has to start questioning the manner in which the Dolphins are managing the hamstring injuries.

The Dolphins fine their players for discussing injuries and then don't discuss injuries themselves so much of this is speculation. But it seems neither of these guys has been 100 percent healed from their hamstrings at any point this season.

Perhaps it's time to bypass the rush to get these two back ASAP at the possible expense of bringing them back before they're 100 percent. Perhaps it's time to shut both down until they are 100 percent and then hope they can actually stay in the lineup -- something they've failed to do so far.

As far as replacements for both players:

Look for Lex Hilliard to get more carries than usual. Steve Slaton might also be player the team turns to. He should be active.

At cornerback, the Dolphins will likely turnn to roookie Jimmy Wilson at cornerback while also asking more snaps from Will Allen.

Oh, if that's not enough, the Dolphins also announced wide receiver Clyde Gates is now questionable for the game with a groin injury. Unlike Thomas and Davis, Gates traveled with the club to New York. But his status is definitely game-time related.

Follow Armando Salguero on twitter

October 28, 2011

Stephen Ross: I have not reached out to Cowher

There have been multiple reports of undercover and backroom wheeling and dealing by owner Stephen Ross as he tries to land a new coach for the Miami Dolphins.

The latest is an NFL.com report citing an unnamed league source that states Ross has been in contact with Bill Cowher's agent about making the former Pittsburgh Steelers coach the next Dolphins coach.

The report is not true, Ross is telling The Miami Herald.

"I have not reached out to him in any way and will not so long as Tony [Sparano] is the coach," Ross said in a statement tonight. "I will not reach out to anyone so long as Tony is the coach.

"And," the short statement concludes, "I hope Tony wins and stays the coach."

I also contacted Dolphins CEO Mike Dee and he was aware of the owner's statement to me. Dee highlighted that the Dolphins are not making contact with anyone through any back channel, removing speculation team intermediaries might be working on the matter.

"As Steve has expressed in recent weeks," Dee said, "we remain fully supportive and committed to Tony and there is no discussion under way, either formal or informal, to talk to anyone."

Miami's "above average" pass protection to be tested

Ponder this statistic: The Dolphins are among the three worst offenses in the NFL at preventing sacks of their quarterback. Miami has yielded 22 sacks, which trails only league-worst Seattle (24) and St. Louis (22).

Now consider coach Tony Sparano's take on Miami's protection: "I would say that the protection as a whole right now I would call it slightly above average. So I think in our league right now above average is about where you’re going to be. I don’t think anybody is great protecting a passer in our league. I really don’t. I think with the limited amount time that you’re in pads and the limited about of time that you have to practice, I really don’t think anybody is great. I think above average is probably pretty good. I think we’re kind of slightly there. We have a high number of sacks right now, but those are for a bunch of reasons."

Obviously the statement and the numbers do not match on their face.

That kind of statement makes most media crazy because they seem totally disconnected from the truth. And thus, fans reading the media account think Sparano is totally unaware of exactly how atrocious his offensive line really is.

But ...

Stop. Breathe. Relax.

Allow me a second to translate, if I may. No, I do not speak coachspeak fluently. But after a few years of listening to the droning of these guys, I think I can kind of sort of understand every other word more or less.

The truth is Sparano is no doubt referring to the protection of his quarterbacks as much more than offensive line play. It includes tight end blocking and running back blocking. And when he mentions that the number of sacks is high but the protection is still "above average" he is clearly saying sometimes the quarterbacks have held the ball too long. He is probably also saying sometimes receivers are not getting open quickly enough or maybe not at all.

Now, there is no way I would defend Miami's offensive line play while protecting the quarterback. Matt Moore got absolutely rocked by multiple blitzes last Sunday and while some of those were successful against terrible blocking by Daniel Thomas, among others, some of the problems were indeed up front as well.

So hopefully you don't think Sparano to be living in a fantasy world when he tells you protction has been "above average." He probably should have specified whose protection he meant and whose he didn't.

Having said all that, the entire picture that makes up Miami's protection -- offensive line, running backs, tight ends, quarterbacks getting rid of the ball on time while receiver get open quickly -- better be at their best on Sunday.

That's because the Giants have perhaps more talent along the defensive line than any other team.

The Giants share the NFL lead in sacks with 21 -- and that while premier pass-rusher Justin Tuck was missed four out of six games with neck and groin injruies. There could be moments in Sunday's game when Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Jand ason Pierre Paul will be pinning their ears back on Moore at the same time.

We will know then exactly how "above average" Miami's pass protection really is.

October 27, 2011

Oh, now it's the media's fault? Really?

So Reggie Bush said after Sunday's game that the Dolphins "stink."

Then Yeremiah Bell told examiner.com that, in part, Bush stinks for saying that.

And then today the Dolphins public relations machine tried to patch that crack in the locker room because, of course, 53 disparate men always agree on everything and it doesn't matter the entire NFL knows the whole franchise is broken anyway. Hmmmm. How to do this?

Ah, yes. After much discussion about stuff that doesn't matter one iota, the Dolphins decided to blame the true villian in all this -- the media. Yeah, that's the ticket. The big bad intimidating reporters are clearly trying to make Miami players say things against one another.

So after a long conversation with the PR dept., Bell walked back his comments and accused the media of taking Bush's words out of context. Bush, obviously not completely lobotomized by the Dolphins yet, disagreed initially even after a similar meeting with Dolphins PR. It is, he said, hard to take "we stink" out of context.

"What else would I mean," he asked.

But finally the men in the white coats apparently got to Bush. Late Thursday night he was fully on board with blaming the media for the misunderstanding!

"When your [sic] 0-6 it's easy for the media to create something out of nothing," Bush tweeted to his two million twitter followers. "Miami Dolphins are sticking together and believe in one another.

Then he tweeted:

"Because without each other we know that none of this is possible. We hold each other accountable and expect greatness from our teammates

Then he tweeted:

"With that said we are focused on one game this week. The NY Giants. Enough said..."

[Update: Meanwhile, Brandon Marshall tweeted this lovely thought last night -- To Media: When we win Sunday please don't say the Giants didn't take us serious."]

Whatever, dude.

What a total load.

Note to the Dolphins: The media isn't trying to "create" anything. You guys do it so well, no media member short of the most accomplished fiction writer could ever invent poop like 0-6, or losing to Tim Tebow on Gator Day, or not being able to ever stop a quarterback draw.

The media didn't force Brandon Marshall to say he was going to get thrown out of the Jets game in the second quarter. The media didn't invent the fact Marshall ripped the game plan for that Jets game because it didn't target him enough even though he was targetted a team-high 13 times.

The media also hasn't scored any points against the Dolphins this year or stopped them from scoring. That was Wes Welker going 99 yards for a touchdown, not The Miami Herald. No one holding a microphone has kept the Miami defensive backfield from failing to intercept passes at all-time frachise low rates.

The media did recognize right tackle Marc Colombo was a turnstile last year in Dallas and brought that up to coach Tony Sparano in the preseason. The coach would have none of that idea, saying he watched the tape of Colombo thus suggesting the media didn't know anything.

Um, well, Colombo is a turnstile in Miami. And, by the way, on twitter he follows practically every media member that covers the Dolphin but refused every interview request before even one disparaging word about him was written locally. (Strange bird, this one.)

The media did ask in print and on radio why not bring in a truly accomplished quarterback to compete with Chad Henne, with the loser of the competition becoming the backup. But noooo. The Dolphins went with journeyman Matt Moore. And now he's you're starter.

And the team has practically no chance.

The media continues to wonder why the Dolphins don't upgrade at tight end. Meanwhile, the Dolphins continue to wonder why they are so awful at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Hint: Tight ends are among the most effective red zone weapons.

The media didn't get on that plane to go interview Jim Harbaugh. The media didn't cut Erik Walden so he could go to Green Bay and become a starter. The media didn't draft Pat White or Patrick Turner. The media didn't sign Ernest Wilford or Jake Grove. The media didn't fail to draft a quarterback in the first round every year since 1983. The media didn't guarantee Bill Parcells' his money even if he walked away. The media has not kept the Dolphins winless at home for almost an entire calendar year.

The media -- along with everyone else in the whole stadium -- knows the quarterback draw is always coming. The media didn't pass on Jimmy Graham. Or draft John Jerry.

If the Dolphins want to maximize their time, they should stop trying to keep the media at a distance and instead think about stiff-arming potential tacklers. If the Dolphins want to see the enemy they should turn their gaze away from the media.

And look in the mirror instead.

Vontae Davis misses practice again

Cornerback Vontae Davis is having a hard time staying healthy this season.

He was on the side and not practicing during the open media session today, strongly suggesting he would miss the second consecutive day of practice this week -- the only Miami player in that situation.

Davis has a hamstring injury.Still.

He's had it since the second week of the season, which was Sept. 18. He missed games versus Cleveland and San Diego but was back in action the past couple of weeks against the New York Jets and Denver. He was fine against the Jets because he missed three weeks (two games plus a bye week).

But last week he played despite being back on the injury report and missing practice time after tweaking the hamstring again.

His status is uncertain for Sunday's game against the New York Giants.

The rest of the Dolphins were back at practice. if even on a limited basis.

Marc Colombo (knee), Richie Incognito (ankle) and Daniel Thomas (hamstring) returned to practice at the minimum on a limited basis.

If Davis is unable to play, the Dolphins can use Nolan Carroll, Will Allen or Jimmy Wilson in his place. Carroll, however, is also nursing a hamstring injury despite not missing practice either of the past two days.

The irony of the troubles Davis is having so far is that Miami is playing the Giants, a team that wound up with a wide receiver Miami might have picked had it elected to instead of Davis. In 2009, the Dolphins needed help in both areas and elected to go with the player they considered the second-best corner in the draft ahead of receiver Hakeem Nicks.

"I’m not going to get into where we were with the rankings or any of those things but we thought of a lot of (Hakeem) Nicks," coach Tony Sparano said. "Obviously we thought a lot of Vontae (Davis). We went down, worked (Hakeem Nicks) out down there on their campus. There was a whole posse of them, I think four or five guys. They came out with, I believe three receivers. I think (Hakeem) Nicks came out with (Brandon) Tate and actually Brooks Foster who was here for a little while. The three of those guys came out and they had a tight end at the time. We spent some time down there. We obviously liked him and that’s what I’ll tell you."

Nicks this year has 32 receptions for 508 yards with three TDs. He's averaging 15.9 yards per catch. Last year Nicks had 79 catches for 1,052 yards and 11 TDs.

He also has suffered some injury issues as he missed three games in 2010.

Are Dolphins so bad Sunday is hopeless?

I covered the University of Miami football team in the mid-to-late 1980s when they were rolling to the point they had more talent than today's Dolphins. (It's not an argument so don't even think about it because today's Dolphins don't have anyone the caliber of Jerome Brown, Michael Irvin, Bennie Blades, Brett Perriman, Vinny Testaverde, Brian Blades, Russell Maryland, Cortez Kennedy, Melvin Bratton, Alonzo Highsmith, Dan Sileo and others.)

Anyway, one of the rituals the I and other reporters covering those Canes had to endure was listening to Jimmy Johnson and later Dennis Erickson gush about how dangerous or deceptively good clearly overmatched, no-chance-having teams like East Carolina or Cincinnati or San Jose State really were if you looked really deep down and studied their tape really, really hard.

Those coaches were simply trying to convince the media, and by extension, their players that the team they were about to murder should not be underestimated.

Well, I've gone from covering that University of Miami team back then to East Carolina today.

That's right. This week the Dolphins are playing the role of East Carolina or San Jose State to the New York Giants' version of those former day Canes.

NYG coach Tom Coughlin has apparently taken a page out of the old coaching handbook and tried to convince his team the Dolphins are really, really good if you grab a microscope and study them for a long time.

“‘Respect all and fear none’ is the approach we take,” Coughlin said. “What we are trying to do is be concerned with our team and making sure that our team takes our execution to another level. We want to eliminate any lull in our play.”

Coughlin is basically trying to keep his team from being bored by the prospect of playing the winless Dolphins. He's trying to make sure his team doesn't play down to the opposition. He's trying to make sure his team plays its game and if it does, there is no way they can lose.

The message is obviously resonating in the New York locker room where quarterback Eli Manning is repeating the marching orders for the week:

“[Miami] could easily have several wins," Manning said. "Little things have prevented them from winning some tight games. A lot of them have come down to the wire. They’ve played teams tight. They’ve played hard. They have a lot of talent. A lot of teams have had trouble with them."


The Dolphins have a lot of talent?

Could that talent be at quarterback, where Matt Moore last year helped the Carolina Panthers secure a record good enough to have the first pick in this year's draft?

Could that talent be at running back, where Reggie Bush has never been the impact player he was billed to become coming out of college as the No. 2 pick in the draft?

Could that great talent be responsible for Miami's 0-6 record?

Let's face it, folks, the Dolphins have become something worse than a league-wide joke. They've become a team other teams have to lie about to make it seem like they'll be challenged. They've become a team opposing coaches fear their players will dismiss or overlook.

That is not, by the way, a badge of distinction.

If you look at the Giants, coming off a bye, getting healthy, in first place in the NFC East, the situation seems almost hopeless for Miami. I felt the Dolphins had a better chance of winning the opener against New England than they do of winning Sunday.

Before the opener, at least, people believed the Dolphins defense could contain New England. People had hope Miami's quarterback could put up points because he'd shown promise in the preseason.

Where do these Dolphins give hope now?

Better said, to size up the current state of Miami's football fortunes try to complete this sentence in the comments section:

"The Dolphins can beat the Giants on Sunday if ..........."

I love reading good fiction.

October 26, 2011

Sparano house is for sale but he's not quitting

Coach Tony Sparano has a perfectly plausible explanation for putting his Davie, Fl. home on the real estate market.

"We're empty nesters," he said of he and his wife Jeanette. "When we moved into the house we had seven people living there. No it's only us two."

Understandable since his daughter Ryan Leigh, the youngest of the clan, moved away to college.

Sparano also says he and his wife love the water so, they're "moving to the beach."

But ...

Obviously the fact his home was put up for sale early this year, taken off the market, and then recently put back on the market suggests something deeper and more obvious than a desire to get closer to the water.

Tony Sparano isn't dumb. He knows his days as the Dolphins head coach are numbered. He's moving all right. He knows it. We know it.

It is starting to show more often. Remember his words to the game official during the overtime meeting with the Broncos on Sunday? A local CBS4 cameraman captured Sparano telling the game official he needed a replay on a touchdown and that if he didn't get one or an overturn of the call, "I'm getting fired."

So the writing is on the wall. Sparano has read it. And all that awaits is apparently when, not if, the shoe will drop.

Sad in many respects.

There has got to be another way. And there is. Look, Sparano has an agent. His name is Jimmy Sexton. He was at Sunday's game against Denver. He should be on the phone with the Dolphins, like, yesterday, trying to negotiate a buy-out for coach.

The fact is Sparano cannot quit because he would forfeit his salary due in 2012 and 2013 -- an estimated $4 million-plus. The truth is the Dolphins are going to be on the hook for that money regardless once owner Stephen Ross fires the coach -- be it during or after the season.

Why not try to negotiate an end to the charade and the embarrassment of a proud coach by doing a buy-out now? Why don't the Dolphins agree to pay most or all of Sparano's salary in exchange for the coach agreeing to step aside?

It would give Sparano a reprieve from the daily reports of which coach is next and when he's coming. It would give the Dolphins a chance to turn the page to someone and something new.

It probably will not happen. I know Sparano and he sees this idea as quitting. And he has no intention of quitting on his team. He has no intention of quitting on those he calls his "kids."

So into the next few weeks we will go -- no matter how painful they get.

Fact or Fiction: Dolphins coach version

There are a lot of rumors and reports out there relative to the Dolphins coach situation. Allow me to tell you what is true and what is, well, not exactly true for the sake of not calling things lies or misrepresentations or outright errorneous reports:

1. CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that intermediaries for the Dolphins have contacted people close to Bill Cowher about Cowher becoming Miami's coach. FICTION.

The Dolphins have declined comment publicly but I am told by two sources at the highest level of the organization that this is "Not true" and that the Dolphins "will not reach out to anybody" as long as Tony Sparano remains coach. The truth is this is a sensative subject for the Dolphins, and especially owner Stephen Ross, because he reached out to Jim Harbaugh last January while Sparano was coach. He was ripped mercilessly and, I dare say, appropriately, for the no-no and he has the scars to prove it. Ross is concerned he and the Dolphins would begin to get a reputation as a team that goes behind a coach's back if it happens again. So he is making sure it doesn't happen again through the team, him, or any intermediaries of which there is only really one -- Carl Peterson. (Dan Marino sitting next to Cowher on the CBS set and suggesting he should be the next Dolphins coach does not constitute the Dolphins reaching out to Cowher through intermediaries.) Marino is not a Ross representative. He didn't even want the Dolphins to mention it was his birthday during the season-opener at home against New England and threatened to boycott the game if they did. So Marino is not carrying anyone's water. The Dolphins also know Cowher would be offended by that kind of approach --- behind the current coach's back. It would be exactly the wrong way to do this. And while the Dolphins have not been brilliant in the way they conduct themselves lately, even they admit this would be dumb.

2. Cowher is of high interest to the Dolphins because he's a superstar coach who is available. FACT.

Duh. There was a report that made it seem like the Dolphins having interest in Cowher was news. It's news like saying daylight has interest in the sun is news. The Dolphins indeed view Cowher as a target, and probably their top target, in what will be a certain search that begins once Sparano is gone. But Cowher won't be the only target. Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden will also be targets and don't rule out any "star" caliber coach that might get the axe after this season.

3. Cowher, as Miami's likely top choice, is also Miami's likely next head coach. FICTION.

Firstly, that's impossible to predict. Secondly, there is the thorny issue of what other jobs are available after the season. The truth is Miami would not be first on Cowher's list of places and franchises he'd like to coach if he had his druthers. It simply isn't. Not his kind of town. Not his kind of approach as a franchise. Just not him. He's a blue collar guy. People that know Cowher tell me he'd rather be the coach someplace like say, Chicago or the Giants or perhaps even Houston or Philadelphia or Kansas City. All things being equal, he'd probably rather go to any of those places than Miami. Of course, all things are not equal. The Fins will have a vacancy. We don't know about any of those other places. This, by the way, also refutes the idea the Dolphins are already touching base with him. He is going to wait to see what is available to him before jumping back in, assuming he jumps at all. Now is not yet the right time to be flirting with anyone..

4. The Dolphins will keep Sparano through the end of the year and begin this big search in January. FICTION, but with an asteriks.

Sparano keeps his job until the end of the season is if he starts winning, so that is the caveat. If he continues winless, he continues to put himself at weekly risk of being fired. I've been told that barring a total embarrassing collapse, Sparano will likely remain coach the next two games at the New York Giants and Kansas City. But if the Dolphins are 0-8 after KC, I think that is the week Sparano will be most at risk because the Dolphins return home for a Nov. 13 game against Washington that starts a five-week span in which Miami plays at home four times. The Dolphins will want to do something for their home fans by then and, fair or not, a coaching change is about the only thing that can be done in-season.

5. The Dolphins are keeping Sparano on now because they are officially in "Suck for Luck" mode. FICTION.

To call the Dolphins an organization is almost a contradiction in terms. This football team cannot organize the proper personnel to put on the field for a two-point conversion AFTER A TIMEOUT and some of you think there's an organized and so-far perfectly successful movement to continue losing? Sparano is the coach because so far he hasn't lost total respect in the locker room and there really isn't anyone better to replace him. Period.

6. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, the former head coach of the San Francisco 49'ers is the most logical choice to replace Sparano on an interim basis. FICTION.

Have you seen the Dolphins play defense so far this season? That unit is so far part of the problem. So what about Mike Nolan's work suggests he deserves a promotion? The truth is no one on staff likely deserves the promotion. But the Dolphins would also look at assistant head coach/secondary coach Todd Bowles and quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell as candidates on an interim basis. Bowles has the Bill Parcells stamp of being a future head coach. That is one reason he was interviewed for the head coach job in both Kansas City and Detroit. Dorrell was the head coach at UCLA from 2003-07 before joining the Dolphins in 2008. So he has head coach experience, although not in the NFL. They Dolphins will consider both very strongly. And while the team will never say this, naming either of these men would mark the first time in franchise history the Dolphins would have a black head coach. It would be a historical milestone.

October 25, 2011

Dolphins sign Losman, place Rosenfels on NFI

The Dolphins will be nursing starting QB Matt Moore this week because he's taken a beating and has sore ribs and could be limited in practice.

So they figured Sage Rosenfels might have to take more reps and might even get a chance to play against the New York Giants. Except, Rosenfels wasn't ready to play against the New York Giants or anyone else because he apparently was still suffering from the affects of the blood infection and strep throat that landed him on injured reserve earlier this season with the New York Giants.

So the Dolphins today placed Rosenfels on the non-football injury list and added J.P. Losman to the roster.

"I am thankful for the opportunity the Dolphins gave me to come here and play, and I was looking forward to contributing to the team when I signed," Rosenfels said in a statement released through his agent Rick Smith.

"When I first joined the Dolphins, all tests showed that I was healthy and ready to go. But after practicing for a few weeks, especially in the heat, some new indications made it obvious that I need to rest and allow my body to regain all requisite strength.

"I want to thank the Dolphins for their understanding and wish them the best of luck the rest of the season."

One hopes the best for Rosenfels ... while the Dolphins continue to struggle with, well, the worst possible circumstances.

Losman, 30, has seven years of experience with Buffalo, Oakland and Seattle. He's not exactly a star. He has thrown 33 career TDs and 34 career INTs. The only season in which he threw more TDs than INTs was 2006 with the Bills.

His career has been on the slide ever since.

Yup, the hits just keep on coming.

Players should recognize they're auditioning for next administration

The Dolphins are 10 weeks from the kind of transformative change that will spin your head. There will be a new head coach. There probably will be a new personnel boss. And the players you see on your program on game days?

I would estimate that the coming change will sweep many of them out as well.

That simply is the truth of most changes in administration. The players this administration considered treasures may be trash to the next administration. I've seen it happen when Jimmy Johnson blew out Don Shula's players. I saw it when Nick Saban blew out Dave Wannstedt's players. I saw it when Randy Mueller blew out Nick Saban's players. I saw it when Bill Parcells blew out Randy Mueller's players.

Starting next January, somebody will begin blowing out Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano's players.

(Note to the players on the current roster: This means you! And so if you're searching for motivation these next 10 weeks, consider you're on a job interview with your next boss.)

With that in mind, I want to look at at some of the players who will require decisions when the next administration takes over:


QB -- Chad Henne will not be Miami's starter anymore. He's unsigned next year and might not be re-signed at all by Miami. If he is re-signed, it'll be as a backup. Matt Moore? He's signed through next year. He's got to play better the next 10 weeks to be around.

RB -- Reggie Bush is being misused by this coaching staff, which is why his production is modest at best. The next staff might decide to use him differently and make him something of a specialty player. If not, he's gone ... Daniel Thomas is a rookie who suggests better days ahead. He'll likely be around at least next year.

OL -- Marc Colombo will be gone after this year. He should never have been signed but his ties to the current administration sealed that. He's not good and the next administration will probably recognize that ... Vernon Carey is in the final year of his contract. His fate depends on who is in charge but I wouldn't bet on his return ... Center Mike Pouncey will be here for years to come ... left guard Richie Incognito will likely be here barring some unforeseen circumstances ... Jake Long will be here with the next administration and probably the one after that as well ... A new administration may be a blessing for John Jerry because the current administration sees him as something of a disappointment, depending on who's opinion you ask.

TE: Charles Clay is only a rookie and has shown a flash of talent. He's too young to discard ... Anthony Fasano is a good soldier so most administrations like that. But ultimately his playing talents will determine his fate, which I would say looks good short term but nothing beyond that. Depends on what kind of offense the next coach runs ... Jeron Mastrud and Will Yeatman are guys. Impossible to predict how much they'll improve or not or how much next coach will like or loathe them.

WRs: Brandon Marshall is an acquired taste. Yes, he's talented. But yes, he's not productive to the heights of his contract. As the next administration is not tied to the decision to bring him here for two second-round picks, getting rid of him will be easier ... Davone Bess is dropping too many passes to be totally secure beyond this season. If he steps up his game, his spot seems much more secure ... Brian Hartline is a favorite of the current administration. No idea how the next administration will feel ... Clyde Gates has not been very productive as a rookie, but most later-round rookies are not. He will likely get next training camp to show he belongs ... Same with Marlon Moore ... Roberto Wallace has to prove he's healthy, improved and among the best five or six to stick around next year.


DL: Paul Soliai is expecting a big payday this offseason and I have serious doubts that payday will come from a new administration that has time to rebuild the entire team through the draft and won't be held hostage on money matters. So I'd say it's 60-40 against him returning under a new administration ... Jared Odrick is a young guy and relatively productive as a bacup so he's back ... Randy Starks is signed through 2012 so he's likely back ... Phillip Merling is unsigned and unproductive so he is gone ... The plan of this administration was to re-sign Kendall Langford but then the season began, the team stunk and owner Stephen Ross put the stop sign up on re-signing players that are only borderline productive. Langford has his best game Sunday, if he has 10 more like that he comes back. If he doesn't, his chances of returning are 50-50, depending on who is making the call ... Tony McDaniel is signed through 2012. He's not great and not terrible. He's a role player and so he's got a role player's chances of returning ... Igor Olshansky is unsigned after the season so his chances of returning are 50-50 at best. I do like him at the right price, but I can confirm I will not be running the team next year.

LBs: Jason Taylor is playing his final year with the Dolphins and likely his final year overall. A new administration is unlikely to bring back a 38-year-old player to start a new tenure in a new town ... Cameron Wake is signed through 2012 so he'll be back ... Karlos Dansby had perhaps his best game on Sunday. He's excellent against a downhill running offense. He's signed through 2014 so no use making an extra hole to fill when you've got a pretty solid player in the spot already ... Kevin Burnett is a curious guy. He's hurt the team more than he's helped. No idea what the next administration will decide there. He's obviously not a slam dunk to keep ... Koa Misi will likely be back, but unless his production increases, he cannot be assured that he would start for the next coach and general manager. Their commitment to him won't be like the current coach and GM ... Jason Trusnik is a role player. He's neither an absolute keeper or guy one gets rid of.

DBs: Please use your heads and not your hearts here. Don't shout kill Sean Smith or dump Vontae Davis just because ... Both are signed for next year. Both are young. Both will be back. But both will have to compete in training camp because I expect the next administration to look at CB as a need ... Both safeties are in the same boat. Strong safety Yeremiah Bell is starting to get up there in age. The free safety spot is probably the second-highest need on the team behind QB. This defense does not have a playmaker in the secondary. The free safety as that guy is a blessing -- just look at the teams like Pittsburgh and Baltimore for proof ... Jimmy Wilson is getting better and will be back no matter who the coach is, assuming he keeps his nose clean ... Nolan Carroll will have to win a job next preseason.


Kicker/Punter/LS/RET: Brandon Field might be in the Top 3 in the league and definitely in the Top 5 ... He'll be back ... Dan Carpenter is solid but I wouldn't be surprised if the next administration will bring competition to camp for him ... John Denney is still excellent, but just as he surprised Ed Perry many years ago under a new coach, he has to be vigilant to falling to a similar situation based on his salary ... The Dolphins will be searching for returners in 2012.

October 24, 2011

Perception may hurt Dolphins in hunt for Cowher

Sometimes perception is reality. And sometimes that's enough to hurt.

Well, this morning, I'm told the Dolphins may have been hurt in a self inflicted way by the lasting pictures of former Florida coach Urban Meyer sharing time on the sideline with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross at Sun Life Stadium Sunday afternoon.

I wrote in Monday's Herald how Ross and Meyer shared time on the sideline before the game, during the fourth quarter, and during overtime as the Dolphins lost to the Denver Broncos. I made the point that the time the two spent together during the game was coincidental because Ross was headed toward the locker room rather than the field had the Dolphins held their lead.

I also wrote that Meyer isn't a coaching candidate for the team on an interim basis, but if you know Ross and his desire to hire a "star" coach next January, Meyer cannot be discarded longterm from the conversation until either he or Ross says he's not a candidate.

So basically, the time the men spent together wasn't a big deal from a practical standpoint. But apparently from the perspective of football people, the time could be costly to Ross and the Dolphins.

I'm told the sight of Ross laughing and talking with with Meyer while current coach Tony Sparano was busy trying to get his team its first win upset some football folks around the NFL. This morning, I already have three three emails from football people around the league who are livid at the Dolphins owner for "dissing," as one put it, Sparano on his own sideline.

And apparently Bill Cowher could be one of those that might have been left shaking his head. Cowher, by the way, is on Miami's informal list of coaches to approach once the season is over and the Dolphins go searching for a permanent coach replacement. Fact is, Cowher might be the leading candidate for the Dolphins if anyone can be considered that.

But one person who is familiar with Cowher's thinking tells me the former Pittsburgh coach cringes at the idea of working for an owner who would "show up" his current coach as some football folks believe happened Sunday.

Cowher, you see, is keeping close tabs on how the Dolphins are conducting themselves these days because he recognizes Miami is a possible landing spot. But, my source said, Cowher has apparently been disappointed in some of the things he's seen from the Dolphins as to how they treat Sparano, dating back to last year.

It's plausible if you believe Cowher wanted nothing to do with the Dolphins last year when Ross was looking around following a 7-9 season. Cowher was rumored to have told Ross he would not speak about any coaching vacancy while the Dolphins had a coach still on the job.

I cannot say that Cowher actually got that message to the Dolphins or not. But I know people close to him are convinced Cowher doesn't take kindly to other football coaches being mistreated. And, as I just said, a handful of football people who emailed me this morning thought Sparano was disrespected by Ross and Meyer.

So it's quite possible what Ross might see as harmless happenstance time spent with Meyer on Sunday might cost him a chance to land Cowher because the former Pittsburgh coach and other NFL football people have a different opinion what that time meant.

Again, the truth is the Meyer-Ross show on the sideline during the game was coincidental. But that doesn't matter to some people. They perceive that time the owner shared with a potential future coach as disrespect toward his current coach.

And, true or not, perception is reality in their minds.

October 23, 2011

Meyer is not a Dolphins coach candidate right now

You saw Urban Meyer talking to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross for part of the fourth quarter and into overtime, didn't you?

It was obvious to everyone in the press box. It was obvious to everyone in the stadium. It was obvious to everyone who saw the shot on CBS.

He's not being hired as the team's new coach -- at least not right now.

Team sources are saying that Tony Sparano will remain coach of the team for the near-term, barring a significant change in thinking by Ross. Ross left town after Sunday's comeback 18-15 victory by the Denver Broncos over the Dolphins and is flying across country on business.

That makes a change less likely because it is hard to believe anyone would make such a significant change over the phone.

The same sources are saying the time Ross and Meyer spent on the sideline was completely coincidental. The owner intended to go into the Dolphins locker room to celebrate with his team when he left his suite. But by the time he got to the field level, the Broncos had scored and were lining up for an onside kick.

Anyway, while Meyer would satisfy the "superstar" label the owner is wanting out of his next hire, it doesn't seem terribly likely he'll be Miami's next coach once this season is over. Even the Dolphins believe his next job will be back in college.