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71 posts from December 2011

December 13, 2011

Theme of the day: Dolphins disconnect

The theme of this blog today is the grand disconnect in and around the Miami Dolphins.

Where to start? Oh yes, with Jeff Ireland and the looming coach search. Forgive me, but I don't get it. I don't see how Ireland is leading that search for the Dolphins as owner Stephen Ross signaled during his press conference Monday.

My column in today's Miami Herald gives several reasons why I don't understand Ireland spearheading the search -- among which are the fact most high-profile coaches that are available will want to bring their own personnel men and Ireland stands in the way of that desire.

There are other reasons but suffice to say, I don't see how having Ireland and a star coach can be a match. Ireland and an inexperienced or second-tier coach are a match. A star coach and his own personnel man without Ireland in the picture is a match.

Ireland and a star coach is not a match.

So there is a disconnect in what Stephen Ross wants out of this coach search -- a star -- and whom he has playing a key role in that search -- Ireland. Anyway, please read the column.

And that leads me to Carl Peterson. I've reported for months that Peterson is bound to replace Bill Parcells as the club's football czar. Well, ESPN"s Chris Mortensen reported Peterson would soon be hired to the front office role once held by Parcells.

The disconnect?

Peterson denied the report to The Herald's Barry Jackson. And Ross deftly side stepped the issue during his presser, saying he "hadn't had conversations with him with regard to that."


Parcells has been gone since October 2010, Ireland is alone in the desert of a 4-9 season, and the owner hasn't talked to his friend about an obvious position with his team even though they talk about football matters all the time?

Let me see if I buy that?NO!

I'm told Peterson is definitely in play. I've been told not to rule him out. My sources aren't as adamant as Mortensen's but they are definitely wary about the denial. They tell me what is true today -- that Peterson is not on board, may not be true tomorrow.

Hmmm, a disconnect between today's truth and tomorrow's.

One more thing: The Dolphins are a club that is diconnected in my opinion. You have the football team headquartered in the Davie training facility. The business operations are headquartered at Sun Life Stadium. And for the past four years, even before the move of the business ops to the stadium, there was a clear and obvious disconnect between the two.

This cannot continue. A house divided against itself cannot stand. I've never seen such a disconnect inside one organization. Ross has to figure out how to get the business side and the football side to all put their oars in the water and row in unison.

That hasn't always been the case in recent years. In fact, it has rarely been the case in recent years. And so the fallout is early season kickoffs that give the football team a homefield edge being moved to later in the day or to primetime. You have football ops telling the business side that players will not do Christmas videos. You have the head coach never really talking to the business people.

It's weird. It's a disconnect. It needs to be resolved.

[Broadcast note: I will be discussing the Dolphins coaching search on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo all morning from 6-10. We'll talk to guests, I'll give you insider information, and we'll have some fun with it as well. You can watch the show on The Herald's exclusive u-stream. Please check it out. And you can call toll free from anywhere in the United States. The number is 1-888-640-9385.

December 12, 2011

Tony Sparano fired:The press conference

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland sat side-by-side at a desk in front of the Dolphins main meeting room moments ago and announced the firing of coach Tony Sparano and hiring of interim coach Todd Bowles.

Neither Sparano nor Bowles were at the press conference.

First things first, Ross confirmed my report from Sunday that Ireland will remain the general manager going forward. So secure is Ireland that Ross said the next coach must be able to work with Ireland and not have a conflict with Ireland.

Ross spent a lot of time praising Sparano, "who has really been a wonderful person and done a wonderful job with the Miami Dolphins," the owner said. Nonetheless, Ross cited "the best interest of the Miami Dolphins," as the reason for firing Sparano now.

Ross said there has been much "distraction and speculation" regarding whether Sparano would stay or go. "I think in the interest of the football team and the development of this team,' Ross said, "this is the time to make this change."

Ross said the final decision to fire Sparano now came this morning. He said Sparano "wasn't happy about" the decision to fire him now. Having said that, the Dolphins knew long ago that Sparano was likely out at the end of the season and Sunday's 26-10 loss to Philadelphia sealed the coach's fate.

Ross said the Dolphins record is "not indicative of what the team is capable of. The foundation is there to build a winning team."

Ross said Bowles will be interviewed for the head coaching job once his interim time is complete. Bowles, who is black, would help the Dolphins fulfill the NFL's Rooney Rule requirement for filling coaching vacancies.

"I'd like to find a young Don Shula if that's possible," Ross said.

Ross said he has not had conversations with Carl Peterson relative to his friend taking over the Dolphins as an executive vice president of football operations as ESPN report.

It was interesting to me that Ireland was so prominent in this presser. He has not spoken to the media this year -- a fact that has torqued me off quite a bit, as readers of this blog know.

Ireland will be part of the search for the head coach.

"Obviously, you're looking for experience and the best candidate out there," Ireland said. "I want someone who's been in the trenches before -- someone with some of the same qualities I saw in Tony -- a guy who is a tireless worker, a guy who understands both offense and defense."

Ireland had not until today taken responsibility publicly for the 4-9 team that Miami is today. Yes, Ross believes the team is more talented than the record. But, come on! They're 4-9!

"We all feel responsibility for what happened today, we all do," Ireland said. "This is a game of winning and when you don't win, you feel responsible for that. I have responsibility in it. Mr. Ross has responsibility in it. Our players have responsibilty. Ultimately, Tony had the ultimate responsibility."

Ireland said he's "not happy about being part of this decision that Mr. Ross and I made together." But added, he's looking to finding the next coach for the franchise.

Dolphins fire Sparano, Carl Peterson speculation spreads

The Dolphins have called a 4:15 press conference to announce the firing of coach Tony Sparano.

The team is not confirming this report, but two sources familiar with the issue say Sparano is gone and obviously will not finish out the final three games of the season.

The firing will be followed by the introduction of an interim coach. The interim coach is expected to be one who will fulfill the Rooney Rule aspect of NFL requirements for filling vacancies. That means the new interim coach will be a minority -- likely assistant head coach Todd Bowles.

Bowles is considered a legitimate candidate to coach an NFL team in the future and has already interviewed in Kansas City and Detroit when they had openings.

[UPDATE: Bowles will be the new interim coach]

Bowles will be granted an interview at the end of the season for the chance to succeed Sparano permanently -- although he will considered a longshot. The Dolphins want to hire a "star" head coach, sources have told me.

The possibilities?

Miami's new interim coach will be the first minority to coach the Dolphins.

In order of possibility in my view, Jeff Fisher, Brian Billick, Bill Cowher and then the rest of the field. The Dolphins would love Cowher. But I hear from different sources that Cowher wants to keep his options open, including remaining in television, and may not be enamored with the idea of coaching Miami.

Morever, the Dolphins are reportedly set to announce as early as today the hiring of Ross confidant Carl Peterson to be the club's executive vice president of football operations. The ESPN report suggests Peterson will basically take the role previously occupied by Bill Parcells in that he will oversee the incoming head coach and general manager Jeff Ireland, who will be retained for next year.

[UPDATE: Peterson is telling The Herald's Barry Jackson that the ESPN report is inaccurate.]

Matt Moore has 'concussive-like symptoms'

Quarterback Matt Moore is being treated as if he has a concussion. That means his status for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills is very much up in the air. It also means he will undergo baseline testing this week to determine his status.

It also means J.P. Losman may start for the Dolphins against his old team, the Bills.

Irony thy name is the NFL.

But why is it that the Dolphins are treating Moore as if he has a concussion, but are not saying he has a concussion? The team is instead saying Moore displayed "concussive-like symptoms" when he got his bell rung in the Dolphins 26-10 loss to the Eagles.

And what, you may ask, is the difference between having a concussion and displaying concussion-like or "concussive-like" symptoms?

“Concussion-like symptoms describe just that — symptoms — that may lead to a diagnosis of a specific injury — concussion,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello recently told ProFootballtalk.com.  “For purposes of our rules, a player with concussion-like symptoms should be treated as if he has suffered a concussion unless a concussion is specifically ruled out.”

But, as the website points out, there is a loophole between saying a player has a concussion and saying he has concussion-like symptoms. The loophole is that once a player is diagnosed as having a concussion, his care is in the hands of an independent neurologist.

An independent neurologist has zero stake in whether a player gets on the field or doesn't.

If a player has concussion-like symptoms, the player is in the care of team medical personnel. And a team doctor and player have a stake in whether the player gets on the field or not. So if the team doctor can legitimately rule out a concussion, the player's chances of overcoming his concussion-like symptoms are much better, and thus his chances of playing are much better.

Determining a player has a concussion right off the bat releases the team of any control on the matter.

Coach Tony Sparano was asked about other injuries during today's day-after press conference. He declined to provide any information about Jake Long (back), Vontae Davis (stinger) or Jared Odrick (unspecified). He said the Dolphins don't have to report anything until Wednesday so that's when Miami will report on injuries.

Sparano also declined to address anything relative to his job status.

As you may know, I have written that the coach's fate is sealed following the season. He will not continue as Miami's coach. I also have written that general manager Jeff Ireland will be back in 2012.

Follow me on twitter please.

The fallout from the Ireland staying, Sparano going column

So what is the fallout?

That's what the Dolphins are worried about today. Actually, that's what the Dolphins worry about a lot: The Fallout.

Today, the fallout comes in various forms but to discuss that, first we must establish the explosions that happened to create fallout. Sunday's explosions came first in the form of a 26-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

That game sealed Tony Sparano's fate as head coach. The Dolphins vehemently deny any decision on the coach's future has been made. But it is done. The coach will not return for the 2012 season, as I wrote Sunday evening.

I also wrote Sunday evening that general manager Jeff Ireland would be retained for the 2012 season. My column on both topics appears in today's Miami Herald. (Kindly check out the column and my take on the coach and GM.)

So why do I reference the fallout? Well, because Sparano has been concerned whether or not his players will be affected by the news and or speculation that he will go. I predict this news and or speculation will have zero effect on the Dolphins.


When asked about the topic Sunday afternoon, Jason Taylor answered with a question of his own. He was asked about Sparano's departure being on everyone's lips and he answered, "How's that any different than September?"

Um, well, it is no different. The Dolphins continued to play hard for Sparano when it was clear their season was over by the time September passed from the calendar's pages. They continued to play hard for themselves, for pride, for the sake of enjoying whatever wins they could muster and, yes, for their coach.

It will be no different now these final three games.

"We play to win games," linebacker Karlos Dansby said. "We got pride, man. Like that dude said on ESPN, we play to win games."

So that fallout will be minimal and manageable.

Then there is fallout from my report about the club's decision to retain general manager Jeff Ireland as general manager.

Fans have mixed reactions. That is part of the fallout. Some media is scrambling to confirm my report. So that's part of the fallout the club is handling. And then there's the truly important stuff:

Forget whether you agree with this or not, the decision is made. Ireland stays for 2012.

The questions are, what this means to the looming coach search. Can the Dolphins still hope to lure a "star" coach while having to hitch him to a present personnel man? Can the Dolphins truly become a championship caliber team with Ireland at the helm of the personnel department, a pertinent question considering they haven't done so in his tenure.

Will Ireland's return be part of a makeover in personnel, one that also includes the additional hire of a football operations czar akin to what Bill Parcells was? Carl Peterson, anyone?

More fallout?

Does retaining Ireland give he Dolphins an advantage in knowing, scouting, acquiring information on Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winning QB from Baylor? Ireland, it should be noted, graduated from Baylor and has obvious ties to the school.

[RADIO NOTE: I know this is controversial stuff among fans in that you have opinions on the subjects. discussed. You may voice that opinion on my radio show, Armando and the Amigo, as you watch the show stream live here at the Miami Herald. You may call into the show, toll-free from anywhere in the United States. The number is 1-888-640-9385.

December 11, 2011

Jeff Ireland will return for 2012, Sparano will not

Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland is totally safe as of this moment. Tony Sparano is not.

I am reporting the Dolphins plan to let Ireland continue in his job with the team beyond this season. The plan is also to fire Sparano, although the team is adamant no final decision has been made on this front.

I know this as fact. Period.

So what's news here?

The Ireland stuff.

I already wrote in my column Sunday that Sparano was in grave danger of losing his job even if he won the final four games of the year. Sparano's team has since lost a 26-10 decision to the Philadelphia Eagles and so he will will not win out, which logically signals his end. A source has confirmed for me that end is now certain although the timing is still unclear.

Ireland is another story. He stays, barring some unexpected circumstance, regardless of who the new coach is or is not. It is as solid as something of this matter can be in the NFL. Ireland stays for 2012.

Owner Stephen Ross is convinced the Dolphins are a team that is underachieving despite considerable talent. Yes, Ross believes the roster needs some upgrading. But he also thinks Ireland, who has full control of the personnel department since October 2010, can do the job. (Bill Parcells was in charge of personnel from Jan. 2008 to October 2010.)

So Ireland stays once this season is over. And Tony Sparano does not.

Discuss ...

Dolphins down and seemingly out after loss to Eagles

This was bad.

The score, a 26-10 whipping, was bad. The performance of the offensive line, giving up nine sacks, was bad. The fact Miami starting quarterback Matt Moore left the game with concussion-like symptoms is bad.

The fact Tony Sparano is unable to win out is bad for him if you recognize that I wrote in Sunday's Herald that the coach had to win out to have any chance at saving his job.

That will not happen. The Dolphins will have their third consecutive losing season under the Parcells-Ireland-Sparano administration. They have also been eliminated from playoff contention.

Sparano's days are practically over. GM Jeff Ireland's job is similarly on the line.

Dolphins need a big comeback in 4th to erase 24-10 deficit

The Dolphins have stopped the bleeding. The Eagles didn't score in the third quarter after posting 24 points in the second.

I told you the Eagles are not a mentally disciplined team.  They can lose focus.

But the Dolphins still have a big job ahead of them if they plan to salvage this game. The made up three points in the third. But they need touchdowns!

Let's see if they get them. The live blog continues in the comments section below.

Eagles pounding Dolphins 24-7 going to third quarter

The second quarter was a nightmare.

Jake Long went out of the game with a back injury. Tony Sparano tried a 55-yard field goal that Dan Carpenter could not connect on. The Eagles used the field position to their benefit and scored their first TD of the game.

And then the flood gates opened.

Matt Moore threw an interception and the Eagles turned that into a 1-yard TD run by LeSean McCoy, his second of the game. Then Davone Bess fumbled and that led to a field goal. Then Moore fumbled and that eventually got turned into a TD as well.

so do the Dolphins have a comeback in them? We'll find out in the live blog. Meet me in the comments section.

Dolphins lead Eagles 7-0 to start second quarter

The Dolphins were the better team in the first quarter.

The defense dominated -- as Jason Taylor collected two sacks. The special teams blocked a punt to set up a TD. And Matt Moore threw a perfect pass to Brandon Marshall for a score and a 7-0 lead.

The Eagles, meanwhile, looked disinterested until late in the quarter.

Let's see what happens as the game and the live blog continue. See you in the comments section.

Live blog of Dolphins versus Eagles right here

There are a lot of Eagles jerseys in the stands today. I haven't seen this many opposing team colors since the Pittsburgh game last year. Geez!

Anyway, a few things to take care of before we start this live blog today:

1. Please check out my column that outlines Tony Sparano's chances of remaining coach after this season is over. Hint: He's got to win out to have any chance. So check it out and let me know what you think.

2. Jeremy Maclin, who has missed games due to a hamstring injury and was downgraded from probable to questionable on Saturday, is active. In fact, he's scheduled to start. It rained heavily an hour ago and the field is slippery. I expect that would affect Maclin.

3. Did you guys see by new adopted son Robert Griffin III last night? He won the Heisman and was as impressive in the way he carried himself and what he said as he is on the field. I love this kid. The lawyers are negotiating a name change to Robert Griffin-Salguero III but I confess I am not hopeful.

4. The inactives today are Steve Slaton, Ike Alama-Francis, Will Barker, Ryan Cook, Ray Feinga, Will Yeatman and Ryan Baker.

The live blog starts at kickoff. See you in the comments section then.

The answer to the question you ask more than any other

Amid the good times the Dolphins are currently enjoying -- four wins in the last five games -- the question I get asked the most is whether the end of this season can somehow erase the beginning of the season for coach Tony Sparano.

Folks that love Sparano ask me what he has to do to save his job. Folks who hate Sparano ask me (with trepidation) if the first seven games and three seasons without a playoff berth will be considered ahead of the current winning trend.

Folks ask me for scenarios in which Sparano stays ... and goes.

Even as the Dolphins are enjoying the current success, folks want to know what coach will be responsible for this franchise's future success -- Sparano or someone else.

There is no definitive answer to that yet. But it's close.

My column in today's Miami Herald tell you the odds of Sparano keeping his job are nearly insurmountable. The column goes through the scenarios of what the final month of the season -- starting today with Philadelphia -- might bring and how Dolphins ownership views and will respond to those scenarios.

I also tell you of a possible pitfall in the manner the Dolphins will go about their search for a new coach, if Sparano cannot complete the Hail Mary he must complete to save his job.

Please check out the column and discuss in the comments section below.

We can also add that to your live blog discussion of the game that will be held on this blog as the Dolphins play the Eagles today.

December 09, 2011

Brian Daboll willing to embrace the unorthodox

I am a fan of unorthodox football.

I loved the 46 defense when it first reared its angry head. I applauded the Wildcat package. I was applauding passing the ball 70 percent of the time when Bill Parcells was winning titles running 65 percent of the time. Oh yeah, I also love the shovel pass, the quarterback draw, the safety and corner blitz and God bless Dick LeBeau and his Fire Zone.

So have we established that I like the unusual approach?

That is one reason I like Brian Daboll. The man isn't afraid to try different stuff.

This year, you've seen the Dolphins line up their entire offensive line on the right side of the center and try to out-flank the defense with a run to the strong side. You've seen Flea-flicker Wildcat plays on the first series of the game.

On Sunday you saw left tackle Jake Long split out wide as an eligible receiver who was really one very, very big blocking flanker for a receiver screen. No, the play didn't work because the timing was terrible. But when the Dolphins lined up, I just about fell off my chair with glee.

It was different. What can I say?

That willingness to embrace something different isn't the only reason I like Daboll. Let's face it, he was ripped for how terrible the Browns were scoring points last year. Dolphins fans were screaming at Tony Sparano for trying to improve his offense by hiring the guy who ran one of only two offenses in the NFL that scored fewer points than Miami last year.

Yes, Cleveland was 31st in the NFL in scoring. The Dolphins were 30th. But despite that seemingly fair point, Daboll has injected some life into the Miami offense this year.

With Daboll guiding him, Matt Moore has shown steady improvement. And the Miami offense that was 30th in scoring (just ahead of Cleveland) is tied for 22nd this year while the Browns are 28th.

Back in Cleveland, meanwhile, quarterback Colt McCoy has seemingly regressed this year after playing surprisingly well under Daboll last year.

So props to Daboll for everything but this: As he explains in the video below, he ran the tackle eligible screen last year also. Except it apparently worked there. (Turn up the volume, the sound is admittedly poor.)

December 08, 2011

Will Dolphins play spy who loved Vick on Sunday?

The Michael Vick experience (remember that?) is coming to Sun Life Stadium Sunday and that usually means the defense should be watching a lot of film on the Philadelphia quarterback and dub it, "The spy who loved me."

Vick, you see, is the classic case for a defense using a spy. A spy is a player that is almost solely responsible to getting after an opposing player. It was a popular tool for defenses in the 1990s and today I asked Dolphins defensive coordinator Mike Nolan if its too old school to use against Vick.

"It's used quite a bit," Nolan said. "As a matter of fact, last year in the Super Bowl, No. 52 for Green Bay was spying Ben Roethlisberger. So if it's a guy like Michael Vick or a guy like Roethlisberger, any guy who's running to keep plays alive, they do it different ways, but it's not old hat by any stretch."

Well, now that we've established that spying Vick is not old fashioned, how is it done?

"A lot of people try to use it on Vick," Nolan said. "In most every game you'll see people do it with a three-man rush, a four-man rush, with a spy, without a spy, a five-man rush. Typically when teams bring five or more there's no one spying but that's not 100 percent true. Most of the time they put everybody to him and hope all the gaps are filled to keep him in there."

The trouble with that, of course, is Vick is so fast and athletic, he can still leak out the back door where there is no gap. So of course, the Dolphins will spy Vick, right?

Not so fast. They might do it some. But all the time creates problems in that it takes somebody out of coverage, which takes away the defense's ability to double somebody. Of course, going too far the other direction -- as in never spying Vick -- has negative ramifications also because he will see that as an opportunity to start running more.

Perhaps the fact Vick is recovering from broken ribs might lessen that worry. But Vick would almost definitely recognize the plan and counter

"That's one thing he does recognize very well,' Nolan said. "If he sees everyone's back turned and sees things opening up, he'll take it out of there. that's why a spy is pretty handy against him."

My thinking? 

Spy Vick. But not every down. Make him have to look for a spy. Make him have to guess which down the Dolphins use a spy and when they do not. If it creates even a little doubt in his mind, it's good because you have slowed down Vick, you've forced him to worry about yet one more thing that many quarterbacks don't have to worry about.

We'll see Sunday. 

Carey jogging, set to return as the starting RG

Tony Sparano continually says that news on injured players returning to practice must be met with perspective because the practice they return is not  really the most important time in their recovery.

The day after is the most important.

Today, Vernon Carey was practicing for the second consecutive day and is obviously working with the starting unit. He is showed no signs of setback following his return to practice Wednesday after missing the Oakland game with an ankle injury. Carey was in fact so spry, he was jogging from drill to drill in practice.

So barring an unexpected setback, Carey will be back to his starting role against Philadelphia.

December 07, 2011

Sparano: 2011 Dolphins more fun than 2008 Dolphins

Winning is fun, right? It's got to be more fun than losing every day of the week and mostly on Sunday.

Except, apparently, when you're talking about Tony Sparano's Miami Dolphins.

The Miami coach has made no secret of the fact he really, really, really, really likes this group of players. He enjoys them. He enjoys coaching them. He likes them so much that when things were 0-7 terrible and I asked if Sparano might simply just step away midseason, a source close to the coach immediately dismissed the notion, saying he would never quit on these guys because he likes them so much.

Today Sparano went to his furthest extent in explaining just how much he likes this 4-8 team. He likes them more the 2008 team.

You remember Sparano's 2008 Dolphins?

They did some magical things. Turned 1-15 into 11-5. Started slow but turned things around when no one thought they would or could. They made the Wildcat package a household name. They had you guys saying things like, "In Tuna We Trust!"

That 2008 team was also Sparano's first team. So you'd think that first team would be his fave.


"I've said this before and I'll say it again, including that team, with all due respect to that team, and that team was special to me, this is the best bunch of guys," Sparano said. "This is the most fun bunch of guys I've been around.

"They're not afraid to work. They just came off the field laying it on the line out there today, and giving it everything they've got. It's a good group of people to be around. It's the right mix of veterans and young players. At that time those [2008] guys were young ... These guys are not young anymore but still young enough."


Staying with John Jerry best option longterm [Updated]

The Dolphins have been off since Sunday. Vernon Carey has not been off. He's been getting treatment every day since he injured his ankle on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas and missed Sunday's game versus Oakland.

He's not 100 percent yet and his status remains uncertain this week as the Dolphins begin preparation today for the Philadelphia Eagles.

[Update: Carey returned to practice today but it is unknown whether he worked full or was limited in practice. That will be known later.]

In the meantime, John Jerry did some good things, did some bad things in his first start of the season. He was a solid C-plus during the game.

“He did some really good things," coach Tony Sparano said. "Three, four plays that John will watch and he’ll learn from because he hasn’t been out there for that extended period. But the one thing that John does very well is for a big guy he can move his feet really well and he has power. He moved some people [Sunday] in there at times. He did some good things on the perimeter, on the edges at times. I was pleased with what he did. I mean stepping in there, that’s what you’re asking those guys to do. Whether you’re number six or number seven, you get a chance to go up in there."

It's interesting that Jerry, a third-round draft pick in 2010, is still the "number six or number seven" lineman on the team. I told you last week the Dolphins want him, indeed, need him to step up and be among the best five. With Carey hitting 31 and unsigned for next season, the way good teams can handle this situation is simply passing the position to their up=and-coming high-round draftee.

Teams that miss on picks have to either pay a premium price to re-sign the veteran or another veteran or draft for the same position again.

So here's the deal: With the Dolphins sitting at 4-8 and pretty much out of any playoff contention, doesn't it behoove them for the long-range good of the team to develop Jerry as much as possible the rest of this season?

Doesn't it make sense to stay with Jerry and give him a chance to be good rather than going back to a player who is not yet completely healthy, is often inconsistent, and might not be an answer beyond this season?



December 06, 2011

No news, no excitement here: Just same old Dolphins

The Dolphins on Monday put in a waiver claim for wide receiver Taylor Price ...

... and didn't get him.

That's it. That's the big excitement on the Dolphins front today. And with all respect to the current five-game stretch during which the team has won four games -- a stretch that came too late to mean anything in a conversation that includes the word playoffs or postseason -- this team isn't exactly exciting.

And that's going to a be a problem for the Dolphins. Seriously.

You see, here in South Florida, the Dolphins are definitely not the talk of the town. The Marlins are about to open a new stadium, hired Ozzie Guillen, just signed Jose Reyes, added a closer, and are chasing Albert Pujols. The Heat is three weeks from opening its high-wire act on Christmas Day on national TV and play out a rapid-fire 66-game season that is supposed to end in the Finals.

Oh, yeah, the Florida Panthers are in first place, too.

The front page of today's Miami Herald sports section reflects what is currently happening in this community. There's a Marlins story, a Heat story, and a couple of Panthers stories. The Dolphins story is on page 5D.


So why is this a big deal?

Firstly, the Dolphins are in competition with those other teams. They are vying for the same disposable income of the same sports fans that now have a choice of where to spend their money -- be it on the all-star basketball team, the new-stadium-having and new-lineup-having baseball team, or the same old Dolphins.

That may not matter to Tony Sparano, who determines what brand of football and at what pace the Dolphins play. That may not matter to GM Jeff Ireland, who has continued to bring the same kind of players to the roster that mentor Bill Parcells brought.

But it definitely matters to CEO Mike Dee and owner Stephen Ross. They want an exciting team on the field. They want big names on the roster. And mostly, they want to sell tickets and make money by having lots of people in the stands!

And that desire to not only win, but win in exciting fashion, and that need to keep up on the excitement and buzz scale with their in-town bretheren might color some of the decisions they have to make soon. I've already written how much Ross wants the Dolphins to add a franchise quarterback. He is going to play a role in that search, believe it or not.

The idea is not only to get a top-caliber quarterback that will help the Dolphins climb to contender status, but indeed, be able to throw the ball well enough to win games and draw fans.

Here's another thing to consider: The University of Miami football program made no secret of the fact it replaced coach Randy Shannon, in part, because fans had stopped coming to games. Well, as the Dolphins' style has failed to capture the imagination of locals, would ownership consider having to compete with the excitement factor as a variable when deciding Sparano's and Ireland's future.

After all, keeping the coach and or the general manager would require Ross to do some serious explaining to a crowd that is now used to exciting changes and additions from their local sports teams. 

Finally, there is this to consider: The Dolphins are a team that must do something interesting and exciting and successful pretty soon. Because of its last decade of mediocrity, the team must be careful not to lose an entire generation of fans to other franchises.

Remember, kids that were 10 years old when Dan Marino retired are 21 or 22 years old now. To those fans, the Dolphins haven't been elite like they were for people in their 30s and 40s. Those people enjoyed championships from the Heat and Marlins in the last decade.

That's dangerous for the Dolphins.

December 05, 2011

Eagles getting healthy in time for Dolphins

CBS had an interesting graphic during Sunday's beating of the Raiders by the Dolphins. The graphic noted that Darren McFadden, Jacoby Ford, Taiwan Jones and others not playing for Oakland due to injuries, 40 percent of the team's offense was missing from the game.

Yes, I know.

ry the Raiders a river. Not our problem.

But it does speak to the fact the dolphins were fortunate in not facing a stronger team. They enjoyed similar good fortune against Buffalo and arguably against a Kansas City team diminished by the loss of Jamal Charles and Eric Berry. Again, that's life.

This also is life: Good luck eventually ends and for the Dolphins that may happen this week as their next opponent, the Philadelphia Eagles, are apparently getting much healtheir. Reports out of Philadelphia today indicate Michael Vick, who has missed the last three games with broken ribs, practiced without incident and afterward said he'd be returning to the starting lineup Sunday against the Dolphins.

"I get better each and every day and (I am) still working hard and trying to get better, but I went out and had a great practice, and I feel good," Vick said, according to the News Journal of Delaware.

"Threw the ball around a little bit and just gained confidence in the areas where I'd felt hampered a little bit," Vick told the Philadelphia Daily News. "It feels like I haven't played in a month or so ... I'm happy that I completed practice, and I'm looking forward to a great week."

Similarly, receiver Jeremy Maclin, who sat out of Philadelphia's last game and has been nursing both a hamstring and shoulder injury, told reporters he expects to play against the Dolphins.

The Philadelphia defense also will get a boost versus Miami as cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha told reporters he passed his baseline testing for a concussion. Asomugha is nursing a knee injury, however.

Talented enough or not? The answer matters

My column today asks the simple question, "Are the Dolphins more talented than their record or are they a team that is performing about where their talent should have them?

The answer you get is important because, as I write, it will determine the future of coaches, players, and members of the personnel department when this season is over.

Simply, if the Dolphins are performing up to their talent, then the personnel department has betrayed this team because that has translated to a 4-8 record. If, on the other hand, the Dolphins are more talented than their record, then you must look at the players and coaches and ask, "What happened the first two months of the season when you were 0-7?"

Your opinion on the topic is important -- hence a comments section. But owner Stephen Ross has final say and his answer is the one that determines the future of the franchise. My column tells you which way Ross is currently leaning.

I do not tell you in the column what I think on the topic. My purpose in that space is simply to enlighten you on the situation.

Iin this space I do want to tell you where I stand on the question.

I believe the Dolphins are not nearly talented enough to compete for a playoff spot. I don't see them as more talented than New England. I don't see them more talented than the New York Jets. And early in the year when the Buffalo Bills were healthy, it could be argued those two teams were a wash as far as talent is concerned.

I believe the Dolphins are talented as in 8-8 talented. But this personnel department thinks Miami is playoff talented. And I simply don't see that.

I didn't see evidence of that in 2010. I didn't see evidence of that in 2009. Frankly, I didn't see evidence of it in 2008 until Chad Pennington fell from the sky.

Simply, I think coaches are now getting out of the Dolphins about what the talent will allow.

The reason for that is I don't see a great set of pass rushers -- but rather one solid rusher and not much on the other side of the formation. I don't see a great playmaking free safety. I don't see an elite quarterback. I don't see a No. 2 wide receiver that stretches the field. I don't see a punt return threat.

I see a right side of an offensive line that was pieced together one week into training camp, almost as an afterthought.

Pro Bowl players? On this team, none outside of Jake Long are perennial.

Who else? Marshall wasn't in the Pro Bowl last year. Despite having a nice year this one, he will have to battle Mike Wallace, Wes Welker, and A.J. Green for a spot on the AFC roster this year.

The point is the Dolphins have nice players. Several of them. But what grand, shining talent do they have? Who is their Calvin Johnson, or Jimmy Graham, or DeMarcus Ware, or LeSean McCoy or Patrick Willis?

Just sayin'.

Discuss ...