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Coaches sometimes hurt the personnel process

During the Bill Parcells era the Dolphins did what most teams do this time of year. The personnel department tried to mesh with the coaching staff and come to a consensus agreement on the worth of draft eligible players.

This is an interesting shotgun wedding that occurs every spring because, let's face it, it's at some level dumb to do this. Coaches are paid to coach. They are paid to develop talent that is right in front of their faces. They are paid to maximize an individual.

They're not paid to project. They're not paid to evaluate.

Indeed, most coaches are not great talent evaluators.

Yet, year after year, NFL teams ask coaches to do the very thing they are not specifically paid to do: Evaluate talent.

And it has become quite clear to me in recent days that while the Dolphins personnel department of 2008-2010 had its share of misses, that was augmented by the fact the coaching staff was generally not great at evaluating college talent.

For example:

In 2010, the Dolphins were asked to serve as one of the coaching staffs at the Senior Bowl. Me, being a dummy, assumed this would give the staff firsthand knowledge of the players they were coaching and that would be a draft-day advantage.


During that week of practices, both head coach Tony Sparano and offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo fell in love with a guard/tackle from Mississippi. His name is John Jerry.

They liked Jerry's aggressiveness. They liked his punch. And because they liked his awareness and intelligence so much, they tried the player who played right guard and right tackle in college on the left side because he was smart enough, they reported, to handle the move.

Moreoever, Googs also reported Jerry had no issues learning quickly.

And so on draft day 2010, the Dolphins looked at their board in the third round -- the one that had tight end Jimmy Graham from Miami still sitting there -- and picked Jerry instead.

In training camp the team tried him at left guard. He was actually the starting left guard the first day of camp. And that lasted only one day because Jerry was a disaster there. He couldn't figure out the position at all.

And later in the year when Jerry's inability to get on the field came up in a conversation with a Miami personnel man, DeGulielmo, the same coach that months earlier had said Jerry was bright and had no issues picking up the system, reported that Jerry's problem was he wasn't picking up the system.

And thus Jerry couldn't do either of the things Sparano and Googs reported to the personnel department that he would be able to do. He couldn't make the transition to left guard. And he couldn't learn seamlessly.

Coaches hurting the personnel evaluation process.

Two years earlier, the Dolphins had been searching for a quarterback. And as I've recounted to you before in this blog and in my column, the Dolphins sent out Sparano, offensive coordinator Dan Henning as well as general manager Jeff Ireland to see, meet with and work out three quarterbacks.

Matt Ryan.

Joe Flacco.

Chad Henne.

And Henning, who fancied himself something of a quarterback guru, came back convinced, CONVINCED, that Henne was and would be every bit the equal of Ryan and Flacco. CONVINCED!

And he reported this to his close friend Bill Parcells. Sparano and Ireland had some misgivings but generally went along with that opinion as well.

Obviously, in hindsight, we now know that Henne isn't the equal to the other two because despite his fine arm and great work ethic and prototype body, something just doesn't click for Henne as an NFL QB. Something inate is missing. And so he is and will always remain a backup type while Flacco carried his team in the playoffs and won the Super Bowl and Ryan is among the top 10 QBs in the league.

Coaches acting as personnel men.

Why do teams do it?

It's interesting to me that personnel men don't don whistles and go try to coach players during training camp. Why do coaches get to play personnel men in February and March?

I will say this:

Recently, on my way back from the NFL annual meeting in Phoenix, I shared a flight with ESPN insider Chris Mortensen. We chatted about a number of issues and shared and compared notes on different things and one thing he told me perked my ears.

He reported that in talking to various NFL people the word he was getting was that current Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was gaining respect as a solid talent evaluator.

One source told Mort that Philbin is the best coaching evaluator he's ever worked with.

Now, that doesn't mean Philbin is ready to take over the Miami personnel department. Indeed, he still has to prove he's a good head coach because today his career record is 7-9.

But if the opinion relayed by Mort's sources turn out to be fact, perhaps the synergy the Miami coaching staff and personnel staff are forced to share this time of year won't be a hinderance.

Not like it was in previous years.