September 09, 2013

Joe Philbin has work to do

The Dolphins won their season-opener on Sunday. They have a 1-0 record and are tied for the AFC East division lead.

And coach Joe Philbin has a problem.

That's because the Dolphins head coach has at least three players who are quite unhappy even after the Dolphins are coming off a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

You already know that receiver Mike Wallace was unhappy after the game and I have confirmed through a source close to the WR that he was livid because he fact he didn't get a pass thrown his way in the first half and it got little better in the second half.

Wallace actually declined to speak because he didn't want to throw coaches under the bus. But despite his effort to not make waves, Wallace's actions -- an obvious display of displeasure over the way he was used  -- show he's a problem now.

How else to describe a player who pouts after his team wins?

Then there's Randy Starks. He is not a happy camper either, although he played very, very well on Sunday as shown by his 1.5 sacks.

He did not start Sunday, making that only the second time in the past 64 games with the Dolphins that happens. And Starks has let it be known to his teammates and others he's not happy about his status as a backup.

He believes he was the starter last year and should be so again this year. He believes he is Miami's franchise player, which he is, and did nothing to lose his job.

Yet there was Jared Odrick in the starting lineup Sunday.

Sound minor?

It's not to Starks. He is not happy about this. It is a major issue for him, believe it or not.

And then there's this:

Starks and the Dolphins have exchanged contract proposals. So far, there is no deal. Starks isn't thrilled about that, either, although this is considered a secondary issue at worst. It's not major for Starks at this point. So that much, I know.

I cannot, however, tell you with certainty whether Starks showed his displeasure with the coaching staff, or perhaps the personnel department that is negotiating with his agent, when he flipped off the Dolphins sideline after a sack Sunday -- pictured below.

That would be speculation and I'm not ready to connect those dots.

Let's just say it looked like a message. It didn't seem coincidental even if it might have been.


Then there's Paul Soliai. He is very, very angry, according to a source close to him.

Why is a member of the Dolphins leadership council upset at the team?

Well, it's a contract thing. Soliai and the team have been trying to negotiate a new extension for a couple of weeks. The talks heated last week and the Dolphins offered three new years that would have kept Soliai with the team through the 2016 season.

But the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money.

And the sides couldn't agree on tactics.

It seems Soliai believes he's been a good soldier and took less money to stay with the Dolphins two years ago when he signed a two-year, $12 million deal. Soliai, I'm told, walked away from a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million in guaranteed money in 2010. And he did so happily.

He loves South Florida.

And when this round of negotiations opened for the player in his final contract year, Soliai told his agent, David Canter, to do whatever it took to stay with the Dolphins again.

But then, Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins executive Vice President of Football Administration who is handling this negotiation for the team, seriously insulted the Soliai camp with one of her offers.

The e-mail offer was dubbed a take-it-or-leave-it offer and Canter not only left it, he walked away from the negotiations altogether. And then he took to twitter to rip the Dolphins for their "tactics."

"We're fed up with their tactics," he wrote on twitter.

Canter called the Dolphins approach one of delivering "ultimatums."

Another Soliai source said the offers so upset the player that he feels he's ready to no longer be part of the team in the future and that the idea of asking for a trade was floated within the family. No such request has been made, but you get the idea.

Paul Soliai is hurt and borderline angry. He feels he's been loyal and the Dolphins rewarded him with a lowball contract offer followed by a take-it-or-leave-it offer that wasn't even delivered in person.

So where does that all leave us?

Well, Philbin basically has to resolve this avalanche of unhappiness before it spreads. It's up to the coach to get his locker room in order before small issues turn to larger issues. It's up to the coach to solve the crisis.

I must tell you, the situation with Starks and Soliai is already spreading. Both are respected players and are considered team leaders. And although they aren't complaining publicly, for the most part, they are complaining to other teammates. The men in the locker room know there are issues with these guys.

And those with an opinion agree with Starks and Soliai.

I'm not certain what effect the Wallace issue is going to have. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Philbin. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Tannehill because the quarterback didn't even look toward him in the first half Sunday.

But I know there are issues in general.

And there is only one person that can solve it -- Philbin.

Frankly, the Starks issue is one Philbin helped create. Seriously, what right thinking coach with a finger on the pulse of his locker room doesn't discern that starting is a big deal to a prideful veteran such as Starks and probably not nearly as big an issue to Odrick?

Well, then, start Starks. Problem solved.

Issue erased.

And yet, Philbin didn't see this coming even when outsiders such as the media and others could see it a mile away. The coach didn't act. And, as a result, he was standing on the sideline that Starks flipped off.

The Soliai issue is not Philbin's fault. But it is apparently one the he must resolve. Philbin has to somehow convince Soliai that he's appreciated and loved even while his consigliere, Aponte, is turning the screws on Soliai's agent.

Is Philbin capable of being so diplomatic? Is he capable of being a good actor? I have no idea. I have no idea if he even would want to do that.

The Wallace issue is more complicated because at the core, Wallace has a reason to be upset. He's the team's best receiver. He shouldn't be a decoy. If the team doesn't throw him the ball at all in the first half of a game, something's wrong with the game plan. Something is wrong with the philosophy behind that. Something is simply wrong.

No, Wallace didn't handle it well, although he tried. But he has a point.

Where does this all leave the Dolphins? I perceive Philbin will be talking to these players privately in the next few days. At least he should be.

If he doesn't, add this to the list of problem Joe Philbin has:  Not handling issues while they're still manageable.


May 11, 2010

The revote on Defensive Rookie of the Year

The Defensive Rookie of the Year award handed out annually by the Associated Press has been in the news lately because its recipient Brian Cushing was just suspended after failing a test for performance enhancing drugs, and then losing his appeal.

The test, reportedly taken last September, suggests Cushing played 2009 while benefitting from a cycle of PEDs that are banned by the NFL.

So the AP yesterday decided to have a revote. The 50 people who vote annually on the AP All-Pro team and post-season awards got an e-mail ballot that is due Wednesday. I am one of those voters. I had no trouble re-submitting my ballot.

I orginally picked Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd as my DROY choice and was only one of six people to do so. Cushing got 39 votes. I simply stuck with my original vote.

The AP also took a revote on the outside linebacker position. In that one, I had to make a change. I had originally voted for Cushing and Elvis Dumervil. In my new ballot I changed out Cushing for DeMarcus Ware, who was an All-Pro selection even without my original vote.

So here is the question: Do you, as fans, believe a positive drug test can rightfully cost a player a post-season award because his performance was enhanced by a drug?

I obviously do think the award deserved a revote. And I'll live with the results of the majority. But I have a bad taste about giving any award to someone who gains it by cheating.

The reason I'm blogging this is that someone following me on twitter wanted me to vote for Vontae Davis or Sean Smith for DROY. Now, I have no problem voting for local guys. In fact, I feel I know them best as I've watched all their games.

That's the reason I voted for Tony Sparano as coach of the year in 2008 (he didn't win) and voted for Jake Long for All-Pro last year (he got it).

But Vontae Davis or Sean Smith for DROY?

I believe both played well at times. I believe both made strides. I believe both will continue to improve and become better players. But both also had moments in which they struggled.

Davis was beaten deep a handful of times. Smith's coverage was not always as tight as one would want and he didn't have any interceptions. In defending Gibril Wilson at the Indianapolis Combine, general manager Jeff Ireland laid some of the blame for the lapses in the secondary on the rookies.

Byrd, meanwhile, had nine interceptions. No, he wasn't Ronnie Lott in run-support. But which one of you wouldn't have taken nine interceptions from your free safety last year?

So I cast my vote. I'm sticking with it.

Discuss ...

April 16, 2010

Ginn: 'Still have hopes of being an elite receiver'

Ted Ginn may not have been a great receiver for the Dolphins. But he was a great person.

The kid was classy in victory and defeat, in good times and bad. And that continues. He just spoke on a conference call and rather than taking any shots at the Dolphins or the fans that gave him a tough time, he stayed classy.

"I wouldn't say it's a sense of relief but it's always good to have a new start," Ginn said of his departure from Miami. "Going out to the 49'ers is going to give me a brand new start. Leaving Miami, you know, I hold no grudges. I don't have no bad feelings about them or anything. It's just my time was up there and now it was time to move on."

Ginn goes to San Francisco for a fifth round pick -- No. 145 in the coming draft. He goes to San Francisco ostensibly to resolve the 49'ers return problems on special teams. But Ginn is not selling himself short.

"I still have hopes of being an elite receiver," he said. "I don't think that I sell off at all. I just believe that special teams is one of the assets I have in my game. I'm just going to come in and do both."

The Dolphins obviously didn't think Ginn will become elite. That and the acquisition of Brandon Marshall made Ginn expendable. But Ginn doesn't accept the Marshall trade ushered him out of town.

"I didn't really know that," Ginn said. "I can't say, "Yeah, when we picked up Brandon Marshall I knew I was gone.' When we got the trade, I was happy. It was another guy coming to the Miami Dolphins. But in the same sense, you know the game, you know the business.  You're up for anything."

Ginn said he spoke to San Francisco coach Mike Singletary for the first time today.

"He didn't really tell me how he envisions using me," Ginn said. "He said it was a great situation for me and him. Just get down there and let's get with it."

Ginn was asked if he was surprised the Dolphins gave up on him after three years in the league.

"It's a game, it's a business," Ginn said. "They just wanted a new start. But like I said, it's no bad blood. It's the best decision for both of us and we moved on."

March 19, 2010

Henne clarifies Tebow comment, talks WRs

It is a beautiful day in South Florida, a perfect golf day, and that's good because about a dozen Dolphins players are participating in the Athletes in Action charity tournament now.

Chad Henne is participating because he's a good community guy. He talked to reporters today -- The Herald's Jeff Darlington and David J. Neal were there because they love golf -- and they asked Henne about his controversial Tim Tebow comment Wednesday, in which the Dolphins quarterback said, "In my judgment he's not an NFL quarterback. So leave it at that."

Today Henne didn't want to leave it at that. Today Henne was surrounded by reporters that asked better questions. Today Henne backtracked a little bit.

"I didn't really say he wasn't wasn't able to be one," Henne said of Tebow. "We're all in this process, learning how to be an NFL quarterback. Obviously, he's taken the right steps to improve his game. His throwing motion actually looks a lot better with his release and everything. I think his Pro Day went really well and he was happy with it. I can't really say anything. My quarterback coach from college is coaching him in college. We're coming from the same people.

"He's obviously learned a from a lot of good people. And with Urban Meyere up there, he's learned from the best. Those [comments] were way out of proportion, he's not going to be an NFL quarterback. Wherever he goes, he's going to make that team better because he's such a competitor and a great person."

Henne was uncomfortable that the comments got national attention. He was more uncomfortable that his comment was perceived as coming from the Dolphins -- as an inside the Dolphins organization opinion.

"The thing about that is that dragging the Dolphins and our coaching staff into this when it's way out of proportion," Henne said. "I never talked to them about Tebow. They never mentioned anything. It was all what I was perceived to say. I have nothing against him. I really like him as a person. I met him last year up there at Florida working out their receivers and got an opportunity to play against him so he really is a wonderful person and I only wish him the best."

Henne claimed WQAM, where he made the original Tebow remark, cut him off before he could explain his comment. He said he would have liked the opportunity to add that Tebow is working on what he needs to and he liked what he saw.

On the football front, Henne has been consistent in saying he sees improvement from Miami's current WR corps. He believes in those guys. But ...

Henne admits he wouldn't mind the group being improved with a proven player.

"There's definitely guys out there, like you said," Henne said. "There's T.O. [Terrell Owens]. There's Brandon Marshall. There's guys in the draft. Where we're at, we have a bunch of young guys who are definitely learning and going to be explosive in the next coming year.

"But you need kind of a veteran guy that's really going to take hold of our young guys and teach them the right ways."

March 18, 2010

Chad Henne: Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback

Some things in life should not be and I'm about to share a couple with you.

On Wednesday, Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne did an interview on WQAM radio in South Florida and hosts Anita Marks and Curtis Stevenson asked Henne about Tim Tebow.

Thing that should not be No. 1:

"My judgment is that he's not an NFL quarterback," Henne said of Tebow. "So, I'll leave it at that."

Look, Henne has a right to his opinion. But let's be honest here. Chad Henne has started 14 NFL games and thrown 14 interceptions to 12 touchdowns. Henne himself has not yet proven he is an NFL quarterback, either.

Furthermore, if he thinks Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback, what would Henne say about teammate Pat White?

Tebow is a bigger, stronger, more accomplished Pat White. And if Tebow isn't an NFL quarterback doesn't that mean White isn't an NFL quarterback?

Just saying.

Thing that should not be No. 2:

The folks at QAM do a good job. As the former Dolphins flagship station they obviously have spent the past few years overlooking many of the team's flaws. Their ratings, meanwhile, have been on the decline. 

Somewhere along the line if you're going to run a professional sports radio station, you have show at least a tiny semblance of professional journalism, no?

Not at QAM, apparently. After Henne said he didn't think a former Heisman Trophy winner and a two-time National Championship winning QB wasn't NFL material, Marks and Stevenson simply ended the interview.

"OK, enough said," Marks said, abruptly ending the interview.

Actually, enough wasn't said. How about a follow-up question to allow Henne a chance to explain himself and perhaps even get himself off the hook? It doesn't have to be confrontational. How about:

"What are the reasons you have that opinion?"

And if the station needed to go to break, they could have easily held Henne over a segment and asked the follow-up after the break. The point is the show had interesting stuff on the hook but simply threw it back in the water for no good reason.

February 03, 2010

The behind-the-scenes Dolphins soap opera

Like the sands through the hour glass these are the last days of Joey Porter's Dolphins career.

The countdown clock is winding to Porter's certain release from the Miami Dolphins. If that isn't clear to you by now after it's been written on this blog time and again, then you certainly must be getting the drift as Porter continues to slime the team in radio and television interviews the past three weeks.

I must say the best of those interviews came Tuesday and was done by the fine folks over at 560-AM (WQAM in Miami). It was the best because Channing Crowder, paid by the station, convinced Porter to come on for nearly 15 minutes and simply unload.

And by the time the segment was over, Porter had pulled back the curtain on exactly how dysfunctional the Dolphins really were in 2009. As he and Crowder talked you understood players don't really love coach Tony Sparano. You understood how Sparano's penchant for putting a happy face on everything is truly just propaganda. And you recognized how utterly, undeniably delusional Porter really is.

At one point in the interview, Porter actually let these divergent thoughts stream from his mouth as if they could ever belong together: "I got no problem being here," he said. "I think we're headed in the right direction. But I can honestly say I don't want to be back."

Anyway, forget the stuff about Porter being unhappy with being platooned. I've covered that in previous posts. Porter wasn't happy with that at all. But the guy has no grasp on the fact he was authoring a terrible season much of the year when Sparano instilled the platoon system. He doesn't recognize that Cameron Wake was increasingly looking like a sack waiting to happen every time he came in the game.

And Porter apparently doesn't recognize Jason Taylor was simply a more complete player -- defending the run and the pass as well as rushing the passer.

Porter? Regardless of what Sparano wanted you to believe, the next time Porter set the edge of the defense would have been the first time he did that.

And yet Porter apparently sees himself as vastly superior to his teammates.

"If you let us fight for the job, it's not even an argument," he said. "No shots at nobody (really?), but it's not even an argument. All them guys in my room, love them to death, but the outside linebackers, I'm the best one we got. Period. There's nothing to talk about. That's period. Who am I switching with? Why should I be switching with any of them guys."

Later in the interview Porter showed the disdain for which he held the guy about to replace him.

"If you want to play Cameron Wake and them in the game, go ahead," Porter said. "Good luck to you."

I told you yesterday Porter really only had one advocate at Dolphins camp and that was Tony Sparano. And then I told you he had lost Sparano. Apparently the relations went sour well before the end of the season.

"Last seven weeks of the season after missing the Tampa Bay game was no fun for me ...," Porter said. "Going in and being a captain, I went from talking to the coach every day to not talking to the coach no more. Only time I talked to him was on game day. Not talking to nobody. Seeing Jeff Ireland and Bill Parcells and them and nobody saying nothing to you no more. It made me feel like an outcast. The writing's on the wall for me."

Porter was apparently hurt that Sparano lost trust in him and cast him aside like a three-button jacket. And he apparently was somewhat envious that Sparano continued to see Taylor as the team's leader.

"I'm your captain but I'm not in no meetings no more," Porter complained. "Nobody's talking to the captain no more.We lost [Jason] Ferguson. We lost Chad Pennington. We had four. We lost two to injury. So now it's just me and Jason, but Jason't the only one that's meeting with the head coach.

"And he's relaying a message to me: 'Yeah, coach said this because he said you don't want to talk.' Why I don't want to talk? Usually when we call a meeting, you say, 'Joey, Jason come up.' Not just, 'Jason come up.' So everybody don't know everything I went through. That last seven weeks was no fun for me."

BLOG PAUSE HERE. ALTOGETHER FOR JOEY: Aaaahhhh. Joey wasn't having the proper amount of fun as he was making about $5 million last year. Three million people lost their jobs in 2009 but Joey wasn't loving life every second he lived it. Makes me really sad.

Anyway, as I reported to you on January 26th, one of the things that got Porter truly torqued off at Sparano was his suspension for the Tampa Bay game.

And in talking about that episode Porter and Crowder painted the picture of a team on which players don't agree with the head coach and assistants aren't agreeing with the head coach about a player's suspension -- one Sparano was absolutely correct about, by the way.

Team unity was apparently not so united.

"It was an uncomfortable situation amongst the team," Crowder said. "And I know I'm not the only player that thinks that. I know a lot of the guys were too."

Said Porter: "I put it this way, it wasn't a situation to where when [Sparano] sent me home, everybody was on board with that decision. Coaches and players. I got phone calls from coaches telling me, 'Just keep your head up. Fight through it, man. You'll be alright.' Now why you telling me this? 'Cause you know in your heart the deal was just wrong. It was just wrong."

Porter claims he was suspended because after missing two days of practice Wednesday and Thursday, he left his crib Friday night to get dinner. "I went out to get something to eat from 9 to 10:30," he said.

The Dolphins have a different version although they continue to hide behind their veil of silence that frankly has become sort of transparent now. The team believes Porter abused the privilege of being off Wednesday and Thursday by going out Friday night.

"[Sparano] wasn't happy about that, and I've never heard of that before," Porter said. "You know what I mean? Telling a grown man what to do on a Friday. It wasn't Saturday night curfew. I'm talking to him, looking at him and I'm like, "I'm not in here leaking alcohol, getting in the steam room trying to get it out of me. I'm here bright eyed and bushy tailed.' I went to sleep at 10:30. That's good for me. That's great for me."

"Amazing," Crowder chimed in agreement.

Amazing indeed. But not for the reasons these two think.

October 07, 2008

Ronnie Brown Player of Week again? [With poll]

Ronnie Brown is at it again and you can help him.

For the second consecutive week, Brown is nominated for the FedEx Ground player of the week in the NFL. Brown, who gained 125 yards on 24 attempts against the San Diego Chargers Sunday, is a finalist along with Washington's Clinton Portis and Carolina's Angelo Williams.

Portis had 145 yards on 29 carries against Philadelphia and Williams had 123 yards on 20 carries against Kansas City. Obviously, Portis had the more impressive outing as he had more yards and it came against the NFL's No. 1 rush defense.

But that doesn't matter. What matters is how many votes every player gets from you, the fans. That is where you, the fans, come in. Fans can vote right here starting today through 11 a.m. on Friday. The winner is announced Friday afternoon.

This potential honor for Brown, which would be the second of the season for him, got me wondering ... which player is Miami's MVP at the quarter pole?

I know it is only one-quarter of the way through the season, but everyone must admit the Dolphins have accomplished some unexpected things so far. So take the poll below and let me know who your MVP pick is so far.

After you've taken the poll, tell me why you think that player is the MVP in the comments section.

September 14, 2008

Live blog from Dolphins versus Cards today

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Got here extremely early for today's game between the Dolphins and Cardinals and ran into a former league source now working for the Cardinals. Asked him the real chances of his team trading receiver Anquan Boldin this year.

"Zero," he said. "Absolutely zero. I don't know what will happen after the season but I just don't see Anquan going anywhere this year."

So much for the rumors of Boldin coming to the Dolphins. While I wish that could happen for Miami's sake it just isn't in the, pardon the pun, cards. I know Boldin is from Florida. I know his agent Drew Rosenhaus would like to make it happen and continues to press Arizona to trade Boldin.

But the Cards hold all the, pardon the pun again, cards.

They have rebuffed at least one team's inquiry about Boldin and they have refused to give Rosenhaus permission to shop his client.

Understand that doesn't mean Boldin might not be moved in the offseason or some time before his current contract expires in 2010. But he is just as likely to get a new deal in Arizona before then as get traded.

So much for that rumor.

I can report to you that Ernest Wilford will be active today. The Dolphins are making Brandon London inactive to make room for Wilford on the active roster. Ricky Williams is still scheduled to start. Greg Camarillo will start at wide receiver.

Anyway, I hope you guys are ready for today's live blog. It'll start at kickoff. Join me then.

August 19, 2008

Titans showing most interest in Joe Horn

There are rumors the Dolphins are making a play for receiver Joe Horn because, well, he's available.

Agent Ralph Vitolo tells me that he has indeed called the Dolphins to see if they're interested. But he also says as of 6:30 this evening, the Dolphins had not returned his phone call.

Vitolo tells me the Tennessee Titans have shown the most interest in Horn so far and that, "Dallas is also a big possible landing site for Joe."

Horn has narrowed his list of teams he would play for to seven teams and although Vitolo tells me the Dolphins are one of those that I should "stay tuned" to see what transpires, it seems like a stretch for the Dolphins to make a strong play for the 36-year-old Horn.

If this was two weeks ago, I might think it would be likely.

But the truth is the receivers have recovered a little since their difficult start to training camp. They are catching the ball better and, as I reported in an earlier blog post, the coaching staff is thinking Derek Hagan and Ted Ginn Jr. will be the starting duo.

The rest of the receivers corps is still a work in progress but at least the coaches have seen some progress. And that is pleasing to them.

That doesn't mean the Dolphins have settled on keeping their current group of receivers. The Dolphins, with the first waiver claim early this season, will use that on some receivers if they believe one or more guys other teams put on the street are better than the guys they currently have in their locker room.

August 18, 2008

Brown on the way out of Miami? [updated]

ESPN's Chris Mortensen has just reported (sort of) that the Dolphins might get rid of Ronnie Brown before this season begins.

I'm saying Mortensen sort of reported it because, frankly, he backed into the whole subject. The Monday Night Countdown show was doing one of its cheesey segments, this one called 'Sink or Swim,' in which the pundits were giving their opinion whether certain players would succeed or fail this year.

Mortensen was asked about Ricky Williams and while talking about how he would "swim," he went on to say that the Dolphins are so pleased with Williams he "would not be surprised if Ronnie Brown sinks," to the point where "he is playing with another team this season."

Mortensen's reason for Brown being out of here is that the player is "struggling" this preseason.


Before I go on, let me tell you that Mortensen was at Miami's preseason game against Jacksonville Saturday evening and he did spend time talking to general manager Jeff Ireland. So one presumes this comes from Ireland as the source and not just out of sheer speculation.

But it is possible for a GM to sometimes think out loud without having any real expectation of following through on an idea. I also doubt Ireland would expect to see the idea unveiled on national TV.

I would think if Mort, an outstanding reporter by any measure one uses, had the story nailed, he would have come stronger than he just did. I think it would have been his lead comment, not following the Williams sink or swim bunk.

Having said all that, it is true that Brown is clearly not Miami's best RB now. That is Williams. It is true Brown has failed to play all 16 games in any of his three previous seasons. Update: Brown is at practice Tuesday morning and is wearing a significant cast on his right hand that goes halfway up his forearm and wraps around the sprained thumb. He was catching passes only one-handed during the open portion of practice that the media is allowed to see.

Anyway, it is true Brown will be in the final year of his contract in 2009 so the idea of getting something for him now might be attractive.

But I have a hard time believing the Dolphins would simply whack a guy that talented. And I also doubt any team would give the Dolphins the first round pick they invested on Brown in 2005 when you have a glut of running backs still on the market -- including Shaun Alexander and Cedric Benson.

So we shall monitor this one to see if Mort just dropped a bomb or simply lit a lame firecracker. My expectation is this isn't going to happen. And it shouldn't.

August 08, 2008

Pennington looking to 'start' with new team

In a conference call with New York reporters Friday, recently released quarterback Chad Pennington said he's not upset with the New York Jets yada, yada, yada.

And in the comments that matter to Dolphins fans, he says he has several teams he is talking with through his agent, including the Dolphins. Pennington apparently talked directly to Bill Parcells on Friday. Pennington played down the idea of picking the Dolphins because of a revenge factor against the Jets.

"I can say without a shadow of a doubt, I have no feelings on that whatsoever," Pennington said. "If something happens with Miami, it'll be because I feel good about the situation and the opportunity. It won't have anything to do with the New York Jets or me trying to prove a point.

Pennington also said he wants to START. That would pretty much eliminate teams like the Patriots, Giants, Colts and any other team with a solid situation at QB. It does not, on the other hand, eliminate a team like the Dolphins or Kansas City.

"I'm extremely encouraged about it," Pennington said of his new chances elsewhere. "It makes me feel good. I know I'm a good quarterback and I can play this game and can start and help a team win."

As has become their policy, the Dolphins have asked Tom Condon, the agent who represents Pennington, to not speak with the media. (That way they can deny everything if something goes wrong). Pennington is taking that request to heart and not discussing his possible landing spots.

"I certainly don't want to compromise my position and the things that are going on," Pennington said. "I'm glad to have a few teams interested and I'm excited about that."

Despite all this, I still believe Pennington's best course would be to join a team like New England, the Colts or Giants, but that's just me. He knows what is best for himself.


Pennington makes more sense elsewhere

You may be aware in my previous post I mentioned that if Chad Pennington is smart (he is because he was once considered for a Rhodes Scholarship) he should consider going to the New England Patriots.

If he can put his ego aside and admit he's better suited to be a veteran backup than a starter, New England and the New York Giants actually make the most sense for Pennington.

First, he would be going to a pretty good team if he picks either of last season's Super Bowl teams.

In New England, he would be going to a team in the same AFC East that plays the Jets twice per season so the revenge possibilities are there. He would go to a team whose current backup (Matt Cassel) is not very good and had a horrible (1 for 4 with an interception and rating of 0.0) preseason outing Friday night.

Oh, and did I mention Randy Moss plays for the Patriots? Pennington and Moss were close when they were together at Marshall University.

With the Giants, Pennington would again be filling a void as a veteran backup. Today's New York Daily News reports the Giants will take a close look at Pennington.

"We take a look at everybody that's out there," Giants GM Jerry Reese told the newspaper after the Giants' preseason-opening 13-10 loss to the Lions. "That includes him."

The Giants make sense for Pennington because it would not affect his personal life. He wouldn't have to move and uproot himself or his family. Meanwhile, he would be teamed with Eli Manning in the same QB room and they are friends.

The Giants, the defending champs, are also a pretty good team.

The problem in this theory (that is admittedly all it is right now) is that New England nor the Giants probably would pay Pennington as much to be a backup as he might get elsewhere to compete for a starting job. But really, after seven seasons of earning like a starter, it that Pennington's priority?

The point is the talk of Pennington to the Dolphins is very loud. But sometimes that which is whispered makes more sense.

August 07, 2008

Chad Pennington hits free agent market [update]

Chad Pennington is now a free agent, having been released by the Jets at 4 p.m.

The Miami Herald and other media organizations are reporting the Dolphins and Tom Condon, the agent for the jettisoned former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, have discussed Pennington playing for Miami.

I would warn you that it is an initial conversation, although the sides have already talked twice today. Condon, meanwhile, is also reaching out to other teams with the Vikings and Kansas City being among them.

[UPDATE] The Vikings I am now being told by an NFL source are not enthusiastic about Pennington. The Kansas City Chiefs, coached by Herm Edwards, are also interested in Pennington, according to an NFL source. Edwards coached Pennington in New York. If I am Pennington, I try to get on the New England Patriots, whose backup situation is terrible.

This nonetheless has the feel of the Dolphins being aggressive.

And so here are some things to consider:

1. Condon, the agent, is not about doing anyone a favor. Assuming there is more than one team interested in Pennington, Condon will try to get some sort of guarantees from the team, among them an open competition for the starting job if he can get it. The Dolphins would give him that opportunity.

2. Condon is going to try to milk as much money for Pennington as possible. It would be a contract that would pay Pennington upwards of $5-$6 million if he plays a certain percentage of downs. So this won't be a cheap acquisition if Pennington is the starter.

3. Pennington would be attracted to the Dolphins because it gives him two opportunities to stick it to the Jets. But he'd also be very attracted to Minnesota because the Vikes play a West Coast offense and they play indoors, which mitigate his questionable arm strength.

4. What does this all mean for Josh McCown and John Beck? Bad news. We all know that Chad Henne is the quarterback the Dolphins will look toward next season and perhaps even late this season. Short-term this was to be a team either McCown or Beck were to lead.

But clearly if the Dolphins pull the trigger on Pennington, it shows they believe a guy who has had two throwing shoulder surgeries, was hurt much of last year and lost his starting job and wasn't really assured of winning the job in New York, is better than either McCown or Beck. And if Pennington makes the team it clearly means either Beck or McCown are OUT, GONE, HASTA LA VISTA, CIAO, BON VOYAGE.

The fallout from Favre trade to the Jets

Brett Farve is a New York Jet. He was traded minutes ago from the Packers to the Dolphins' AFC East rival for a conditional draft pick.

The Jets say they will release or trade quarterback Chad Pennington by the end of business Thursday. All this assuming Favre doesn't change his mind at the last minute and stays retired. I had to add that equivocation because I spoke to one NFL source this evening who told me Favre's mindset is such that he ebbs and flows like the tide lately.

Anyway, if Favre doesn't have any change of heart, he will likely be the Jets' starting quarterback in the regular-season opener against .... Your Miami Dolphins.

So here are the questions:

Do you think Miami's chances of pulling an upset just got better or worse?

Do you wish Favre had gone to the Bucs instead, meaning he wouldn't see the Dolphins this year?

Do you think the Dolphins should make a play for Pennington? It likely won't take but a seventh round pick to get him from New York. And before folks get crazy here, understand that Pennington would become a free agent if he is released. He will not go on waivers so the Dolphins don't get first dibs on him. He would be a free agent.

July 25, 2008

Keep your eyes on Dolphins WR position

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told reporters today that receiver Terry Glenn will be released

Glenn is 34 years old and has knee issues which is the reason the Cowboys didn't want to risk letting him get injured in training camp. That might land Glenn on injured reserve and force the Cowboys to pay his $1.74 million salary without getting production in return.

So Glenn goes. Because he is a veteran with a certain amount of vested seasons, Glenn will not go through waivers. His contract is terminated. So he will be a free agent.

I don't think I have to remind you the Dallas connection involved here. The fact the Dolphins need receivers help and the fact Bill Parcells was with New England and became a fan of Glenn once owner Robert Kraft forced the coach to draft him.

Stay tuned to that.

There are also reports out of Arizona that receiver Anquan Boldin, although unhappy, will remain with the Arizona Cardinals. Although he said he would not re-sign with the team when his current contract expires in 2010, Boldin has said publicly he will, in fact, be with the Cards until 2010.

Well, this situation also demands scrutiny by the Dolphins.

An NFL source is telling me that while Boldin is showing some displeasure with the Cards in public, that is only part of the picture. Privately he is "disgusted" the Cardinals promised him a new contract and, in his mind, reneged on that promise. Boldin, a two-time Pro Bowl performer, currently makes $4 million per season. He thinks the team should make good on its promise and give him a bump that would bring him closer to the nearly $10 million per year fellow Cards receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes.

Agent Drew Rosenhaus, who represents Boldin, flew to Arizona Thursday then drove to Flagstaff to meet with the Cardinals. The source is telling me the meeting included very serious talk about Boldin not being in Arizona anymore.

"I think Boldin will be in play," the NFL source said. "The Cardinals don't want to trade him. But I don't think the Giants wanted to trade Jeremy Shockey and the Dolphins didn't want to trade Jason Taylor. And we know how that turned out. When a team has an unhappy player in camp, it is not a comfortable situation for anyone."

Rosenhaus was traveling Friday and was not available for comment.

So why am I telling you this stuff?

You put this together: The Cardinals have a disgruntled 27-year-old receiver who has appeared in multiple Pro Bowls. He is from Pahokee, FL. He played at Florida State. He loves South Florida. Did I mention the Dolphins have a HUGE need to improve their receivers corps? They have a spare second-round pick they just got in the Jason Taylor trade. And they have approximately $21 million in salary cap space that they cannot possibly spend before the end of this season.

Can you say perfect fit?

I am not saying the Dolphins have contacted the Cardinals about Boldin, although at least one team has since it became public Boldin is unhappy in Arizona. I am saying the Dolphins should contact the Cardinals to weigh the possibilities.

Not doing that when Miami has such a clear need at the position would border on irresponsibility. And neither Bill Parcells nor Jeff Ireland are irresponsible. That is why this situation deserves to be monitored.

As you all know, training camp practices begin in earnest Saturday morning. Check back often as I will be updating this blog before the drills end and then again afterward.

July 21, 2008

News and notes following Jason Taylor trade

Clearing out the notebook of things I have been told and have witnessed:

1. Dolphins football czar Bill Parcells likes to make the point that he is neither the Dolphins coach nor general manager. Not his job, he says. Tony Sparano is the coach and Jeff Ireland is the GM. And while Parcells isn't actually going to be on the sideline coaching, he definitely is serving as GM, casting an immense shadow over Ireland.

When it came time to make the decisions on the Jason Taylor deal this week, it was Parcells making the call. When Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato went looking for a defensive end to replace Phillip Daniels, he called Parcells not Ireland. He negotiated with Parcells, not Ireland.

"We went out to practice at 3 p.m., and I talked to Bill Parcells probably like three times on the practice field, back and forth," Cerrato told ESPN radio on Monday. "We went and discussed some different terms, we came in after practice, talked to 3 or 4 of the veterans players, and asked them what they thought, what type of guy and everything Taylor is and they said great guy. Everything was positive. I called Parcells back around 6:15 and told him, we'll do the deal. We faxed papers back and forth, got Jason Taylor on the phone and we were done."

According to Peter King of Sports Illustrated, Parcells was so in charge of the deal, he even told Cerrato: "All right, I'll fax you the paperwork. It's done."

I don't think any of us should have a problem with any of this. I think everyone can agree Parcells has a reputation that Ireland doesn't yet have and his experience also trumps the young GM's experience. But let's drop the pretenses, shall we?

The Dolphins, for whatever reason, continue to insist that Parcells is a shadow contributor while Ireland is the decision-maker. When the team finally got around to confirming the trade the entire Western Hemisphere knew had been made hours earlier, they released quotes from Wayne Huizenga and Ireland. I can understand Huizenga's statement was necessary because the owner has a history with Taylor, a long-time contributor. But if teams are speaking almost exclusively to Parcells, if the rest of the NFL understand Parcells is running the show, don't Miami fans deserve to hear from him?

Everyone knows Parcells is the ultimate decision-maker, deal-maker, and lord of all football realms in Miami. Teams around the league have no problem acknowledging it. Wish the Dolphins would.

2. As I reported yesterday, the Dolphins were involved with a couple of teams on the Taylor front. New Orleans and the Giants were involved with Miami in some talks and it should come as no surprise those two teams made a trade today, sending tight end Jeremy Shockey to New Orleans for multiple draft picks.

Apparently, New Orleans coach Sean Payton was so eager to get Shockey, he tried to involve the Dolphins in a three-way deal with New York. The Saints would get Shockey, the Giants would have gotten Jason Taylor and the Dolphins woul have gotten draft picks.

I cannot confirm how far those talks went (not far enough, apparently) but one source tells me earlier this offseason the Giants and Dolphins were talking about making a Shockey for Taylor deal. That conversation obviously didn't go very far either, but geez, doesn't that deal sound a whole lot more palatable for Miami than what it eventually got for Taylor?

Shockey for Taylor? Maybe I'm showing my love for The U -- yeah I've got a Miami license plate on one of my cars -- but I would have loved this trade. A 27-year-old Pro Bowl tight end trumps a 2009 second round pick any day in my book. And a 27-year-old Pro Bowl tight end for a 33-year-old defensive end sounds like a good deal for Miami.

But I guess the Dolphins (Parcells) decided he didn't want the New York malcontent coming to his Miami team and possibly, you know, ruining the great offensive chemistry the Dolphins already have in their passing game. Plus why would anyone want to upgrade over David Martin?

I understand the minuses of getting Shockey, but I see a lot on the plus side that the future draft pick doesn't offer.

3. Anybody notice how everyone in this whole JT saga pretty much lost credibility with things they said?

Parcells in March: "The only way Jason Taylor does not play for the Dolphins is if he retires. The team is not going to trade him."

Taylor in June: "I told the Dolphins my intentions from Day One. My intentions are to play one more year."

Um, in case you haven't noticed, Taylor was traded Sunday contrary to what Parcells said. And Taylor immediately told the Redskins he would be happy to play out the remaining two years of his current contract and left open the possibility of signing a new deal after that.

4. Taylor had not talked to former Miami teammate, brother-in-law and new rival Zach Thomas as of Monday afternoon. "I'll see Zach in a different way now," Taylor said at his press conference Monday afternoon. "He made me a better player over the years. But now he's with the Cowboys and those aren't good words around here."

5. Taylor, who reads this blog religiously and was upset with moi when I suggested he lied danced around requesting a trade, is concerned about his legacy with Miami fans.

"You always worry about perception because sometimes it can become reality for some people," Taylor said. "When the media starts to paint a picture a certain way, you can't address everything. There are so many blogs and writers out now that you can't address everything. And sometimes the perception becomes so big that it disappoints you. And sometimes you have to look at the body of work. He's done this for so long and this is the kind of guy he is. He's done it this way, week in and week out and year in and year out so we have to give him the benefit of the doubt. Because you can't address everything."

5. The Dolphins get a very nice cap relief after trading Taylor. The just cleared something on the order of $7-7.5 million. That means they have approximately $21 million under the cap. Now they can go out and shop aggressively in free agency ... or not.

Your thoughts?

July 16, 2008

If Tampa Bay is too hot for Favre, what is Miami?

Favre The St. Petersburg Times has a blog post that reports erstwhile Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre has told sources Tampa Bay is "too hot" for him as a possible landing spot should he be traded or released by the Packers. Seems of all the teams he might be interested in, he prefers to practice and play in cooler weather.

Two quick thoughts:

1. If true, you can lump South Florida in that thinking because, after all, it is hotter here than in Tampa.

2. This is ridiculous because the guy is from Kiln, Mississippi. I've been there. Winter doesn't come until December and the summer is hotter there than on the back side of the sun.

Having watched Favre's exclusive interview with Fox News the last couple of nights, it seems clear to me he would like to go back to the Packers and be the starter and that's what he expected would happen when he reached out to the organization June 20th to say he wanted to play again.

But he's been rebuffed by GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy. Favre said they told him "We've moved on," but then they added they couldn't envision him playing for anyone else, either. Favre also said he hasn't envisioned himself playing for anyone else.

The fact is, however, that visions change. It would not surprise if the Packers eventually try to trade Favre. I had longtime Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reporter Tom Silverstein on my radio show Tuesday afternoon and he said a trade to the Dolphins makes sense.

(I cringed, by the way, because I don't believe it does.)

Silverstein said he could see Bill Parcells convincing Favre to come to the Dolphins if that is what Parcells wants. He agreed it would require a two-year commitment from Favre, but said Parcells would sell Favre on the possibility Miami could be 8-8 this year and a Super Bowl contender next year.

Again: I am telling you what a Green Bay reporter said. I didn't say I agree with it because I think I'm clearly on record as saying it doesn't make sense for the Dolphins to chase Favre. It doesn't make sense for the Dolphins to spend the entire offseason building for the future and then at the last second deviate from that plan by adding a soon-to-be 39-year-old quarterback.

I asked Silverstein about compensation for Favre and we're both agreed ... Jason Taylor is the logical answer. You have a DE that may play only one more year being exchanged for a QB that may play one or two more years.

Of course, that wouldn't make Taylor happy because he's spent much of his career playing with unproven quarterbacks in great weather and might not see playing another year with an unproven quarterback in awful Green Bay weather as an upgrade. But that is life.

And Silverstein reminded me Keith Jackson once upon a time was traded from Miami to Green Bay and didn't want to report before relenting, and playing, and winning a Super Bowl ring.

Still ... it just doesn't add up for me.

July 09, 2008

Henne, Merling may want to wait to sign deals

The Dolphins have three players they need to get signed before training camp opens July 26 -- second-rounders Phillip Merling and Chad Henne and third-rounder Kendall Langford. And while the agents for all three predicted the week following the July 4th holiday would bring the start of serious negotiations, it has not brought a serious agreement.

All three will get done eventually, but there may not be an agreement until late next week at the earliest if the agents for the two second-rounders in particular follow the advice of the NFL Players Association.

The problem Henne and Merling are having with the Dolphins is the same as most second-rounders are having around the league: Because they sign four-year deals and there is no collective bargaining agreement in place for that fourth year (2011), it is creating problems in negotiations.

The problems stem from the fact most second-round deals the past couple of years have included a one-time bonus that was guaranteed in that fourth and final year of the deal. But that isn't available to players this year. Teams are offering to give the guarantee and bonus in the second year, but agents trying to protect their clients from being cut don't see that as a concession as most players picked that high wouldn't get cut in the second year of their deals anyway.

The NFLPA has cautioned all agents to proceed very slowly with their negotiations now through next week when the union and the NFL Management Council will go before a Special Master to iron out the issue.

The Special Master may or may not have a decision before the end of the week but if you have a calendar handy, you see where this is starting to get a little sticky.

Assuming the Special Master brings a decision by next week, that will clear the decks for the sides to strike a deal in approximately seven days before Miami's first practice. That doesn't make it impossible to get Henne and Merling signed and on the field for the first day of drills, but neither does it bode as an easy assignment.

So far only one player selected in the second round has signed a deal.

Thinking out loud: Wow I got through that without ripping a politician again today.

July 08, 2008

Dolphins marketing changes course -- again

You might recall a couple of months back the Dolphins sort of unveiled a 2008 marketing campaign that, really, no one but the high-priced genius who came up with it understood.

The campaign boldly insisted Dolphins fans should "Respect the Code." Problem was that no one respected the idea behind the campaign. Ticket sales early this offseason were not great even though the team's internal optimism was soaring with the arrival of Bill Parcells.

Well, the code campaign has apparently passed on to marketing heaven and now the team's new campaign is "A New Beginning." If you live in South Florida, you probably have seen the billboards featuring GM Jeff Ireland, Parcells and coach Tony Sparano lining the highways and byways.

The campaign uses the novel approach of not promoting any player -- you know, the guys most folks pay to see -- because apparently the Dolphins don't think any of their players would sell tickets. Even Jason Taylor is not a candidate because the Dolphins were 1-15 with him last year and his status for 2008 is, shall we say, uncertain.

A Dolphins spokesman tried to convince me recently that rather than bill this new campaign as a complete departure from the code failure, I should portray the change as the result of an "evolving" strategy. Yeah, right. And Barack Obama is not flip-flopping on Iraq and campaign financing and his ties to that "church" he attended for 20 years but now disavows.

Anyway, the Dolphins change in marketing course is nothing that should surprise as they have been "evolving" on other fronts also, not the least of which is ticket pricing. Remember that January news release from the team that boldly stated ticket prices would not be raised through the spring?

Well it is summer. And ticket prices have risen from last year.

On a season-ticket basis, which is the only thing we can go by right now as single-game tickets are not yet available, the Dolphins raised prices across the board with the lone exception of upper prime seats which remain at $81.

Lower sideline seats went from $92 last year to $98 this year. Lower corner and endzone seats went from $77 to $82. Upper sideline seats went from $65 to $70. Upper corner and upper endzone (rows 1-4) went from $55 to $59. Upper corner and endzones went from $39 to $42. And economy section seats went from $29 to $31.

We shall see in the coming months if the new campaign can overcome the fact Miami was the worst team in the NFL last season. We shall see if the team can keep from losing season-ticket buyers from the previous year for the fourth time in five years (2006 it went up.)

But mostly we shall see if South Florida Dolfans and Dolfans in general believe this latest "new beginning" is worth the higher price of admission.

July 07, 2008

Former Dolphins exec Bob Ackles dies [Updated]

Bob Ackles, who was Jimmy Johnson's right-hand man in personnel matters from 1996 through January of 2000, has died.

Ackles suffered an apparent heart attack Sunday while on his boat, according The Canadian Press. He was 69 years old.

Ackles worked for the Dolphins, Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals and in the CFL for the BC Lions. Following his five seasons with the Dolphins, he had a short stint with the Las Vegas Outlaws before that XFL team and the league went belly-up.

Ackles was hired by Johnson because he impressed the coach while both worked for the Dallas Cowboys in the early 90s. Ackles did everything from negotiate contracts to suggest player signings. His management style was sometimes brusque, sometimes haphazard. There were a couple of instances when he clashed with others within the Miami organization but generally he was well-liked. When Dave Wannstedt took over in 2000 Ackles was demoted and that ultimately hastened his departure by 2001.

Ackles' greatest contribution to the Dolphins was tapping into his CFL knowledge. He was the man most responsible for bringing guard Mark Dixon to the Dolphins. Dixon became a starter in 1998 and played at near Pro Bowl levels before being sidelined by injuries.

It was in the CFL that Ackles, a Canadian, made his greatest impact. He started out as the first water boy of the BC Lions in the 1950s. He was serving as the team's president and CEO when he passed. Ackles celebrated that rise by titling his autobiography The Water Boy.

He named his boat The Water Buoy. It was on that boat that Ackles breathed his last. He apparently was fetching a newspaper when he just dropped.

Ackles is survived by his wife Kay, two sons Scott and Steve, and five grandchildren.

Update: Dolphins head trainer Kevin O'Neill, one of the few remaining holdovers from the Johnson era, found out of Ackles' passing Sunday evening and informed the team. Today the Dolphins made a significant editing change to their media guide as it arrived at the printer. The 2008 Dolphins media guide will mark Ackles' passing and be dedicated to his memory.

Updated again: The Dolphins have released a statement from team president Bryan Wiedmeier. Here it is:

"We were saddened to learn about the untimely passing of our friend and colleague, Bob Ackles. During his time in Miami, no one worked harder than he did to maintain our success. He was highly respected by everyone he worked with, both within the Dolphin organization and throughout the National Football League.

“Bob started every day with a smile and kept that same upbeat disposition no matter the circumstances. As someone who worked his way up the pro football ladder from the bottom, he never forgot his roots. He would treat ball boys and interns the same way he did coaches and players  --  with respect, appreciation, and admiration.

"He will be missed by everyone who was lucky enough to know him, and on behalf of the entire Dolphin organization I want to express our condolences to his wife, Kay, and his family.”