Some notes and thoughts on today’s unusual turn of events at Dolphins camp (and a few other items):
### Don’t believe I had ever heard a player accuse his coach of creating a distraction until Ryan Tannehill did that today.
Joe Philbin’s refusal to publicly name Tannehill the starter --- despite telling him privately that he will start Sunday against Oakland --- “creates a bunch of stir and a bunch of distraction in the locker-room, mostly from the outside coming in and guys having to deal with the distraction of it,” Tannehill said. “It’s not a good feeling.”
Philbin is a pleasant, decent man, but he does himself no favors with his quirkiness, verging on media paranoia at times. Several players privately are questioning how he has handled this.
But other than Tannehill, the only player willing to express any real opinion about this on the record today was Matt Moore.
Asked if he agreed with Tannehill that this has created a distraction, Moore said: “Maybe a little bit.... Absolutely nothing has changed. I’ve taken zero reps at practice.”
Moore said he also was given no indication that he might be summoned off the bench during Sunday’s game if Tannehill struggles.
But Moore admitted Philbin’s refusal to commit publicly to Tannehill “kind of caught me off guard.”
Moore said the situation is a little bit awkward “considering I’m answering questions like Cam Newton.”
### So why won't Philbin say publicly what he decided two days ago: that Tannehill will start?
According to a league source, Philbin is doing this because he doesn’t want to violate his self-imposed policy of not identifying starters publicly.
But Philbin has made exceptions before, such as noting before the opener that Daryn Colledge and Shelley Smith would start at guard. Philbin was not trying to motivate Tannehill, the source said.
### One player said Philbin did not address the quarterback situation with the team but it was obvious to everyone that Tannehill would be the starter because he took all the first-team snaps the past two days.
### Last year, Philbin called Tony Dungy because he was concerned that Dungy, on NBC, was criticizing his handling of the Dolphins’ bullying scandal.
But Philbin on Wednesday voiced no complaints about Dungy’s or Jason Taylor’s criticism of his handling of the quarterback situation. (If you missed it, please see my last post for what Dungy and Taylor said.)
“I think everybody is entitled to their opinion," Philbin said. "They certainly can feel free to express it, and at the end of the day, I have to go to sleep and put my head on the pillow and do what I think is the right thing. I have no issues with any of that.”
### This is the latest example where Philbin’s secrecy does him more harm than good. In the past, Philbin has refused to explain the practice-day absences of players whose wives were giving birth (including John Denney) or who had family illnesses, causing reporters to wonder if the players had done something wrong.
Last August, when Richie Incognito did not retaliate after Houston’s Antonio Smith yanked off his helmet, Philbin was asked by reporters if he was pleased how Incognito handled himself. Philbin said at the time that it’s not for him to judge that, withholding praise of a player who deserved it in that one particular case. But in a meeting with his team, Philbin praised Incognito’s restraint.
Philbin can handle these matters any way he wants --- it’s his team --- but the approach is often counter-productive. Tannehill’s reaction today was the best example of that.
### Tannehill ranks tied for 12th in the league in touchdown passes with four and has thrown just two interceptions. But he ranks 29th in passer rating (74.1), completion percentage (56.5) and last in the league in average yards per completion (five).
He’s 35th in fourth-quarter passing rating, at, 51.6. That ranks ahead of only Colin Kaepernick and Tom Brady. He’s 29th in third-down passer rating at 63.7.
### Whereas the Raiders have been in London since Monday --- six days before they play the Dolphins --- the Dolphins will not travel to England until Thursday evening.
Philbin decided his team would be better served by having a normal practice week and flying to London at 5 p.m. Thursday.
The team will have a light practice on Friday in London.
“We are going to jump on the plane and feed them a big meal,” Philbin said. “Hopefully, they’ll sleep, get to London and make it a normal Friday. That was the thought process.”
Philbin sought input from assistant coaches Mark Duffner and Jack Bicknell, who worked for teams (Jacksonville, Pittsburgh) that played in London last season.
“We talked to other teams, and we came to a conclusion that this was the best way for us to prepare for this game,” Philbin said.
### The Dolphins ruled out running back Knowshon Moreno (elbow) for Sunday’s game, and it would be surprising if guard Shelley Smith (knee) and center Mike Pouncey (hip) play Sunday.
Smith, defensive lineman Randy Starks (back) and tight end Charles Clay (knee) missed Wednesday’s practice. Pouncey (hip) was one of 14 players who practiced on a limited basis, with linebacker Koa Misi and Pouncey among the others.
### CBS is sending Dolphins-Raiders to only eight percent of the country: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers/Naples, Tallahassee, Panama City Beach, Dothan, Ala., Albany, Ga., Reno, Nevada; Northern California and a few markets in Oregon. Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts, CBS' No. 2 team, were assigned to the game because the network isn't going to send a low-tiered announcing team to a game in London.
Al Golden took accountability for UM’s defensive struggles today, as he often does publicly.
Asked about the run defense, he said: “We have to do a lot of things differently starting with me, the way we're practicing. Whatever changes we have to make schematically, whatever personnel changes, maybe we need to see this player more than another player. We need to tackle better, generate more losses, both sacks and TFL's. And just in general everyone just execute the defense as it's called….
"I think everybody in the building is accountable to it right now starting with me. We need to improve. We certainly need to improve our run fits, our tackling, need to generate more TFL's and negatives and then we can't give up the deep ball. [Duke] really hurt us on the perimeter a year ago.”
Are the players on defense afraid to make mistakes?
“I don't think,” he said. “We had some guys on defense that told me afterward `I was just trying to make a play.' We need to just do our job We need much better effort this week.”
So were players freelancing, which has been a problem in the past?
“No, no, no,” he said. “I don't want to get into all that. And those guys after Louisville said the same thing [of]` Oh, I was just trying to make a play.' We need to settle in and do our job. Not bigger than that.”
MORE UM REACTION
Several commentators weighed in this week on WQAM (with Adam Kuperstein, Channing Crowder and Orlando Alzugaray). Among the remarks:
ESPN2’s Brock Huard, who called the UM-Nebraska game and also will work Saturday’s UM-Duke game with Joe Tessitore: “They in some ways played to the strength of [Nebraska’s] run game.”
Former UM player Randall Hill: "The players are definitely there [at UM]. The minute they go to the NFL, they’re great. [With the scheme], make a change. Fix it. Stop deceiving yourselves and do something about it."
Yahoo and former ESPN analyst Sean Salisbury: "How can the University of Miami in Coral Gables, where in a stretch of 100 square miles you can find the best running backs, receivers, linebackers on the planet, [be playing like this]? This isn’t Bowling Green. We’re not talking about Texas State University. This is Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin.
"And you’re telling me with athletes bigger, faster, stronger that Jimbo Fisher is such a better recruiter and such a better coach and hires better coaches that Miami can’t do better? I don’t know if it’s scheme or players.These Canes fans in South Florida deserve better. The Miami Hurricanes can’t tolerate what’s going on campus. They’re getting their butt kicked up and down."
ESPN has suspended Bill Simmons for three weeks for repeatedly calling Roger Goodell a liar in a profanity-laced commentary.
"I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the tape and they knew what was on it," Simmons said on his B.S. Report podcast. "Goodell, if he didn't know what was on that tape, he's a liar. I'm just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying. If you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. For all these people to pretend they didn't know is such [expletive, expletive]. It really is --- it's such [expletive expletive]. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted. I really was."
Simmons, the Grantland editor, then challenged his ESPN employers to discipline him for saying that.
"I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I'm in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell, because if one person says that to me, I'm going public," Simmons said. "You leave me alone. The commissioner is a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast."
ESPN accepted Simmons' challenge to suspend him, releasing this statement this evening:
“Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent NFL coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons did not meet those obligations in a recent podcast, and as a result we have suspended him for three weeks.”
ESPN suspended him not only because Simmons challenged his employer to do it but also because of the personal nature of his attacks against Goodell.
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