In a surprising and upsetting development, the Marlins today dropped TV analyst Tommy Hutton, who did exemplary work for 19 seasons.
My breaking of the story on Twitter elicited a flood of comments in support of Hutton --- and all justifiable.
Hutton was candid, critical when needed, sharp, alert, insightful, personable and achieved terrific chemistry with Rich Waltz.
Hutton was the best TV analyst in South Florida, and frankly, one of the best we’ve ever had in this market.
Hutton and Waltz kept broadcasts entertaining even when the score was lopsided --- one of the biggest compliments you can give an announcing team.
The Marlins said Waltz will be retained as the team’s TV play-by-play voice.
Hutton said the Marlins gave him no explanation for not renewing his contract.
“All I got was we've made a decision to go in another direction,” he said. “They insisted it wasn't about budget. I was surprised and shocked the way it was handled given the fact it was two months into the offseason and a couple days before Thanksgiving.”
The Marlins have had only two TV analysts in their 23-year history: Hutton, 69, and deceased former All-Star catcher Gary Carter, who held the job for the team’s first four seasons.
“I am thankful to have worked 51 years in this game,” Hutton said. “I am thankful to have spent the last 19 doing Marlins baseball.
“I am in no way thinking about retiring. I still love the game, still have passion, still have energy.”
The Marlins declined to explain reasons for the decision.
PJ Loyello, the team’s senior vice president/communications and broadcasting, said only: “It was a mutual decision between Fox and the ball club and we decided to go in a different direction.”
Fox wouldn’t comment beyond this statement: “This was a joint decision with the Marlins to move forward with a new color analyst beginning next season. We thank Tommy for his calls and contributions over the years at FOX Sports Florida.”
The team has not targeted a replacement for Hutton. A search will begin shortly.
The Marlins said radio announcers Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner will be retained.
Highlights from Dan Campbell's news conference today:
### The team had a meeting today that became emotional at times. Ndamukong Suh was among those who spoke up and, according to a source fully briefed on the meeting, was angry and direct and blunt with his teammates, calling for accountability.
But Dan Campbell declined to discuss what Suh said, saying it should stay in the building.
"We pointed out our errors and guys owned up to them and had a good talk about it," Campbell said. "We always have emotional days after a loss. Guys handled it well. They took ownership. There were enough guys that were frustrated. There is one cure and it's winning. Things are going to be said that people don't mean, no matter who you are."
### Campbell went over the bad plays with the entire team and "I said tell me what happened on this play? We had guys who took ownership of it. They owned up to it. It wasn't a call-out session. It was a take ownership session. Guys did that. To me, it's a step in the right direction."
### On Suh: "The more you can move him around, especially when you move him out to the end, he's less likely to get doubled. The odds of him getting doubled go way down. We felt it would be good to move him around, get some mismatches on the end. Suh has played good football and is trying to bring guys with him."
### On Vernon: "Olivier has played good football, really stepped up his game."
### He said Bobby McCain's snaps dropped to 95 a week ago to 1 on Sunday because of "Brice McCain's injury. Bobby is really a nickel. We had a package with Philly."
### "We need to do a much better job on play action passes. When we do it right, we can be good. We are good, when we protect him."
### On why Misi didn't play: "Koa felt OK [a couple hours before the game]. After warmups, after he was able to warm up and move around, he couldn't go."
### He said he needs to do a better job telling players specifically why they're called for penalties during practice.
### On being 1 for 10 on third down: "There were two good set-ups. We had an opportunity to make the play and we didn't. That's two of them. We put ourselves in a bind. Penalties killed us, which put us in third and long."
### On Matt Darr's personal foul penalty: "It hurt us, cost us. Maybe we should find another position for him to play as well as punter. The penalty cost us, but the kid was trying to make a play. We probably have the toughest punter in the league or most aggressive."
### On why Miami (again) didn't run more: "Lamar [Miller] had a pretty good average, Jay [Ajayi] had it going. I would always tilt toward wanting to run it more than we do.... We kind of did what we had to do."
He mentioned when Miami ran it three times in a row, a holding call on Jason Fox made it 3rd and nine and foiled that drive.
"When you want to run it more, you get crap like that," Campbell said, not mentioning Fox by name.
### On why he punted down 10 with just under seven minutes left: "Was our defense great? No. It was good. I thought we would get a pin. Thought we wouldn't have to use timeouts."
### Can Miami win if it continues being unable to top 20 points (the Dolphins have topped 20 twice in 10 games).
"My first answer is no. But then your defense has to really pull the slack. If they need to do that, make sure the opponent doesn't score one more point than thus, then that's how it goes. [But] that's a hard way to live. We need to be more scoring more than 21 points a game."
### On life at 4-6: "It's still out there for us. When we do it right, we can play with anybody in the league."
The Dolphins made this abundantly clear during the offseason:
They needed to develop their young players, mostly their own draft picks, and give them meaningful roles, instead of throwing free agent money at every position.
As a theory, in a vacuum, that approach seems prudent.
But it doesn’t work if the players are flawed.
And in the Dolphins’ case, that invest-in-your-own approach hasn’t worked out nearly as well as management hoped at three positions that concerned them all offseason: guard, strongside linebacker and boundary cornerback.
Last spring, the Dolphins decided they would invest in three young guards (Dallas Thomas, Billy Turner and Jamil Douglas), an undrafted second-year player at strongside linebacker (Chris McCain) and second- and third-round draft picks at the cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes (Jamar Taylor and Will Davis).
The only veterans added at those positions were journeymen making at or near the minimum: guard/tackle Jeff Linkenbach, guard Jacques McClendon, linebacker Spencer Paysinger and cornerback Zack Bowman. Brice McCain was given a two-year, $5.5 million deal to replace Jimmy Wilson at slot corner.
The Chris McCain project fall apart rather quickly; he was beaten out by Kelvin Sheppard in training camp, meaning Koa Misi returned to strongside linebacker, and McCain was then shifted to fifth-string defensive end.
And even with the injury to Cameron Wake, McCain has played only 37 snaps all season, including just four Sunday.
At guard, Douglas – the team’s 2015 fourth-round pick – was benched after four weeks, after allowing the most quarterback hurries of any guard in the league.
Turner, who replaced him, hasn’t been awful but has had a few regrettable penalties and is rated in the bottom half of guards by Pro Football Focus (58th of 81).
The bigger problem has been Thomas, who is rated 80th of 81 qualifying guards by PFF. The fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to Dallas epitomized Thomas’ struggles as a Dolphin.
With Miami trailing 21-14 early in the fourth, Thomas was beaten by a Cowboys rusher on third down, forcing Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball prematurely (and inaccurately) to Jarvis Landry.
On Miami’s next drive, with the Cowboys leading 24-14, Tyrone Crawford beat Thomas for a sack on 2nd and 6, resulting in an 11-yard loss. The Dolphins punted two plays later.
At cornerback, the Dolphins are still searching for an above-average option opposite Brent Grimes. They hoped Taylor or Davis would be, but Davis was dealt to Baltimore for a seventh-round pick on Sept. 21 and then sustained a torn ACL for the second time in a year.
Taylor, meanwhile, has slipped to 105th of 112 qualifying cornerbacks, according to PFF’s ratings of 2015 performance.
This is also disconcerting: Taylor has allowed 33 of the 50 passes thrown in his coverage area to be caught this season, and 70 of 103 in his career, equaling 68 percent.
On Sunday, Taylor allowed four catches for 79 yards against Terrance Williams, committed a defensive holding penalty (which negated a drive-ending sack by Olivier Vernon), and was beaten by Williams for a touchdown pass on that drive. “I played horrible,” Taylor said.
Pro Football Focus was unforgiving in its analysis of Taylor:
“The Dolphins’ issues in the secondary mostly center on the struggles of the corners,” PFF said Monday. “Brent Grimes (+0.1 Sunday) is having a down season, even if he had a solid game against the Cowboys, especially in coverage (+1.2). Really though, it’s right corner Jamar Taylor who is the biggest issue.
“He has graded positively just three times all year and had a few really poor games in coverage. This was the worst of his season, as he recorded a -3.8 grade. Taylor gave up all five targets as completions for 98 yards and a touchdown. He allowed himself to get beat deep on the third-and-long for Williams’ touchdown.
“Taylor subsequently gave up a number of underneath throws, particularly comebacks, falling down on one such play. It enabled the Cowboys to move the ball efficiently without having to take any risks.”
Two weeks ago, the Dolphins were hopeful that rookie fifth-round pick Bobby McCain could become a major factor at boundary corner. But after playing 95 snaps against Philadelphia, McCain played only one on Sunday.
### The Dolphins allocated only 33 snaps to their entire 2015 draft class on Sunday: four by first-round receiver DeVante Parker, 16 for second-round defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, 12 for fifth-round running back Jay Ajayi and one for McCain. (Undrafted rookies played more than drafted rookies.)
The Dolphins need to get their rookie draft picks more work when they’re realistically/mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, if not sooner.
### PFF gave Reshad Jones his best grade of the season on Sunday (a plus 3.8). He’s rated second among all safeties.
### PFF praised the work of Olivier Vernon, who had three hits, three hurries, a sack and another sack taken away by penalty in 31 pass-rushing chances.
He also had four tackles at or behind the line of scrimmage on running plays. Derrick Shelby, conversely, was given a poor grade Sunday (minus 3.8).
### Greg Jennings received only two snaps Sunday, and one of them ended with Rolando McClain’s interception return of Ryan Tannehill for a touchdown.
### In the absence of Koa Misi and Jelani Jenkins, linebacker snaps were allocated thusly: Sheppard 70 of 71, Neville Hewitt 57, Zach Vigil 27, Mike Hull 7 and Chris McCain 4.