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6 p.m. Don Shula update; Major change for Orange Bowl; Some perspective on Dolphins contracts - the good and worrisome; More media football announcing changes

For those who have asked me how legendary Dolphins coach Don Shula is doing after being hospitalized earlier this offseason, some good news:

Shula’s wife, Mary Anne, told me that her husband getting a pacemaker three months ago “has made a tremendous difference in how he feels. He looks fantastic and is moving in the right direction. The doctor told him he can travel.”

Shula, 86, and Mary Anne will spend some time in Pebble Beach, Cal., this summer before returning in time for Miami's Sept. 25 home opener against Cleveland.

Shula was hospitalized in May because of fluid retention and sleep apnea. 

Shula is the winningest coach in NFL history (with 347 regular-season and playoff victories) and a Pro Football Hall of Famer. He is also the owner of a successful chain of steakhouses throughout the country.

Don and Mary Anne Shula live in Indian Creek Island.

 

OB NEWS

Noon update: Good news -- The College Football Playoff has relented and has moved two future Orange Bowl games off New Year's Eve.

The 2018 game has been shifted from Monday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 29.

The 2024 game has been moved from Tuesday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 28.

The 2021 playoff semifinal game will remain on Dec. 31, a Friday, because that day is recognized as a national holiday.

Here was the letter sent to OB committee members today, as obtained by the Herald:

Dear Fellow Member,

I trust that this email correspondence finds you well and enjoying the summer!

Earlier this year, we announced a date change to the 2016 Capital One Orange Bowl to Friday, Dec. 30 in primetime.  Consistent with this schedule revision, we have continued discussions with our partners to explore optimal dates/times for future bowl games.

In recent weeks, the OBC was presented with a unique opportunity by the College Football Playoff (CFP) and ESPN to move two of our three remaining Playoff Semifinal games off of New Year’s Eve.  After discussions with OBC leadership and our key stakeholders, I am pleased to announce changes to College Football Playoff Semifinals at the Capital One Orange Bowlin 2018 and 2024.

Specifically, these changes involve moving the 2018 CFP Semifinal game from Monday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 29 and the 2024 CFP Playoff Semifinal from Tuesday, Dec. 31 to Saturday, Dec. 28.  The Playoff Semifinal in 2021 will remain on Friday, Dec. 31, as that is the nationally recognized holiday for New Year’s Day.

Due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter and the number of parties involved, we were respectfully asked to keep the feasibility discussions confidential among our leadership and key stakeholders, including Capital One and the Miami Dolphins. Once it was determined to be viable, we immediately brought the opportunity to our Board of Directors who voted unanimously to support the move. 

The official announcement is attached. We are excited about the moves and anticipate they will be beneficial both in attendance and television viewership.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact myself or Eric Poms at any time.

 

DOLPHINS NEWS

 

Some notes with just two shopping days left before the start of Dolphins training camp:

• Pro Football Focus rated the best and worst contracts for this season, and the Dolphins were prominently mentioned.

On the positive side:

Koa Misi’s contract (two years left, with an average cap hit of $4.2 million per) was rated the fifth-best among all NFL linebackers. Here’s why:

“Year after year,” PFF says, “Koa Misi plays between 400 and 800 snaps and grades out favorably, even though he doesn’t always post high tackle numbers. In 2015, Misi posted career-highs in snaps and stops. His 85.7 run-defense grade was 13th best among linebackers. He was able to get pressure on over 20 percent of his pass rushes, which was fourth-best for 4-3 outside linebackers with at least 50 pass rushes.

“The combination of his consistency and decent play means that Misi should be getting paid like a top-20 linebacker, while in reality he’s only getting paid like a top-30 linebacker. That isn’t a huge difference, which just speaks to the fact that there aren’t many veteran linebackers who are getting paid less money than they deserve.”

• On the negative side, PFF rated Mario Williams’ contract the worst in football among edge defenders. PFF consistently has criticized Williams in recent months because of his subpar performance (playing out of position) with the Bills last season.

Williams’ two-year deal has a cap hit of $8.5 million per season. Here’s why PFF said it ranks his contract worst in the NFL at his position:

“The Dolphins could have retained Olivier Vernon on the franchise tag for only a little more than they gave Mario Williams over two years. Williams suffered a dreadful season in Buffalo, recording the worst pass-rush grade of all edge defenders. He managed only 37 combined pressures in 507 rushes, ranking fourth from bottom in pass-rushing productivity. Williams’ 42.5 pass-rush grade helped him to 93rd in our overall edge defender rankings.

“The Bills wisely noticed the decline in Williams’ performance, cutting ties with him at the right time. The fact Miami decided to hand him $17 million over two years is baffling. Their bookend pass-rushers consist of a 34-year-old coming off an ACL surgery [Cam Wake] and a 31-year-old coming off the worst season of his career. In the likely case of another disappointing season, Williams will cost $2 million in dead money to cut. It would be a surprise if he played well enough to make the $10.5 million he’s set to earn.”

• What’s more, PFF says Jordan Cameron’s deal (one year with an $8 million cap hit) is the third-worst among all tight ends, even though he took a pay cut.

PFF’s explanation: “After two solid years as a receiving tight end in Cleveland, the Dolphins signed Cameron to a two-year contract, and the first season of that deal was a flop. Last year, his 0.97 yards per route run mark was the lowest for tight ends with at least 300 routes run. In fact, in each of the last two games of the season, fellow Miami tight end Dion Sims played more snaps than Cameron. Even at his best in 2013, Cameron recorded the second-most receiving yards for tight ends, but part of that was simply volume of targets—his receiving grade was only 15th among his positional peers that season. It doesn’t help his case that he’s graded out as a below-average run-blocker each of the last four seasons.

“After his poor performance, he took a pay cut (which saved him from getting released), but his cap hit is still the fourth-highest for tight ends in 2016. If we were just looking at worst contracts in 2016, Cameron would have topped the list, but since the Dolphins are free from his contract after the year, that dropped him to No. 3 on this list.”

• And finally, PFF ranks Earl Mitchell’s contract fifth-worst among interior defenders, even though his cap hit averages just $4 million the next two seasons. Here is PFF’s justification:

“Playing alongside Ndamukong Suh in 2015, Mitchell struggled mightily, finishing 97th among interior defensive linemen with a 64.1 overall grade. He was especially weak against the run, finishing 60th among defensive tackles with a 4.2 run-stop percentage (for an overall run-defense grade of 34.2). He didn’t grade positively after Week 8 of 2015, accumulating just three stops and four pressures during that stretch.

“Mitchell’s contract is not an onerous one for the Dolphins, as he is due—at most—$1 million in dead money were he to be cut at any point over the next two seasons. That said, Mitchell has never finished higher than 30th in overall grading among defensive tackles during any point in his career, and yet his salary is currently 16th among 4-3 defensive tackles on a per-year basis. With the Dolphins allocating significant resources to Suh for the foreseeable future, it’s probably not the best use of resources to pay Mitchell like an above-average interior defender, especially given that they’re making a similarly questionable move by paying Mario Williams $17 million over two years to replace Olivier Vernon.”

 

MEDIA PERSONNEL NOTES

Tom Jackson is leaving ESPN by his choice, meaning the network will have an entirely new cast of analysts alongside Chris Berman on Sunday Countdown. Gone: Jackson, Mike Ditka, Cris Carter and Keyshawn Johnson. New: Matt Hasselbeck, Randy Moss, Trent Dilfer (already an ESPN employee) and Charles Woodson.

And Berman reportedly will leave ESPN's NFL host job after this season.

• Fox hired former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman to replace ESPN-bound Moss on its 11 a.m.-noon NFL pregame show that most Fox affiliates carried last season, before the main pre-game show at noon. Tillman joins Charissa Thompson, Colin Cowherd and Dave Wannstedt on that prelude to Fox's main pregame.

• ESPN assigned Dave Flemming and Jesse Palmer to Thursday night college games, a change from last year’s team of Joe Tessitore (who was promoted to Saturday nights to replace Brad Nessler), Palmer and David Pollack (will now work exclusively as a studio analyst)...

• One other note: Despite winning their division, the Panthers are getting just one appearance in a combined 106 NHL telecasts on NBC and NBC Sports Net next season. And the one appearance is in the lowest-profile of time slots: a late Wednesday night February game in San Jose, on NBC Sports Net.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz

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