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Monday, October 02, 2006

Time to fix the foundation

For years I have been talking, writing, blogging about the importance of building a football team from the foundation up.

I learned this in my first year covering the team from Don Shula. He sat with me after the 1990 draft and explained that no matter how many talented playmakers a team has, it cannot win without a solid offensive and defensive line.

That was the year, by the way, the Dolphins picked Richmond Webb in the first round of the draft and plucked Keith Sims out of the second round. Shula was the guy who put lines together that included Hall of Famers Larry Little, Jim Langer, and probable Hall of Famer Bob Kuechenberg.

He also won a game or two in the NFL. So if Don Shula was saying it, I bought into it.

The trouble is, since Shula's departure, no other Miami coach has bought in.

Sure the Jimmy Johnson through Nick Saban era have been marked by upgrades to the defensive line, but the offensive line is the orphan of the team. No high round draft picks, no quality free agents, nothing.

Now the Dolphins are paying the price for their mistakes -- 21 sacks this year. Yikes!

Consider for a moment the decisions involving offensive line the team made this year:

They waived Damion McIntosh and didn't re-sign Stockar McDougle because they didn't think either was worth the money on the salary cap.

They ignored Seth McKinney the early part of free agency because they had no intention of signing him.

They brought in perennial Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae who wanted to sign here but decided he was too expensive.

They brought in castoff tackle L.J. Shelton and signed him because he wasn't too expensive. Except they gave Shelton about the same money the Titans gave Mawae.

Then they decided the free agent market had dried up at OL and went begging to re-sign McKinney.

Then they re-signed McIntosh at minimum salary.

Then they turned McKinney into a guard. Now they've turned McIntosh into a guard. And all that moving around still gives the Dolphins a humongous hole.

Where?

You guessed it ... at right guard.

Let's face it, there seems to be no plan. This team needs a major league left tackle and an outstanding right guard. Jeno James and Rex Hadnot are passable but not stars, while Vernon Carey has been really pretty solid.

The bottom line is the Dolphins are getting what they deserve now along the line of scrimmage. They're getting what they paid for on the cheap.

And they're not a very good team because their foundation on offense -- the line -- is not solid.

43 Comments:

Blogger Al said...

At what point do we need to start thinking about a new coach. After watching the game yesterday we'd be lucky to win 4 games this year.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armando, I absolutely agree with your assessment! The O-Line is the major problem with this team. I am getting tired of people screaming for Saban to put Harrington in. Harrington would probably have less sacks, however, he would have more INT's than Culpepper if he was in this situation. Culpepper is coming of major knee surgery that takes over a year to recover from. That's why Saban should have put the resources into building a effective O-Line to give Culpepper the time to blossom in this role. For the people crying for Harrington, this Dolphins O-line is just as bad as the O-Line Harrington operated under at Detroit and you all know the results of that situation. We have a good QB (Culpepper) in place to get the job done, however, the QB is just not getting the time needed to make plays because of stupid personnel decisions made by the Head Coach this past offseason.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we need to look a little deeper than just the O-line. If you remember back to Culpeppers' years at Minnesota, he was behind 2-3 pro-bowlers EVERY YEAR and he still managed to lead the league in fumbles and int's. He simply can't read a defense, and the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can make the proper changes. I think it's time we admit that he is extremely overrated....always has been. 5-11....OUCH.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Thomas said...

Hopefully Hudson Houck can turn these guys around. What do you think Armando? Will he be able to do it, in time to remove the Dolphins from the worst and most disappointing team in the league?

11:57 AM  
Anonymous exile said...

To the people trying to analyse Culpepper one way or the other, I'd say this: with an O-line like this, how can we tell anything about this guy, good or bad? When your offensive line is playing the way the Dolphins' line is now, the only thing you can learn about your quarterback is how well he runs for his life. If he had the blocking maybe he'd still chuck INTs. Maybe he'd throw for 300 yards every weekend. Maybe he'd don leiderhosen and do an Oktoberfest polka. Who knows. Until we get something other than five beached manatees in front of him, it's all piss-in-the-wind speculation.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous papo from calle ocho, Miami said...

Ever since the first time I played techno football I realized how indispensable a quality O-line was. I've been telling anyone who would listen about it's importance. I even emailed Nick and told him. How is it Tom Brady can navigate the pocket forever until he feels like throwing it? Is it because he has an invisible shield around him? No. It's because Nick's idol puts a premium on the trenches and they are not afraid to draft o-line in the first round. I think Nick is in over his head in the pro grame and needs to apply the age old adage: It all goes down in the trenches ... I don't know what the heck he is doing, but I know he is not building a football team from the foundation up ...

12:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armando,

You must agree, Culpepper is awful.

1:02 PM  
Blogger Armando Salguero said...

Actually, of all the problems the Dolphins have right now, I think QB and Culpepper is the least.

I would worry about the secondary more. I would worry about the offensive line more.

If you look at my grades in today's paper, if you listen to my radio show this evening, you will know that Culpepper played fairly well enough to win actually.

1:06 PM  
Anonymous finndolpfan said...

i think that's pretty bang on armando!clearly the o-line has been virtually ignored by saban&co.!not onlt that,but all through training camp and pre-season,there wasn't ever any real competition for any positions,except maybe fullback!the starters were all named before pre-season started!look at left tackle for instance,m'cintosh did a credible job there last year while playing not at 100%,he worked hard in camp and drew praise fron saban,so what happens, they sign some fat slow guy who two losing teams gave up on and give him the job(and a bunch of money)without damein even getting a chance to compete for it!the same is true about the secondary,and virtually every other position!travis daniels had a less than stellar rookie season was picked on all year,took numerous penalties because he's to slow,and as soon as he's close to healthy again he get's his job back!while andre goodman actually looked pretty good out there!that all smacks of arrogance and complacency from the coaching staff!

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes on the OL. Look at what other teams do with running backs that are not nearly as good as Ronnie, but have blocking up front. Look how much is being spent on Ronnie, and we cant afford the free agent OL's. This year we use a top pick for a safety and look how much we are paying him. A safety in the first round that can't even start! Running backs and safety's are not where to put your money and draft picks, especially when both OL and DL are weak. Look at what Chicago is doing with Rex Grossman and at least two O-Lineman and one DL that we couldn't afford. Where do they find the money? This Saban doesn't look like any genius to me. I guess an over-hyped coach goes along with an over-hyped team.

2:27 PM  
Anonymous Randy said...

Armando,
I couldn't have said it better myself.....oh wait, i did say exactly what you just said months ago. This team goes nowhere until they start getting better players on the OL. Like a former coach once said....ya can't make chicken salad out of chicken s**t.....or something like that. what bugs me most is that the players seem to have bought into this crap from day one and now they're surprised???? I just don't get it. I say give some younger guys a shot....it can't be any worse, and at least we'll get a better feel for whether or not they're going to be able to step up for us next year. Here's hoping Saban finally takes a couple OL with high picks instead of his usual run of safeties and defensive players. and for the record, i think mawae would've made a huge impact on this line. rex could be playing guard, and shelton would be the only glaring weak spot. he would've also brought a nasty, competitive edge that this line lacks in spades.

and as for daunte....he's still not the answer.....and he never will be. It's not that he can't be a good qb. it's just that he'll never be a great qb and that's what everyone expects him to be. Living in Minnesota I've seen tons of his games, and what he's doing now is pretty much par for the course. his game/ball management skills have always been weak. he'll get you yards, but he won't win many games for you. if all the right pieces were in place around him, he could be more successful but that's not going to happen for a couple years and daunte's not the type of qb that can put the team on his back and win it. sadly, saban is figuring that out as we speak.

2:30 PM  
Anonymous finndolpfan said...

question, at what point do they throw in the towel and start planning/evaluating for next year? at1-5,2-6? it's painfully obvious the season is lost now!they could also be in line for a very high pick!maybe they need to start making moves now!trade some veterans who have value for extra picks and start playing guys like jason allen,alabi,evans and others who are maybe the future!

2:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Armando, the O-line is a very crucial part of the offense as you stated. But the point is that it hasn't been ignored. With the likes of Todd Wade and the incomparable Wade Smith and statuesque Vernon Carey, the O-Line has been addressed in the draft. Unfortunately the picks have not been very good ones. Nick Saban is a good judge of talent so far. Wsted picks like Fletcher and Eddire Moore have been detrimental to this team. Time heals all wounds. This is a sucking chest wound, so it requires a bit more time. PATIENCE PEOPLE!!!!! Rome wasn't built in a day. I'm as anxious as anyone, but you can't mortgage the future. I hate the Pats, but they have a good recipe for how to get it done: Deliberate and sound draft choices and frugal free agents. Don't over spend and collect as many draft picks along the way. They already have 2 first rounders next year. We need them more than they do.

3:00 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

One correction: they did spend a #1 and a #4 on Vernon Carey. Whether the Dolphins OVERSPENT is another discussion.

Nevertheless, you point is a good one. The Dolphins have made overtures over the years to guys like Mawae, John Tait and Olin Kreutz....to no avail.

Now that the QB cupboard is stocked, perhaps Randy Mueller will focus on acquiring some solid o-line help.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is anyone else emotionally exuasted by the way the fish bring all kinds of people to blitz and nobody can even get close not LBs, not CBs, nor safties i cant stand it anymore 3-4 people at a time and no pressure. Always on passing situations first down after first down given up im running out of things to throw at my TV. Memo to coaching staff: Secondary is absolutley terible made more appearent by blitzing!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Fishfan said...

P.S. what the hell was that play call? need 2 to tie all year daunte can drop back and check down to ronnie the one thing that the offence can do and they decide to go with the HB pass? I will admitt it was open wide open (booker) dooooh.

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Ed said...

It goes to show, no one is as bad as they say or as good they claim:

78 = 2004 Quarterback rating of a 100% healthy Daunte Culpepper with a 100% healthy, 100% effort giving Randy Moss - Current overall rating 77.0

12/10= Number of Culpepper INT/Fumbles during last complete year at Min.

45% = winning percentage over the five years Belichek and company coached at Cleveland (Saban was def. coordinator last four years)

40% = Combined winning percentage of Dom Capers, Mike Mularkey and Nick Saban

20 = Number of coaches in the largest, most expensive overall staff in the NFL

22 = Rushing rank of Ronnie Brown after 4 games - signing bonus $10,000,000.00

4 = Rushing rank of Frank Gore who was signed by SF for the league min in 2005. His salary for the next two years will be
2006 310000.00
2007 385000.00

3:54 PM  
Anonymous Ken in San Diego said...

Astute fans have been crying for the Fins to overhaul the OL for what, a decade or more? In the Marino era, we had an OL that could protect the QB but not run-block. Then came the post-Marino era, and we have an OL that cannot pass-block OR run-block. It is the most serious problem on the team. If it is constantly 3-and-out for the offense, the defense is toast by the fourth quarter. This is where we lose games.

3:56 PM  
Anonymous finndolpfan said...

armando you have to admit that wanny did try to overhaul the line!he drafted carey #1,wade #2,seth mckinney#3,also hadnot,it just didn't work out for him!this idiot saban so far has drafted joe toledo! enough said!kotite &spurrier you have company, that's the way i see it anyway!

4:43 PM  
Blogger Cesar said...

The Dolphins should dedicate the next draft to OL and secondly DL. Heck they should dedicate the next 2 drafts. OK, i might be stretching the truth a bit but that is how i feel about the importance of the OL and DL. 75% of the problems with this team are attributed to the OL. Can't pass, can't run because of the OL. The defense is wearing down because the offense can't control the ball.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Evan said...

For the first time ever I have to agree with your thoughts armando. It hurt to say that...

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Kurt in Tampa said...

Since pre-season I've been harping on the o-line. I wish i was much dumber than i am.

8:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is one way to fix this situation..or at least start and his name is OL-Joe Thomas out of Wisconsin...we missed out on shaun andrews by one pick and he has turned into a great young o lineman..we will have a top pick this year and with the skilled players we have we need to start adressing the o line with superstar potential

9:53 PM  
Blogger DwinkinAle said...

Right on Armando. What many of us have been trying to convey since the preseason. So much hope, but when it came down to it you are only as strong as your weakest part. Needless to say the Fins are not a good team. Too bad.

10:47 PM  
Blogger John said...

Did you know that the combined records of our first four opponents is 4-11 (3 of those wins coming from the Dolphins)?

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wake up people! Saban is an idiot
high school coach. Fire his ass
now and take D.Chokepecker with
him. Damn people...wake up already!

11:09 PM  
Blogger John Dolfan said...

Are you guys watching the same game that I am? FACT Dante Culpepper is holding the ball too long. Time and again on those sacks he has had between 3 and 5 seconds to work his mojo. Anyone who says that Dante played well before the D went into soft coverage is just comatose. The OL can definitely improve its run-blocking, but the majority of the sacks are for the most part on the overrated sucker QB under center. I challenge anyone to offer specific facts to refute this. FACT Mike Mularky's offense is predictable (and lets be honest that is what they are running)and his playcalling has been TERRIBLE !! Oh and BTW while everybody is beating up the secondary, has anyone saving JT seen our pass rush lately?

12:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is becoming very apparent that Nick Saban is a very poor judge of football talent. His first round draft pick of this year is sitting on the bench (save kickoffs and punts) while Mulrony (available to him - is running wild in New England). His first round pick of last year (second overall) is leading a mediocre life at tailback in an offensive system that lacks any of the guts to let him show what he really can do. In fact, I think that Saban's biggest loss this past offseason was Scott Linehan at offensive coordinator. Again, how can he judge this guy Mularky as a suitable replacement, when he failed miserably in Buffalo with pretty decent talent (just look at Buffalo this year).

I am sorry, but the evidence is pretty clear. We were spoiled by exceptional evaluaters of talent like Shula and Johnson. The NFL is a copycat league, and many of them have now caught up with the fact that their front office talent is just as important, if not more important than the actual players on the field. If you ever need a lesson, just go to New England. A player decides he needs to be "paid what he is worth" - they let him go (Branch), and right in the wings is a suitable recovery player (Gabriel). Most of the time you never even heard of the player before he takes the field. THAT IS TALENT! That is why we true DolphFans are suffering - because we had television, and we see what other teams are doing - and what our team simply does not! A loss to the Texans - you have GOT TO BE KIDDING! (They took Mario Williams at #1)

P.S. With this talent pool at front office and coach - do not be wishing for another high draft pick which will be wasted on overpriced and underutilized talent.

8:25 AM  
Blogger Joseph said...

As a dolphins fan for many years, I cannot believe people are blaming Saban already. What did Jimmy Johnson do for the offense? Wanny obviously did nothing. They made an attempt this offseason to overhaul the offensive line. It has not worked out how they envisioned but at least they addressed needs. Offensive lines are the hardest to improve of any group in the NFL save your starting QB. It will take time for them to improve this line.

For those saying we messed up the draft with Allen, lets wait and see. Everyone agrees that the top two problems are the OL and the secondary so maybe investing a top pick in a saftey is a good decision. You cannot expect players to come right out of college and have impacts immediatly.

That being said, as long as Daunte moves about as well as Bledsoe it looks like a very long season ahead.

9:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read the article by Edwin Pope on the Dolphins Offensive Line problems and while I agree that it is the primary reason for the lack of offensive production I do not agree that "ALL" the fault is the current administrations. The problem can be traced back, way back, starting with Jimmy Johnson and continuing to the present. It has been many, many years since the Dolphins have made a REAL effort to upgrade this unit. Opting instead for journeymen and rejects. Unfortunately this approach has left us with a unit that is perhaps the worse in the league and this will not change this season. The best way to correct this problem is through the draft, unfortunately this year was not a very good one for O'linemen, so we simply put the customary "Band-Aids" on the wound and continued to believe in fairy tales. Another problem with rebuilding this unit is that for some strange reason O'lineman tend to be, at lest the really good ones quite pricey in free agency and this team has been busy trying to path the many holes that the last administration created by poor draft picks and giving away some of our better players such as Adewale Ogunleye to the Bears for an unbelievable 3rd round pick. So, here we are in the middle of a fine mess. The only hope is that this coming draft is much better than the last one for this position and that we do the right thing and address it. In my humble opinion I would say start at center and the two guards, as this is the core and the place where the pocket is truly formed, after all you can not expect that the QB, regardless of who he is, will be able to step into his passes if the protection up the middle is not there. We need a common sense approach here...this is not rocket science gentlemen.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bothers me the most about this Dolphin team is this attitude that they are somehow a good team. The comments by Chambers about what an incredible ball Culppeper threw during summer camp. Just the overall unreality, that frankly gets emboldened by the press in South Florida, that tends to be a little less critical than they should be, I think.

12:52 PM  
Blogger dolphin d said...

Folks lets gain some perspective here! Saban has been our coach for exactly 1 year and 4 games. He's had TWO friggin drafts( one of which so limited by the previous regime). I hardly think comparing him to Spurrier is fair. We all NEW coming into this season the O-line and secondary were works in progress. Culpepper, despite your Vkings stats, is improving with each game. If anyone of you felt that 6 game win streak at the end of last year was going to propel us into the Superbowl, your naive. I've followed the fins a longtime. I remember Shula giving away the rights to Anthony Carter, drafting Kumerow, Don McNeal...every coach makes mistakes in evaluating talent. I won't even touch on Johnson, did not want him here to begin with. Patience, Dolphins had a lot of holes to fill, and still have more(O-line). Already stated, Rome was not built in a season. Get off Brown, he's having to learn being the "man". Wow you guys are harsh.

3:09 PM  
Anonymous finndolpfan said...

dolphin d i have all the patience in the world i've been watching this team for 30plus years!it's just that after last years 9-7 record i think we could honestly hope for continued improvement!not this ongoing debacle that is unfolding before us!saban knew the o-line was a problem and did virtually nothing to fix it!how can we as long serving fans have any hope that he is going to do "the right thing" in the future!

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely 100% correct!!! This all seemed to start with JJ. He had the philosophy that O-linemen are a dime a dozen and can be found in the later rounds of the draft and in bargain basement free agency. His disciple, Wannstedt stayed the same course.

I believe Johnson was fooled into thinking this works because he had some success with it in Dallas. However, it was only because he had a glut of picks acquired in the Herschel Walker deal. His success percentage for finding gems late in the draft wasn't good at all. He simply had more bullets in his gun. The Phins have typically had less than there full compliment of picks in recent drafts.
This has been coupled with a real terrible assessment of O-line talent. No one in Phin management seems to have a clue about what it takes to be an effective O-lineman in the NFL. This spans the JJ, Wannstedt and now Saban era.
I've mentioned on the Phin Phorum that the current philosophy seems to be, "Bring in any 350lb oaf and let Houck teach 'em how to get in the way." It's like giving Monet 5 dollops of poop and asking him to paint a masterpiece.

7:45 PM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Armando,

No high draft picks used on the O-line? At least we took a stab at Vernon Carey which seems to be working out as he's probably the most consitant out of the group right now.

But overall I see your point, not enough attention has been paid to our so called "orphan"

8:58 PM  
Blogger DwinkinAle said...

Well said Dolphin D.
I have a lot of patience for this team. Heck, history has taught me I have to. It just sucks to be sooo close and get hopes up for this team not to perform the way it should be. Hopefully they'll get on course. Probably not this year, but soon. Saban is a good coach and I hope he is with this team for a long time.

1:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

5:02 AM  
Anonymous Fantus said...

I really wish the fairweather fans would stop calling for Sabans ouster. He's made some mistakes, but he's a solid head coach I believe. Do you remember what he inherited? A 4-12 team, and not much to stockpile with in the draft the past few years. Yeah, we gave a 2nd rounder for Culpepper, but I think he can turn it around, and will be the QB he was billed as.

As for the line. Last year, we desperately needed a RB. Ricky was still not in the mix. So, Saban took the guy he thought to be the most complete back. Maybe Ronnie was a stretch as the 2nd pick, but he was the best back available, and we didn't really have a lot of options of trading down, and we lacked picks in other rounds. He still has to prove his worth, but he is a good back. Great Backs make average lines look great. But, this isn't and average line, and they are I think making a great back look average.

We did get Alabai last year, and from the little I've heard, he's a future starter. This year, we had some options in the first round, but most of the cream of the crop linemen were already taken, and Saban had to also address the secondary. Hmmm... What does the former DB and DB coach do. Drafts a safety. We have to wait to call it a bust or a good move. Then... They pick this guy, Joe Toledo in the 4th round (?). I believe that was a Hudson Houck hopeful. And he looked to be the real deal in Training Camp and pre-season, but injured. Then the revolving injury door at Right Guard doesn't help.. So this year is a wash. What should've just gotten us by this year didn't pan out. Where am I going with this? Saban will fix the line in the draft next year. Youth, 4 year contracts, and reasonable cap hit. That's what the draft offers, and next year, minus the late pick given for Harrington, Saban finally has a full compliment of draft picks. I think next year is his real first year that he can shed the problems the last regime created.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Spirit said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Some motivation that Saban is probably using this week:

"The chance for great victories is created by the adversity you have to overcome."
--Woody Hayes

11:52 AM  
Blogger marcus said...

Armando, look at our current oline. LJ Shelton- 1st rounder, Vernon Carey - 1st rounder, Rex Hadnot - 6th rounder, Seth McKinney - 3rd rounder, Jeno James - Free Agent. I think that is a good mix of players based on round selection. Now, Nick Saban did not select these guys in the round that they were selected in so I don't know if the round that they were selected in is warranted. But my point is that you have to find the players with the resources that you have. Nick has done a good job of that in my opinion and one more offseason and I think you can officially provide your critique of player acquisitions by Saban.

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enough! Yes the OLine is having troubles but ponder this - of the 45 unrestricted OL free agents last year, a whopping 14 are starters and 11 of these are with new teams, including 1 Dolphin. Some of these are definitely not high caliber starters, just the best their new teams could do. So stop complaining about the lack of signings on the OLine. There wasn’t exactly a great deal of talent to work with. And it would be nice to keep some of ours healthy through the preseason so that they can begin to work as a unit. Maybe we need new trainers.....

8:36 PM  

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