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Friday, December 29, 2006

My votes for the awards

I am one of the Associated Press voters for the All Pro team and post-season awards.

I voted for Jason Taylor as The Defensive Player of the Year because he was simply amazing and I agree with him that Shawne Merriman should not be rewarded for testing positive for steroids.

Anyway, what follows is my entire ballot. Let me know where you agree or disagree.


WR (2): Andre Johnson, Chad Johnson

TE (1): Tony Gonzalez, KC

T (2) Jammal Brown, NO; Willie Anderson, Cin.

G (2) Steve Hutchinson, Minn., Alan Faneca, Pitt.

C (1) Jeff Saturday, Ind.

QB (1): Drew Brees, NO

RBs (2): LaDainian Tomlinson, Frank Gore, SF

FBs (1): Lorenzo Neal, SD

Place Kicker (1) Nate Kaeding, San Diego

Kick Returner (1); Devin Hester


DE (2) Jason Taylor, Aaron Kampman

DT (2) Kevin Williams, Minn., Tommie Harris Chic.

OLB (2): Adalius Thomas, Baltimore , Lance Briggs, Chic.

ILB (2): Brian Urlacher, Chic.; Zach Thomas, MIA.

CB (2): Champ Bailey, Rashean Mathis

S (2): Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu

Punter (1): Dustin Colquitt KC

The awards

Most Valuable Player: LaDainian Tomlinson

Comeback Player: Javon Walker, Den.

Defensive Rookie: Mark Anderson, Chicago

Offensive Rookie: Marques Colston, NO

Defensive Player: Jason Taylor, MIA.

Offensive Player : LaDainian Tomlinson, S.D.

Coach: Sean Payton, NO

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The fourth-and-one decision

You saw it. The Dolphins were on the Jets 7 yard line with 2:13 to play last night.

Nick Saban went for the field goal.

He took the "safe" option even though there was plenty of time on the clock for a Jets comeback. He played it safe with absolutely no playoffs or anything else of significance hanging on the line. He played it safe without really giving it much thought.

"Some might ask, “Why didn’t you go for it on fourth and one?” Saban said after the game. "I think if you go for it on fourth and one you put the game in jeopardy with one play. To tie it up, to go in, play good defense, get them stopped – they’ve got to do a lot of executing to get down the field in two-minute to kick a field goal.

"I had confidence in our defense to we could get them stopped. So [you] need to take the points and take the tie and that was a decision that was not really that difficult to make at the time, to be honest with you. "

I didn't agree with the decision. I understand you play for the tie at home. I understand Saban wanted to put the game in his defense's hands because the defense is the strength of the team.

But something has to be said for having a feel for the momentum of the game. And that momentum was clearly on the Dolphins side at the time.

Last year the Dolphins drafted a 235-pound running back with the No. 2 overall pick. That back, Ronnie Brown, had 110 yards on 18 carries last night. Against a Jets defense that is quite poor against the run, the Dolphins should have given Brown one more carry -- on that fourth down.

I understand the statement Saban made about trusting his defense. But the decision made other statements: He said he doesn't trust the offense. He said he wants to play it safe even when there is really nothing to play it safe for.

But worst of all, he told us he doesn't have a feel for the momentum of the game. That sixth sense is vital for a head coach. In this one instance, Saban didn't show he has it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Game night against the Jets

Merry Christmas, folks. And Happy Hanukkah. And for you folks who don't believe in God, happy festivus or whatever.

Anyway it's game night against the Jets and here are the inactives: Patrick Cobbs, Robert McCune, Frederick Evans, Dan Stevenson, Chase Page, Marty Booker, Kevin Vickerson and Shane Matthews as the third QB.

I talked to Tony Kornheiser who is doing the game for ESPN before the game. I also talked to him last week. He tells me he brought up the Alabama subject with Nick Saban -- again -- during the network's production meeting with the coach.

Kornheiser said he asked Saban to categorically deny he is going to listen to Alabama after the season and the coach couldn't, wouldn't say he will not listen to any offer.

Soooo. That leaves the door open for at least one more contact between Saban's camp and Alabama after the season is over.

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Taylor, Thomas in Pro Bowl

Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas have been voted to the Pro Bowl today, Taylor as a starter, Zach as a reserve.

They are the only two Dolphins picked to the Pro Bowl this year. Surprised?

Below is the entire AFC Pro Bowl roster:

Marvin Harrison, Indianapolis

Antonio Gates, San Diego
Andre Johnson, Houston

Tony Gonzalez, Kansas City
Chad Johnson, Cincinnati

* Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis


Peyton Manning, Indianapolis

Carson Palmer, Cincinnati
Willie Anderson, Cincinnati

* Philip Rivers, San Diego
Tarik Glenn, Indianapolis

Jonathan Ogden, Baltimore


Larry Johnson, Kansas City

* Willie Parker, Pittsburgh
Alan Faneca, Pittsburgh

LaDainian Tomlinson, San Diego
Will Shields, Kansas City

Brian Waters, Kansas City


Lorenzo Neal, San Diego

* Nick Hardwick, San Diego

Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis



Derrick Burgess, Oakland

Zach Thomas, Miami
* Aaron Schobel, Buffalo

Al Wilson, Denver
Jason Taylor, Miami


Champ Bailey, Denver
Casey Hampton, Pittsburgh

* Rashean Mathis, Jacksonville
Richard Seymour, New England

Chris McAlister, Baltimore
Jamal Williams, San Diego


John Lynch, Denver
Shawne Merriman, San Diego

Ed Reed, Baltimore
Terrell Suggs, Baltimore

Adalius Thomas, Baltimore


Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh



Brian Moorman, Buffalo

* Justin Miller, New York


* Nate Kaeding, San Diego

* Kassim Osgood, San Diego

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dooley to Louisiana Tech

Derek Dooley, Miami's tight end coach and the son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley, has been hired as the new head coach at Louisiana Tech.

Dooley will be introduced to the throng of Ruston, La. media Monday morning but then he'll fly back to South Florida and finish out the season with the Dolphins.

As for today's game, you should know that the Dolphins hotel in downtown Buffalo was put on alert early Sunday morning when someone (a drunk Bills fan?) set off the fire alarm.

It was around 2 a.m.

About today's game: The paper up here ran a story about how Bills players are talking about having an outside chance to make the playoffs. They say they have to win out.

In other words, the Bills are in the same mode the Dolphins were in prior to the Jacksonville game. The Dolphins, as you know, are not believing they can make the playoffs despite the fact it is a remote, remote possibility.

All that tells me is the Bills may be more motivated or more desperate to win today. Of course, that doesn't matter as the Dolphins proved against Jacksonville a couple of weeks ago.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sometimes you just have to be lucky

I am sitting here, watching the New Orleans Saints put on an offensive football clinic against a pretty good Dallas defense.

And I know what you're thinking, so, let me say this is not a rant on how the Dolphins blew it on Drew Brees last spring -- even though they did.

It is a post about fate and how funky it can be.

I am watching Reggie Bush blow past the Cowboys defense with six catches (so far) for 125 yards and thinking this guy was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft this year.

Last year the Dolphins had the No. 2 pick in the draft and got Ronnie Brown. Brown is a good back and may become a very good back someday. But he's not explosive like Bush. And that reminds of something Wayne Huizenga told me this week.

"We picked a bad year to be bad," he told me this week. "We got a high pick in a year there wasn't a lot of talent in the draft."

True. This year Ronnie Brown is maybe a top 10 pick. But not No. 2. So the Saints got lucky, not only in that Bush fell from No. 1 overall, but also in that he was in this draft at all. The Dolphins, similarly, were unlucky that they had such a high pick in a year there was no dominant player like a Bush or Julius Peppers (another No. 2 overall) to be had.

Then, here it comes, there is the Brees thing. He has just thrown his fifth TD of the game. Daunte Culpepper didn't have five touchdowns this entire season. And I'm telling you it was simply hard luck the Dolphins picked Culpepper over Brees this offseason.

The decision to pick Culpepper over Brees seemed logical at the time. I certainly didn't hate it when it was initially made because any right-thinking person would agree you take a QB with a bad knee over one with a bad arm just about every time.

So it was fate that Culpepper is still hurt and Brees hasn't tweaked his surgically repaired throwing shoulder at all.

It was fate that has the Saints looking like a playoff team while the Dolphins enjoy no such postseason possibility.

Yup, sometimes it is great to be good. And sometimes it also pays to be lucky.

Patriots game day

Another day at the office and no surprises or lineup changes for the Dolphins.

The Patriots are another story.

They will be without running back Laurence Maroney and Chad Jackson today so it'll be all Corey Dillon and former Dolphin turned Dolphins killer Heath Evans carrying the running game today. Kevin Faulk will also play a role.

I can't see the Dolphins winning this one, folks. The offense simply isn't good enough and hasn't been good enough against New England for years.

Anyone else other than me tired of this team getting by with half a team?

Monday, December 04, 2006

My major problem with the Dolphins

I think Nick Saban is an outstanding coach. But I think he has a blindspot: Winning.

Saban has never had a losing season as a head coach. The guy doesn't like losing and that is commendable, for the most part. But it's a character flaw when you're trying to rebuild an NFL team.

And that has been Saban's mistake.

He hasn't realized that in the NFL, you have to be pretty bad before you get to be pretty good. You have to build through the draft and take those rookies and take your lumps so next year you get another draft class of players picked high in the draft, and in the third year you have three draft classes of players picked really high, and, if you drafted wisely, you also have a roster of some pretty experienced young players that came to you early in the draft.

Then, that's when you fill in some vets to blow other teams away.

That's not how these Dolphins have done it. The Dolphins were bad in 2004, but Saban brought in a bunch of veterans last season and this season -- Kevin Carter, Keith Traylor, Dan Wilkinson, L.J. Shelton, Donnie Spragan, Renaldo Hill, Will Allen -- in order to make his team as good as it could be right away.

The problem is those players are playing OK, but not well enough actually make the Dolphins a playoff team. See the problem? Saban committed to veterans with the idea of rebuilding and winning at the same time.

He wanted to do two things at the same time and has really done neither.

Meanwhile, look at the Jets. Did they bring in a bunch of vets in Eric Mangini's first year? No way. They drafted a bunch of guys, stuck them in the lineup and took their lumps early in the season. Those players are coming into their own now and in the next couple of years.

Those youngsters -- Nick Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson -- will be playing in Pro Bowls long after the vets Saban brought in are retired. And that's the problem the Dolphins now face longterm.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Game day against the Jaguars

It is incredible to me that the rumors about Nick Saban going to Alabama are like a virus that will not die -- even in the face of Saban's vehement denial of any interest in the job.

Today the Huntsville Times is reporting Saban is expected to interview for the job this week. Ridiculous.

This is a guy who wouldn't go across town during training camp to have dinner with the President but he's going to take time out during his preparations for the New England Patriots to interview for another job.

Saban has not commented on the report before today's game. As Harvey Greene, the PR guy for the Dolphins told me, if it were the New York Times reporting this, he'd ask Saban for a statement.

The Huntsville Times? Not happening.

Saban will be asked after the game and deny the thing again. I believe he will and believe his sincerity.

As for today's game: It now seems clear that Travis Daniels has lost his starting cornerback job to Andre' Goodman.

Today marks the first time in nearly five weeks that Goodman, Will Allen and Daniels are all healthy. And it will be Allen and Goodman starting for Miami while Daniels comes off the bench in nickel and dime packages.

As I sit here, the Jets are pounding Green Bay, New England is showing little interest in beating Detroit despite their game being tied, and the Bills are trying to mount a comeback against San Diego, which I believe is the most complete team in the AFC.

That simply tells me the Dolphins have little security of beating any of these three division rivals in the coming weeks. The Dolphins lost the first meeting against all three and it says here they'll probably be under .500 in the rematches.

Your take?