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Sunday, December 30, 2007

ESPN: Mueller "on the way out"

ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that Bill Parcells will fire general manager Randy Mueller.

While this is not a revelation because practically everyone has figured Parcells was about to clean house in the Dolphins front office, the part that was a little stunning is that Mortensen said the move would happen sooner rather than later.

That suggests Parcells might move Mueller out before the April draft, which has been the logical time for Mueller's departure. Parcells is interested in hiring Dallas personnel man Jeff Ireland and will attempt to do exactly that.

But the Cowboys aren't going to let Ireland go -- if at all -- until after the April draft. If Parcells fires Mueller before April and cannot bring Ireland on until after April, he will be behind the eight ball in conducting the draft.

Mueller, you see, has spent the past four months scouting and compiling information. And he's not simply going to sit down and regurgitate that information for Parcells as he's being told to exit. So the timing seems odd.

Anyway, Parcells is sitting in booth some 20 feet from where I'm now sitting. He's got former Green Bay GM Ron Wolf in there with him. Wolf, a buddy of Parcells', isn't here to take a Dolphins job. At least he has denied being interested in one at least a dozen times in the past month. He's here to serve as a second set of eyes for Parcells.

There will be the usual live blog in the comments section today. Before heading over there, you should know that Keith Traylor is out today and Steve Fifita starts in his place.

OK, join me for the live blog ...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Perfect Dolphins react to Patriots 16-0 record

The Patriots have just defeated the New York Giants 38-35 to complete their regular season with a 16-0 record. So they have a perfect regular season.

Here are some reactions to that feat by the 1972 Dolphins which were undefeated in the regular season and went on to complete their perfect 17-0 season with a Super Bowl victory.

Head Coach Don Shula: “Going undefeated during the regular season is a remarkable achievement. I know first hand how difficult it is to win every game, and just as we did in 1972, the Patriots have done a great job concentrating on each week’s opponent and not letting any other distractions interrupt that focus. If they go on to complete an undefeated season, I will be the first to congratulate Coach Belichick and the Patriot organization.”

Defensive Tackle Manny Fernandez: “Congratulations to the Patriots for winning all of their regular season games. If they finish without a loss, it’s almost going to be a relief to me. That way, the media will start to call them the first eight or nine games each year whenever a team starts undefeated instead of calling us. That will give us a break.”

Running Back Jim Kiick: “If they finish up undefeated, I would be the one of the first to help lift their chair up on the mountaintop. Going undefeated in the regular season is a great accomplishment. But I’m sure going 16-0 isn’t important to them – they wan to go 19-0. If they finish 18-1 by losing the Super Bowl, there’s no doubt they would look at it as a disappointing season. And that’s the way we viewed it back in 1972. Our main objective wasn’t going undefeated, it was to win the Super Bowl. So it’s great that they’ve gotten this far, but I know what’s really important to them is to win that last game, not necessarily all the ones before it.”

Guard Bob Kuechenberg: “They’ve done a heck of a job thus far. But now the exhibition season is over and the real season begins. Obviously, if they can win their first playoff game, beat an even more dangerous Colts team, and then Brett Favre or the Dallas Cowboys in the Super Bowl, I will be the first to take my hat off to them. If they can pull it off, they will have earned it.
“But my heart is dead set against it. The ’72 team in uniquely immortal in American sports and I don’t want us to lose that special place. We will forever be immortal, and if they win every game in front of them, then they will join us among those ranks. They will have deserved it ant I will congratulate them. But something in my heart makes me feel that we accomplished something so special that it forever sets the standard of excellence in sports.
“Imperfect is mortal. Perfect is immortal.”

Tight End Jim Mandich: “My sincerest congratulations go out to the Patriots. In this salary cap-era, free agency-era, I didn’t think it could be done, and the Patriots did it. They are a remarkable team. They are terrifically coached, and if somebody was going to tie the Miami Dolphins record in the regular season of going unbeaten, it’s appropriate that it would be the Patriots because they are a class act.”

Quarterback Earl Morrall: “I’d like to congratulate the New England Patriots. They’ve had a great run and a great season in winning all of their games. I’m sure if they look at it, it’s a difficult thing to do. They play great football, so you’ve got to compliment them on that. Now you’ve got to see if they can finish it and go the distance – the playoffs, championship and Super Bowl. You’ve got those to go to end up perfect, and we’ll be the first ones to congratulate them if they do it.”

Running Back Mercury Morris: “My feeling about it is as consistent as it has been all year. It doesn’t matter to me whether or not they win them all because it doesn’t affect anything we’ve done. When all the dust clears, the best they can do is to stand beside us, and in the end, that’s not a bad thing. I will welcome them to the neighborhood with my Mr. Rogers sweater on, but first they have to get to the neighborhood.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Tuna helper on the menu for afternoon introduction

Bill Parcells will conduct his introductory press conference Thursday afternoon from the Dolphins practice facility.

And this is the biggest point he wants to make: Parcells will stress that he is neither the Dolphins coach nor the general manager. He will stress that he is simply owner Wayne Huizenga's designee to pick Miami's coach and general manager.

So why is this a big deal?

Well, it's not really as far as the coaching situation is concerned. At least not now. No one believes Parcells will be Miami's de facto coach, especially not at 66 years old.

But ...

Pretty much the entire NFL is convinced Parcells will make all the meaningful personnel decisions for the Dolphins. And that assumption is probably, in fact, correct. But Parcells has to make it seem as if he really isn't going to be the guy making that final call and instead is just the guy picking the guy making the final call.

Why? Because in order to hire away someone currently under contract with another team, the easiest approach is to be able to say you are offering that person a promotion. And if Parcells is filling out the GM role while offering the GM job to someone else as a promotion, the NFL and other clubs may balk at giving him permission to hire someone away from his current club.

Take Dallas personnel guy Jeff Ireland for example. He is not the GM in Dallas. So if Parcells offers him the Miami GM job, the Cowboys are compelled to let him go based on the fact the job is a promotion. But the Cowboys may argue that Ireland isn't really going to be Miami's GM because, by definition, the GM picks the players. And the Cowboys would be right because Parcells will likely pick the players.

And that is why Parcells Thursday will emphasize that he is picking the GM and that he will not be the GM. All this is moot, of course, if Parcells does the right thing and sticks with Randy Mueller, who I believe to be an excellent personnel guy.

But the chances of him doing that are less than 50-50 in my opinion.

By the way, Parcells has pretty much been talking like coach Cam Cameron is gone. He has told confidants that he will be hiring a coach. Why do you talk of hiring a coach unless you're going to be getting rid of the coach already in place?

I think Cameron may get an interview with Parcells. The two obviously will talk Thursday. But I think Parcells will want his own guy in the job.

I can report to you that one of Parcells' guys is Tony Sparano. He was the Cowboys offensive coordinator under Parcells at Dallas. He is now the team's assistant head coach, the running game coordinator (Jason Garrett handles the passing game) and offensive line coach. The Cowboys offensive line, by the way, has three Pro Bowl players this year and running back Marion Barber is also Pro Bowl bound.

Sparano is 46 and, with his Northeastern roots, connected with Parcells who is a New Jersey native. I believe, after interviewing some prospects including a Rooney Rule candidate, Parcells will pick this guy as the Dolphins next coach.

Your thoughts?

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Holiday greeting from Dolphins In Depth to you

Not any football on here today folks.

Just want to take a moment to thank you for a wonderful year of blogging.

I want to wish you and yours the greatest the holiday season can offer this Christmas. May the Lord keep you, guide you, bless you and make His face to shine on you and your loved ones.

All the best.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Live blogging from chilly Foxboro today

FOXBORO -- Today's game is interesting only in that it gives the Dolphins a small chance to beat the Patriots and ruin for New England their chance at a perfect season.

Not likely to happen.

The real news is what is going on behind the scenes. Seems speculation that Bill Parcells is going to do this or that when he finally arrives on the Dolphins scene is running rampant. But let's be honest. Nobody knows for sure what is going to happen because even Parcells himself is not sure.

This much is certain: This weekend he talked to former Redskins and Texans general manager Charley Casserly and during that conversation, Casserly let Parcells know he would be interested in working for him in Miami. I don't know what Parcells' answered.

There is also much speculation that New England's Scott Pioli will be the next Miami GM. That is unlikely. The Patriots are not going to let him out of his contract and when Pioli does finally make a move, he'll want to go somewhere he's the No. 1 decision-maker. He would not be that in Miami. So the idea that Pioli is on the way because he's Parcells' son-in-law overplay the connection without considering business.

And as always, Dallas front office guy Jeff Ireland continues to be a consideration. One scenario I can tell you about is that Parcells does know and respect Randy Mueller and Mueller will have the chance to win Parcells over in the couple of months he will definitely work for him. Mueller is a good man, a fine personnel guy, so Parcells won't just dismiss him without considering him.

OK, join me in the comments section for the live blog.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Wayne Huizenga makes another bold bid

Gotta give it to Wayne Huizenga.

The Dolphins owner has proven time and again that he will do whatever needs to be done to make the Dolphins champions. Now, of course, after so many past failures the assignment now is to make the Dolphins relevant again.

But that's not Huizenga's fault. He has done and is continuing to do his part.

When Don Shula showed signs of slowing down and finally "stepped aside" in January 1996, Huizenga knew there was a mandate for only one guy out there. That guy was Jimmy Johnson and Huizenga got him.

OK, so he missed the boat on Dave Wannstedt and has made other significant management mistakes. But after that Wannstedt debacle there one was coach who was the darling of a dozen NFL teams' fancy and that was Nick Saban. And Huizenga got him when other teams couldn't.

Now, even as the Dolphins are mired in their worst season ever, the popular cry is to land Bill Parcells as a personnel guru and Bill Cowher as coach. Cowher apparently doesn't want to coach in 2008 unless it is in Carolina. And so Huizenga went and got Parcells -- even if it meant outbidding the Atlanta Falcons and changing his mind and plans to sell the team.

The point is Huizenga will move heaven and earth -- and trample over people if he must -- to get the big name that he hopes will give the Dolphins the best chance to succeed.

Clearly, it doesn't always work. Fact is it has never really worked as the Dolphins have fallen from the ranks of elite NFL franchises the past decade.

But you cannot say that fall is for lack of Huizenga trying. He definitely has made the bold attempts. And trying to get Parcells is just the latest example.

Your thoughts ...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Parcells deal with Dolphins is for four years

The Bill Parcells deal is done. It is for four years according to a source.

Hank Goldberg of WQAM radio in Miami tells me that his sources say Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga has agreed NOT to sell the Dolphins for the four years so he could land Parcells.

The Dolphins are expected to introduce Parcells before the end of this week, barring a last-minute glitch in negotiations.

Huizenga pulled into the Dolphins parking lot at about 4:45 ostensibly to speak with Coach Cam Cameron and General Manager Randy Mueller. Huizenga met with Cameron earlier today.

It is apparent Parcells is all but set to become the Dolphins vice president of football operations or a position similar in title to that that would give him control of the football team.

The Miami Herald story is on the website here:

As I speculated in an earlier post, Parcells backed out of his negotiations with the Atlanta Falcons today. He is notorious for changing his mind on similar matters as he once agreed than changed his mind about coaching the Tampa Bay Bucs.

One source is saying the Dolphins originally wanted the Tuna as their general manager -- which is kind of lame considering the good job Mueller has done this year. But Parcells didn't want that job.

He apparently wants to hire a general manager and then the two will pool their opinions and pick a head coach -- which may or may not continue to be Cam Cameron.


Parcells on the move but not to Miami (UPDATED)

I've spoken to someone close to Bill Parcells who confirms the former coach's agent -- Jimmy Sexton -- did indeed reach out to the Dolphins, as ESPN is reporting.

Now here's the problem: Although Parcells was VERY interested in working for the Dolphins because, after all, he owns a house in South Florida, loves the weather and is a big fan of the ponies at Calder and Gulfstream, he was turned off to the idea of working for the Dolphins for one reason.

He wanted to know who his boss would be in two or three years. And Wayne Huizenga could not guarantee he would be that guy.

So the Dolphins miss out on their opportunity to hire a so-called "superstar" football man because the team's ownership situation is in limbo.

As you probably already know, Parcells is expected to soon accept a job as the Atlanta Falcons vice president for football operations, which basically means he will hire a general manager and the both of them will hire a head coach.

This is not a completely done deal yet but is expected to be finalized by as early as tonight. The only way this falls apart is if Parcells backtracks as he did with Tampa Bay years ago.

Anyway, whatever your opinion of whether hiring Parcells might have been good for the franchise or not, the bottom line is Huizenga is hurting his organization now. The fact there is no definitive word whether he is selling or not has already cost him the chance to land Parcells.

Sooo ... It stands to reason if Huizenga truly has the best interest of his team at heart, he needs to complete the sale or take the team off the market as soon as possible. Having an uncertain ownership situation is NEVER a positive.

Unsigned assistants and players worry about job security. Free agent players wonder if they're truly coming into long-term situations. And personnel guys start looking around as well, wondering whether they will have a job after the draft or the rug will be pulled out from under them.

It is bad business, folks. And that has already proven itself to be true.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cameron deserves another chance

I know I've written that the right time, at the least the fair time, to make a decision about Cam Cameron's future with the Dolphins is after the end of the season.

And that's what the Dolphins will do -- wait until after this season ends in two weeks.

But for me, it was more about seeing whether Cameron could win a game or not. I just couldn't fathom backing a coach as he tried to get another season if the Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16.

Well, Cameron will not go 0-16. And so I think he deserves one more season to prove he is the right coach for the Dolphins.

I know many of you won't agree with me. I know many of you will attack me. So be it. That's my opinion, I'm sticking to it. I shared that opinion in the pages of The Herald today.

Now I understand Cameron is not perfect. He has made a ton of mistakes this year that I have documented on this blog and in the newspaper various times. But I believe it is possible for someone to learn from their mistakes and Cameron has shown the ability to adapt -- he did so by bringing Ricky Williams onto the team even though he had no intention of doing that when the season began.

He has, I am told, begun to pay closer attention to his veterans since I reported many were dissatisfied with his handling of them.

So the rookie coach deserves a chance to show he is improving. And he deserves a chance to show what he can do with a roster of players that hopefully will be better next season. At the very least one would expect the injury plague that smote Miami this year will not return next year. And by then, one would also expect better things out of John Beck and Ted Ginn Jr. and other young players.

One would also expect an influx of talent in free agency.

If Cameron can't make the Dolphins relevant at that point, then he should go. But he deserves the opportunity to try.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winning changes some things

It is Victory Monday for the first time all season so the players have earned time off until their next practice Wednesday.

But that is not the only thing that changes because of Miami's 22-16 overtime victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

Now that the Dolphins have won:

  1. The argument that Cam Cameron must be fired because a winless coach has no right to keep his job becomes empty. There was little logical response to: "You have to fire the coach because he is the first in the history of the NFL to lose all 16 games." But now the idea of what to do with Cameron after the season is debatable. Oh, you can still argue that Cameron has made too many mistakes to keep his job. But at least there are responses to that argument -- too many injuries, a new system, an irrevocably broken roster. The debate can no longer be one-sided.
  2. Will Wayne Huizenga still sell the team? As many of you know because you've read it here and other places, Huizenga has been in negotiations to sell the team, with talks heating up of late with real estate investors Stephen Ross and Jorge Perez. There are myriad reasons Huizenga is thinking about the sale, but chief among them is his disappointment and frustration over the Dolphins previously winless season. If you saw shots of him on TV yesterday during and after the game -- including him wiping tears from his eyes after the victory -- you can begin to understand his depth of emotion for this team. So now that they've alleviated some of his frustrations, does he go forward with the sale? Or did that morsel of victory -- his first taste of success in over a year -- feed Huizenga enough to back away from the negotiating table?
  3. What to do at quarterback? Even going into yesterday's game, Cam Cameron was prepared to turn the job back to John Beck if Cleo Lemon struggled and turned the ball over. Now Lemon will be the starter against New England. But what does the coach do beyond that? If Lemon can't win in New England, which is likely, does he give Beck one last try in the season-finale? Does he give the rookie one last chance to build some of his confidence back going into 2008? And does Lemon's 300-plus-yard performance win him the opportunity to get re-signed by the Dolphins and compete for the starting job next year -- even though team people were privately admitting only days ago that Lemon is not the long-term answer?

All these are fallout from a victory. I wouldn't mind having to deal with more fallout from a victory next Monday.

Anyway talk to you guys on 790 The Ticket or tonight between 7-8. Or simply discuss right here ...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Live blogging action today during the game

Lots of things to get to today but because I only care about how many hits this blog gets, as some of you have accused, I have to tell you that there will be a fun live blogging session during the game against Baltimore today.

I picked the Dolphins to win today which obviously means there is no hope for them because I also picked them to go 10-6 this year. Yeesh.

Anyway, to clean out the notepad:

I wrote a column in the Herald today saying the Dolphins will have approximately $25 million in cap room this offseason to spend on free agency and other matters. Yes, some of that will go to the draft, but that doesn't change the fact the Dolphins will be in the middle of the pack among teams that have the most cap room.

The No. 1 guy to watch out for in free agency? Indy safety Bob Sanders who can help BOTH the run and pass defense and currently plays for a team that is salary cap poor and may not be able to retain him.

Will the Dolphins have to pay more for their free agents than most teams? Of course. Nobody wants to join a struggling team unless it is made worth their while. But that doesn't mean players won't want to play here. South Florida and the Dolphins still have lots going for them.

One free agent I didn't mention that I should have is receiver Andre' Davis of Houston. He was on the street after being waived by Cleveland when Andre Johnson got hurt. A 2002 second round pick of the Browns, Davis went to Houston and showed some great ability. He became their deep threat and top receiver while Johnson was down.

He is a speed receiver and I think he would make an excellent addition as a mid-priced No. 2 receiver that brings experience, blazing speed, and gives Miami a chance to push Derek Hagan further back on the depth chart instead of asking the youngster to be a No. 2 receiver behind Ted Ginn Jr.

[Here is the link to the column that includes other nuggets:]

About the sale of the team: Please do not believe everything Wayne Huizenga and the involved parties have to say. I have been a journalist for a quarter century and I've been lied to a lot. Some of the biggest fibs were told me by Dolphins owners when they were involved in sales.

After his father died I asked Tim Robbie, point blank, does the estate tax issue force you to consider selling? "No, not at all. We will continue to own the Dolphins." Within months, Wayne Huizenga had gone from being a 15 percent owner to owning the whole franchise.

When The Herald first got wind of Huizenga possibly selling the team, we contacted Stephen Ross to confirm his interest. He acted like he never heard of Wayne Huizenga, he said he hadn't spoken to Huizenga, and that anyway, he wasn't interested in buying.

Then we learned Ross met with Huizenga last weekend about purchasing the team.

And Huizenga's Saturday statement that he is not "actively" trying to sell the Dolphins? Then what is his definition of "actively" when he met with potential buyers the weekend before?

Anyway, I'll have a inactives update for you before the game. Then you can meet me in the comments sections for the live blog that will improve my hits and make me rich enough to buy the Dolphins -- assuming Huizenga can finance $1 Billion with equal lifetime installments of $100 per month.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Dolphins for sale, changes on the way

The Miami Herald staff just broke the story that the Dolphins are for sale.

Wayne Huizenga, as frustrated about the team's inability to win even one game as you and me, has talked to various people about pulling out and selling -- for the tidy sum of about $1 Billion.

So what does this mean?

Well, all the talk about whether Cam Cameron should be retained or fired is suddenly moot. A new owner would likely want to hire his new coach.

All the talk about whether the personnel department needs change or revamping, all the talk whether the guys who conducted last year's coaching search should be applauded or flogged is also moot. Again, a new owner means new people in practically every significant post on the team.

Top to bottom.

Some people would no doubt survive an ownership change. Some people deserve to because for all their faults, the Dolphins do have some outstanding people in their ranks. But before the news broke 30 minutes ago -- I was part of the team working on this for five days -- there were a lot more people at the team's training facility feeling a whole lot more secure about their futures than there are now.

Oddly, the people this affects least is the players. Can you believe that?

The guys most responsible for 0-13 aren't really affected by such a mammoth shift within the organization because their footing changes every year regardless of who the owner is. And the owner isn't the guy that makes decisions on their futures anyway.

So the Dolphins are for sale. What a year.

And let me guess: Most of you might be happy that Huizenga would be going. I have to tell you, that's one reason he is likely to sell. Amazing as it is to believe, this man who could buy and sell the state of Idaho, really cares whether he's liked or not in South Florida.


Dolphins wonder if Zach Thomas really wants it

On its face the Dolphins hurt for Zach Thomas when he heroically tried to overcome his migraines for six weeks before going, dragging and screaming, onto the injured reserve list, a move that ended his chances of playing again this season.

But here on this blog we try to look past the makeup on the pig's face and actually stare at the pig: And that's what this is -- a pig wearing makeup.

In fact, in truth, the Dolphins are a little wary of the entire migraines drama for several reasons. They wonder how much Thomas reeaaaalllly wanted to get back on the field this year. They wonder if too much undue influence on Thomas was exerted by his new bride, Maritza. They wonder, frankly, how it is Thomas spent nearly a month and a half battling the migraines after a horrible collision on the Florida turnpike ...

... But Maritza, a tiny gal who was in the same car in the same accident, apparently felt no similar symptoms.

These questions have no answers really. And they are not my questions about Zach because I believe he still wants it. But they are being legitimately asked by some personnel inside the Dolphins organization.

The Dolphins MUST ask themselves these questions because if the answers they come up with paint a player who didn't try his hardest to get back on the field, that must cause them to think long and hard about addressing the middle linebacker spot this offseason.

Now to the questions: Last week at a weekly Miami Touchdown Club luncheon, Thomas admitted that his wife wants him to retire. He admitted she told him not to play the remainder of this year. He also said that Maritza, a pharmacist, did extensive research on his concussion and migraine situation and was seriously concerned about her husband's future well-being.

That makes Maritza a wonderful wife to Zach. But it has got to make the Dolphins crazy.

How else can they feel when a person with such profound influence on a player is constantly telling him to quit? What kind of seeds, the Dolphins must worry, are being planted in Zach's mind? And did that influence cause Thomas to resist coming back this year when the migraines had shrunk to a mere twinge, as Thomas described it to me once?

In Zach's defense, he also said at the Touchdown Club Luncheon that he has no plans to retire because he doesn't want "to out this way."

But despite that public stance, the migraine issue which cannot be confirmed through an MRI or X-Ray is causing the Dolphins to wonder about Thomas. That doesn't mean they don't believe him to be hungry about playing again.

But they are wondering.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The no-win quarterback situation -- literally

So Cleo Lemon is the old quarterback that is the new quarterback and John Beck is the new quarterback that is now the old quarterback.

Doesn't matter much, I believe, until the Dolphins can have a conversation involving a good quarterback.

Neither is that right now, which is, I believe the top reason the Dolphins are sooooo bad. If the Dolphins had a good quarterback on the roster -- Derek Anderson, Carson Palmer, Matt Hasselbeck, Tony Romo, Ben Roethlisberger -- I guarantee you they would have four or five victories.

Even with all the injuries, even with all the turmoil, even with the questionable coaching decisions, this team would be much better if one player of worth was playing that one position.

Unfortunately, the Dolphins have not had good quarterback play all season. Trent Green was tied for the NFL lead in interceptions when he went down with his concussion. His interception percentage of 5.0 -- the percent of attempts that are intercepted -- still leads the team.

And this is despite the fact Lemon and Beck both have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns.

Cam Cameron said today he needs his quarterback to get the team in the end zone and avoid turnovers. On both counts Lemon and Beck failed.

Lemon has accounted for nine turnovers during his playing time -- six interceptions, three lost fumbles -- while Beck has accounted for seven turnovers -- three interceptions and four lost fumbles.

And they've turned the ball over while producing very few points. Beck actually never got his offense in the end zone in four starts while Lemon's touchdown percentage -- the percent of pass attempts that result in TDs -- is a paltry 1.4 percent.

The bottom line is this folks: Blame the receivers, blame the offensive line, blame the ravage of injuries to the running back corps if you wish. Miami's biggest problem, on offense, defense and special teams continues to be the quarterback position.

And changing from one player that hasn't gotten it done to another player that hasn't gotten it done is basically praying that the improbable happens -- that one of them plays over his head for one day -- so Miami can maybe win a game.

So can you guys guess how I feel about the Dolphins need to acquire more quarterbacks -- yes plural -- next year? Yeah, I'm all for it. Even in the first round if necessary.

Discuss ...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wayne Huizenga should step in now

This season is a perfect example of why Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga needs to become more involved in the daily operations of his team.

An NFL team is not a hobby. It cannot merely be a fanciful expenditure that gains amazing equity every year. It is hard work for everybody -- players, coaches, staff, and yes, the owner.

That is why I look at the Dolphins and am shocked Mr. H isn't more involved. As I have reported the last few days -- including in today's column seen here -- the Dolphins are broken from within.

Yes, they have MAJOR talent issues galore. And yes, the coaching of rookie coach Cam Cameron is rife with, well, rookie mistakes. But one of those very serious mistakes -- his alienating of veterans, specifically Jason Taylor -- could be addressed before the season ends if Huizenga were involved.

And maybe that might salvage a victory. Maybe that might derail Miami from its tracks to winless.

Here are the facts: Cameron, a Bobby Knight disciple resolute in thinking he knows the right way to do things, wants everyone to fall in lock step with his program. Except players are people, not robots. And some guys need nurturing and extra attention. Jason Taylor happens to be one of those guys.

And because Cameron hasn't seen fit to defer to Taylor, to embrace Taylor, to make an exception for an exceptional player, his relationship with Taylor has suffered a divide so significant, I've been told Taylor probably wouldn't want to play for Cameron next season.

So where does Huizenga figure in this ugly picture? Well, if the owner had an office in the team facility like Jerry Jones has in Dallas and even Robert Kraft has in New England, he would have caught wind of the friction by now.

My goodness, I'm on the outside looking in and I've gotten wind of the friction. So how could folks inside the organization not? How could Huizenga not if he were rubbing elbows with his employees everyday?

Anyway, if the owner were in position to know what's going on, he'd be in position to make peace between the parties. He could tell Cameron, "Coach, I respect your approach, but sometimes you have to do the uncomfortable thing, the irregular thing, to make a team work. Taylor is a leader and a pretty good player. Defer to him a little if you must. Just make it work for him so he makes it work for you."

Huizenga could also address Taylor and tell him he sees the divide and is working toward bridging it. That would make Taylor feel all cuddled up and better. And that would lead the player to lead in a positive way, rather than leading an insurrection of discontent. Maybe having someone with as much juice as Huizenga coming between the parties would alleviate, if not eliminate, the problem before the season ends.

But the owner cannot do this because unless he hears of the problem from people like me, I doubt people in the organization are telling him what is really going on for fear of being the bearers of bad news -- which most folks don't want to be with their boss.

It sounds like a simplistic answer to a complex situation. But sometimes right-thinking people who have the same goals -- as in winning at least one football game -- can smooth over significant differences and work together toward a common good.

Unfortunately Huizenga is not really in position to mediate now. He might do it after the season when he actually has long conversations with the parties involved. But by then it might be too late to avoid 0-16.

And that's too bad for the Dolphins.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Live blog today of your fight fans, er, football team

So Floyd Mayweather won his fight last night and that's important to you on this Dolphins blog because, the Dolphins watched the fight.

Apparently the coaching staff rented out a sports bar near their downtown Buffalo digs Saturday and the players went over there and watched the match that ended in the 10th round on a TKO.

The interesting thing about it is the fight didn't begin until 11 p.m. and estimates are it ended sometime around 12:30 a.m. By the time players got back to their rooms it was around 1 a.m.

It's interesting that on a night before a 1 p.m. game, the Dolphins as a whole were out until midnight or 1 a.m. Typically, players have to be in by 11 p.m. for bed check on the night before a game.

Oh, brother ... the hits keep on coming.

INACTIVE INFORMATION: Starting CB Michael Lehan, starting running back Jesse Chatman, starting linebacker Channing Crowder, starting receiver Marty Booker and starting defensive lineman Matt Roth are inactive for today's game. They will not play.

Anyway, meet me in the comments section for the live blog around kickoff time -- which is about 12 hours after the dolphins got in last night.

Friday, December 07, 2007

The passing of an era for Zach Thomas?

Amid the attention diverted this week to issues of play-calling and Cam Cameron's capabilities and the happiness of players within the locker room, we all sort of missed a significant moment for Zach Thomas.

When he was placed on injured reserve -- against his will, according to agent Drew Rosenhaus -- the Dolphins and their tackling machine linebacker changed their relationship. Thomas has been the heartbeat of the defense for a dozen years and has been an exemplary pillar in the South Florida community.

He rewarded the Dolphins for picking him in 1996 as a probable special teams player by becoming a Pro Bowler. They rewarded him with multiple multi-year contracts that made him a rich man. He's made $15 million in base salary since 2004.

And until this week there was never any talk of Zach moving on or costing too much or slowing down. Now? There's plenty of talk like that.

Remember in my last post when I complained bitterly that Cameron would not answer the question of whether he wants Thomas back in 2008 with a simple yes or no? Well, I'm told the reason the coach didn't give a black and white answer is because this issue is mired in a gray area.

Zach, you see, is scheduled to make $5.65 million in 2008. Guess what? The Dolphins are unlikely to pay that for a 35-year-old linebacker who missed most of the previous year with concussion and migraine issues -- even one named Zach Thomas. They are likely going to ask Thomas to take a pay cut or do a short extension that will mitigate the large cap charge that comes with a $5.65 million base salary.

Zach, on the other hand, has at his disposal the ability to simply decline overtures to trim his salary or extend his contract. He's all but certain to rebuff a salary cut but will be open to an extension.

And if he really wants to push this to the wall, if he really wants to see what is out there in the world of teams that actually win games, Thomas will likely be able to do that. Now, so far, Zach has said the right things about wanting to stay with the Dolphins and all that.

But he welcomed the news that owner Wayne Huizenga would listen to him if he asked to be traded. He also told brother-in-law Jason Taylor about Huizenga's overture which the owner made in London and applied to both cornerstone players.

So Zach is not thinking he absolutely, definitely will play in Miami no matter what.

Nope, the ties that bind in this case are weakening. The team is now looking out for its best interest by placing Zach on injured reserve and will do so again this offseason when it comes to his high cap charge. Thomas, a wiser businessman than most might think, is also going to be looking out for his own best interests.

And it is possible, maybe even likely, the two interests will not meet.

Discuss ...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

You think the record is bad? Read this ...

This has not been a good week for Cam Cameron.

First his team quit on Sunday. Then, after the game in which they quit, the players admitted there is a divide between some players and coaches and even some players and other players. Dissension is the word used by some.

Then we find out Cameron, though not a liar, is definitely taking liberties with the truth on how he dances around questions.

The first issue in which Cameron's credibility is now at stake is that of offensive playcalling. The subject of whether Trent Green was calling plays came up after the game Sunday and again Monday. Both days, Cameron said Green wasn't calling the plays and suggested nothing had changed in how the Dolphins offense does business.

"Yeah, he just relays the call to the quarterback," Cameron said. "That's the only difference.''

Except that is not true. Turns out, according to several players, Mike Mularkey called the offensive plays against the Jets Sunday. It was the first game Mularkey did it and not Cameron. I would say that is quite a difference.

This revelation brings up a couple of issues. Now we have Cameron giving up his play-calling to the guy who called the plays last year and that effectively defeats the purpose of owner Wayne Huizenga going out last spring and searching far and wide for an offensive mind to lead his team.

It also asks Mularkey, a former Steelers offensive coordinator, to call plays in an offense in which he was not reared and does not feel most comfortable with. Last year Mularkey had to call plays in the offense Scott Linehan installed and last Sunday he's calling plays in the offense Cameron brought from San Diego.

But aside from that, it torques me that the coach was thinking he was smarter than everyone by not answering questions in a straightforward fashion. I mean come on. I have a huge pimple on my nose and you ask me if I have a pimple on my cheek and I say, "No, my skin hasn't changed," and I'm not stretchg the truth?

A similar exchange happened between myself and Cameron again Wednesday. Cameron was talking about putting linebacker Zach Thomas on injured reserve and I asked the question all of you want answered:

"Cam," I asked, "Do you want Zach Thomas on the team next year?

Cameron's answer: “Zach Thomas, you can’t imagine what it’s like having your defense lose, not only it’s Mike linebacker, but it being Zach Thomas. That’s something we’ve had to deal with all year long. I have so much respect for him. In my view, he’s our Mike linebacker. Now Channing (Crowder) has done an outstanding job of filling in for him and is one heck of a Mike linebacker, too. But as I said, you don’t replace Zach Thomas. You don’t. You try to do it collectively, but I think we all have so much respect for the guy.”

So with all due respect, I asked him if that simply meant YES or NO?

“He and I have talked that that’s where everyone is going to go, and he and I have agreed. The bottom line is he’s going to do everything to help us this year, and we’re going to let some time go by. He’s under contract next year. He knows how I feel about him. We’re not going to get into the speculation on next year. We’re going to focus on this year, and I think that’s fair.”

In other words, I am up here on this podium doing the Soulja boy dance around these questions but you're not going to get a straight answer and maybe not even the truth.

Nice job. Last time a Dolphins coach took liberties like this was last December. His name is Nick Saban.

LIVE CHAT today (WED.) at 2 p.m.

First of all, I want to thank you once again. Once again last month, for the third consecutive month, Dolphins In Depth was the most popular sports blog at The Miami Herald. And for the third consecutive month, you guys came on here in higher numbers than you did the month before.

Pretty impressive considering the team everyone on here cares about -- with the exception of a couple of stray Jets fans -- is struggling with a 0-12 record. Last month you guys came on here to the tune of approximately 140,000. Thank you. I am humbled by your allegiance.

And to reward you today, I am going to let you talk to .... ME!!!

At 2 p.m. you can come on here and we'll discuss, debate and try to answer your Dolphins concerns and questions. I'll be on here a minimum of 40 minutes. Maybe longer, depending on press conference schedules.

So once again, thank you. And let's meet back at 2.

By the way, if you want to leave your questions in advance, I'll check in a little early and answer those first.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The reasons now is not the time to decide on Cameron

If you already believe Cam Cameron should be fired, you are wrong. If you already believe Cam Cameron should get a second season, you are wrong.

I am not sitting on the fence here, because, among other things that is uncomfortable, it makes my underwear bunch up and it simply goes against my nature. But that was the accusation by some readers when they read my column on the subject on The Herald website today. Here is the column:

The point of my column is too much can happen between now and the final day of the season for anyone to have an informed opinion now.

Here's a test for folks that believe Cameron should get fired: Will you think that way if Miami wins the next four games? Will you think that way if John Beck, under Cameron's tutelage, suddenly begins to play great and upsets the Patriots?

If your answer is yes then you are a fool.

Similarly, here's a test for folks that believe Cameron should absolutely get a second season: Will you think that way if the Dolphins become infamous by losing all 16 of their games this year? Will you think that if the hints of dissension currently peeking through become pronounced and obvious and turn the Dolphins into a dysfunctional team? Will you think that if Bill Cowher or Bill Parcells or somebody of that reputation calls wanting Cameron's job?

If your answer is yes, you too, are a fool.

The point is we don't know what is going to happen. We don't know what the final month of the season will bring. So you guys cannot know if firing Cameron or keeping Cameron is the right move.

It's not fence-sitting. It's simply smart.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Backlash against John Beck is wrong

The instinct among many Dolphins fans is to draw the instant conclusion, and that drive to know a truth before it is truly revealed has been supercharged recently by the current sorry state of the team.

Because things are going so poorly, everyone now instantly assumes the worst. If Jason Allen isn't on the field, he's a bust. If Ted Ginn doesn't catch five passes, he'll never make it as a receiver. If the Dolphins have the first overall pick in the draft, they'll find a way to blow it.

Dolfans are developing a sense of impending epic doom about, well, everything. Such are some of the reactions about John Beck today.

The rookie had a bad game Sunday afternoon. He threw three interceptions. He fumbled three times, losing two. He was generally over his head against an otherwise unspectacular Jets defense. And so I've already heard from Dolfans that think Beck is not the answer.

I'm getting e-mails from folks who claim to know Beck doesn't have it and will never have it. There are people out there calling for the Dolphins to draft another quarterback in the first round next year because they guy they drafted in the second round last year had one bad game.

And to that I say, rubbish.

Sunday proved absolutely nothing about John Beck other than he has a long way to go and a lot of learning to do. That is all. It didn't prove he won't be good next year or in five years. It didn't prove he is too short or his arm isn't strong enough or his vision is poor.

It was just one bad afternoon for the quarterback of a bad team. After throwing three picks Sunday, Beck is just as likely to throw three touchdowns the next time Miami plays the Jets. That is how little Sunday means from a historical perspective in this player's career.

Anyone who was expecting Beck to be a prodigy and look like a young Dan Marino learned Sunday he looks more like a young Drew Brees -- trying to learn what he doesn't know and struggling to have success with what he does know.

And like Brees, who struggled his first three years in San Diego, Beck might struggle for a while in Miami. That doesn't make him a failure. That makes him human.

The point is anyone drawing a conclusion on Beck based on one game is simply guessing. Could be right. But could be wrong, also. I say let the kid go through his growing pains. Days like this are supposed to happen.

Just because they do happen doesn't mean you should be ready to abandon hope. It is way too early to do that. It is way too early to write off John Beck.


Live blog today during the VICTORY today

Sitting in the press box overlooking a pristine field this morning, I am watching Dolphins president Bryan Wiedmeier having a friendly chat with Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff.

As you know Westhoff coached the Dolphins special teams for over a decade before being fired by Dave Wannstedt. Although I doubt this is happening, it might be nice if Wiedmeier asked Westhoff what his contract situation is next year and whether he'd be interested in returning to South Florida to improve a special teams unit that -- outside of Ted Ginn Jr. -- has been awful this season.

Anyway, as you know this is a BIG game today. It doesn't matter that both teams have bad records and are going absolutely nowhere in the postseason. It matters that one of these bad teams has an opportunity to win.

The spoils to the winner are obvious: A satisfying week enjoying a victory.

The loser? Well a highly placed Dolphins employee summed it up thusly: "If we lose, the entire country will be talking about us going winless and being the worst team of all time. If they lose, people will start talking about [Eric] Mangini's job security."

Such are the stakes today.

The inactives today for the Dolphins DO NOT include Lorenzo Booker. Maybe this is the game he gets a few series to show what he's got. Inactive today are Kerry Reed, Jereme Perry, Tuff Harris, Zach Thomas, Anthony Bryant, Anthony Alabi, Derrick Robinson and Rob Ninkovich.

Meet me in the comment section for the live blogging session. And yes, I did pick the Dolphins to win today in The Herald.