Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Week 16 Editorial - Part 2 of 3 - "What's Left"

After writing 'Part 1' of this topic, it came to light that the Dolphins had not actually been eliminated from the playoff run, but they are stuck in a box with Rex Ryan sitting on the lid.  So I will carry on with the same mindset, which is to assume the season is over for all practical purposes and to assess the damages.  

Yesterday I brought up the fact that we probably shouldn't have made it this long into the playoff race because of the fact we lost 7 integral players to injured reserve, including our best offensive and best defensive players (Brown and Ferguson).  They were both the anchors of their respective sides of the ball, and both injuries caused massive disruption and inconsistency down the stretch.

At the same time, at least one game was lost due to coaching decisions, and I'm being kind there, it was probably more like 3 or 4.

So, closing down 2009, we know certain things to be evident:
  • Tony Sparano trusts his assistant coaches 100%.  Or at least he did.  Comments he made this week about it all being his fault may have sounded like what any decent head coach would say, but ou could also read into it that maybe he misplaced his trust.  Only time will tell.  In any event, no matter what Sparano decides in regard to his bumbling coordinators, it would be surprising if there isn't pressure from some of the half dozen celebrity owners to at least look into who else is out there, and if we have the right guys for the job (Dolfans are almost unanimous in their opinion - NO!).
  • We went into 2009's season knowing that Chad Pennington, David Martin, Matt Roth, Anthony Fasano, Jason Ferguson, and Ronnie Brown were closing out their contracts and decisions would have to be made.  Many of us were very clear cut on what should be done - Ronnie/Roth/Fergie should be extended, and the rest decided on after the season.  Well, fate stepped in and took control.  Rothgate ended with a loud slamming of the door, and he's shaken off the rust in Cleveland.  Pennington's early season exit led to a weed-like growth in confidence in Chad Henne by fans and coaches alike., meaning Pennington's future with the Dolphins is dependent entirely on if he wants to retire to backup status (goodbye Pat White) or compete to start (goodbye C. Pennington).  David Martin was unceremoniously put aside and swept out with the floor droppings.  He was desperately missed on the field though.  Fergie and Ronnie both went down, but Ronnie may not be a free man just yet, as 2010's uncapped year seems more and more a reality about to happen, which would mean Ronnie isn't going to be an unrestricted free agent, and could end up being Miami's first 'Franchise' player in a long time.  Ferguson may have played his last down of football, but if he's cleared to return, he will undoubtedly return with the Dolphins.  The only one really up for debate is Fasano.  He really did not do enough to dig himself out of my doghouse.  He single-handedly lost the first two games of the season.  He missed an entire month with a mysterious 'nagging' injury that was really being in the Dolphins dog-house too (they just would never say so to the public).  At times in 2008 I thought he was horrible both at blocking and at running routes (and he dropped a lot of passes in the middle of the season).  He still looked poor in route-running this year and his blocking was not spectacular either.  I often found myself involuntarily closing my eyes when the ball was thrown to him this season.  I think that gives away which side of the fence I'm on.
  • We know we did well forming a defensive line - Langford, Merling, Starks, McDaniel are here to stay and Soliai and Ferguson will be doing what they can to stay in a Dolphins uniform in 2010, and their odds are better than 50%.
  • We know we don't understand linebackers.  JT, JP, CC, and AA, all had down years.  At times JT looked solid, at times JP looked solid, but almost always against weak opponents.  CC and AA were suspect all year long, and Reggie Torbor pretty much got the torching of a lifetime last week.  The only linebacker who showed any consistency was CFL import, Cameron Wake, both consistent in his inability to get on the field, and his ability to pressure the opposing QB.  Once again I can't help but point a finger to the coaching staff, and their inability to coach him up to defend versus the run and drop back in coverage.  They have had him for the better part of a year - where is the progress?  There is none because this coaching staff believes in 'situational' players, as opposed to 'all-around' players.  They probably haven't even scratched the surface with Wake.
  • We know that Brian Hartline has a future in the NFL.  We know that Patrick Turner may want to look into getting a contractor's license.  We know that Ted Ginn has more touchdowns called back than any player in the NFL.  Essentially if he scores a TD, there's a 50/50 chance there's a flag on the ground.  And we know that despite being guilty of one of the flags above, Lousaka Polite is our most pro-bowl worthy candidate on the offensive side of the ball.  We also know that we have hit on first-rounders two years in a row, first Jake Long, and now Vontae Davis (keep in mind EVERY corner gets burned from time to time) who has ridiculous numbers for a rookie corner - 49 tackles, 45 of which are solo (meaning he doesn't need help bringing down receivers) and four INTs including a pick 6. And finally, we know we have a 'QB of the future' and that he is ready NOW.
  • Here's what we DON'T know.  If Sean Smith is starting material.  He started out so well in pre-season and training camp, completely dominating the competition between rookie corners, but has been inconsistent during the regular season, most notably incapable of registering an NFL interception.  He has just 12 pass deflections.  In comparison, the NFL leader, Darelle Revis of the Jets, has 37.  Andre Goodman, the guy that Smith replaced, has 19 PDs, 4 INTs, and a fumble return for a TD.  I feel bad for saying this because I think Smith is one of the nicest guys on the team, if not the nicest, but he has not won the job, in my opinion, and has not progressed the way Davis has.
  • We also don't know what to do about our WRs.  We have a 'serviceable' group.  We have guys like Camarillo and Bess who starred in 2008, their first real shots at real playing time, who have both had up and down years.  Camarillo's numbers are embarrassing by NFL starter standards.  Bess dropped more passes than Ted Ginn did in 2009.  Ginn has been on the hot-seat for dropping passes, but some of them were very difficult catches, and the ones Bess dropped were almost all right in between the numbers.  Then there's the question of if Ginn would fit in as a third receiver and be successful in that role - returning kicks/punts and coming in on 3rd and long.  To do that, obviously we'd have to improve the starting line-up - Bess and Camarillo are not the answer there.  Hartline perhaps.  But we still need one more.  Someone tall, fast, aggressive, with good feet and ability to move the chains.  Hmm....Vincent Jackson anyone?  If not Jackson, then it would have to be trade or draft, because no other free agents fit that mold unless Dallas lets Miles Austin loose.  To think, we could have had Austin this year for a 2nd round draft pick that was used carelessly on Pat White.
  • We don't know what to do about the inside linebackers.  Crowder's foot injury will likely sideline him throughout the entire preseason of 2010, meaning he won't be ready to go when the season starts.  Ayodele has some ability, but doesn't seem to have the quick reaction to changes on the field.  Torbor is the most inconsistent player in the NFL.  He's either dominant or looks like a peewee player.  JD Folsom is slower than molasses.  It looks grim here, boys and girls.  This collapse of the back interior could seriously disrupt our ability to get free agents and rookies of need in other areas.  Forget drafting two per position, we may have to draft three here.  Is William Kershaw still out there?  There will be some very good free agent linebackers, but they're almost all too old for the Dolphins' liking.
 So what's left from the 2009 season?  Well, if it takes a full season to find a franchise QB  in Henne (I still think we should've played him in 2008), a solid O-line (they all have lots of experience now but Carey got lucky with his contract - he is the weak link but we will have to deal with it), a future pro-bowl pass rusher (Wake), and a now experienced yet young secondary, then so be it.  I honestly believe that plugging back in the injured players, we wouldn't be having this conversation now but would be talking about who we were going to face in the playoffs.  I thought that heading into 2009, that we were 20% better than the 2008 team.  I couldn't have anticipated the injuries, the White-Pat-Of-Butter, or the inability of the coaching staff to adjust during a game, or to bring the right players in uniform.  I couldn't have anticipated Fasano being SO bad in the first two games, or so many calls going against us - the Saints INT return for a TD, and the 'two-step incomplete pass' from last week spring to mind.  These were game-changing calls.  

There were so many things that just didn't fall into place for the Dolphins in 2009.  But they are not as bad as their record indicates.  Let's keep in mind that in the off-season, they were predicted to get no more than 5 or 6 wins.  They topped that, and they gained experience along the way.  

(Even though they had chances to be but ended up not being a part of this, 2009 came and went with the 1972 Dolphins STILL being the only undefeated team in NFL history.  So even if you're disappointed in the current team, as Dolfans, the last week has been pretty exciting anyway.)

In my closing article of the 'Week 16 Editorial', I'll get into why Sparano is making a mistake by treating the Pittsburgh game as 'any other' and I'll map out what exactly I think needs to be the direction of the Miami Dolphins heading forward.  Thanks for all the comments this week, they really make me want to jump in on the draft and free agency, but despite my eagerness, a certain amount of protocol must be followed, so I will wait until the season is officially over.


  1.  You are right on Tin!! You summed up everything in a nutshell.

  2. <span>"they are stuck in a box with Rex Ryan sitting on the lid"</span>

    Wow, I had heard it was going to take a miracle, now I know why.  

    I hate the end of football season...especially when it ends badly.   

    Thanks for all the info, insight, and the football education you are providing me.  All except for the part where you didn't want CP to play last year...just think, if he hadn't come here, neither would I!  LOL, I'm sure that sends chills... and I  want to add a thanks to you for the blog.  You do a great job with it. 

  3. Ah, you give me way too much credit...there's no way I could fit all that in
    a nutshell...I'm not very good at engraving anyway...

  4. Herdfan, would you have crossed over if Pennington was brought in, competed
    with Henne, and became the backup?
    I'm not saying Henne should have started from the get go, but there were
    plenty of opportunities to get him in the game during the season. And don't
    use the excuse of not playing a rookie QB. Chad Henne was forty times the
    QB Pat White was the day either was drafted.

  5. The Knight who says Ni!December 29, 2009 at 1:18 PM

    I'm not going to comment on everything due to the fact that I only read 23% of what you write.  :-P

    About Tony Sparano, I think he's very much learning how to be a head coach in this league. From hiring coaches, trusting his coaches, coaching up players, developing projects and in-game coaching. It's a lot to take on and there is definitely a learning curve. At the end of last season he fired long time OL coach Mike Maser whom Parcells once said was the best OL coach he'd ever been around. So that was Tony making a gut decision and I'm sure he'll make more decisions like that this offseason.

    As for Sean Smith, hopefully he gets a little stronger and plays a little more physical than he did this year. Maybe with a year under his belt he'll start off next year more confident and maybe more aggressive.

  6. The Knight who says Ni!December 29, 2009 at 1:19 PM

    How about building ships in a bottle?  :-E

  7. You misunderstand what I'm saying...and actually I'm just kidding with you about the Henne thing...I completely understand it.  What I don't understand is just what you bring up, Pat White.  Not that they drafted him, I think he still has an upside, but WTF have they been doing with him this season?  I have asked this more than once as the season has gone on, and I still am no closer to getting it. I agree with what you have said about him at WV, I have said it myself, he owes a big part of his legend there to Steve Slayton.

    Crossed over?  From where?

  8. from that team in Jersey ;)
    Yeah I bet Slaton was loving hearing all the Pat White love during the '09
    draft season.

  9. Tin, excellent read! Your summary of the Fins season is accurate and informative.

    Your coverage of last year's draft made it really interesting. Like you, I eagerly await the draft like a kid at Christmas!

  10. 23%? That's more than I would've thought....
    To me, Smith's biggest issue has actually been fundamentals like turning his
    hips. he seems to get passed by too easily. I am a bit surprised as to his
    physicality because at some point if I were getting beat off the line of
    scrimmage, I'd creep up and smack the receiver at the line....again, is that
    Smith's fault or the coaching? It just seems like some weaknesses are not
    even being addressed in practice.

  11. LOL, right...I never really got into that team...I watched, and actually went to a game there...but that's it.  Take it from me, you guys are much better than those Jersey boys(no offense Knight).  And my opinion is the only one that matters!  ;)

  12. however, unlike a kid at christmas, I don't have an old man who's going to
    spend 2 hours opening the toy packaging and/or another 4 hours putting
    together the train set....

  13. The Knight who says Ni!December 29, 2009 at 3:17 PM


    That's another thing with Smith. He's slow to react on the first move a WR makes then he has to use his long range to make up for it. Maybe the offseason conditioning program can help him improve on his explosiveness and recovery speed and upper body strength to be more effective jamming the WR at the LOS. We'll see. He was considered a bit raw as a corner for the next level and that's why he lasted until the 60s of the 2nd round even with his size/speed ratio.

  14. <span>The <span> </span>NFL is creating a partnership with researchers at Boston University who are studying the long-term effects of brain injuries on players, the Associated Press reported. “It’s huge that the NFL Draftactively gets behind this research,” Robert Cantu, the co-director of the school’s research program, told the AP. “It forwards the research. It allows players to realize the<span>  </span>is concerned about the possibility that they could have this problem and that the NFL Draftis doing everything it can to find out about the risks and the preventive strategies that can be implemented.”</span>

  15. What the $#^k is this about ?

  16. Hell if I know. *DONT_KNOW*