- Mike Tannenbaum hired... ...as Dolphins' executive VP of football operations
- Philbin retained Coach Philbin was given a contract extension
- Fins season ends on low note Jets down the Fins to end their season 8-8
- CB Will Davis out for season Miami placed CB Will Davis on the IR, ending his season
If the losses pile up and Sparano is fired, who does Miami turn to as Head Coach?
To the legions of Dolfans crying “Armageddon!”: starting 0-2 shouldn’t be shocking to any of us. Shoot, I think odds are good this team could start 1-4 (or, gulp, worse). After all, this is the same team that was 1-9 at home going into this season, piloted by the same head coach, QB, and defense that propelled Miami to last year’s 7-9 finish. This is the team that packed it in to close the season with 3 losses, leading to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross courting Jim Harbaugh despite not firing Sparano. If my math is right, Miami has had 5 straight losses under Sparano, who better pull out all the stops to try to get a win against the Browns or he could quickly be looking at 8 straight loses with the Chargers and Jets next on the schedule.
Much like the “nature vs nuture” argument, are the Phins woes a product of the player acquisition (nature of the team) or the coaching (nuturing of the players)?
Fellow columnist Michael Fink makes the case that Miami’s woes liecompletelyatthefeet of GM Jeff Ireland. Fink argues that Sparano is handcuffed by thelackof playmakers,andthus the nature of the team.
I can’t argue with the premise that the talent acquisition on this team, while better under Ireland’s direction than previous regimes, leaves something to be desired. Sure, Ireland has done a good job of shoring up Miami’s overall depth. But his ability to secure elite playmakers is inadequate, particularly at critical positions like QB, pass rush, and CB. Miami’s record the past two years has been mediocre in large part because the foundation of the team, the talent, is mediocre.
But how can you give a pass to the coaching staff when players are out of position (see the defensive performance in most of the second half against the Patriots, or Carroll/Jones on the Johnson TD catch yesterday), are utilized in ways that don’t suit their skill set (see Bush running between the tackles), and you see quotes like the following:
“It’s baffling to me, it really is. I don’t have any answers for it. We’ve just got to do a better job.”
-Head Coach Tony Sparano after yet another home loss, via MiamiDolphins.com
“[W]hen asked if the team has lost some confidence, [Jason Taylor] told the truth. “Yeah, to be honest, we have,” Taylor said.” via Ben Volin at the Palm Beach Post.
It’s the Head Coach’s job to have the plan, to have the answers. To openly admit that he doesn’t have answers reveals Sparano is clueless, not only because he feels this way, but because he foolishly admitted it. Football frequently uses warfare as a metaphor, and in this case does this sound like the general you want leading your troops to battle?
Worse, two games in and the troops have already lost confidence in themselves and/or the team as revealed by OLB Jason Taylor. Again, the mere fact that Taylor admits this is as telling as the fact that players are discouraged. Does this sound like a wounded animal in the corner, hair raised, growling, ready to lash out and devour anything foolish enough to approach it? To me it sounds like they’re licking their wounds, apathetic to the likely exposure to additional ones, tail between their legs, in a word… hopeless.
Last week I wrote the Texans game was a must win game, and boy was I right. It sure looks like the wheels are coming off this wagon quickly. A win against the Browns might slow the bleeding, but I don’t think a tourniquet can save this team if it losses to the Chargers and the Jets (after a bye week at that).
Many Dolfans envision this and are already calling for Sparano’s firing (obviously firing Ireland midseason won’t change anything). Even if the losses pile up, Dolfans shouldn’t expect any changes any time soon in the coaching staff. Miami after all, would need to name a new coach.
First off, no coach outside of the Dolphins is going to touch this team now that the season is underway. Sparano built this ship and no one worth their salt will want to hitch their reputation on his mess. So forget the über unrealistic pipe dreams of luring Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden to Miami before the season’s end.
That means Miami will need to name a head coach from within. Normally this would be one of the coordinators. Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is the senior assistant and most likely man for the position, particularly given his past experience as a head coach at the NFL level. But given Nolan’s inability to coach the defense the past couple of games do you honestly think promoting him will help the team improve at all this season? I think the defenders have given up on Nolan as much as they have Sparano, otherwise they wouldn’t be out of position, arrogant about their ability, or losing confidence already as revealed by Jason Taylor.
That leaves new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who to his credit has helped bring some life to Chad Henne and the Dolphins offense. Daboll’s resume is short: 3 years experience as offensive coordinator, 2 as QB coach with the Jets, 5 as a WR coach for the Patriots, and his first 2 years in the NFL as a defensive coordinator for the Patriots. Daboll has no experience as a head coach in the NFL. Some will point to the fact that he cut his coaching teeth under Bill Belichick, although I would counter that Belichick’s disciples haven’t exactly set the NFL on fire without Tom Brady as their QB. Daboll, if promoted, would inherit a difficult situation with little time to effect change, not to mention face possible resentment from Nolan. It’s only been two games but I like the change the Daboll has effected on offense. I also think Daboll, being younger, is more apt to be hungry and challenge the team. However, he’s barely had time to install his offense and acclimate his players to it, and now you want to ask him to do something he’s never done before and run the entire team? I think promoting him would be akin to covering him with barbecue sauce, hamstringing him, and throwing him to the wolves. If I had to pick I think I would take Daboll later in the season, after he has a chance to implement more of the offense and because I think he might actually rise above the morass.
When push comes to shove, I think Jeff Ireland will view firing Sparano anywhere before week 8 or 10 about as symbolic as cutting Benny Sapp – an empty gesture that puts the team in a worse position and doesn’t offer any really hope for improvement. Despite Nolan’s experience and tenure he doesn’t make an attractive candidate for head coach in 2012 and beyond. That leaves Daboll, who would get my vote for a try-out if the offense continues to improve between now and the midpoint of the season.
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