Welcome to the Miami Dolphins, Rookie!
The NFL should pay attention to these innovators of the AFC East. A head coach that most analysts admit they know nothing about pushed the AFC East Champions to the head of the class and turned around a team everyone knows lack confidence the previous year.
Tony Sparano is a no-nonsense motivator that gets up in the face of the players but supports them by taking chances during the game. Countless times during the 2008 campaign, Sparano went for fourth down.
He made most of them, encouraging the team that he never gives up, while also showing that he had that same faith the defense would get the job done if the offense didn't.
Some would be surprised to know that Sparano has been around the offense for most of his coaching career and was instrumental in changing the Cowboys offense to a two tight end offense and leading the team to a playoff run that fell short in the Tony Romo fumbled extra point game.
After many stints with other professional teams, it seems Sparano is the man who can lead the team for as long as he wants to do the job.
Todd Bowles is the assistant head coach and secondary coach.
He is arguably the most important coach besides Sparano and must configure a secondary to deal with some of the top receivers ever to catch a football in the NFL.
The Dolphins also know he is very close to getting other head coaching positions if he continues to do as well as he has been getting the team to respond.
He interviewed for the Detroit Lions opening in the offseason, gathering experience for the next step.
Right now, he must focus on the Patriots, Steelers, Jets, Bills, Falcons, Colts, as well as other teams with top passing QBs, while assembling the best possible Dolphins secondary. This secondary will include at least two rookies drafted in the first two rounds, Vontae Davis and Sean Smith.
S Chris Clemons looks to capture Bowles' eye also. Returning Clemons, and in my eyes, All-Pro Yeremiah Bell, will definitely have the captain of the secondary to make Bowles look good.
Bowles earned the right to have a voice in the secondary by his play with the Washington Redskins (twice) as well as with the San Francisco 49ers, both organizations with a championship attitude.
His coaching resume' includes secondary work with the Cleveland Browns and the Dallas Cowboys, where he was interviewed for the head coaching position after Bill Parcells retired.
Look for Bowles to make a big move after leading the Dolphin secondary to a bigger season than the outlook by analysts will preview.
The man has done his homework and is the same guy who went to Utah to look at Smith, and also drew up nickel packages for several teams along the way.
The picture above shows what Coach Karl Dorrell had to deal with in the Pac-10 every year as coach of the UCLA Bruins.
I think Dorrell would almost admit the UCLA firing led to him being available to help coach one of the greatest turnarounds in NFL history. Unfortunate QB circumstances didn't help in California, but now he is in sunny Florida, with a different set of issues.
He is arguably the second most important coach in need of proving that this set of receivers can hang with the defenses of the AFC elite. Going back just a year, and no one could tell you they knew of Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess, Brandon Landon, in addition to Ted Ginn, Jr.
Kudos have to go to Dorrell and the rest of the coaches on making the offense stronger with very few drops. With the help of Dorrell in 2000, Rod Smith and Ed McCaffrey became only the second wide receiver duo to catch 100 passes a piece in a single season.
From 1992 to 1993, Dorrell coached wide receivers at Colorado. In his first year with the Buffaloes, two of his receivers, Charles Johnson and Michael Westbrook, became just the fourth pair of receivers on the same team in NCAA history to each have over 1,000 receiving yards.
So I would expect some great strides after being with the same wide receiver unit for more time during this offseason, and God forbid if anything happens to Pennington, as Henne would have to come in and throw with his strong Marino-like arm.
Dorrell would sorely be needed and I'm sure ready for action.
The most incredible part of the Dolphins' turnaround was that Lee did not even have the same amount of time to work with his starting QB as the other NFL teams.
Lee and Pennington are miracle workers who were definitely on the same page as offensive coordinator Dan Henning and raising everybody's game to an excitement level that was climaxed in the last game of the season against the NY Jets.
It wasn't just about the Wildcat and the variety of options that they presented on offense. It was about the personnel on the team and how Lee orchestrated his persona on the team and how Pennington used his personality to demonstrate the coaches' leadership in the huddle.
Lee represents the unknown in the Dolphin equation and relishes the opportunity to get even more out of the offense this year with even more offensive weapons like college superstar Pat White.
Lee is building an imprint of his persona with the Dolphins and will soon be on everyone's short list for a higher position in the NFL. "Wildcat" or not.
Wow. Henning's resume' makes you wonder why he isn't retired on an island somewhere and drinking the most relaxing drinks and eating the best Caribbean food.
Why not?? Because Bill Parcells called and challenged him to rebuilding the Miami Dolphins' offense to be competitive after their previously dismal 1-15 season.
Parcells knew one other fact.
Football coaches are football coaches.
Henning has led three teams to the Super Bowl as offensive coordinator and won two with the Redskins in 1981-1982 and 1987-1988. His last visit was one Patriot winning drive away from winning his third.
One little known fact is that Henning was a player for the AFL's San Diego Chargers in 1964 and was also a coach previously for the Dolphins during the 1979-1980 season as well as eight other NFL teams.
The one team that poses the biggest threat to the Miami offense is the Baltimore Raven defense who stuffed the Dolphins twice are thankfully not on the schedule.
Now that Rex Ryan is gone to the Jets, we might get to see again if he is the problem or the Dolphin offense against his scheme to bring the safeties into the box and confuse the running backs on their blocking schemes.
Henning must have the offense ready with new wrinkles for Sept. 13 and beyond. The Atlanta Falcons will be ready and then the Colts and so on.
Remember when the Jacksonville Jaguars were blocking all those field goals in 2002?
Well, we can attribute that aggressive style of special teams play to Coach John Bonamego.
Coach Bonamego has been special teams coordinator for four NFL teams, including his work with the Dolphins last year. His coaching of P Brandon Fields and K Dan Carpenter improved the Dolphins' field position tremendously.
Fields had a 43.9 yard average and no punts blocked, while Carpenter only missed four field goals all year and hit all extra points adding 103 points.
Davone Bess added solid return yardage and made no mistakes, but I'm sure Bonamego will be looking for even more of a spark in the return game this year to get the most out of a young Dolphin team.
It is a little known fact that Coach Pasqualoni is credited for the development of Jason Witten as the premier tight end with the Dallas Cowboys.
What makes this so interesting is that the former Syracuse coach is now the defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.
Ok. Ok. He also did work with Donovan McNabb during his freshman year at Syracuse before he caught up in a whirlwind storm and was fired from the university, even though the president wanted him to stay.
So Pasqualoni is used to dealing with marquee names on either side of the ball and that is good to know because there will be added pressure to bring Jason Taylor back into the flow of the defense, while maintaining the 17.5 sack production from Joey Porter a year ago.
He will also have his hands full with dealing with the 2009 schedule with opponents' dynamic offenses, such as the New England Patriots, who have added Joey Galloway and Greg Lewis to complement Randy Moss and former Dolphin Wes Welker.
The Buffalo Bills also bring more firepower to the AFC East party with the addition of Terrell Owens.
Luckily for Pasqualoni, Marshawn Lynch will miss the first meeting of the season due to his four-game suspension at the beginning of the season; however, Fred Jackson proved he was more than capable of filling in as more than an average backup.
These things said, Pasqualoni has the coaches and hopefully the players to protect the team's AFC East title by being even more aggressive with the blitz in the box and showing man-to-man coverage with a mix of zone in the secondary.
Matt Roth's production last year showed he learned a few things from Taylor after he was traded and really attacked opponents on the outside. Now with Taylor back, the opposing lines will have a hard time figuring out who is going to do what and come from where.
As an assistant of Parcells in Dallas, Pasqualoni exhibited the fire of his years of being a head coach on the sidelines. So Parcells hired him away from the Cowboys and allowed the Dolphins feed off of this now.
Pasqualoni prides his staff on stuffing the opposition when it really counts, whether it is a fourth down try or a game-clinching stop.
The grit of the 2009 Miami Dolphins will depend on these two coaches.
Newcomer Dave DeGuglielmo has the lineage of great line coaching, as he has a Super Bowl ring as the assistant line coach of arguably the best offensive line in years with the New York Giants.
Now DeGuglielmo gets his first shot with an offensive line that is good but needs to be great to get past the first round of the playoffs, let alone the schedule that is before the Dolphins.
Keeping Jake Long and Vernon Carey healthy is key to backing off opposing defensive ends and speedy linebackers.
Kacy Rodgers came to the Dolphins last year and had the luxury of having Vonnie Holliday on the defensive line. Holliday is gone and Randy Starks seems to have encountered off-field issues, so Rodgers' plate is now a little more complex than it seemed a week ago.
Rodgers was part of the Dallas Cowboys' staff when Parcells was there and held the defensive line coach position there, at the same time Pasqualoni became linebackers coach.
With that type of familiarity, the staff is solidly in place to enforce the defense to position themselves for a top five AFC defense spot.
James Saxon became the eighth person to have both played and coached with the Dolphins, joining Jeff Dellenbach, Bob Matheson, Tony Nathan, Bernie Parmalee, Terry Robiskie, Larry Seiple, and Dwight Stephenson.
Saxon played with the Dolphins from 1992-1994 and joined the coaching staff last year after spending the previous seven seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs as running backs coach.
So he went from working directly with Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson to Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Not a bad transition at all.
Having another offseason together will drive the offense to be even more efficient in 2009. Brown's 10 touchdowns out of the team's 18 touchdowns shows how much he means to the ground game.
Williams showed not only great running skills but excellent downfield blocking on several big runs showing Saxon's intensity on details.
Look forward to more intensity and excellent coaching from Coach Saxon, as Cobbs and Polite found their way effectively into the mix when injuries occurred.
Wow. After 38 years of coaching football, George DeLeone is still uncovering gold nuggets in the form of tight ends.
Anthony Fasano had a excellent year with seven touchdowns and David Martin had as many yards as Fasano at the same position. Even Joey Haynos got into the act with two touchdown catches.
Fifth round draft pick John Nalbone from Monmouth, N.J. will have to be a quick study to get on the field. But after former teammate Miles Austin made the roster with the Cowboys, Nalbone realized he has a chance to make it to the NFL if he worked hard.
The Dolphins snapped him up.
DeLeone will have him ready.
The front office of the Dolphins has put these featured coaches and the rest of the coaching staff in the position to succeed at a high level in a very short amount of time.
Jeff Ireland has a real good eye for scouting talent, and Bill Parcells has that same eye, as well as the fear factor to make the players reach for heights they themselves never imagined.
2009 will be a tough year on paper.
If the Dolphins start fast with three wins out of the first four or five games, they will be in good shape to battle for the AFC East title once again.