Disaster Hits Miami Dolphins, a Comparison of the Two Seasons

Brant Houghton@BCash_MoneyContributor IJune 5, 2009

MIAMI - JANUARY 04:  Head coach Tony Sparano of the Miami Dolphins celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown with Vonnie Hlliday #91 while playing the Baltimore Ravens during their AFC Wild Card playoff game on January 4, 2009 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida. Baltimore won the game 27-9.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

There are many differences between the 2008 Miami Dolphins, and the 2007 Miami Dolphins. With the differences come some similarities, but only some. In fact, the only significant one that comes to mind is that both years featured the Dolphins hiring rookie head coaches.

The difference in those moves though was the success of the coaches, and how they handled disparity and the critics to get to where they are now. Let's take an in depth look at some of the differences and similarities of the two teams, and how the other staff might have handled some of the situations that the Dolphins were/are faced with.

The 2007 season was one to forget, that's for sure. Barely escaping going 0-16 was not what the Miami Dolphins, or head coach Cam Cameron had envisioned for the team. In fact, the Dolphins actually had high expectations for the 2007 season.

The Dolphins had a solid mix of young and veteran players that worked well with each other. The problem was, most of those players never got a chance to play together as a unit. The reason for that was that the Dolphins contracted a BAD case of the injury bug. Yeremiah Bell was out for the season before the first game was even over.

Trent Green, the veteran quarterback with playoff experience was out for the season during week five. Ronnie Brown then got hurt the same game as Renaldo Hill, and both were also out for the year during the week-seven game against the New England Patriots.

Think about all of those key players that suffered huge injuries, and then add the instability of Zach Thomas, and his concussion battles. This was one unlucky team.

Now compare that to the 2008 Dolphins team where only a total of five key injuries that the team suffered the whole year! That feat can be attributed to the teams dedication towards the offseason strength programs that the coaching staff demanded the players to partake in.

If Cam Cameron would have suggested that the players do that in 2007, Keith Traylor would have slapped him across the face. (Something that Traylor would nearly do at the end of the season on a plane trip home.)

The Dolphins were in trouble, literally. The Dolphins of '07 actually almost became the new Cincinnati Bengals of the NFL. Instead of getting the players in an offseason workout program, the Dolphins players were busy out on the town partying and then getting arrested in the wee hours of the night.

A total of six players were arrested in the 2007 throughout the offseason and regular season. They also held the title of the team with the most players arrested at the time. 

Now, in the offseason and a half, head coach Tony Sparano has had to deal with a grand total of two arrests during his tenure as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.  While both of the arrests were big, only one of them is a major charge.

That says a lot about the character that Sparano is trying to instill into his team. He wants them to be high class players and that is what they are being. They are not blowing off their coach like in '07, no, they respect him too much to do anything like that.

Whenever they think about doing something wrong, they think about their teammates and how it might impact the team if they were to get in trouble. Class act.

Cam Cameron was a high-profile hiring for the Miami Dolphins. Cameron was known as a genius on the offensive side of the ball. He recently led the Chargers to scoring a total of 414 total points.

He came to the Dolphins with high expectations to helping out the Dolphins offense. He had all the chances in the world to groom the offense into what he wanted it to be, and even got to choose his own players to lead his offense. Most of the moves that he made never payed off for him.

He traded for Trent Green, who was supposed to bring playoff experience to the Dolphins.

That never happened. In fact, almost all of Cameron and general manager Randy Mueller's acquisitions failed except for the signing of wide receiver Greg Camarillo, who scored the winning touchdown to give the Dolphins their first victory of the season. Talk about experts.

Tony Sparano was hired by Bill Parcells from the Dallas Cowboys to lead the Dolphins back to prominence. He let Sparano do his job, and nobody knew exactly who this guy was. There were comparisons to Tony Soprano, but they never compared this guy to any other good coaches that led similar turnarounds because nobody knew who this guy was!  

He was a man with a plan, and crafted all of his offseason moves around that plan. He never worried about what the players thought of him, and was up into the final hours of the night studying film of his players to get a better understanding of what their strengths were. 

With Bill Parcells, and the new general manager Jeff Ireland leading the way, the new brass expertly maneuvered a couple of low profile trades free agent signings and draft selections that led to the Dolphins to the biggest turn around in the history of the NFL.

Instead of trying to sign and draft skill-position players, the new staff only had eyes for re-building the trenches. Their first pick was Jake Long, a left tackle, and the Dolphins biggest free agent signing was a left guard, Justin Smiley. Talk about  man with a plan. 

Cameron and Mueller made all of the wrong moves and never got the fans support, or approval for that matter on any of their moves except for the signing of Joey Porter as their late summer signing.

That move turned out to fail for them during the season as Porter only registered 5.5 sacks and did not get to the quarterback until week seven. Yeah, this was the story of Mueller's regime.

Sparano, and the rest of the "Trifecta" could not believe their luck. Chad Pennington, the former quarterback of the rival New York Jets was recently released by the Jets after they traded for Brett Favre. This was the leader that Sparano was looking for.

Pennington was an efficient quarterback who did not make many mistakes, and was the definition of a coach on the field. The Dolphins did not hesitate to scoop up the QB, and this move turned out to be the turning point in the Dolphins miracle season.

Pennington won the 2008 Comeback Player of the Year award, and finished second in MVP voting behind Peyton Manning. The two moves had totally different effects on the teams.

In 2007, many Dolphins fans were ecstatic when the Minnesota Vikings selected running back Adrian Peterson with the eighth pick, because that meant that pretty boy Brady Quinn, the quarterback from Notre Dame, was still on the board.

When the pick came in, I was on my feet, cheering for what I thought was the start of the inevitable turn around that was to come with Quinn at the helm.

I dropped like a rock when I heard Ted Ginn Jr's name called. I was on the verge of tears. How could the Dolphins do this to me I asked myself? I later found out that the two main reasons for the pick were Ginn's return ability and that Cameron felt that Ginn's "family" would be the X-Factor to the Dolphins season.

What a move! That year, the Dolphins had eight draft picks, and out of those eight, three of those players are still remaining on the team, and one of those is a punter.

The difference between the two drafts could not have been bigger. The Dolphins had their player signed before the draft even started. They signed Jake Long to a six-year deal worth $57 million deal, with $30 million guaranteed.

Ted Ginn had to hold out of a part of training camp because Mueller could not negotiate a deal with his No. 1 overall pick. Out of the seven picks, all seven players are on the squad, and through draft day trades, the Dolphins acquired Jason Ferguson, and Akin Ayodele and Anthony Fasano.

Even thought the draft was over, the Dolphins still were on the phones working out deals with undrafted free agents Davone Bess and Dan Carpenter, both players would go on to make major contributions to the 2008 team.

The purpose of this article was not to bash Cam Cameron or Randy Mueller, but to compare the two coaches, and to take an in depth look into what moves might have propelled the Dolphins to a better record, and what moves might have restrained the Dolphins from winning more games.

If you look at both coaches, they both had totally different philosophies on how to get the job done. Sparano believed in hard work, and Cameron believed in creative game plans and finesse.

You cannot compare how Sparano might have dealt with this situation or how he would have adjusted to this defensive scheme, because we all know what he would have done.

He would have practiced the players to death until they learned not to ever do what they did wrong again, and he would have held night long film study sessions to get his players prepared for the challenge ahead.

Cam Cameron was never meant to be a head coach, because he was just never ready for the spotlight, or for responsibility. Sparano on the other hand, was a born leader. He knows how to get the job done, and how to deal with the tremendous responsibility that comes with the job.

Sparano was an offensive line coach, and Cameron was an offensive coordinator. Two different styles, two different people, two different teams, two different end results.


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