Mr. Ross, we can do much better than mediocrity, which is all we will ever achieve with Sparano, Henning and Henne. Changes should be made quickly before we lose the players' motivation and also save the season. Currently our all-pro players on offense are not being utilized to potential. We need an attacking style of offense. Pennington should be put in for next game, that's a start. Sparano is position coach, we don't have the time in years to develop him nor Henne, and Henning really needs to retire.
—Comment from Chuck C, Miami Dolphins fan, on my last article.
Save for the anti-Henne sentiment (which I disagree with), I pretty much said that in my article. But Chuck used less words to explain the basic point.
Here's my proposal for what this team has to do moving forward:
I want to talk to you about the Miami Dolphins' biggest problem. It's not the fans, who are as loyal and as passionate as ever. The problem is with the confidence of the organization. It's been shown in the offensive play-calling and in the significant non-roster move that this crisis of confidence emanates from within the Miami Dolphins organization.
With the exception of the right side of the offensive line, the tight ends, possibly quarterback and the defensive backfield (the young defensive backfield will get better with time), there are few holes talent-wise in this organization. There are many teams in the NFL who would trade their rosters with us; from San Francisco to Carolina, from Cincinnati to Dallas.
This year's draft will be important.
We have a shopping list already: tight end, free safety, nickelback, and quarterback. Believe it or not, even though I like Chad Henne and think he's being held back by his coaches (and I will get to that later), I think the first round pick should be used on a quarterback.
The draft class has plenty of good ones coming out, and possibly three first round QB's according to Mel Kiper Jr.
Andrew Luck of Stanford looks slated to go number one according to ESPN's big board, so consider him out if things remain how they are and the Bills have the number one pick. They need a quarterback more than the Dolphins do. With these boards you also have to account for what teams are drafting ahead of you, and what needs those teams have.
The Bills, 49ers (if they don't sign McNabb or Vick during the off-season), Vikings (same as the 49ers), Redskins (same as the Vikings and 49ers) are sure to need a quarterback come draft time. The Redskins might draft a pick before or a pick after the Dolphins, and the Vikings might be able to turn their season around which could lead to them picking after the Dolphins.
Cleveland, Carolina, Denver, Detroit, Cincinnati and Jacksonville all could draft ahead of the Dolphins (in the case of the Panthers and Broncos, most likely will), and neither of them feel they have quarterback issues.
I see three blue chippers at quarterback. Along with Andrew Luck, there's Washington's Jake Locker and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett.
One, or possibly two, of those three quarterbacks will be available by the time the Dolphins are on the clock unless they make a miraculous 7-1 or 6-2 run into the playoffs (and if they do that then Henne would cement the job anyways making all of this a moot point). If Locker or Mallett are available, the Dolphins should jump.
I personally would rather have Mallett. I've seen more of him this season, he competes in a tougher conference and has great poise. He's also played in a pro-style offense his entire college career (he was recruited originally by Michigan then transferred to Arkansas when Rich Rodriguez became head coach), meaning it would be easier for him to adjust to the NFL. Already this season he's thrown for 2752 yards,19 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 66.8 completion percentage. Overall in his career, he's thrown for 7271 yards, 56 touchdowns, only 20 picks and a 55.1 completion percentage in 26 games.
Then there's the scouting report I've seen on him. Take a look at what his ESPN draft tracker page says about his toughness/leadership:
An even-keeled but fierce competitor. On-the-field leadership qualities are excellent and does a nice job of keeping emotions in check. Appears to have a strong command of teammates. Stays positive throughout games and can quickly bounce back after making mistakes. Poised in the pocket and will stand tall and make tough throws with defenders closing in. Displayed very good composure late in the game at both Florida and LSU in 2009.
Aren't those traits you want in a quarterback? It does help to stand tall when you're 6'6", 238 pounds. But what about arm strength? Here's what the same page had to say about that:
Smooth over-the-top release. Follows through very well. Ball jumps off hand and possesses one of the strongest arms in college football today. Can make all the NFL throws. Displays ability to make throws down the field off his back foot. Batted balls at the line of scrimmage are not an issue due to excellent combination of height and over-the-top release.
Accuracy? Take a look at this:
Overall accuracy is very good but still has room for improvement. Displays good mechanics and throws with great balance. Short accuracy is above-average but will occasionally force receivers to open up on crossing routes. Displays very good touch on fade routes and does an excellent job of throwing a rope to receivers back shoulder when necessary. Flashes elite ability to fit the ball into tight windows that very few collegiate QBs can hit. Can miss high on occasion on intermediate throws when his feet aren't set to the target. Deep ball accuracy is very good but could put more air underneath throws on occasion.
While not great, it's still better than Henne (remember, I LIKE Henne, I'll get to that too). He also seems to be better than Henne in intelligence/decision making. Take a look:
Has experience in a pro-style system both at Michigan and Arkansas. A good game manager. Appears to see the entire field and can get to second or third progressions. Displays good awareness for check-downs and knows when to throw ball away or eat it. Also does a nice job of looking off defenders before coming back to second or third progression. However, will take risks and throw into coverage on occasion when the play breaks down. Very good decision maker when game is on the line late in the game.
Whether you are happy with Chad Henne or not, considering that the Dolphins don't have many holes at this point, wouldn't they be fools to not spend a number one pick on Mallett if it's available to them?
Think of how this could work. Mallett gets drafted, but the Dolphins decide to give Henne another shot next season. Then Henne puts up a great year. Now you have two quarterbacks, one that learned over the course of the season, and another that had a great year.
If the Dolphins feel comfortable with Henne being their quarterback of the future, then Mallett is a valuable asset that could net draft picks. If the Dolphins feel that Henne is just a Derek Anderson one year wonder and that Mallet would be a better fit for the team, then Henne is a valuable asset and can be flipped for draft picks to a more desperate team. How could they lose?
(The answer: look at what happened in Cleveland when Derek Anderson had that great year and Brady turned out to be a bust. My counter: the Browns organization were a mess at that time and neither could succeed, something that I don't see the Dolphins having a problem with.)
Then there's the coaching. I've already discussed this yesterday, but it's worth bringing up again. This regime has to go. Not because they're bad, they aren't, but because they coach scared, which makes the players play scared. Henne's development has been hindered by their fraidy-cat play calling.
So who should replace Sparano? How about someone with career 100-85 record, five division championships and a Super Bowl ring. Someone who turned Rich Gannon into an MVP, turned Brad Johnson into a Super Bowl Quarterback, and guided an aging and overachieving Bucs team in 2005 and 2007 into the playoffs with Chris Simms and Brian Griese in '05, and an aging Jeff Garcia in '07.
Someone who's offense consists of short passes to wide receivers that can turn nothing into something—guys like Bess, Hartline and Marshall—and someone who knows how to take advantage of good running backs. I guess it's easy to forget with the way plays are called that two gentlemen named Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown play on our team. This guy won't forget.
This guy is also a Florida boy. Sure he was born in Sandusky, Ohio, but in the off-season he lives in the Tampa area. I'm sure the transition from Tampa to Miami wouldn't be a problem for him.
If you haven't guessed who I'm talking about, its Jon David Gruden.
Talent isn't the Dolphins' issue, it's coaching. Not even on the defensive side (Nolan should definitely be kept.) Gruden would implement a better offense, utilizing the Dolphins talents. He'd also automatically become the second best coach in the AFC East (unlike Rex, Gruden has some jewelery), and he's a coach that can keep Marshall in check if he ever becomes a distraction, yet still is a players' coach.
During the Dolphins Monday Night Game earlier this season, it appeared that Gruden showed more confidence in Henne than Henne's own coaches, who I honestly think wouldn't have had confidence in Dan Marino in 1984.
The knock on him could be his final six seasons in Tampa, but in three of those seasons they were division champions. On top of that, they had to deal with losing first round picks in 2002 and 2003, and second round picks in 2002 and 2004 just to be able to get him to Tampa. Plus, they had an aging team and a terrible Cap situation his entire time there.
The Dolphins would be the first time that Gruden found himself in a great short and long term situation, for in Oakland he had to deal with Al Davis. Plus, Gruden would keep Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator, which would be similar to Coach Herman Boone in Remember The Titans, "you worry about your defense, I'll handle my offense."
Now if the Dolphins bring in Gruden and still draft Mallett, then they'd be in a great situation, as Gruden is great with quarterbacks. We already highlighted the benefits to having both Mallett and Henne here next season.
The main problem is with offensive coordinator Dan Henning, and it appears that Henning and Sparano are a package deal, which is why I advocated for Sparano to be gone after the season. If losing Henning means losing Sparano as well, then all I gotta say then is Vamo Con Dios Sparano, I and the rest of Miami Dolphins fans wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.
If he's interested in moving back to Dallas, there's a coaching vacancy there now.
A Dolfan Diaries entry. Special Thanks to ESPN Insider, google, and wikipedia for my research. Thomas Galicia is a die-hard Dolphins fan who's fed up with their neverending quest for mediocrity. Follow him on twitter, @thomasgalicia. Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with him.