The Miami Dolphins are no longer at a crossroads. That was two weeks ago, when the playoffs were still in discussion.
With the playoffs in distant memory, now they’re on some dirt path trying to find their way back to land of NFL relevance. Too bad it’s not going to happen this season.
The Jets, Patriots, Ravens, and Steelers are too far ahead. It would take a torn ACL to Ed Reed, Ray Lewis, and Joe Flacco to have a chance. Then again, who are we kidding? Miami isn’t going to win out with games on the road in New York and New England on tap.
So the season is over from a playoffs-or-bust perspective, something most Dolfans envisioned coming in to the season. Several jobs are on the line. Let’s take a look at those roles, and whether the individual deserves to return next season.
Tony Sparano – Head Coach
Resume: The leader of the Miami Dolphins has a 24-18 record over nearly three seasons. He came flying out of the gates with an 11-5 record in year one, a complete reversal from their 1-15 record the year before. They lost in round one of the playoffs that year to the Baltimore Ravens. Last season, the team went 7-9 missing out on the playoffs, and this year they appear headed for a similar record.
Yay or nay? If Miami wins at least three of the final four, which would have to include a win at New York or at New England, Miami would finish at least 9-7. To me, that’s enough to receive at least one more year. If he goes 8-8, it’s a toss up. There were tons of injuries this year and lackluster quarterback play. However, the good teams find a way to fight through injuries. Look at the Steelers who won three of four without Ben Roethlisberger to start the season. Give him one more season.
Dan Henning – Offensive Coordinator
Resume: Henning has the offense 16th in passing yards, 18th in rushing yards, 29th in points, and 25th in QB rating. Last year he had Miami 20th in passing yards, 4th in rushing yards, 15th in points, and 23rd in QB rating. There is no question the offense has regressed from bad to sickening. Part of the reason is they no longer are dominant on the ground. The fault is entirely on the coaching staff who opted to make major changes on the offensive line before the season. Every offense-line move this summer was voluntary. They have been better in pass protection but at the cost of run-blocking.
Yay or nay? Nayyy. If Henning returns next year to the Dolphins in any role outside of water boy, then we might have to ban the Dolphins from this site. In other words, his days are numbered.
Mike Nolan – Defensive Coordinator
Resume: He has the defense 5th in total yards, 11th in points allowed, 9th against the run, and 5th against the pass. Last year before Nolan’s arrival, they were 22nd in total yards, 25th in points allowed, 18th against the run, and 24th against the pass. Clearly this man has made a major difference. The personnel isn’t much different from a year ago.
Yay or nay? Yay. Nolan not only deserves to keep his job but he could have a shot at the head-coaching position if Sparano were to be deemed expendable.
Quarterback Chad Henne
Resume: Most thought Henne would take a big step forward this season. That has not been the case. Everytime he looks like he’s turned the corner, like after the Oakland game a week ago in which he passed for 300 yards and two touchdowns, he does something to sink himself. This week it was his three-interception performance in a critical home game against a subpar Browns defense.
Yay or nay? I would give Henne the next two games against the Jets and Bills. If he struggles, I would give the following games against the Lions and Patriots to backup Tyler Thigpen. The problem with ending the Henne era in Miami at this point is the unknown of who would replace him. Miami probably isn’t going to have a high enough draft pick to get a top-notch college quarterback. The free agent quarterbacks are nothing special. Because of those factors I wouldn’t be surprised to see him under center in week one next season. So I guess that’s a very unenthusiastic “yay”.
Sparano and Nolan should stay, barring a meltdown down the stretch, while Henning has to go. Henne will probably be on the team next year. The best case is Miami is able to acquire Ryan Mallet or Cam Newton in the draft to push Henne. However, both should go at least top 15. So a few losses wouldn’t be the worst scenario. Miami currently is slotted to pick in the 14-16 range.
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