Miami Dolphins: 10 Bold Offseason Predictions for Henne, Sparano and the Fins
Where do we go from here?
The Dolphins are stuck in a predicament adequately described as awkward. Head coach Tony Sparano, who marched the team on a miraculous and record-setting 1-15 to 11-5 turnaround just two years ago, finds himself on the hot seat after two lackluster seasons.
Meanwhile, quarterback Chad Henne, pinned as the savior after a promising 2009 campaign, has already been cast as a bust by much of Miami's faithful.
The Henne and Sparano conundrums are only two in a long line of issues the Dolphins face heading into an offseason that could be filled with change from the top of the organization to the bottom.
Stephen Ross Will Fire Tony Sparano, Hire a Big Name Replacement
Those who have attended any Dolphins games in Sun Life Stadium since Stephen Ross' arrival can attest: The man seems much more interested in creating a Hollywood atmosphere than a winning one.
That is not to say Ross is not committed to winning, because that is certainly not the case. He opened up his wallet for Karlos Dansby and Brandon Marshall this summer.
What it does denote, however, is that Ross loves celebrities, and he wants to create a party ambiance in his stadium (much to the dismay of every real fan in attendance).
He has recruited Gloria Estefan, Marc Anthony, Jennifer Lopez, Jimmy Buffett, Fergie and Pitbull to purchase minority stakes in the team. Why? Who knows, but if Ross has the opportunity to lure in a name like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher to his organization, do you think he is going to pass that up?
New Head Coach Will Use the Team's First Round Pick on a Quarterback
Assuming Tony Sparano is fired and Stephen Ross recruits either Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden to take the reins of the Dolphins, a new quarterback will likely roll into town this summer.
This is not necessarily a knock on Chad Henne, although his increasingly poor performances have only hampered his chances of remaining with the team. Rather, this is a matter of a new coach wanting his own players.
Tony Sparano brought in Chad Pennington, Mike Smith drafted Matt Ryan, Rex Ryan drafted Mark Sanchez, Todd Haley acquired Matt Cassel, Mike Shanahan traded for Donovan McNabb and Sean Payton signed Drew Brees when he arrived in New Orleans. It is simply a common trend.
Jon Gruden's love for quarterbacks is well documented, and Bill Cowher's most successful years in Pittsburgh came after he drafted Ben Roethlisberger. If either of these two or another coach comes to Miami and Jake Locker or Ryan Mallett is on the draft board when the Dolphins are on the clock, expect one of them to hear his name called.
If Sparano Stays, So Will Chad Henne as Miami's Starting Quarterback
Here is one possibility that everybody in the universe has overlooked: Chad Henne is in a sophomore slump.
Both Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco fell into them, and the bug may have bitten Henne as well. Offensive coordinator Dan Henning's indefensible play calling has only further slowed the quarterback's progression and numbers.
If Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano keep their jobs next season, rest assured that Chad Henne will keep his as well. Although they parted with Pat White after one short year, Ireland and Sparano will not give up on another one of their second-round draft picks so quickly. Henne deserves a third year under an innovative offensive coordinator with a potent rushing attack.
Plus, it is time that the Dolphins give a post-Dan Marino era quarterback ample time to settle in as a starter.
The Dolphins Will Re-Sign Ronnie Brown
At 29 years old, Ronnie Brown is currently in the final year of his rookie contract. Despite the performance boost often instigated by a contract year, Brown has posted the worst numbers of his injury-plagued six-year NFL career.
Yet the Dolphins will probably give him a contract extension anyway—mainly because they have no choice.
Ricky Williams may be headed for retirement at the end of the 2010 season, leaving the Dolphins without a single running back capable of operating as an NFL featured back. For this reason, Miami will have to re-sign Brown, who still seems to have some burst despite his struggles. Also, he is running behind an offensive line consisting of three new starters in an extremely inefficient offense.
The Dolphins will have to look to the draft or free agency to find a young, explosive complement to Brown.
The Dolphins Will Make a Run at Darren Sproles
Two years ago, Darren Sproles was headed for NFL superstardom. The Chargers' 5'6" running back burst onto the scene while spelling LaDainian Tomlinson in 2008. Sproles racked up eight touchdowns, showing unbelievable agility and a knack for the end zone.
The Chargers, in fear of losing Sproles to free agency, slapped the franchise tag on him prior to the 2009 season and signed him to a one-year deal prior to the 2010 season. However, the drafting of Ryan Mathews and the emergence of Mike Tolbert might signal the end of Sproles' reign in San Diego.
If Sproles hits the free agent market, the Dolphins must make a run at the running back, who will likely come at a discounted price due to his absence from the Chargers' game plan this past season. Sproles provides the torching speed that has been missing from Miami's offense, and he is also one of the most lethal return men in the NFL, allowing the Dolphins to hit two birds with one stone.
Channing Crowder Will Not Be Back in Miami in 2011
Everybody can appreciate the swagger and confidence that Channing Crowder has instilled in Dolphins defenses since his arrival in Miami six years ago. What everybody does not appreciate, however, is his chronic injuries and inability to back up his big mouth with big plays.
For the second straight year, Crowder has struggled to stay on the field due to recurring injures. This season, he has played in only nine games, amassing a measly 31 tackles along the way. At this rate, even if Crowder played a full season, he is on a pace for roughly 60 tackles. Unacceptable.
Karlos Dansby was supposed to be a catalyst for Crowder's resurgence. Instead, criticisms over his poor awareness and speed have only increased.
At the Right Price, the Dolphins Will Pursue Shawne Merriman
Once the Chargers waived linebacker Shawne Merriman earlier this season, rumors immediately began flying that the Dolphins would place a claim for the 26-year-old.
Merriman landed with the Bills, but barring a minor miracle, he will not re-sign with them in favor of hitting the open market.
There are a few hesitations about signing Merriman, however. First of all, he is an outside linebacker. Cameron Wake may be Pro Bowl-bound, and Koa Misi has played admirably in his rookie season. If Miami signed Merriman, there is a good chance they would try to move either him or Misi to inside linebacker, which they may not be comfortable doing.
Second, Merriman has not been particularly good since 2007. He missed virtually all of 2008, underachieved in 2009 and played in only three games this year.
Merriman's age and talent are extremely enticing, and if (emphasis on the "if") he asks for a moderately priced deal, then Miami may be in the running for his services.
Brandon Marshall Will Continue Breaking His Silence
Slowly but surely, Brandon Marshall is starting to open his mouth. Contrary to all of those "character concerns" that Marshall dragged with him to Miami, however, this has turned out to be a glowing positive.
Marshall has continually stood out as one of the few players with some fire and passion. Weeks ago, he told the media that Miami's offense would reverse its woes and the team would make the playoffs. Granted, that did not happen, but it is nice to see somebody from within the organization acknowledge the team's struggles.
In addition, after last week's loss to the Bills, Marshall publicly apologized to the Dolphins defense for another lackluster performance by the team's offense.
So far, Marshall has spoken at appropriate times and delivered meaningful comments. He is growing increasingly comfortable with the team, and we should expect to hear more from him this offseason.
If Dan Henning Doesn't Retire, He Will Be Fired Regardless of Sparano's Wishes
According to several outlets, ridiculed Dolphins offensive coordinator Dan Henning will likely retire after this season. At age 68, Henning is currently orchestrating one of football's least efficient and most criticized offenses.
Despite the massive backlash against Henning, Tony Sparano told the Miami Herald that he wants his offensive coordinator to return for another season (although Armando Salguero speculated that Sparano strategically made these comments to avoid conflict with Henning).
By the slim chance that Henning decides to return, and by the slim chance that Sparano's comments were literal, it is difficult to envision Stephen Ross even allowing Henning to stick around. Ross is paying his paycheck, and the combination of poor performance and sheer fan anger should be enough to spell the end of the Dan Henning era.
Stephen Ross Will Lobby for the Dolphins to Be on Hard Knocks
I have already theorized at length about Stephen Ross' celebrity obsession, so I am not going to bother elaborating. But I am going to theorize and suggest that because of his obsession, Ross will put the Dolphins in contention for HBO's Hard Knocks series.
With Bill Parcells gone, there is no longer an intimidating figure standing between Ross and the show except for Tony Sparano. It is hard to imagine Sparano would approve, but he may not even be around next season.
Hypothetically, if the Dolphins have a new head coach (especially if it's Gruden or Cowher), they would become one of the most appealing teams in the league and certainly a target for HBO. There are plenty of personalities to go around between Brandon Marshall and Channing Crowder, and this team is on the brink of becoming a contender.
Some fans might stand adamantly against the 'Fins on Hard Knocks, but Stephen Ross will lobby for it.