The Miami Dolphins are Micro-Managing The Middle

Dave TrembleyCorrespondent IApril 27, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  Jared Odrick (R) from Penn State poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as they hold up a Miami Dolphins jersey after the Dolphins selected Odrick number 28 overall during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

How clever are Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland? You might think that is a rhetorical question, given their enormous stature in the football world, and given that most of the Miami football media treat them with kid gloves. But, now, in the wake of last week’s NFL draft, and in light of their regime’s more dubious decisions, it actually becomes a legitimate question.

The requisite disclaimer at this point, of course, is that no team’s draft can truly be evaluated until the players have had a fair opportunity to play and show what they can do on the field.  (San Diego Charger’s GM A.J. Smith has gone as far to say they players cannot be truly evaluated until their first contract has expired.)

In my case, however, I have been smouldering about Parcells and Ireland a little, and the events of this past weekend did little to extinguish those tiny burning hot coals. Here's why:

1) Among the Dolphins greatest needs was a nose tackle. After trading down and effectively eliminating the possibility of getting Dan Williams, the Dolphins selected defensive end Jared Odrick in the first round. At the same time, Ireland announced that Miami’s stealth contingency plan was to move Randy Starks to nose tackle thus eliminating the need for a nose tackle. ( Of course, he said that after Williams was off the board.)

In effect, the decision means they are asking their best defensive player from last year to change positions, a move which always entails a certain risk, but what the selection of Odrick also says is that Philip Merling, the 32nd selection of the 2008 draft is effectively either a bust or at best, a middling player who does not have every down ability. 

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2) Another glaring need for Miami was at the safety position. The reason why the safety position was a glaring need is that the Parcells-Ireland team blew the call on signing Gibril Wilson a year ago, paying him top dollar for a horrific performance.

But not only was signing Gibril Wilson a disaster, Parcells and Ireland missed a golden opportunity to sign hard hitting Steeler safety Ryan Clark. They had Clark in Miami, eager to sign, and the next moment, Clark was gone with the wind. 

The Dolphins claimed that in doing their “due diligence” Clark changed his mind and left town. There is no doubt truth to that claim, but I view the Clark situation in light of the Jason Taylor situation. In otherwords, having seen how shabbily Ireland treated Jason Taylor, I am not the least bit surprised that something happened that set Clark off, and he rocketed out of Miami.

The net result is that the Dolphins now have Tyrone Culver, Chris Clemons, and fifth round selection Reshead Jones to play opposite Yermiah Bell as it stands, with some hope of rooting out another free agent safety in the future.

And before jumping on that notion, consider this: what happens if Yeremiah Bell blows his knee out for the season in Orchard Park during week one? Then where are you at the safety position?

Covering your eyes, that’s where.

3) The Dolphins have decided that left guard Justin Smiley no longer meets their needs, and they unsuccessfully tried to shop him at the draft. Instead, the Dolphins are banking on third round selection John Jerrey to compete with Nate Garner for the starting position. Also, this means that off-season acquisition Richie Incognito and Donald Thomas will compete for the right guard position joining Joe Berger and Jake Grove, who will compete at center.

What this likely means is that aside from Jake Long and Vernon Carey, there is likely to be a fair bit of jostling for playing time on the interior line. That competition is very healthy, of course, except given the Dolphins penchant for micro-managing, one can expect there will be considerable rotation: will the former insubordinate Incognito tow the party line or he will he breed dissention in the clubhouse? Will he be benched or lose his starting job?

Who will be the center? Who will be the left guard? Who will be the right guard? How long before players who are declared starters end up riding the pine?

Did Justin Smiley really do that bad of a job that he needs to be cut? I don’t believe he did, though he had some injuries.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have an offensive line of every down starters like many successful teams do without the revolving door circus that the micro-managers favour? Last year, the right guard position went from “it’s Shawn Murphy’s to lose” to Donald Thomas to Nate Garner and so on.

4) Parcells and Ireland have a curious way of treating their veteran players. First, the Jason Taylor fiasco is well documented, and whatever justification that Jeff Ireland offers now, he clearly and irrevocably sent Taylor a “get lost pal” message in the weeks leading up to Taylor leaving.

But, I am not entirely enamoured with the way they have treated Chad Pennington, either. Though Pennington clearly was the single most important factor in making Parcells and Ireland look great in the 11-5 campaign, his contract re-negotiation with the Dolphins nearly went south over a no-trade clause. And now, Pennington enters the season as the team’s third string QB behind Pat White and Chad Henne.

One must hope that Pennington’s third string status is a result of his injury because it cannot be based on the performance of Pat White, a second round draft choice who is also flirting with the bust label.

What has Pat White done for the Dolphins? Are Parcells and Ireland still really high on him, or are they trying to hide yet another dubious drafting decision like Merling and Patrick Turner?

As well, Parcells and Ireland were quick to dump on players from the Saban regime, players like Vonnie Holliday and Renaldo Hill, but both of those players showed they had plenty of gas left in the tank out in Denver last season.

5) In the end, I’ve come to think that what the Dolphins management seems to be about is micro-managing middling talent. They love to rotate players in and out of the lineup, whether it Cameron Wake rotating with Joey Porter or Charlie Anderson. And now with a linebacking corps that includes Koa Misi, Tim Dobbins, A.J. Edds and Austin Spitler, we can expect even more jostling to go with the micromanagement of the offensive line. The micromanaging permutations of such a linebacking corp are endless, and the Dolphins will whirl the revolving door to exploit that.

Even at the quarterback position we are now never really sure who is going to take the snap, unless of course, it is third down and a mile.  Will it be Chad Henne or Pat White or Ronnie Brown or even Ricky Williams?

By contrast, consider a team like the Minnesota Vikings for a moment. Excluding the obligatory rests, equipment adjustments or injury, you rarely see every down players like Jared Allen or Chad Greenway, Ben Leber, or Kevin Williams off the field. Pat Williams comes off because he is old otherwise the same would apply to him. The secondary fluctuates with nickel and dime packages but that is it.

In Miami, the philosophy seems to have evolved otherwise.

And that is precisely why Joey Porter demanded to be released. Porter, who contributed 26.5 sacks in 2008 and 2009 combined, considered himself an every down player. He actually said that he was. Rightly or wrongly, he did not think of himself as an interchangeable part, a middling talent whose ability was limited to a role.

And because such a view conflicts with the Dolphins philosophy of micromanaging the middle, he got his wish.

To their credit, the Dolphins did go out and get Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby in recent months. Yes, these are every down guys, subject to the usual respite from heat and occasional rest.

But how many other Dolphin players can that be said about? How many of their middling players would be starters on other teams?


And finally, if you build your team around middling talent, do you not also get middling results?