Thursday, January 31, 2008
They are QB Matt Baker, OL Trey Darilek, and LB Junior Glymph.
Baker (6'2", 212 lbs.) was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Texans in 2006. He played college football at North Carolina. During the 2006-07 season, Baker was a member of the Cowboys' practice squad. During that time, he worked with quarterbacks coach David Lee, who now holds that position for the Dolphins. That familiarity was surely the driving factor behind this move. During the 2007 offseason, Baker spent a short time with the Saints, and then he was signed to the Cardinals practice squad. His only game action came in a preseason game this past season while with the Cardinals. He went 7/13 for 75 yards and a 71.0 QB rating. Baker is 24 years old.
Darilek (6'5", 310 lbs.) was a fourth round draft pick of the Eagles in 2004. He played college football at UTEP. Between 2004-05, Darilek played in 18 games for the Eagles with no starts. In those limited appearances, Darilek committed one penalty and allowed 1.5 sacks. He played with the Cowboys during their 2007 preseason games but ultimately was cut before the season began. He played 5 games for Edmonton in the CFL this season. He can play both T and C. Darilek is 26 years old.
Glymph (6'6", 268 lbs.) was an undrafted rookie free agent of the Packers in 2004. He played college football at Carson-Newman. He spent the 2004-05 seasons with the Falcons where he appeared in 6 games, tallying 9 tackles (8 solo) and 1 sack. In 2005, he also saw some time with the Cowboys. In 2006, he split time between the Ravens, Steelers, and Cowboys. He played in 2 games for the Cowboys in 2006, recording 1 pass defensed. He was with the Cowboys during the 2007 training camp, but was out of football for the '07 regular season. He can play both DE and LB. He is 27 years old.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Here is DeLeone's coaching history:
- 1970-79: Southern Connecticut State, offensive line coach ('70-'75)/head coach ('76-'79)
- 1980-83: Rutgers, defensive line coach ('80)/defensive coordinator ('81-'82)/offensive line and special teams coach ('83)
- 1984: Holy Cross, offensive coordinator
- 1985-96: Syracuse University, offensive line coach ('85-'96)/offensive coordinator ('87-'96)
- 1997: San Diego Chargers, offensive line coach
- 1998-04: Syracuse University, defensive coordinator ('98)/quarterbacks coach ('99)/offensive line coach ('00-'04)/associate head coach ('98-'04)
- 2005: Mississippi, run game coordinator/offensive line coach
- 2006-07: Temple University, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach ('06)/interior offensive line coach ('07)
Here is his coaching history:
- 2005-06: University of Virginia, assistant strength and conditioning coach
- 2007: Atlanta Falcons, assistant strength and conditioning coach
Saturday, January 26, 2008
- 1987: Mt. Pleasant (Mich.) High School
- 1988-91: Maine, graduate assistant ('88-'89)/wide receivers and special teams coach ('90-'91)
- 1992: Lehigh, running backs coach/assistant special teams coach
- 1993-98: Army, outside linebackers coach ('93)/special teams coach and recruiting coordinator ('94-'98)
- 1999-02: Jacksonville Jaguars, assistant special teams coach ('99-'01)/special teams coordinator ('02)
- 2003-05: Green Bay Packers, special teams coordinator
- 2006-07: New Orleans Saints, special teams coordinator
Miami also hired Steve Bush to be an offensive assistant. Bush is 48 years old.
Here is Bush's coaching history:
- 1982-84: Southern Connecticut State University, graduate assistant
- 1984-86: Springfield College, defensive coordinator/secondary coach
- 1986-87: University of New Haven, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach
- 1987-89: Boston University, defensive coordinator/secondary coach
- 1990-92: Longmeadow (MA) High School, head coach
- 1993-99: Manalapan (NJ) High School, head coach
- 2000-07: Syracuse University, defensive backs ('00)/quarterbacks ('01-'07)
Friday, January 25, 2008
Here's something to chew on, folks: Brett Favre's record-breaking season this year only proves that Dan Marino is still the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.
You read that correctly, so just follow along with me on this.
Before Marino's records started to fall to Peyton Manning and Brett Favre, it was so simple to call Marino the greatest QB of all time. After all, he had every major passing record locked up. The statistics were there in black and white, and they were indisputable.
Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back ever, once remarked, "I hold more than a dozen records and as a result have been turned into a statistic."
Unfortunately, Marino has suffered a similar fate. In the eyes of many people, Marino is little more than his numbers, and now that those have been surpassed, he is no longer relevant.
This reaction is understandable to a certain degree. In his book "From Ritual to Record," Allen Guttmann lays out the seven defining characteristics of modern sports, with the sixth being quantification. He says that "modern sports are characterized by the almost inevitable tendency to transform every athletic feat into one that can be quantified and measured...Despite the elegant rhetoric about playing the game rather than thinking about the numbers, the spectator's attention becomes fixed in a relentless search for quantification."
Now, just so you know - I am a stat guy. I loved the advent of sabermetric analysis in baseball, and I think it's crucial to have an objective way of rating individual players. However, it should never be lost on people that the more subjective means of analyzing players are just as important to the overall rating.
This was never more apparent to me than after the Green Bay Packers season ended with a loss to the Giants and after hearing an incredibly simple but powerful statement by a Hall of Fame QB.
Fran Tarkenton recently called into the Mike and Mike radio show on ESPN, to talk about the Conference Championship games. When asked about Brett Favre's performance, he said bluntly that no great quarterback makes both the kind and number of foolish plays that Favre does.
I couldn't agree more.
And that is what makes his passing of Marino in the record books so frustrating. Because when it really comes down to it, Favre's ability to play the QB position cannot hold a candle to Marino's abilities.
Seeing Marino's records fall has forced me to set aside statistics and look directly to the level of play. I'm talking about a player's pure fundamental ability to play the quarterback position. And suddenly, once the records are set aside, it becomes much easier to defend Marino's title as greatest of all time. Marino had The Release. He had the most impeccable timing, the cannon arm, and the ability to slice up a defense like a block of cheese.
Ironically, many of those same people who dismiss Marino based on his records falling, continue to call him the greatest "pure passer" to ever play, based on those very attributes I just named. I am absolutely flabbergasted that someone could differentiate between the best pure passer and the best quarterback. Aside from making forward passes, the only other areas of consideration that come into play when critiquing a QB are his decision-making abilities and his leadership - both areas that Marino excelled in. Sure, some QBs are great at running the ball as well, but that is not a traditional duty of the position. And while Marino was as dangerous as a slumbering sloth when running downfield, he had some of the best in-pocket movement I've ever witnessed.
The major problem with this subjective way of analyzing a player is that it loses strength over time as fewer and fewer people can remember or care to find out exactly how a certain player actually played the game. Statistics are a much more widely available resource, and numbers are easier to compare than scouting reports.
Normal statistics also fail to point out important differences in the competitive conditions of players' situations.
I can think of no better way to illustrate this point than to show how current players like Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady have all played their entire careers (or a majority of them) during a period when offensive production has exploded as a result of changing philosophies and altered rules. (As a note, Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season. Brett Favre was drafted in 1991, but did not see regular playing time until his sophomore season.)
In 1994, the pass interference rules were changed by the league in order to do away with intentional contact by a defender against a receiver downfield. According to John Clayton, after the 1994 rule change, passing yardage went up 26 yards per game to 427.2 yards - the second highest total in the modern era. The number of completions and attempts rose and so did the number of passing touchdowns. Favre has played 14 of his 17 seasons post-rule change; Marino only played the final 6 of his 17 seasons in that altered environment.
Then, following the 2003 playoffs, the NFL again looked into its pass interference rules in order to further open up offensive scoring. Clayton again predicted the same kind of statistical results that occurred after the 1994 rule change, and he was proven right. From 2002-03, only one team (Oakland) threw for more than 4,500 yards. In 2004, five teams (Favre's Packers being one) accomplished the feat.
For more information on these rule changes, and their statistical results, see these sites:
With that historical context in place, it should be quite easy to see that Favre's accomplishments do not add up to Marino's. In fact, in Favre's four seasons from 2004-07 (post-rule change) he posted two seasons with 4,000+ passing yards. In his 13 previous seasons, he had only 3 such seasons.
In a recent article on ESPN.com, Jeffri Chadiha wrote about the effect of the changes to the illegal contact rule and commented that, "If Marino had that advantage going for him, nobody would've ever matched the season he produced 24 years ago."
While I hope to have shown you how such counting statistics as TDs or passing yards can be deceiving in some instances, there are certain rate states which can be helpful when comparing players.
The following are career stats:
Getting away from QB stats now, I want to address the popularly held notion that quarterbacks, apart from all other positions, are judged based on the number of Super Bowls won. That is just patently ridiculous. Yes, the QB is the single most important position on a football team, but he is indeed part of a team - a team that employs three distinct and equally critical phases.
According to that logic, Trent Dilfer, Mark Rypien, Jeff Hostetler, Jim McMahon, and Brad Johnson are all better than Marino. Well, those five examples prove how absurd that "logic" really is.
Teams are judged on winning; individuals are not. Throw the number of rings a guy has out the window when judging quarterbacks - it's that simple.
Rather than rings, I think Steve Grogan pointed to an excellent way of determining who the greatest QB of all time is. He recently said that the truly great quarterbacks are the ones who succeed in spite of their surrounding cast. He went on to say that he knew of no other QB who did more with less than Dan Marino.
This argument has been made several times before, but I think it is useful to explore it in terms of the Marino/Favre parameters.
As far as defense goes, Favre consistently benefited from having better defenses protect his leads and get him the ball back. In Favre's 16 seasons as a starter, his defenses have averaged about 12th in the league in scoring defense. Marino's averaged 15th in the league. Also remember that for a majority of Favre's career there were more than 30 teams in the league, while for a majority of Marino's career there were only 28 teams in the league, making his defense's average rank of 15 a bottom-half unit.
In Favre's career, he has benefited from 7 top-10 scoring defenses and a dozen top-15 defenses. Marino had only 5 top-10 and 7 top-15 scoring defenses.
The importance of a running game also cannot be overlooked when judging a QB. If a team is no threat to run the ball, the opposing defense can drop more people into coverage to protect against the pass. Having an effective running game is a QBs best friend.
Well, during Marino's career, the Miami ground game was the prime example of inconsistency. The Dolphins had ten different leading rushers over Marino's 17 year career. Marino had only a single season with a running back who gained over 1,000 yards. Just one season!
In comparison, Favre has benefited from three separate 1,000 yard rushers, who put up a combined nine 1,000+ yard seasons. From 1999-2004, Green Bay had six consecutive years with a 1,000+ yard rusher.
Essentially, I am arguing for the ranking criteria of the greatest QBs of all time to include both statistical achievements and contextual achievements and to throw out team achievements like Championships.
One need only to look at Favre's most recent game against the Giants, in which he played horribly and essentially threw the game away for his team by making the kind of stupid mistakes that have become synonymous with his style of play. Those were not isolated incidents. That is how Favre plays the game. As Tarkenton said, great QBs simply do not play like that.
Marino may not hold the records any longer, but the way he played the game will never change - and that level of quarterback play remains far and away the best this game has ever seen.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
David Corrao will serve as the defensive quality control coach.
Jim Reid will become the linebackers coach. Since former Miami linebackers coach George Edwards was one of two coaches to keep a job after Cam Cameron's departure, it is uncertain what his role will be, if he indeed retains a position on the staff at all.
Here is Corrao's coaching history:
- 2000-03: Syracuse, graduate assistant ('00-'01)/defensive backs coach ('02)/linebackers coach ('03)
- 2004: Northeastern University, tight ends coach
- 2005-07: University of Mississippi, defensive graduate assistant ('05-'06)/linebackers coach ('07)
Here is Reid's coaching history:
- 1973-1991: UMass, graduate assistant ('73-'77)/defensive coordinator ('78-'85)/head coach ('86-'91)
- 1992-93: University of Richmond, defensive coordinator
- 1994: Boston College, defensive coordinator
- 1995-03: University of Richmond, head coach
- 2004: Syracuse University, defensive line coach
- 2005: Bucknell University, assistant coach
- 2006-07: Virginia Military Institute, head coach
Well, today Crowder admitted to crashing his truck while exiting a Turnpike and then leaving the scene of the accident. Not a smart move, Channing.
From the Sun-Sentinel:
"According to a Florida Highway Patrol news release, Crowder said he was tired, lost control on the wet ramp, and struck a tree. He also stated that he fled the scene because he did not want to wait in the rain and got a ride home.This is a relatively minor infraction, and I don't think anything will come of it. Hopefully, Crowder smartens up and doesn't let something like this happen again though.
Crowder was issued a citation for careless driving, a moving infraction, and leaving the scene of a crash involving property damage, a second-degree misdemeanor."
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Although not all of the hires have been made official yet by the team, the Palm Beach Post is reporting that the six men have indeed been hired or soon will be.
The biggest position to be filled is defensive coordinator, which will be manned by former Cowboys linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni. He is 58 years old.
Here is a look at Pasqualoni's coaching history:
- 1972-75: Cheshire, Conn. High School
- 1976-81: Southern Connecticut State, assistant ('76-'79)/defensive coordinator ('80-'81)
- 1982-86: Western Connecticut State, head coach/athletic director
- 1987-2004: Syracuse University, linebackers coach ('87-'90)/head coach ('91-'04)
- 2005-07: Dallas Cowboys, tight ends coach ('05)/linebackers coach ('06-'07)
Here is a look at Bowles' coaching history:
- 1995-96: Green Bay Packers, college scout
- 1997: Morehouse College, defensive coordinator/secondary coach
- 1998-99: Grambling State University, defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach
- 2000: New York Jets, defensive backs coach
- 2001-04: Cleveland Browns, defensive nickel package coach ('01-'03)/secondary coach ('04)
- 2005-07: Dallas Cowboys, secondary coach
Here is Rodgers' coaching history:
- 1994-97: Tennessee-Martin, defensive line coach/assistant head coach ('97)
- 1998: Louisiana-Monroe, defensive line coach
- 1999-01: Middle Tennessee State, defensive line coach/assistant head coach ('00-'01)
- 2002: University of Arkansas, defensive line coach
- 2003-07: Dallas Cowboys, defensive tackles coach ('03-'04)/defensive line coach ('05-'07)
Karl Dorrell's coaching history:
- 1988: UCLA, graduate assistant
- 1989: University of Central Florida, wide receivers coach
- 1990-91: Northern Arizona University, offensive coordinator/receivers coach
- 1992-93: University of Colorado, wide receivers coach
- 1994: Arizona State University, wide receivers coach
- 1995-98: University of Colorado, offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach
- 1999: University of Washington, offensive coordinator/receivers coach
- 2000-02: Denver Broncos, receivers coach
- 2003-07: UCLA, head coach
James Saxon's coaching history:
- 1997-98: Rutgers University, assistant
- 1999: Menlo College, assistant
- 2000: Buffalo Bills, running backs coach
- 2001-07: Kansas City Chiefs, running backs coach
Evan Marcus' coaching history:
- 1991-92: Arizona State University, assistant strength and conditioning coach
- 1993: Rutgers University, assistant strength and conditioning coach
- 1994: Maryland, assistant strength and conditioning coach
- 1995-97: Texas, assistant strength and conditioning coach
- 1998-99: Louisville, assistant strength and conditioning coach
- 2000-02: New Orleans Saints, assistant strength coach
- 2003-06: University of Virginia, head strength and conditioning coach
- 2007: Atlanta Falcons, head strength and conditioning coach
Sunday, January 20, 2008
I've organized this chart using the excellent statistics provided by Football Outsiders.
Full explanations of these stats can be found here.
Here are the brief explanations (taken from Football Outsiders):
Teams are ranked according to Adjusted Line Yards. Based on regression analysis, the Adjusted Line Yards formula takes all running back carries and assigns responsibility to the offensive line based on the following percentages:
- Losses: 120% value
- 0-4 Yards: 100% value
- 5-10 Yards: 50% value
- 11+ Yards: 0% value
These numbers are then adjusted based on down, distance, situation, and opponent, and normalized so that the league average for Adjusted Line Yards per carry is the same as the league average for RB yards per carry (current baseline: 4.08).The following stats are not adjusted for opponent:
- RB Yards: Yards per carry by that team's running backs, according to standard NFL numbers.
- 10+ Yards: Percentage of a team's rushing yards more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Represents yardage not reflected in Adjusted Line Yards stat.
- Power Success: Percentage of runs on third or fourth down, two yards or less to go, that achieved a first down or touchdown. Also includes runs on first-and-goal or second-and-goal from the two-yard line or closer. This is the only statistic on this page that includes quarterbacks.
- Stuffed: Percentage of runs that result in (on first down) zero or negative gain or (on second through fourth down) less than one-fourth the yards needed for another first down. Since being stuffed is bad, teams are ranked from stuffed least often (#1) to most often (#32).
|Adj. Line Yards||RB Yards||Power Success||Power Rank||10+ Yards||10+ Rank||Stuffed||Stuffed Rank||Sack Rank||Sacks||Adj. Sack Rate|
|2007 Panthers (w/o Maser)||4.11||4.07||63%||16||14%||20||25%||22||15||33||6.4%|
Here's what I take out of that information.
First off, it seems like Maser's lines are much more successful when in pass protection than in run blocking. During his four year stint with the Panthers, the OL's sack rank was never lower than 11th in the league. That's a good sign.
On the other hand, the running statistics are less favorable, particularly the power rank. His Carolina lines never finished in the top half of the league in this stat. This was an area that excelled this year under Hudson Houck, and it is a vital category for a run-heavy and/or struggling offensive unit. The Power Success category is the key for achieving first downs and keeping drives alive. It seems that Maser's lines have had a problem in this area.
Also, after Maser was fired by Carolina, it seems that the OL improved slightly, although certainly not by any dramatic amount (especially compared to his pre-2006 seasons).
Still, Houck's resume is much more impressive, and it's a shame that Miami chose to go in another direction.
Of course, our new head coach is an offensive line guru himself, so I am sure that he will have his say in terms of that unit's philosophy and development. In any case, it will be very interesting and crucial to monitor whether the OL takes another step forward next season or whether it experiences a regression.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Tony Sparano continued to fill out his coaching staff, as he hired Mike Maser to be the new Offensive Line coach for the Dolphins.
Maser, 60, has a whopping 34 years of coaching experience, with a dozen years of that being at the NFL level. Sparano is familiar with Maser from their time working together on the coaching staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2002. Here is a look at his other coaching tenures:
- 1969: Buffalo University, student assistant
- 1970: Darien (Conn.) High School
- 1971-72: U.S. Military Prep School in Fort Belvoir, Va.
- 1973: Marshall, graduate assistant offensive line coach
- 1974-78: Bluefield (W.Va.) State College, offensive coordinator/head of recruiting
- 1979-80: Maine, assistant
- 1981-93: Boston College, offensive line coach
- 1995-2002: Jacksonville Jaguars, offensive line coach
- 2003-2006: Carolina Panthers, offensive line coach
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
It's finally done. What has been long rumored has finally come to fruition. Tony Sparano has been hired as the new head coach of the Miami Dolphins. The deal is reportedly worth $11 million over four years.
This is hardly a surprise, as Sparano, 46, had been the heavy favorite to be the next head coach in Miami ever since Bill Parcells came aboard with the organization.
While this is Sparano's first head coaching gig in the NFL, his previous professional gigs have been very successful. Don't think that he won't go through the regular rookie coaching mistakes that everyone experiences (just look at Cameron this past season), but having Parcells around to offer guidance should be somewhat of a help.
Here is a rundown of Sparano's coaching resume:
- 1984-1987: University of New Haven, offensive line coach/recruiting coordinator
- 1988: Boston University, offensive line coach/recruiting coordinator/academic liaison
- 1989-1993: Boston University, Offensive coordinator
- 1994-1998: University of New Haven, Head coach
- 1999-2000: Cleveland Browns, offensive quality control coach ('99)/offensive line coach ('00)
- 2001: Washington Redskins, tight ends coach
- 2002: Jacksonville Jaguars, tight ends coach
- 2003-2007: Dallas Cowboys, tight ends coach ('03-'04)/offensive line coach, running game coordinator, and play caller ('05-'06)/assistant head coach ('07)
- confident, but without an overbearing ego
- even-tempered, good at managing pressure situations
- able to teach without demeaning
- highly respected by his players
- very serious and discipline-oriented, but able to joke around when appropriate
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
For the past three years he worked with the....you guessed it, Dallas Cowboys as their Assistant Director of Pro Scouting. During this tenure in Dallas, Gaine worked with Miami's new GM Jeff Ireland and VP of football operations Bill Parcells.
According to the team's official site:
"With Dallas, he managed pro scouting operations and the evaluation of players and rosters from the NFL and all other professional leagues. His responsibilities also included advance scouting and directing the Cowboys’ pro scouting database."Before going to the Cowboys, Gaine spent six years with the New York Jets in various scouting positions.
Thus far, all of the hirings made under Parcells have been of people with whom he worked in Dallas (Jeff Ireland, David Lee, Brian Gaine). Tony Sparano is all but a lock to sign as the head coach as early as tomorrow, and the Cowboy-ification of the Miami front office and coaching staff will continue.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I was curious about which players did the most in the special teams coverage game to get an idea about who was producing stops, so I went through all the game logs on NFL.com and recorded the stats of every player who made a stop on special teams this season. As a note, in addition to tackles, I included pushing the returner out of bounds as a stop. There weren't that many instances of this (perhaps a handful) so it doesn't inflate the tackle statistics by a noticeable amount.
In any case, here is what I found:
|Total ST Stops||On Punts||On Kickoffs||Misc|
|Edmond Miles||16||4||12||1 FF|
|Donnie Spragan||8||6||2||1 FR|
|Derrick Pope||7||4||3||1 FR|
|Derek Hagan||5||4||1||1 FF|
For starters, I would have never thought that Edmond Miles, an undrafted rookie free agent this season, would become the team's most active force on special teams. But that's exactly what he did. And he beat out everyone else on the team by a wide margin when it comes to total special teams stops. His 16 stops were twice as much as the next highest totals. He also added a forced fumble, which is the kind of special teams play that can turn the tide of a game. It's great that at least one young guy stepped up in an attempt to earn a spot on this team for the future. Miles should definitely stick around next season as one of the team's top special teams coverage men.
The opposite example of Miles' situation would probably be Cameron Worrell. This guy deserves a lot of credit for playing with all his effort when he was inserted in the starting lineup at safety despite his obvious shortcomings. While his effort can't be questioned, his output surely can. Forgetting about his play in the secondary, Worrell was brought in this offseason because he was a special teams stud in Chicago. Well, he was hardly better than average in Miami, tallying a mere 6 stops in the kicking game in 12 games before going down with an injury. Over a complete season, that number doesn't even project to a full 8 stops. He didn't step up in this area of the game when there was on obvious gaping hole for someone to fill. Considering the injury he is coming back from and his disappointing play this season, I see no reason to keep him around next year.
What is most shocking about this list is that only a single guy (Miles) recorded double-digit stops. Injuries probably played some part in that, but the only guy who went down with an injury who would have had a shot at reaching double-digits was Worrell. That's just not acceptable, and it is evidence of a lack of cohesion amongst the coverage units.
It's no shock then that Miami finished with the third worst average return yardage surrendered on kickoffs with a 25.8 yard average.
Of the teams with the top four average return yardage surrendered on kickoffs (Chicago, Tampa, Washington, and Jacksonville), three of them had at least two players who recorded double-digit stops:
- Chicago, 19.3 yard avg: Brendon Ayanbadejo (17 tck, 2 FF), Corey Graham (13 tck)
- Tampa, 19.5 yard avg: Kalvin Pearson (13 tck), Quincy Black (11 tck, 2 FF)
- Jacksonville, 19.7 yard avg: Brian Iwuh (16 tck), Chad Nkang (15 tck), Montell Owens (11 tck, 1 FF)
Tuesday, January 8, 2008
In this installment, I am going to look at how he fared in the other major area of a GM's responsibilities - free agency and trades.
Whereas I believe that rookies should never be completely judged on just their first season, there is more leeway to do so with veteran free agents, although there must be some considerations in these cases as well (such as training camp injuries, new systems, etc.)
I don't feel quite as rosy about Mueller when it comes to free agency as I do about the draft, but let's take an in-depth look at his major moves and see how they turned out.
Strong side linebacker: Joey Porter vs. Donnie Spragan
| ||Age||2007 Salary|| Games || Starts || Total Tackles || Solo || Ast || Sacks ||Stf||FF|| PDef ||Int|
| Joey Porter ||30||$3,850,000|| 16 || 15 || 65 || 56 || 9 || 5.5 ||7||1|| 5 ||2|
| Donnie Spragan ||31||$800,000|| 16 || 5 || 36 || 21 || 15 || 0 ||0||0|| 0 ||0|
Assessment: At the mid-season point, I gave this move a D- grade. Since then, my opinion has changed substantially. I still in no way think that Porter is worth the $20 million in guaranteed money that he received, but he's certainly not the gigantic bust that his first half to this season seemed to show that he would be. He turned a corner in the second half, and I think that happened in large part to him finally recovering from his preseason knee surgery. It's no coincidence that Jason Taylor also picked it up substantially in the second half; it's because Porter was finally able to be used properly in Dom Capers' schemes and started bringing some pressure from the strong side. The most encouraging thing about the second half of this season, is that Joey showed that he has not lost his playmaking ability - something that his backup, Donnie Spragan, completely lacks. While Spragan should get the boot this offseason (he's too old and has zero upside), Parcells should definitely keep Porter. I'm willing to write off the first half of this season to his knee surgery.
Grade: C+ (performance aside, that contract is a killer)
Tight End: David Martin vs. Randy McMichael
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||Starts||Rec||Trgt||Catch %||Yds||YAC||Avg||TD||20+||1st||DPAR||PAR||DVOA||VOA|
Assessment: The write-up I did for David Martin at midseason still holds true at the end:
"When Miami acquired David Martin to be its starting tight end, I cautioned everyone to not assume that he would become the next Antonio Gates. People were quick to jump on his "potential", but in reality, he was a 28 year old who very likely had already realized his maximum abilities. What we saw of him in Green Bay, is exactly what we are getting from him now. In fact, even as a starter, he's putting up backup-type numbers. The injury-bug label that followed him here established itself immediately, and he's always dealing with some sort of muscle issue."Even though he played in 15 games this season, I have to think that his propensity for injury slowed him down a bit, even if it wasn't as pronounced as in his previous seasons. I don't remember a single time that Martin made a big play in a big situation. The guy he replaced, Randy McMichael, put up much better numbers. Randy had only 5 more receptions, but gained 126 more yards and produced 12 more first downs. But more than just absolute stats, one should look to the excellent metrics provided by Football Outsiders (DPAR, PAR, DVOA, VOA). Explanations of those stats can be found here. McMichael far exceeds the ratings of Martin. Still, the major redeeming factor of the switch is the salary relief. Martin comes incredibly cheap - almost $4.5 million less than Randy is costing the Rams. Still, Miami got what it paid for in this instance. I added Justin Peelle's stats to the above chart because for most of the season, he played as good or better than Martin did, in my opinion. If he was given the starting job, I believe Peelle would have exceeded the numbers put up by Martin (and Peelle is a much better blocker than Martin is). It's pretty obvious that Miami needs to find a new starting TE, but I think either Martin or Peelle (preferably Peelle) should be kept on as the backup.
Kicker: Jay Feely vs. Olindo Mare
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||FG Att||FGM||Blk||Pct||XP Att||XPM||Pct||KO||Avg||TB||Ret||Avg Ret|
Assessment: By far, the best move made in free agency by Mueller. Not only did Mare hit a huge wall this year, but Mueller managed to pry a sixth-round draft pick away from the Saints for his services. Not too shabby. Among kickers who attempted at least 10 field goals this season, Feely finished as the third most accurate kicker in the league, behind only Josh Scobee and Jeff Reed. Feely is also three years younger than Mare, making him less likely to seriously decline any time soon. Of course, as we all knew, Feely has trouble with his kickoffs. His average kickoff length of 57.8 yards is pretty poor, although I think that the stupid decisions by Cameron to pooch kick far too often played a role in that. Still, he's not helping the coverage unit by kicking the ball so short.
Quarterback: Trent Green vs. Cleo Lemon
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||Starts||Comp||Att||Pct||Yds||Avg||1st||TD||Int||Sck||Rate||Rush Att||Rush Yds||Avg||TD||FUM/Lost||DPAR||PAR||DVOA||VOA|
Assessment: The Trent Green trade was the biggest move made by Mueller in the offseason. Even though I think that this trade was fueled in no small part by Cameron's desire for Green, Mueller must take responsibility for sending away the fifth-round draft pick that it took to secure his services. I argued from the very beginning that it was simply not worth having Green in camp for an extra month or two for the price of a conditional 5th round pick. Honestly, what did that time accomplish? Did Green play any better than he would have otherwise? Maybe slightly, but he didn't play that well anyways. I wasn't against getting Green, I just thought that Miami should have waited until he was eventually released. There was absolutely no way that Kansas City was going to keep him. Miami just wasn't patient, and now they have one less draft pick for which they got in return 5 below average starts. Cleo Lemon didn't play quite as well as Green, but it can't be forgotten that Green had the luxury of Ronnie Brown in all of his starts. With Brown in the game, that likely opened up the passing lanes a bit more than when Jesse Chatman was in the game. Green also had the talent of Chris Chambers in all of his games. When Chambers was traded away in Week 6, Lemon was left with Marty Booker and Ted Ginn as the starters. The offensive line also experienced a slow decline as the season went on. So there is enough clear evidence to suggest that Lemon would have been just as good as Green to start the season. And perhaps he should have. Lemon did not cost the team a draft pick in 2008 and his salary is more than $4.5 million cheaper than Green's. Ultimately, this was a bad trade for Miami.
Left Guard: Chris Liwienski
|Age||2007 Salary||Games||Starts||False Starts||Holding||Sacks Allwd|
Assessment: Liwienski was the biggest free agent addition on the offensive line, and it was clear during the course of the season that he was the worst offensive lineman out of the 5 starters. He almost lost out on the starting job in training camp to rookie Drew Mormino, but Mormino was sent to the IR. Then, at one point near the end of the season, Liwienski was benched in favor of Cory Lekkerkerker. Liwienski was average in run blocking, but he struggled in pass protection, allowing 4.25 sacks. At 32 years old, he's not going to get any better in the future and will likely start to decline soon. He did come cheap, but I would have loved to see Mueller nab Chris Dielman in free agency rather than settling on a guy like Liwienski, who is really little more than a backup at this point.
Conclusions: When your best move in the offseason is to bring in a new kicker, you know there is serious room for improvement. While Mueller may be good at drafting, he showed that he lacks the ability to bring in young free agents with upside. Instead, all these free agent moves were for guys who had clearly reached the heights of their abilities and were not going to get any better. The money handed out to Joey Porter was far too much, although the market was crazy this year. Also, to be fair, Mueller did not have a great amount of cap space to work with this offseason. Still, that makes Porter's contract even more egregious. Other moves he made included signing Cameron Worrell, who never played like the special teams ace he was supposed to be, and trading Chris Chambers to San Diego for a second-round draft pick, which was a very good move, in my opinion. To sum things up, Mueller showed an ability to parlay talent into draft picks (Chambers, Welker, Mare), but when it came to signing free agents, he went with older guys who lacked any discernible upside. For a rebuilding team like Miami, those are not the kind of moves that it can withstand.
Lee, 54, is the former offensive coordinator of the Arkansas Razorbacks. He also worked for the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-2006 and worked primarily with the QBs there. In 2005, Lee was promoted to quarterbacks coach from offensive assistant. Then, in 2006, he moved from QB coach to offensive quality control coach.
Lee has a long history with Bill Parcells, stretching back to their days at Vanderbilt in the early 1970s. The hiring of Lee also adds to the speculation that Tony Sparano will be the new head coach in Miami, since they both worked together in Dallas. It is usually an unorthodox move to hire a coaching staff before the head coach is in place, but Miami can be sure that Lee fits in with Sparano's preferences, since they've worked together before.
In other news, Miami resigned four of the players from its 2007 practice squad to reserve/future contracts - WR Kerry Reed, WR Chandler Williams, LB Marcello Church, and G Marquay Love.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Not only was Cam Cameron released from his head coaching duties today, but almost the entire coaching staff was sent packing as well. Only two assistants - George Edwards (Linebackers) and Steve Hoffman (Assistant Special Teams) - were retained. That means that high profile guys like Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers and Offensive Line coach Hudson Houck were let go.
Of course, the possibility remains that Parcells and Ireland could bring back some of these guys after they take stock of the situation and judge the choices available to them.
I think a guy like Capers who runs pretty good 3-4 defense would mesh well with Parcells. And as for Houck, well we've all seen the kind of work he is capable of doing. Personally, I'd like to see those two guys return.
Both Edwards and Hoffman spent time with the Cowboys during their coaching careers, and thus their familiarity with Parcells and/or Ireland likely helped them stick around.
As for the next head coach, it's very highly likely that it will be Dallas Offensive line coach Tony Sparano. Maurice Carthon is also in the running, but I'd be willing to bet that he's only getting consideration in order to satisfy the Rooney Ruling, requiring that a minority candidate be interviewed. That's no shot at Carthon - he's a good coach, but it's obvious that Parcells is going with his Dallas buddies, and that means Sparano. Former Ravens Defensive Coordinator Rex Ryan is also being interviewed, but I don't think he's in the top two on Parcell's list.
I'm just glad that talk of Romeo Crennel being atop that list has died down a bit. He's not worth sending away draft picks for.
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
It's official - Jeff Ireland has been hired to be the new General Manager of the Miami Dolphins.
Here is an excerpt from the team-released statement regarding Ireland:
"The Miami Dolphins today named Jeff Ireland as their new general manager, effective immediately. Ireland joins the Dolphins after a seven-year stint with the Dallas Cowboys, including the past three as the team’s Vice President of College and Pro Scouting. In fact, of the 53 players on the current Cowboys team, which went 13-3 and won the NFC East in 2007, 38 were acquired over the last three years, including 12 of the club’s 22 starters.It's clear from his track record that Ireland is a top-tier personnel and talent evaluator. It is being reported that Ireland will begin his job immediately and not wait until after the draft. Rotoworld has also said that Miami may be required to send a late-round draft pick to Dallas in order for Ireland to work before the draft, since he is still under contract with the Cowboys. I'm not aware of the specifics of that arrangement, but it would be a blow to lose yet another draft pick in 2008. Miami is already without its fifth-round pick as a result of the Trent Green trade.
Prior to being elevated to his most recent role with the Cowboys in 2005, Ireland had served as national scout with Dallas since 2001, during which time he evaluated the top collegiate talent in the country. In his four years in that post, the Cowboys drafted four Pro Bowl performers in safety Roy Williams (D1, 2002), center Andre Gurode (D2a, 2002), cornerback Terence Newman (D1, 2003) and tight end Jason Witten (D3, 2003)."
With the new GM squarely in place, the decision regarding the head coach can now begin in earnest. I have a feeling that Ireland and Parcells covet Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano, but they will have to move quickly to get him. The Falcons plan to interview him for their vacant head coaching position, and teams can only interview assistants of other teams that are in the playoffs during their bye week or after their season has ended. Other candidates include Maurice Carthon and Todd Haley of the Cardinals and Romeo Crennel of the Browns. I've heard that Crennel actually tops Parcell's list of possible candidates, but Miami would likely have to give up draft picks to get him. In my opinion, that is simply out of the question - he's not worth that kind of investment.
Another option, of course, would be to keep Cam Cameron. I'm not totally set against that idea, and it's definitely a better option than bringing in someone else only for the sake of change. However, Profootballtalk is reporting whispers that Cameron has already been fired. If that's true, then hopefully an interview is arranged with Sparano, pronto.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
The upcoming offseason has already brought with it some important changes to the franchise and many more should be expected in the coming weeks and months.
Bill Parcell's first act as the chief was to fire Randy Mueller (Note: I can't call Parcells The Big Tuna without thinking of the nickname bestowed on Jim Halpert of "The Office" by Andy Bernard after his move to the Stamford branch of Dunder Mifflin. That's where my "Big Tuna" allegiance lies, so that's where that name will remain.)
Anyways, I have mixed feelings about seeing Mueller go. Obviously, Parcells needs to be given full control over all these kinds of football decisions in order to implement the kind of successful programs he is known for. We all should put some level of trust in his ability to get the right guys for the job at hand.
On the other hand, I think that Mueller did a fine job in his one shot with full control over the draft. In last year's draft, he had a veritable bounty of picks, and he grabbed 5 players who saw significant playing time as rookies, most of whom looked like long term keepers.
Now that the season is complete, let's take a look at how the rookie class panned out. Just to note, I am of the position that rookies should almost never be given up on after only one season. Regardless, here we go:
1. WR Ted Ginn - This much maligned pick by the media and many Phin fans, actually turned out alright, I'd say. Sure, it's debatable whether he's worth the #9 pick, but what's done is done, and the fact is that Teddy showed he can play and I'm happy that he's on the team. He certainly wasn't the complete bust that most people projected him to be. Take a look at his stats:
71 targets/ 34 receptions / 48% catch rate
420 yards / 12.4 yard avg / 5 20+ yard recs / 1 40+ yard rec
2 TDs / 18 first downs
24 returns / 15 fair catches / 3 fumbles (1 lost)
230 yards / 9.6 yard avg
1 TD / 2 20+ yard returns / 1 40+ yard return
1,433 yards / 22.7 yard avg
39 20+ yard returns / 2 40+ yard returns
2. QB John Beck - I didn't even want to see Beck play a single down this season, but Trent Green's unfortunate injury forced the issue. It's real hard to judge Beck's performance this season and take anything meaningful away. He played two games (Philly and Pitt) in horrible weather conditions (Bog Bowl, anyone?), but I don't want to use that as a sole excuse. In fact, I don't want to make any excuses for Beck. He played extremely poorly at times and he looked very much like a rookie. But guess what, folks? He was a rookie! Don't think for a minute that any other rookie QB who was thrown into those situations would have fared significantly better. Drafting another QB in the first round this year is simply out of the question in my mind. If that's the mindset that we are going to take towards young QBs, we should all just get used to drafting a new guy every year after the prior one struggles. We have to have patience in this regard. Beck must be given more opportunities and a fair chance to win the starting job in 2008.
Not that much can be garnered from these stats other than that Beck needs to learn how to protect the ball better and increase his completion percentage, but here they are anyway:
107 attempts / 60 completions / 56.1%
559 yards / 5.2 avg
1 TD / 3 INTs / 8 20+ yard passes / 0 40+ yard passes
10 sacks / 69 yards lost on sacks / 7 fumbles (5 lost)
9 carries / 12 yards / 1.3 yard avg
1 TD / 4 first downs
3. C Samson Satele - Most national pundits proclaim that Miami was royally ripped off in the Wes Welker trade, but that's only because I doubt they realize who Miami got in return. In Satele, Miami has found the young anchor to the offensive line who should be here for a long time. That's one important position that is now locked down and Parcells won't have to worry about it. Satele faded a bit down the stretch, but that's only to be expected from a rookie - at any position. It's impressive enough that he started every game this season. In addition, he was flagged for penalties only twice and gave up a minuscule 2 sacks. Of course, it was Satele's run blocking that was a concern entering the league, and there is still a lot of room for improvement in that area. Even though Miami ran an incredibly high percentage of run plays up the middle (61%, only Jacksonville and Baltimore ran up the middle more frequently; the NFL average is 50%) the resulting 3.86 Adjusted Line Yards ranked 24th in the league.
4. RB Lorenzo Booker - Everyone is still pretty much in the dark on why Booker was kept off the field and inactive for so long. Some speculate that it was because of his poor pass blocking skills, but when he finally got a chance to play, I didn't notice him particularly lacking in that area. His explosiveness with the ball in his hands was just as advertised, and he should remain as this team's third-down back and pass-catching threat out of the backfield. Here are his stats (he played in 7 games):
28 carries / 125 yards / 4.5 yard avg
8 first downs / 1 20+ yard run / 0 fumbles
36 targets / 28 receptions / 78% catch rate
237 yards / 8.5 yard avg / 2 20+ yard receptions
13 first downs / 0 fumbles
5. DT Paul Soliai - Soliai is the first true disappointment from the '07 draft class. Of all the picks, this was one of my favorites, and I expected him to contribute much more than he did. He was often left inactive, dressing for only 8 games. He recorded only 3 tackles all season, and he was usually behind unheralded Steve Fifita on the NT rotation. With Keith Traylor almost assuredly retiring this offseason (and even if he doesn't, there's no chance he will come back to Miami) Soliai will have another opportunity to prove himself and earn playing time. He'll likely be on a short leash this offseason, and Parcells won't hesitate to sign another guy from free agency to play NT. I still think Soliai can do it. I just don't know if he will ever put it all together at this level. We'll find out soon enough.
6. FB Reagan Mauia - This turned out to be a pretty good value pick. After cutting Corey Schlesinger, Mauia assumed the starting FB role, and he handled it pretty well. He's really not much of a threat running the ball (4 carries for 5 yards) or catching the ball (2 receptions for 5 yards and a fumble) but he was a decent blocker who should get better with another offseason under his belt.
7. G Drew Mormino - Mormino was actually challenging for the starting LG job in training camp until he suffered an injury and had to go on IR. He's probably not starting material in this league, but he could stick around next year as a versatile and cheap backup.
8. LB Kelvin Smith - Smith was on the practice squad for much of the season, but he made it to the active roster for 4 games and played a role on special teams. In limited action with the defense, he recorded a single tackle and showed that he needs a lot of work in pass coverage. He could eventually become a solid backup, but right now he is more suited as a special teams role player.
9. P Brandon Fields - Amazingly enough, Fields didn't have a single punt blocked this year, which shows that he managed to decrease the time he holds onto the ball. Other than that, he played pretty much as I expected - some huge booms and some nasty shanks. My prediction remains the same as it did when he was drafted: He'll make a solid, if unspectacular, punter. Here are his stats:
77 punts / 3,327 yards / 43.2 yard avg
2,820 net yards / 36.6 net avg
10 inside the 20 / 3 inside the 10
6 touchbacks / 7 fair catches
39 returns for 387 yards
10. LB Abraham Wright - Wright was one of the surprises in training camp, but he never earned any playing time in the regular season and then he was lost for the season with an injury.
This is the only draft that Randy Mueller was a part of with the Dolphins organization that can truly be attributed to his skills, since Nick Saban had full control over the previous drafts during Mueller's tenure. Not only was he able to amass picks before the draft, but he turned them into several long-term pieces of the puzzle. With 10 picks, he nailed down solid starters at punt returner, kick returner, WR, C, FB, and P. John Beck should still be very much in the discussion as the future QB and Lorenzo Booker is an ideal third-down back. No player completely flamed out as a bust (though Soliai comes close) and the late round picks should all still be in contention for backup roles in 2008. Overall, I think this was a very solid draft and it proves Mueller knows what he's doing behind a draft board.
Of course, none of that matters if Mueller doesn't jive with Parcells' style of philosophy, which he clearly didn't. In fact, that chemistry is all that really matters in the GM position on this team. Jeff Ireland, Mueller's successor as GM, also has a strong pedigree in the draft, and since he is familiar with Parcells and drafts to his philosophy, this should be considered a good move.