Saturday, June 24, 2017

How I Became A Miami Dolphin Fan

Since the Dolphins are asking fans to tell their stories about how they became a Dolfan, here is my story:

It was Christmas Day 1971 and my Mom's side of the family was rolling into New Jersey from Pennsylvania for Christmas dinner.

Our holiday plans were the same as most football fans across the country: Watch the Kansas City Chiefs host the Dolphins in the NFL playoffs. Then eat dinner.

My Dad hailed the Redskins, my brother rooted for the Raiders and my Uncle and cousins were all Eagles fans. At 13, I watched a lot of football but hadn't picked out a team yet.

Since the Chiefs were loaded and had won the Super Bowl two seasons earlier, my family decided to root for them figuring they should easily handle these upstart Dolphins.

So just to be antagonistic, I cheered for the Dolphins. That's how it all started. The youngest boy sitting on the floor since there was no room on a couch or chair, taking on the rest of his family.

Throughout the game there were plenty of big plays and lots of ball busting and banter going back and forth between my brother, my cousins and myself.

Well the game went into overtime. My Mom is yelling from the kitchen " Dinner is ready!" We are yelling back "Hang on they are kicking a field goal. Oh no he missed."

Back and forth, wasted drives, missed field goals,  plenty of bantering and yells from the kitchen.

The Dolphins finally won in double overtime. The longest game in NFL history left the entire country sitting down to some good old fashioned dried out turkey.

As everyone else struggled to chew, I had the biggest turkey eating grin on my face and the love affair began.

I was so lucky. For the first 107 weeks as a Dolfan, we went to 3 Super Bowls, won two and finished my first full season at 17-0!

It was and still is, the best Christmas gift I ever got!!!

Phins Up!!!

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

For Two Month Stretch, Dolphins Likely Underdog Each Week

   (A bit of a different read to break up the sweaty OTA interviews... )

   My wife recently asked me when would be a good week to travel with her sister next fall.  We have two little ones, and whomever is home alone is in for little relief until the merciful sound of keys-in-door.
    My answer was any time between 10/15 and 12/11- really, any time.  During that span, the Dolphins will be predicted to win one game.  And half of the lines will likely be 4+ against us.  Have you looked at next year's schedule?  I mean, really looked at it?  on 10/15 we are in ATL.  On 10/22 we get a reprieve, home against the Jets.  Then we travel to Baltimore, something of a house of horrors for us.  Then home to Oakland, the team that might have had the one seed in the AFC last year but for an untimely injury.  After that we travel to Carolina, take a Bye, go to New England in the gathering cold, are home to Denver, and then home to New England.
    Don't get me wrong; I am excited to see how we stack against the best in the business.  I believe we will be a good football team.  I also believe that Denver and Baltimore may be in serious decline, and that any game against the Patriots is winnable.  However, I still look at that stretch in the season and recognize why Vegas thinks the Dolphins stand a good chance of being sub .500 this season.
    Put another way, we open H TAM, @ LAC (does anyone else think Clippers), @NYJ, NO (neutral), H TEN.  We had better plan on taking all five if we want to be alive in late December.  And our last three games are hardly a favor, with trips to BUF and KC in the snow likely in the offing.
    So buckle up, Dolphins fans.  The NFL has done us no favors.  But I like our team, and I glad to get the chance to watch us play a playoff schedule.  I just may earn some husband points somewhere in the middle.

Jay Lopez

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Espn' Bill Barnwell is educated on the Dolphins

   My question is how do you, as professional analyst completely​ rip a pro team, without fully studying and understanding what is going on, and without having all the facts straight.

Half the things he says about the Dolphins are pure guessing and speculation. It's impossible to have great opinions if you don't have your homework done on a team.

It seems to me that he just read a couple of articles about the Dolphins and did not care enough about his work or reputation to go into    studying and making sure he got it right.

And so Barnwell, Dolphins fans are calling you out!🌋

Monday, May 15, 2017

I had a Dan Marino Encounter Yesterday.

I was out of town for a wedding this weekend. Last night I came back to UT, but I had a three-hour layover in Charlotte, NC, so I decided to go find some craft beer. I found the Carolina Beer Company, which happened to be right next to my gate anyway.

So I'm talking to the bartender and he's an Eagles fan. I apologize and say I know his pain...I'm a Dolphins fan. We talk more about sports and I start to also engage in conversation with others sitting at the bar as well as order a brisket sandwich.

Right after I finish my meal and order my 3rd beer, a tall older guy with curly blonde hair, glasses, and REALLY blue eyes comes in, sits down three bar stools away from me, and orders an IPA on draft. I'm 95% positive his name is Dan Marino.

Now I have no idea what kind of person he is out in public. Maybe he doesn't like attention. Maybe he just wants to drink his beer in piece. Plus I'm not totally sure it's him yet. But if it's not it's his damn evil twin or something. A bit later, another guy steps up next to Mr. Marino and orders a bud light. Dan turns to him and says "Man you can't order that, this bar serves REAL beer." The guy clearly has no clue who he is and doesn't laugh at the joke. "I'm just messing with you man," Marino says, then looks at the bartender. "He didn't even smile." We all laughed. I've seen Dan Marino on TV enough to know his voice. 98% positive it's him.

I text my wife and tell her. "Shut up....Pictures or it didn't happen," she texts back. I don't want to be obvious though. I look over and he's just answered his phone and is talking really low, clearly not wanting everyone to hear his conversation. I snap of picture of him in the bar mirror. It's not a great picture but I can tell it's him.

This is where the story gets cool. I decide to start talking sports with the bartender again and making sure my voice carries to see if I can get a reaction out of the guy. We talk about the other sports and how the NFL compares and I say "Yeah I like the NFL best because it's 16 games, so every game matters."

Dan Marino's eye brows raise and he glances over at me and nods.

A few minutes later the bartender says "man I just hope the cowboys were a fluke, I hate them." I say "yeah well you have to hate your division rivals, just like how I hate the Pats, Jets, and Bills.

Dan Marino turns and looks over at me over his glasses grinning. I look back for a second, raise my glass, and nod. He raises his and nods back. I play it cool but in my head I'm screaming "OH MY F***ING GOD AHHH!"

100% positive it's him and he knows that I know.

As I'm signing my check, I look over and notice he pays with cash and leaves. My gate is right next to him and he's headed to Ft. Lauderdale. He boards first class. I run back to the bar to ask to bartender if it was really him. He confirms it, says it's not the first time he's served him, and apologizes for not telling me but that he's not allowed to.

I didn't get a picture with him or an autograph, but I think my non-verbal exchange with him was 100 times cooler anyway.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dolphins Draft Reveals Win Later Attitude

    This blog's other writers seem very high on our draft, and I respect the hard work they put into their excellent columns last week.  I am, however, not feeling as giddy- which may be a good thing.        This organization seems to finally understand that a win now attitude can translate to win never.  That is, that panic drafting/buying to catch the Patriots, who are in the last few years of what may be the NFL's last true dynasty, can be a mistake.  The organization made a concerted effort to establish a realistic timeline for long-term success.  This will be frustrating this year, and bear fruit thereafter.
    Consider linebacker.  The Dolphins need an OLB as they have picked up a one-to-two year lease on a run stuffing tough guy from Pittsburgh- a signing I love.  Win now would say draft Cunningham from Vandy- strangely, we picked a run-stuffing tough guy from the midwest.  Our DC was left to muse that perhaps this year no linebacker would have a "natural" position but they would be shuffled week to week, depending on match-ups.  This sounds to me like a good organization man making lemonade.
     What that draft move meant is "we are willing to develop a long-term solution behind our rental." McMillan will be the man for a while, if we are lucky.  The vet will teach him.  And the Dolphins will mature without being bad in the short term.  A philosophy emerges?
     Consider DE.  Wake can give us a season or two more of excellence, we hope.  Branch is serviceable and solid.  Did we need rotational depth?  You bet.  Did we need it in round one?  Not if we want to compete for a super bowl now.  But perhaps, if we want to be well positioned in three year's time.  Wake will be gone by then.  His time to win is now- but perhaps the franchise realizes that its time to win won't coincide with Cam's?  That's possibly good thinking, probably good leadership. Draft the kid- who will be a one trick pony for now, but who can develop.  A rotational player for a 10-6 playoff team with glaring needs in round one?  Makes sense, if you know that 10-6 was a mild overreach and you are trying to one day be better than 10-6.
      Consider safety.  Yes, I know, we didn't.  Which means we are trusting an 8 game suspension, our stable of never-was, and a journeyman from Oakland to hold down the fort opposite our best defensive player.  All this, when we struggle to cover and can't stuff the run?  All this when the best safety in the draft was falling like a stone due to a minor injury?  Win now says trade up and grab Malik Hooker.  Have the best safety tandem in the NFL immediately.  Win later says hang on to depth, keep that pick to draft a roster builder, and let the steal of the draft fall to another squad (in this way, I think Caroo last year cost us Hooker, but that's another story.)
      In round three, elite safeties still abounded; we went corner.  I like the pick- long term.  This allows us to cut Maxwell and return to cap sanity.  Long term, this was the right thing to do.
       The Asiata pick was a concession to now- and a smart one.  Which completes the picture.  This organization wants to be decent now, and be excellent tomorrow.  We can have a far worse philosophy.  It just might be a bit frustrating for the coming year- and not being aggressive where Hooker was concerned, may haunt us for a decade.  This was the year of the safety, which is a position that will become more and more valuable as teams adopt a New England style approach to offense.  I think we missed, but we missed the way responsible grown-ups do, not the way we used to.

Jay Lopez

Jim Kiick

Last week, there was a story of Nick Buoniconti suffering from CTE.  Today, there's a story circulating about Jim Kiick.

I never had the chance to interview nick, but did meet him a time or two - and got bumped from first class on a flight one so he could ride there...

but Jim I did have on once a few years ago.  I enjoyed talking to him, and you can hear it here:

Monday, May 01, 2017

Draft Pick Expectations

After mock drafting for 2 months, you get a good feel for the draft and where players usually get picked. Granted some GMs place different values on different players. And in some years, the prospects are deeper at some positions than other positions.

Last year we focused our draft on the offensive side of the ball for two reasons: 1) The draft favored offensive players and 2) Our head coach, a former OC, knew what he needed to get his offense off the ground.

This year, the draft was very deep with NFL caliber players at DE, CB and DT. And we knew that last year.

So how will our picks fair this year?

I like the Harris pick. I don't believe he will start. At least not until he proves he can set an edge against the run. Let's face it, opponents had a field day running against our right end. Hopefully, Hayes will help stop that shit.

 Harris will be a situational player coming in on passing situations and spelling the starters here and there.

I see Harris making an impact late in the half during the opponents 2 minute offense. Take the Seattle game last year. Before the half, they drove 70+ yards taking over with just under 2 minutes and kicked a FG. Then with 4 minutes left in the game, down by 4, they drove 75 yards and scored a TD with 30 seconds left. They also converted two 4th downs on that drive.

We could use Harris there. We gave up 9 points late in the halves. Lost 12-10 and yes Stills should've caught the ball and I still believe Gase should've took the FG on the road early rather than get stuffed on 4-1. But a Harris with fresh legs could get a drive killing sack or at least hurry some throws. That's the value in Harris.

Could we have traded down and still got him? I don't know the trade offers but I thought 22 was a bit early.

Can he replace Wake? That's some big shoes plus Harris works the right side and Wake the left. So he will have to work on that.

Speaking of 4-1s, if Asiata doesn't earn a starting position, he certainly will come in as a 6th lineman and help move the pile. He does have a chance to start but he will have to beat out a couple vets for either spot.

You have to love Asiata's attitude and toughness. I think he was a great value late in the 5th round.

I think Tankersley will play at some point this season. You never have enough good CBs in this league. At the end of last year we had so many injuries, that having quality depth is essential. Plus some teams go 5 wide to take advantage of that lack of depth. Tankersley may help out more than any other pick. He is a tremendous value in the 3rd round.

McMillan is interesting. We need to stop the run. I doubt we are going to a 3-4, so somebody has to play outside with Timmons at ILB. But what if McMillan beats out Timmons. Or Timmons, who is long in the tooth gets banged up. Then of course we need McMillan.

I believe the board dictated the pick and so we got the young run stuffing ILB we lacked and will actually have for at least 4 years at street value. Timmons is a stop gap solution.

Godchaux and Taylor are confusing to me. Neither has a reputation for being proficient against the run, which we needed to address. Now I am not saying they cannot make a tackle against the run. They will have to learn their roles in the defensive scheme but I see the former on the bench for a couple years and Taylor getting some looks on ST.

Ford may earn the 5th WR spot or on the practice squad. But he will be in the building. He had good numbers for two years so he can obviously play.

I think we will be looking for a vet OLB and DT who gets cut later.

Did we miss out on drafting any other players? Yes. That will occur every year.

Did we whiff on any? Time will tell.

Let us keep some perspective in that you shouldn't expect starters when you draft 22nd. You should hope for quality depth with solid players so if someone gets hurt, we don't miss too much of a beat.

As the draft unfolded, I was not happy until we picked Asiata. Then I looked at our 4 picks and was happy.

For me, that's enough.

Phins Up!!!

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

Why I Believe it Was Our Best Draft (and FA) in Years.

First I'm going to rant about some of our fan base. If you don't want to read it, skip down below. But I think MOST on here will agree with me, especially if you follow the Dolphins on social media.

I have seen a lot of complaining from Dolphins fans on social media because they passed over Rueben Foster, Forest Lamp, and Zach Cunningham. I'm going to get into why I'm glad they passed on Foster most of all in a minute, but first I'd like to say that it doesn't matter who we draft. There are just some Dolphins fans who don't even watch the games, don't keep up with college, and if we drafted Hercules, these fans would just say "well....he's only a HALF god so....that's a stupid pick." I even saw some fans complaining that we didn't draft enough offensive players and saying we needed receivers. I'm going to say that again in case you mistook it for a typo. THEY THOUGHT WE SHOULD HAVE DRAFTED MORE RECEIVERS.

To fans like this, I ask: Did you watch a single Mizzou, OSU, Did you watch any Dolphins games last year? Do I REALLY need to explain why we didn't need to go offensive (other than guard) in the draft?

I swear, I hate the "casual football" culture. Yes, you have a right to your opinion, but we ACTUAL football fans have a right to blast you for your opinion when it's a stupid one.

                                                                   *Sigh of relief*

                                                      END USELESS RANT HERE
The Dolphins are known for making a big splash and winning "offseason championships" pretty much since Dan Marino retired, but very rarely has it ever paid off. Then they make a splash in the draft...and that doesn't pay off either. The Dolphins have had a terrible habit of overlooking character flaws and injury history and only looking at on-field talent. That has resulted in a lot of players getting paid A LOT of money to sit on the bench, or worse, at home. They are one of those teams who just never learned how to adjust to a league with a salary cap.

Well, it appears Miami has finally learned how to manage a roster in the salary cap era. It appears Miami has finally learned how to evaluate draft prospects with a "whole person" approach. You know who else does this? The Green Bay Packers.

The Packers have always been about building their team in the draft, and you really can't argue with the results. Lets look at the similarities between the off-season approach of both teams.

-Both teams were relatively quiet in the FA leading up to the draft, with the Packers' signing of Martellus Bennett being, arguably, the biggest splash between the two teams.
-Both teams passed on a very talented player in a position of need due character flaws and/or injuries. For Miami, it was Rueben Foster. For Green Bay, Joe Mixon.
-Both teams drafted players based on a mix of talent, character, toughness, positional need, and how well they fit the team.
-Both teams picked players who are passionate about the game, not overly flashy, and just happy to get the opportunity.
-Both teams stayed patient, let the board come to them, and had minimal trades.
-Both teams addressed nearly every need and received high draft grades from most media sources, yet neither team is making headlines.

You know who IS making headlines. The Bears....and not for the reasons you would want. Boy did they make a splash or what?

So, both the Packers and Dolphins had quiet, successful off-seasons. I'd say the Dolphins are in good company.

For more evidence that this way of thinking works, just look at some of our top players:

Cam Wake. Undrafted. Came from the CFL. If you judge him by the "whole person" concept, best DE in the league in my opinion.
Jay Ajayi. 5th round pick. Supposedly injury-prone? Doesn't seem like it. So far, so good.
Jarvis Landry. 2nd round pick. Totally over-shadowed by OBJ, but Landry has been more consistent than OBJ.

Why I like EVERY pick this year:

1. Charles Harris, Edge-rusher, Mizzou - He continues to be listed as an OLB, but he's a true DE. Anyway... I love this pick. I honestly never even considered him because I didn't think he'd be available. I thought Rueben Foster was a more realistic option because I thought he'd slip. Well, thank you very much, foolish, desperate, QB-needy teams. They were both available. But Foster has injury concerns and I'm sick of seeing talented players assuming the role of "cheerleader" for the Dolphins because they spend half the season or more on the bench. Charles Harris is tough. He will actually play. He's fast as hell. He's a true edge rusher. Best of all, he's win-win. He could possibly be tried out at OLB, but if that doesn't work out, he's still in line to be Cam Wake's successor, and I can't think of ANYONE better to be Harris' mentor. He's going to be a beast. Maybe right away, maybe not. But he'll be nasty. To people that are mad because he doesn't stop the run well, that's not what he's there for. Wake isn't there to stop the run. He's there to give the opposing QB nightmares. But Harris is young and can still get better at run defense. AND he's not injury-prone. Possible future star.

2. Raekwon McMillan, ILB, OSU - Another player I did not think would be on the board when Miami's 2nd round pick came up. To be fair, I didn't think Cunningham would be either. Cunningham is more athletic and I would've been thrilled to have him too, however, McMillan is a much better tackler...and I mean MUCH better. The last thing we need is another LB who misses tackles. That's been an issue for Cunningham, but not for McMillan. McMillan will be able to stuff the gaps and set the edge. He doesn't cover well, but that's something he can improve on. Right now, our top concern needs to be stopping the run. You can't fix everything in one offseason. McMillan is a better fit for us than Cunningham. He could be our stud MLB after Timmons leaves the team. AND he's not injury-prone. Possible future star.

That's two players who should become future stars at their natural positions on DE and ILB, respectively, but in the meantime, it's TWO possible solutions to our OLB problems.

3. Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson - In a division where your biggest rival loves to dink and dunk you to death, you can't have too many press CBs. Guys who can sitck to opposing receivers. Tankersley is one of those CBs. For now, he'll be good insurance for Howard and Maxwell and could see a lot of time in the nickel. He could also develop into a starter in a couple of years. Can't ask for much more at the end of the 3rd round. Possible future starter.

4. Isaac Asiata, G/C, UT - I live in SLC, so I watched him play...and he is one mean, tough, nasty mauler. The first thing they need to do in training is put him head to head with Suh...over....and over....and over. He can start immediately at G and I think he will. He can also be a good insurance policy for Pouncey. He's not injury-prone. He just had one ankle injury at the wrong time (or right time?) but it's not a pattern. He is humble and just ecstatic to be playing for Miami. If you haven't seen it, go to the Dolphins' FB page and watch the video of his reaction to getting the phone call. This guy has a ton of heart. He should've gone before our 3rd round pick even came up, and we got him at the 20th pick of the 5th?? That's value. That was well worth the trade up. Possible future star.

5. Davon Dochaux, DT, LSU - Very sold pick for the 5th round. I think he could have gone early in the 4th in your average draft, but in such a deep defensive draft, defense-needy teams got a lot of late-round value. He also does have some character issues, but I think they are minimal and Miami was careful about that this year. He was worth the risk late in the 5th round. He could push Jordan Phillips. Maybe it lights a fire under Phillips' ass and he becomes a good, consistent starter. Maybe he straight up beats Phillips out and becomes an upgrade at DT... mentored by Suh. Win-win. Possible future starter.

6. Vincent Taylor, DT, OK State - This was a 6th round pick, so we should curb our expectations. However, we need quality backups on the D-line. Also, he has a very good shot at making the 53-man roster as a ST player, as he blocked a lot of kicks during his college career. Solid ST player and future backup.

7. Isaiah Ford, WR, VT - Not too shabby for our version of "Mr. Irrelevant." He had a great college career for two 1,000 yard seasons. He has a great vertical. He could potentially beat out Jakeem Grant for a roster spot if Grant can't stop muffing punts. Otherwise, he may be the only draft pick that doesn't make the team. Even if that happens, I bet he'll be on the practice squad. Possible future backup.

So out of 7 draftees, that's 3 possible stars in the making, 2 solid potential starters, and 2 solid potential backups/ST players. I'll admit that last season, I didn't expect Grant, Duarte, or Doughty to stay on the team for long, if they even made the team at all. But this year is the first time I can remember that I truly believe every draftee will be on the 53-man roster when the regular season kicks off. And at least 3 of them (Harris, McMillan, and Asiata) will be contributing to wins for a long time.

The whole culture from top to bottom has changed in Miami and I couldn't be happier about it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

2017 season much tougher tha 2016

   I know or at least think that the the Dolphins will improve from last season to this season, not just because the players they added or resigned, not just because it's year two for Gase as head coach, not just because T_hill will take a step forward in his second year with this system but it's a combination of all those things.
Now, the interesting question here is will they improve enough to be a play-off team when you consider the schedule with all the traveling and all the winning teams we got to play against this season and only 7 home games because the England game counts as home, though ​it's not and no by following that game.
Smoke and mirrors won't cut it this season, they need to be and stay healthy and really step it up a notch to make the playoffs.
This year if the Dolphins make the post season is because they are true contenders not pretenders. On a different note good luck with the draft to the power trio with the draft tomorrow evening.

T'was The Night Before The Draft

It's Christmas time for the NFL. All the draft picks are wrapped tightly so no one knows exactly what may be inside. There is plenty of excitement in anticipating what new presents each team will be receiving. With that in mind, I hope you enjoy the following:

'Twas The Night Before The Draft

                                         By Carl Leone

‘Twas the night before the draft and all through the league,
Not a GM had rested, all feeling fatigue.
Their draft boards assembled, each scout had his say,
From highest to lowest,  “Oh, that one can play”.

The prospects were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of great riches danced in their heads.
Since end of last season, teams knew were they’d pick,
From the worst to the first, their spot was affixed.

To trade up or trade down or snag that one guy,
Decisions, decisions, which one do they try.
From Kiper and Davis and even Mayock,
All threw in their two cents with many a mock.

They run a spread offense and defense, a zone.
Make sure he fits in or this choice they’d've blown.
When free agents sign, when picks they are traded,
Each mock is redone ‘fore they’d even faded.

We’ve seen and we’ve heard from all who attest,
They love this one player, now that one is best.
Agents are bragging, their client’s a stud,
But rumors can circle, now he’s just a dud. 

They pimp them, now primp them so all are impressed,
From Armani to Brioni, to the T’s they are dressed.                           
Come ‘morrow at night, the invitees will shine,
For GMs and coaches, their jobs on the line.

They’ll wait in the green room, some are brought to tear.
To fall like Brady Quinn, is their greatest fear.
The NFL Network and SportsCenter tell
All of their stories ‘tween hugs from Goodell.

The owners get checks out and practice with smile,
“He’s who we wanted. Look! He’s on my speed dial.”
Some fans will be happy, some fans will be sick,
As the winning contestant announces a pick.

Who knows whats the answer, no future is clear,
Will they bring them Lombardi or even a cheer?
There’s no proven science nor certain gimmick,
Just all fervent prayers to Dear Ole Saint Pick!

Phins Up!!!

Carl Leone
Dolfan Since 12/25/1971