Saturday, January 03, 2009

The Devil Lurks

Here's a great article from the Times
The New York Times  


OPINION   | January 03, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist:  The Devil Lurks
By BOB HERBERT
There is no cure for a curse, and the New York Jets football franchise is cursed.
 
 

 


Copyright 2009  The New York Times Company | Privacy Policy  

Oh, gee, that's too bad

Alabama lost to Utah last night, and little Nicky Saban went away empty-handed in his bowl appearance.  We feel really bad for the poor guy.  Or not!
 
Based on his coaching last night, the phrase "I'm not gonna be the Alabama head coach" applied as he didn't do much coaching.
 
...and I loved how the Utes used the Wildcat formation at the end to run the clock and win the game.  It brought a smile to my face that it was used against him in much the same way Miami used it against Bellicheat.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Crash and Dupe

If you're in south Florida, be sure and catch Mark Duper and Jim "Crash" Jensen will be at the Coral Squre Mall - at the "7th Inning" singing autographs and talking foorball...
 
They'll be there tomorrow (Saturday) from 1-3 or so.
 
Tell them Bitchin' Dave sent you!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

212 degrees

Early on in the season, coach Sparano was motivating his players by talking about giving that extra effort, and there was a great metaphor for how water boils at 212 degrees.  He had that painted on the locker room wall.
 
And players rallied around it...
 
A cousin of mine sent me a link to a motivational speaker type  - who is trying to sell his services, naturally - that reminds us of that.
 
 
Since we've got the Ravens this weekend, I thought it was worth passing along - and hopefully the Dolphins don't forget it!!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

No love there...

Calvin Pace - after the game - said: ''When you can't line up and beat somebody one-on-one . . . whatever. [Referring naturally to the Wildcat package] I guess you can give them credit. Whatever. I guess when you go from worst to first, you have to do stuff like that.''

 

Where's the love?

If Miami needs a little extra motivation to get the job done this weekend, they can rally around the fact that NO ONE thinks they can win this game.  Okay, maybe a few random reporters think its possible, but even they concede it will be close.
 
A lot of them cite Baltimore's dominating defense, or their 8-2 run after meeting Miami.  But, didn't Miami go 9-1, and have a streak of 4 games where they didn't allow a TD?  And Miami has found a way to win each and every week since (with the exception of New England where the Pats were just throwing it up to Moss time and again and using the ref's non-calls in their favor; still Miami stayed in the game until there were just a couple of minutes left)

Comeback player of the year

For the second time in his career, Chad Pennington was named NFL Comeback player of the year.  And I guess we're happy about that - its just that its weird for a guy to win this award twice.
Dolphins' Chad Pennington named NFL Comeback Player of the Year

The comparison goes on...

Back in July, I wrote a blog entry comparing the 1970 Dolphins to what was shaping up to be the 2008 Dolphins

 
Wow, did I hit that one on the mark, at least to the present day.
 
That 1970 team went 10-4, and lost in the first round of the playoffs 21-14 to the Raiders. 

Here's to hoping this year's team makes it through the wildcard round, to square off in what amounts to the same game (they didn't have wildcard teams in 1970, everyone advanced to the divisional round).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Defensive error, and an aging Favre

On this play, Will Allen made a pick.  But, it was very odd.
 
Throughout the game, Miami kept subbing players on and off to account for the formations the Jets were using.  Earlier in the game, Miami got caught with 12 men on the field and had to burn a timeout to recover.
 
Okay, take a look at the first pic.  Miami has 10 defenders on the field.  Actually, the 11th is running off the field, and we can assume that Miami was a little confused as things were developing.  Its sort of the opposite of what happened previously.
 
Favre saw it, and wanted to take advantage of the situation.  He was going to throw a quick pass to #83, along the path of the yellow line, because he noticed there was only one defender over there and he was focused on the outside man.

Take a look at the second pic.  This is the same play, from Favre's vantage point.  Everyone is looking toward the center of the field, meaning Favre knows he can get a first down - or maybe more - by having a quick snap and throwing the ball into the receiver. 
 
By the way, does it look to you like Crowder is trying to get a timeout?  I'm not sure.
 
Anyway, Favre snaps it, 83 runs and is in the perfect spot, but Favre can't get the ball to him.  This is one of those moments when you know you're QB no longer has "it" because he can't get the ball to the spot on the field he wants it to go to.  Now, it wasn't the first time on the day this happened, but this one was fairly critical since they were down 7, in scoring position, and there were 5 minutes left.
 
He underthrows, Allen steps into it and makes an easy pick.  And that pretty much ended it for the Jets and won it for Miami.
 
It was a defensive error, and might have been an issue if the Jets got a score on the play.  But lucky for Miami, Favre couldn't get the ball into the spot he wanted.

Intriguing tactic

On a 3rd down play late in the 4th, Miami shifted its defensive line right, to confuse Favre.  Now Crowder (arrow) is the guy who came up to the line to stop a run to that side.
 
But what Miami did was to overstack on the right side to create mayhem and mix up the blockers.  You don't see this often in the pros, because the offense can usually overcome it and exploit it. 
 
But, in this case, they used it to take advantage of an aging Favre who was having trouble getting the ball into players, anyway.

Defensive tactics

On this play, Merling made the pick 6.  It was amusing because he and Crowder were talking about it on Saturday night, and he said he had never touched the ball since high school, and here was a perfect pass right to him.
 
Miami lined up with 4 down linemen, 3 linebackers, and in a zone against the three wide formation.  Merling's assignment was to cover the running back, if he went to the right side of the offense.  He's lined up left, of course, you're pass rushing, and you're a rookie.  It would be easy to forget that assignment.
 
But Merling did not.  If you look at the second shot, you'll see that Merling broke off his rush and fell into coverage.  Now, I wouldn't say the coverage was all that great, but Favre tried to force it in there, and Merling simply grabbed it out of the air and started running.  He made Favre sit down, and drove into the endzone.
 
He was opportunistic, but followed his assignment and was highly successful.  AND, we have to mention that Favre threw a not-too-great pass.
 
I have to assume that there was some scouting on this formation to be ready for it as well.  Kudos to him and Pasqualloni.

The wildcat

Miami pulled out all the stops - or at least most of 'em - to have some impact on the game.  They showed several new wrinkles and a couple of old ones that were worth revisiting to keep the Jets on their toes.
 
A number of them had some success.  This particular one did not.  But it was creative and worth looking at for a moment.  Miami went unbalanced line, Ronnie at QB, and Chad at WR.  At the snap, Ricky (yellow) came across the formation and went upfield.   Ronnie swept right (blue), and Chad (red) started upfield, then turned and went into the backfield.  Ronnie flipped Chad the ball, and he looked upfield to pass.
 
Now the pass was supposed to go to Fasano (purple) who was running a post pattern to the endzone.  But, he was pretty well covered, as you can see in the long shot.  And Ricky was basically free.  So, Chad might the right choice in looking to Williams for the pass. 
 
Its just unfortunate he couldn't haul in the pass - undoubtedly, you heard Simms say he took his eyes off the ball.
 
That play might have ended this game even sooner if it was successful.

New Crash Jensen site


Jim "Crash" Jensen just opened a new website.  Be sure and stop by for a look-see.
 
 


Chad Pennington Award Nomination

The NFL announced today that Chad Pennington has been nominated for this week's FedEx Air Player of the Week Award. Fans can vote for Pennington until Friday at 11:00 a.m. EST at NFL.com/FedEx.  This marks Pennington second nomination for the FedEx Air Player of the week, Pennington has yet to win.

If Pennington wins, a $1,000 donation will go to the local Safe Kids coalition in Miami. In particular, the donation could go towards painting crosswalks, installing signs, landscaping near sidewalks and playgrounds, installing bike racks, and developing educational programs and events to teach kids about pedestrian safety.

 

====================================

DOLPHINS QB CHAD PENNINGTON, PACKERS QB AARON RODGERS & TEXANS QB MATT SCHAUB; RAIDERS RB MICHAEL BUSH, CHARGERS RB

LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON & FALCONS RB MICHAEL TURNER CANDIDATES FOR

 FEDEX AIR & GROUND® NFL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK HONORS

Fans To Vote For Winners On NFL.com

FedEx To Deliver Funding For Safe Kids Organizations On Behalf of Winning Players In Their Teams' Markets

Quarterbacks CHAD PENNINGTON of the Miami Dolphins, AARON RODGERS of the Green Bay Packers and MATT SCHAUB of the Houston Texans are the finalists for the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week honors for games played on December 28, while running backs MICHAEL BUSH of the Oakland Raiders, LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON of the San Diego Chargers and MICHAEL TURNER of the Atlanta Falcons are the finalists for the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week honors, the NFL announced today.

Fans can vote for one player in each category on NFL.com/FedEx from Monday morning through 6:00 pm ET on Wednesday to determine the FedEx Air & Ground NFL Players of the Week.  The winners will be announced Wednesday evening on NFL.com. 

Fans will be voting for more than their favorite player. As part of the Air & Ground program for the first time, FedEx is teaming up with Safe Kids USA – a national non-profit organization that works to prevent accidental injury among children – to deliver safer kids by making weekly $1,000 donations in the winning players' names.  The funding directly benefits local Safe Kids coalitions in that team's city, to fund pedestrian safety improvements throughout the year. This year, FedEx celebrates its fifth year of the program and will surpass the $1 million mark in funding to create safer communities for children.

New this season, fans can tune into the "FedEx Air & Ground Lowdown" posted only on NFL.com/FedEx starting Wednesday mornings.  The show examines the nominees in the Air & Ground categories through exclusive video highlights and expert analysis.  NFL Network's MARSHALL FAULK and TERRELL DAVIS host the weekly five-minute show. 

A closer look at the FedEx Air NFL Player of the Week finalists:

·       Miami's CHAD PENNINGTON completed 22 of 30 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns and threw no interceptions to lead Miami into the playoffs in the Dolphins' 24 - 17 win over the New York Jets.

·       Green Bay's AARON RODGERS completed 21 of 31 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns in the Packers' 31 - 21 win over the NFC North rival Detroit Lions.

·       Houston's MATT SCHAUB completed 27 of 36 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns in the Texans' 31 - 24 win over the Chicago Bears.

A closer look at the FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week finalists:

·       Oakland's MICHAEL BUSH rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns over 27 carries in the Raiders' 31 - 24 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

·       San Diego's LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON scored three touchdowns and rushed for 96 yards over 14 carries as the Chargers beat the division rival Denver Broncos 52 - 21 to win the AFC West.

·       Atlanta's MICHAEL TURNER totaled 208 yards and one touchdown over 25 carries in the Falcons' 31 - 27 win over the St. Louis Rams.

FedEx, the premier global provider of transportation, e-commerce and supply-chain management services, is the Official Delivery Service Sponsor of the NFL, Super Bowl and Pro Bowl. Through the weekly FedEx Air & Ground Awards, FedEx recognizes those NFL players who represent the same speed, precision and teamwork that their customers have come to expect from the full range of FedEx air, ground, freight and international shipping services, delivering safer kids in the process. With thousands of trucks out on the roads each day, FedEx is committed to improving pedestrian safety for children, by funding education programs and environmental improvements, from signage and crosswalks to pedestrian walkways near schools and playgrounds.

Classic moment

I was "representing" today, by wearing a Dolphins shirt as I was out today.
 
Some guy walks up to me and asks th quirkiest question - "where did you get that shirt?"  I took a moment to answer, and said I got it at a sporting goods store, and you could get them almost anywhere.
 
He thanks me and says "I'm getting one!  I can't wait to step off the plane in New York wearing it!"

Monday, December 29, 2008

Next up

The Dolphins playoff game will be Sunday at 1pm, against the Ravens. 
 
And somehwat surprisingly, its already sold out.  Why?  As we noted many times that the stadium was under capacity this year.
 
I guess there are a lot of "front-running phonies" in this town.
 
Intriguingly, this was the last time Miami met in the playoffs, way back in 2001.   And naturally, these two teams squared off in week 6.  Miami kept it close for a half before Baltimore took control, first on a pick 6, and then with a ball control run game.  Now one problem Miami had that week was that they were without Ferguson at NT, and Soliai hadn't blossomed into the player he is now (and in fact, Starks played more).
 
Maybe this time, we exact some revenge against Cam.
 
=======================================
On a related note, here's how the NFL decides who plays when in the wildcard weekend.
 
NBC gets a 4pm (early) and 8pm (late) game on Saturday.
CBS and FOX get the other two games on Sunday, one at 1pm (early) and one at 4pm (late)
 
Who gets the early and late game on CBS/FOX rotates back and forth each year.  This year, it was CBS' turn to have the early game.  For its part, NBC shows the opposite order of games by conference.
 
That is, on Saturday it is NFC early / AFC late and on Sunday its AFC early / NFC late.
 
The rule of thumb is the division winner with the best record will play on Saturday; the one with the second best record will play on Sunday.   Since there is one game from each conference played on each day, the other games slot into these time slots.
 
By the rule of thumb, Miami (11-5) would have played Saturday, and Minnesota (10-6) Sunday.   Indy/SD would be Sunday, and Arizona/Atlanta would be Saturday.
 
And it would have meant Miami was playing in the late game on Saturday (AFC late).
 
But...by the assignment of who gets the early / late game on Sunday (network rule), that would have meant Indy and San Diego would have met in California at 1pm ET, or 10am PT.   
 
In that case, the NFL just switches the two matchups, so San Diego goes Prime Time, and Miami gets the 1pm start on Sunday.
 

Zach and JT

So, neither of their teams made the playoffs.  And yet the Dolphins did.  Anyone else see the humor here?
 
JT is trying to weasel out of his contract in DC, and who knows how that will turn out?
 
Zach opted out of his contract, and will be leaving Dallas after one year.  He did say he wasn's so happy playing in a 3-4, and wanted to move on.  He is thinking about retirement.

J Peasy

Porter was quiet again this week, having just one tackle and no sacks.
 
He remains at 17.5 sacks on the season, which puts him second on the Dolphins all-time.

Oh gee, that's too bad.

I saw a short segment on ESPN earlier that suggests Tom Brady might need another major surgery and could miss all of 2009. 
 
I remind you that the football gods frown on smug players.
 
Oh, and the other day, I was flipping around the TV, and saw one of those tabloid shows, and they were talking about Mr. Brady.  Seems his girlfriend (Giselle) was having a party and her parents came in.  Somehow, Brady was put to the task of carrying some large objects from their vehicle into her apartment.
 
One of the papparazzi was poking a little fun at him, and then afterward was saying things like "couldn't they have found someone else to do that?  Isn't he supposed to be rehabbing his knee?"
 
Apparently not.

Pennington

Fitting wasn't it that Chad went back to NY, and beat the Jets on the last week of the season.  After all, it was about 18 weeks ago that the Jets simply discarded him, feeling that he couldn't win in this league.
 
And all Pennington did was to lead by his words and his actions.  He had a great passer rating, better even than the guy who replaced him.
 
He could be the league MVP, and likely will be the Dolphins MVP.
 
...and here's a little side note.  Back before the '07 Superbowl (Bears - Colts), I took my son to the NFL Experience.  They had some little games, and he spun the prize wheel and won a metal football card of "Comeback player of the year" who was none other than Chad Pennington.
 
I found the card yesterday while doing a little cleaning early in the day.  I was bemused by it.

Three words: wow

Miami went from 1-15 to 11-5.  From hopeless and holding the first overall pick, with a coach who appeared clueless...to division champs with a decent roster and a coach who gets the most out of his players.
 
They got a castoff QB, had limited talent at WR and DB, and yet they had a lot of success.
 
They ran a high school play with a lot of success, and at the very worst, they made teams prepare for it.
 
They tied the Giants for fewest turnovers in a season EVER, with 13.
 
They led the league in the takeaways / giveaways with +16.
 
They rallied around their coach and played hard as a team.
 
It was a great season that won't end in yet another crappy NFL Films piece looking ahead to next year...
 

Bellicheat should be coach of the year

Without Brady and without cameras, he managed to get his team to 11-5.  I'll be rooting for them in the playoffs.
 
Oh that's right.  They didn't make the playoffs.  Because Miami beat them out. 
 
--this was a note I sent to a Patriots fan friend of mine.

The Jets

Funny thing: when the Jets led the division about 5 weeks ago, I heard some knucklehead call Joe Rose and say that the Jets were terrific, and had a dynasty, and that they'd be good for a long time to come.
 
I mentioned here that I thought they had overpaid for too many players, and that would cost them next year and beyond.  And I had noted several times that Brett Favre would only win them a couple of games over where they otherwise would be - and he would lose some games, too.
 
As we wore on late into the season, you saw a bunch of players "mail it in" meaning that they stopped playing hard because they felt that they were so good, or because they were being told so.   And Brett Favre...well, lets just say the guy started to show his age.  He looked like a 39-year old guy playing QB.  He should have gone out with dignity and retired last offseason.  Instead, we had to see this shell of a player wearing #4 almost embarassing himself out there.
 
Even his "inspirational" message to the team which CBS aired before the game was lacking 'lets go out there and play hard, and if we don't win okay, and if do win, okay.'   It seemed lacking, and it didn't sound like he wanted to urge them on.
 
...then this morning we find out that Man Genius was fired after the game, and so goes the unraveling...

The game

All week, Sparano urged his team to stay focused: a win and Miami takes the division.  And while it has been a long season and both teams have grown, in week 1, the Fins lost a close one to the Jets.
 
Miami came in with the right attitude, and did many things right.  They had a Pennington fumble, a snap over the punters head, and some early penalties.  And while they did cost them at the time, Miami kept its focus.  There was some poor tackling in the first half, and Miami corrected for it at halftime.
 
By the middle of the 3rd quarter - though the outcome was still in doubt - Miami made its statement and made it clear that they weren't going to lose this game.
 
And win it, they did.  Miami took the division, knocked off the Jets, and because of the Baltimore win, knocked out the Patriots, too.
 
What more could you ask from a team that was 1-15 at this time last year?

How did we miss this gem?

From NFL.fanhouse.com
 
Warren Sapp has always been outspoken. Now that he's retired from the NFL and makes his living as a teevee personality, it's gotten worse. Much, much worse.

In addition to stints on NFL Network and Showtime's Inside the NFL, Sapp also manages to dance like he's never danced before, following in the footsteps of such greats as Mario Lopez, George Hamilton and Tucker Carlson. Yikes.

Whatever, the dancing bear, when not basking in his awesomeness, shared his thoughts on the Dolphins' new favorite offensive weapon: the Wildcat. Shockingly, the former defensive lineman isn't a fan.
"This is disrespectful to all defenses," Sapp said on Showtime's "Inside the NFL" roundtable Wednesday night. "It's disrespectful. You're taking the best player in the game, the quarterback, and you're putting him out wide, outside the numbers, and you put the running back in the back.

"How the hell you going to throw the ball? I'm not even thinking about throw right now. I'm going to get everybody in the gap. It's just power 'O.' You have the running back with the ball already in his hand."
That's a great point -- how the hell you going to throw the ball? (Looks at after-the-jump photo of Ronnie Brown, you know, throwing the ball, quietly reconsiders idiocy of question.)


In less insane news, Sapp's Showtime co-host, Phil Simms, offered a more measured response to the Wildcat:
"The Miami Dolphins have trouble getting offense, so they're trying to do a lot of things to get yards, to fool the defense," Simms said. "They don't have playmakers outside right now at the wide receiver position. But when it's all said and done, it got less than 50 yards of total offense for the Miami Dolphins last week..."
Seriously, when Simms is the smart guy in the room, you're probably in the wrong line of work. Luckily, Sapp has a fallback plan.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Woo - freakin - hoo!

Miami defeats the (hated) Jets and win the AFC East....and thus eliminates the Patriots from the playoffs.
 
How do you like them apples?
 
Cinderella still has the glass slipper....at least for one more week.
 
We *think* the playoff game will be Saturday night at about 8:15.  I guess we'll know fo sho tomorrow.
 
We *know* it will be at home, against the Ravens and Cam "Fail Forward Fast" Cameron in a bit of a rematch.
 
...I have many, many things to say about the game.  But, for the moment, you can catch what I had to say immediately at http://finsradio.net  I just hosted a 45 minute show where I talked about the game!!!
 

wah wah wah

We feel for the Lions, who just became the second team to go through a season without a win; and the first to have it happen in a 16-game season.
 
Miami was *this* close (a brain fart if you will) away from it being them last season...

His record is safe for one more year

Dan Marino's most treasured record - 5,084 yards passing in a season - is safe for another year.  In spite of his relentless passing throughout the last few weeks, Drew Brees came up 18 yards short of the mark.

apologists

I watched a couple of minutes of the Pats-Bills game, and I was struck by the discussion between Dierdorf and Enberg.   Their take was that Bellicheat should win coach of the year, because he overcame *so many* injuries, and kept his team competitive.
 
Never mind that the coach in Miami took his team from 1-15 to at least 10 wins, with an entirely new roster.
 
Why does everyone love the Pats so much?

ESPN sez

Tuna fishing? Parcells has opt-out clause

Bill Parcells

Steve Mitchell/US Presswire

Bill Parcells' contract with the Dolphins allows him to leave the team if owner Wayne Huizenga sells his majority share.

 
It's a possibility, hinging on whether Miami Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga's sale of his majority ownership of the team goes through, sources told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen.

When Parcells joined the Dolphins as executive vice president of football operations last year, his deal included a onetime out clause that would allow him to walk away, with the rest of his $12 million guaranteed contract fully paid, no strings attached, if Huizenga were to sell the team.

Earlier this year, Huizenga agreed to sell 95 percent of the Dolphins to New York developer and team part-owner Stephen Ross. Huizenga hopes to close on the deal by early January to ensure that the capital gains taxes on the sale remain at 15 percent before President-elect Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, Mortensen reported.

Parcells' contract specifically states only Huizenga can be in authority over him. Once Ross officially becomes majority owner, Parcells has to notify Ross within 30 days that he intends to exercise his walk-away clause and collect the full balance of $9 million, Mortensen reported.

At that time, Parcells would be a free agent. And any team that wants his services would not owe compensation to the Dolphins, according to the report.

Among the teams sources say are on Parcells' radar are the New York Jets, Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns and the Oakland Raiders. However, if Parcells' son-in-law, New England Patriots vice president Scott Pioli, is interested in any of those jobs, Parcells is unlikely to wind up with that team, Mortensen reported.

Parcells could negotiate with Ross to extend his opt-out clause by one year. But as presently written, the clause doesn't extend after one season, according to the report.

ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen contributed to this report.

The team

I read something this week about how H intends to finalize the sale sometime within a week of the Dolphins' season ending.  It would be this week if they fall to the Jets.  He reiterated his concern about having to pay "double the taxes under Obama" which he threw around as $20 million. 
 
I feel compelled to remind you that in actuality, we're talking about a 3% increase in the tax - more like $5 million.  And it still has to pass through congress.  Be that as it may, we should see a transition soon.
 
And that leads us around to the management of the team.  Mr. Ross has been talking with people who he intends to have come in and help him.  In particular, he's interested in bringing in a CEO - which would mean that Joe Bailey would likely be out.  And that reminds me that Bailey has disappeared of late.  We haven't heard from him in months.
 
I suspect he has fallen way out of favor.  A few years ago, he was the CEO of his own firm that conducted interviews with coaches to help teams select a coach for their franchise.  The idea was to make a canned intervew available, even as coaches were still coaching.  A novel idea, and it seemed like a possible winner.  When H went to him, he decided that he could help run Miami's organization.
 
Problem was that the coaching deal didn't work out all that well, since we got Nick and then Cam before H changed his approach and got Parcells and Sparano.
 
And along the way, Bailey was tasked with "energizing the franchise" and building the hype and the fan base.  Sure, performance on the field didn't help, but season ticket sales went down, rather than up (as we understand it) over the course of a few years. 
 
I would surmise that Bailey's record wasn't as great as H might have liked, and that's why he's out of the picture.  Its a guess, of course, but it makes some sense.
 
....and then we also wonder about some other execs.  What of Bryan Weidemeir, the president of the team?  I would argue he's been really good over the years.  He oversaw the salary cap, and helped manage the general issues among GMs and coaches over the years.  We hope he stays around...
 
I guess time will tell.