Saturday, January 18, 2014

The End of the Ireland Way?

The End of the Ireland Way?

Miami continues to interview candidates to join their new personnel management structure.  How this will actually work is not clear. It would appear on the surface the new “GM” will of course be in charge of the scouting department and responsible for rating all available players possible to acquire through drafting, free agency or trade.  However, what I believe is going to change is there is going to be more of a committee approach on which players are brought on to join the Dolphins.  Joe Philbin will be more involved as will Dawn Aponte.   What does this mean for the type of players that will join the Dolphins going forward?  Well before taking a stab at what I think will change, I thought I would review what I think was the “Ireland Way”.  

Ireland Way Step One – Acquire as many players from the draft as possible for the 53 man roster.

Player acquisition changed drastically with the new CBA. Rookie deals were brought into check. The goal of this was of course to make sure veterans are paid more and the rookies have to earn it.  Jeff Ireland was on top of this concept as it happened and he started making trades for draft picks.  The simple fact is if you are able to acquire some solid talent in the draft, the contracts those players carry are far less than a veteran.  This year the Dolphins had several players that were solid contributors whom were on very favorable contracts.  Charles Clay, Daniel Thomas, Lamar Miller, Nolan Carroll, Ryan Tannehill, Rishard Mathews, Olivier Veron etc.  Of course you can debate how these players rate against other players in the league in performance. But it is clear they are steals in terms of what they were paid against the league and if you are building on 3-4 year plan it is the obvious way to go.

Ireland Way Step Two – Avoid 3rd contract players.

For a typical player (excluding special teams and quarterbacks) there are 3 main contracts.

  1. Rookie Deal – Very Cap Friendly as covered above (Player age early to mid-20’s)
  2. 2nd Contract (Player age mid 20’s to late 20’s)
  3. 3rd contract (Player age early 30’s to mid-30’s)

When Jeff Ireland opened up the checkbook and spent big money it was on 2nd contract players.  He typically overpaid the market to acquire them in fact. Examples-  Brandon Marshall,  Karlos Dansby, Dannell Ellerbe,  Mike Wallace.   I think this approach was done to try to avoid dead money.  Dead money usually happens when a player is either hurt, declines in ability or gets in legal trouble. This leads to them getting cut before playing out their contract that was front loaded with a big signing bonus.  Yes you can say the Dolphins overpaid for these players but to date all of them sustained a high level of play for the term of the contract they signed. (Even though Marshall and Dansby on other teams). The point being Ireland avoided 3rd contract players because they carry a higher risk of becoming dead money.

Ireland Way Step 3 – Offer 1 Year prove it deals later in free agency

Very few teams are going to offer 3-4 year deals to players coming off serious injuries or players getting up into their mid-30’s.  However, as the draft passes as well as the free agency frenzy passes, teams still have holes.  This season it was TE, CB and OL for the Dolphins.  So Ireland did his bargain shopping and offered out 1 year prove it deals to acquire Brent Grimes, Dustin Keller, Lance Louis, and Tyson Clabo.  With the year passed you can see this is very much rolling the dice. Grimes was an absolute steal, Louis never returned to form, Keller was hurt (what happens with older injury prone players), and Clabo underperformed (not uncommon with players advancing in their 30’s) This method is attractive because the players that did not prove it will not cause any cap burden.  Did Jake Long out play Tyson Clabo this year? Yes he probably did (until Long was done for the year anyway). However, Clabo is now clear and won’t take up any cap space if they choose to not resign him. Jake Long on the other hand will likely be cap drain on the Rams for the next few years.

Ireland Way Step 4 – Offer ascending players early 2nd contracts.

For most teams it is uncommon to sign a player before their current deal ends. The reason is football is a sport that causes severe injuries all the time. So putting a large signing bonus in a player that otherwise would play at a rookie deal is risky. On the flip side letting them hit the market makes them very expensive to sign when they perform well and are healthy.  Ireland did roll the dice on doing this for Cameron Wake, Reshad Jones and Koa Misi.  The benefit for the player is they set themselves for life prior to going through the risk of another season at a low contract. The negative is they leave money on the table if they make it through a solid season.  I know most people are saying Ireland overpaid for Jones, however, I still think Jones would have gotten a very nice offer based on his age and performance capability this offseason.  Bottom line is all 3 of those players should be back next season playing at a high level and have been retained at a manageable cap number.

The question now is will this approach change with Ireland being gone? This will be tested early in free agency as Miami is desperate for some OLine help. Will they overpay for a player going into his 30’s and take on an increased risk of dead money on a player that Ireland would avoid? Or will they try to draft players first and roll the dice on some 1 year “prove it deals” later on? Will Aponte allow them to make a splash and over pay the market  for a top 2nd contract player on the OLine?   My take is to expect Philbin to increase the weight on character and player reliability and expect Aponte to avoid over paying.  This is going to narrow down the pool of players they are willing to sign so I expect the Dolphins to be static in free agency until the draft it over.  What does this mean for the players in-house?  Well I expect two of their high profile players going for 3rd contracts to be gone.  Those players being Paul Solia (Overweight) and Randy Starks (Gave Philbin the bird on opening day).  I think they will break from the Ireland way however, and roll the dice on a 3rd contract player giving Brent Grimes a solid 3 year deal. They have space at the position to pull it off.  Will Davis and Jamar Taylor are cheap so I think they invest the money in Grimes.  Maybe just me hoping, but with needing 5-6 Olineman (starters and depth) 1-2 Tight Ends, and probably 1-2 D-Tackles.  I don’t think they can afford to add the starting #1 cornerback to that list of holes to fill.  In any event it will be very interesting to see how the new management handles personnel.


Friday, January 17, 2014

First post from a long time follower...

Hello, My name is Lawrence, I have been following this blog site for quite some time and decided to put my 2 cents in! First I wanna say thank you to Dave for allowing me to post on here and also that I enjoy all of your guys' opinions and comments! First off, am I the only dolphins fan in the world that thinks Philbin in a good coach? 7/8 on challenges! I know its hard to see but you can sometimes catch a glimpse of him getting fired up over a call on the sidelines every now and then, I think the beat writers as well as 99% of the fan base has this guy pegged wrong. Secondly, I could not be more ecstatic that Sherman was let go. Philbin can now run the team the way he sees fit. He no longer "owes" anything to Sherman, not to mention that Sherman's offense was horrid. He was quoted during the season as saying, "the reason Ryan has a hard time hitting the long ball is because Mike (Wallace) has been hampered by a hamstring and we haven't practiced it that much." REALLY?? So Tannehill cant throw it to Clay, Hartline, or even Lamar Miller? I know that it will be hard to replicate the speed of Wallace but Lamar Miller was a former track star and is pretty darn fast!! What a cop out answer! Lastly, I couldn't be more excited for the Lazor hiring as OC. There are a lot of similarities between the Eagles offensive personnel and the Dolphins. Look at Mike Wallace & DeSean Jackson, both small recievers that take the top off the defense. Riley Cooper & Brian Hartline, NO COMPARISON!! Hartline is a much better reciever. Not to mention that we have a better recieving TE in Clay. The only thing the Eagles have that we don't is a 4 down back that can pass protect, catch the ball out of the backfield, and break tackles. I firmly believe we should strongly pursue Ben Tate this offseason. With 29 Million in cap space I think we could make it happen as well as strengthen out O-Line....

Thursday, January 16, 2014

2014 Starts Now

Sigh…another season and another round of Brady vs Manning playing for a super bowl.  It does get frustrating to get invested in your team only to see those two prevail in the end yet again.  However, in the words of Edward Norton. “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero” The new wave of NFL elite will soon be upon us. We now are traveling through the time of year in which pink slips are being handed out through the high levels of team organizations.  Owners, much like the fans, are looking for that magic formula to be the next NFL elite.  This time around there was a big change in Miami as the most unpopular GM I can think of since Matt Millen was shown the door.  In will be coming a new man and new management organization for the team. Also packing up his desk is Mike Sherman.  I think everyone knew it was his time to GO GO.  With his departure comes Bill Lazer, a much more creative and unpredictable OC.  Do we finally have a OC that can prepare the team to adjust during the game when Belichick and Ryan move their chess pieces? These changes will be the hot stories going on for the coming weeks until we get to free agency and the draft.  However, there is one person I wanted to write about not being mentioned… Darren Krein. Who is the world is Darren Krein? He is the head strength and conditioning coach.  The management culture for the Dolphins is being setup for high accountability.  This man has a lot of work to do and I wanted to get my 2014 Christmas list to Mr. Krein in early. 

  1. Dannell Ellerbe – Loaded with talent. I love his speed/size combo.  However, he has fat hanging on him. He easily needs to lose 20 pounds of fat and gain at least 10 pounds of muscle. This man was paid a ton of money and we don’t have the cap space or the draft picks to replace him in 2014. He needs to show-up to training camp lean and mean, he owes it to the team and the fans this offseason
  2. Dion Jordon – In limited snaps he clearly showed he can be an impact player. However, he needs to add 20 pounds of muscle.  Call me crazy but if he does that this off-season he will have Julius Peppers type talent. Get him on the Cam Wake training schedule!
  3. Paul Soliai – Assuming he is back (a big if) he was too heavy this season. We need the Paul Soliai from two seasons ago. When he gets morbidly obese, he had no ability to rush the passer on the interior. He also can’t shoot gaps to redirect running backs more outside.  On top of that he gets hurt more easily. Since a contract year did not motivate him and Philbin has little time for players that show up out of shape, he may have already eaten himself out of spot in Miami.
  4.  Bryant McKinnie – He likes playing in Miami and we need help on the oline, LOTS of help.  We are going to have to use a lot of our draft resources to get new linemen. We really need an old vet to help hold down the fort until they are ready. However, he is slow out of his stance and can’t pull on a sweep to save his life.  His career is basically over if he does not drop 30-40 pounds. Do you have the desire for one more round Bryant?
  5. Tyson Clabo – See above on needing help from a veteran. Have you seen this guy without pads? Does he even know where the weight room is? No wonder Mario ran over him like a rag doll.
  6. John Jerry – Wait nvm, spend your time on someone else this guy is a lost cause.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Philbin Is Now Packing A Lazor Gun

In his best move to date, Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin hired the absolute right guy to lead a beleaguered offense into new horizons.

Former Eagles QB coach, Bill Lazor, will not only add a much needed spark to a lethargic and highly predictable offense but, as an added benefit, actually allow Philbin to grow as well.

I love the hire. I truly do.

As I mentioned yesterday, Bill Lazor was the guy to get.

He not only has an outstanding coaching pedigree but he has proven last year, while working with Eagles 2nd year QB Nick Foles, that he can coach NFL QBs and make them highly successful.

Foles finished the season, with the Eagles going 8-3, while throwing 27 TDs with only 2 interceptions and compiling an NFL leading 119.2 passer rating.

But that's not what has me most excited!

Its not even the anticipated growth of Ryan Tannehill.

What has me truly excited is the anticipated growth of Coach Philbin.

Yes, you heard me right.

Its the anticipated growth of Coach Philbin.

Lets not lose track of the fact that this is Philbin's first career Head Coaching position and through all the ups and downs and unbelievable circumstances of the past season, he has kept an even keel and tried to keep the ship afloat.

Is he fire and brimstone? No.

But he has his own low key style which can seem quite annoying to most fans.

Now, with his mentor and trusted confident Mike Sherman, jettisoned from the team, Philbin is left to truly be his own man.

He no longer has to walk on eggs around the offense, afraid to upset the cart and the very man who gave him his first coaching opportunity in the NFL.

Now Philbin can walk into, if not barge into, the offensive meeting room and demand results.

I know that is not his style. But what the hey, he can actually do that now as opposed to last year, when we all believe, he would have had reservations about doing any such thing.

Instead of being Sherman's man, Philbin now has his own man at the throttle piloting the offense in what suredly will be an F-16 armored with a Lazor Gun.

Look for the Miami Dolphins to feature a blitzkreig attack, taking no prisoners and having the Dolfan Nation finally singing Philbin's praises.

And no, I am not nuts!

Phins Up!!!

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

More problems for the NFL

For those of you who thought the concussion litigation was behind the league, think again.

Apparently, most lawyers aren't happy, the judge isn't happy, and the players aren't happy.  But the lead lawyers (who get a substantial payday) and the NFL (who get this monkey off their backs somewhat quietly) like it...

This isn't going away and will probably get ugly at some point during the offseason.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Will Someone Please Pull The Trigger Already

You can interview till your blue in the face.

You can suffer paralyzation from analyzation.

Eventually you have to decide.

Pick an OC already.

Ben McAdoo, Philbin buddy from Green Bay, gone to the New York Football Giants.

Bill Lazor, Philadelphia's QB coach, reportedly heading to Detroit.

Lazor is the guy I liked. Worked with young QB in a fast paced, wide open offense.

Kyle Shanahan is still available. He has OC experience with Redskins for his Dad. Not sure how he would fit in.

You keep snooping and kicking tires and eventually you'll wind up with the ugly duckling.

Call Lazor and sign him before he boards a plane for Detroit!

Phins Up!!!

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

wow that will keep the average fan away

I saw something earlier today that the average ticket for this year's superbowl is around $2,500.  That's not for a family of 4, and doesn't include a hot dog.  That's one seat.

And so it goes - in spite of the fact that there is a quasi prediction for snow, and ticket sales are lagging, the price has shot up to a point where an average fan simply can't afford a ticket.

And why would they want to, really?  The big game is best experienced with friends at a party and watched on an HD screen.

But that leads back to the bigger problem: that individual regular season games are unaffordable.  Miami's ticket price is in the lower 3rd in the league, but still is around $160 per game (now to be fair, there are tickets available in the $40 range, but that's the average). 

So, for a guy making minimum wage, that's more than half of one week's salary for a single ticket.  Wow, it prices it out of the market...

The more I think about it, the more I think Ross should have cleaned house

Okay, it sounds like this is a hate on Philbin post, and its really not.  While I think some of the decisions he made were suspect, and I didn't like his overall style, this is not about that.

This is about the broader problem the Dolphins face: the simple fact that the coach wasn't too pleased with the talent Ireland was acquiring, and the fact that the Dolphins have SO MANY roster holes to fill. 

First to the talent. We have heard in the past week or so that they disagreed on many, many players.  Philbin wanted a offensive tackle with the first pick and did NOT want or need a linebacker, as there was some depth.  And Ireland traded up to get Jordan. Apparently that was a major issue.  And that could very well be (according to a few reporters) the reason he got so little playing time - he was simply trying to make the point that it was a wasted pick.

It goes from there.  Getting Wallace was the right position, but possibly the wrong player for the system.  And so forth.

Then, there are the roster holes.  If we look at the team's needs, there are plenty:
  • Special teams: okay there
  • O-Line: at least 3 positions need to be filled, and with Jerry being a FA its actually 4.
  • TE: need a starter
  • WR: still need maybe a 3rd option.  Though this is not the pressing need
  • QB: you know how I feel here, but Tannehill can do his okay job for another year due to the other needs (but please consider this a need, new GM)
  • RB: some depth would be good
  • DE: Starks and Soliai have their contracts up.  Starks won't be back.  Soliai will cost a lot of money, so who knows?  Position of depth doesn't look so deep anymore
  • LB: both of the guys Ireland signed last offseason turned out not to be so great, and could be replaced
  • DB: this was generally a deep position, except for injuries and Nolan Carroll (please! and he's a FA anyway). Clemons is a FA. Brent Grimes is a free agent after a year, and he will take big money as well.
So there's a lot of work to be done with the roster in that sense.

My point is simply that if you aren't sure if Philbin is the guy, or if maybe he had some involvement in bullygate, or really you just wanted to start fresh - THIS is the time to do it.  This team likely won't make a huge leap next year will all the upheaval.  So, adding a new coach wouldn't change much in the mix. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hey Carl, you started a trend!

Carl posted about letting Philbin shop for his groceries about a week ago.

Until that time, I hadn't heard that phrase used in connection with the fins (of course Bill Parcells uttered the phrase at one point before he came here).

And today I turn on the radio and I heard that analogy on 4 different shows on 3 different stations! Each person had a unique way of using it, from cooking to buying groceries.

Aside from making me hungry, I'll give props to Carl for getting that story, ummmm, heated up. ;)

QB reminder

It's time for an auto-repeating statement.

You go realize that either Kapernick or Wilson could have been in Miami, rather than whatever slugs the fins ultimately selected.

How cool would that be?!

Brady vs Manning (again)

On one team, you have a guy who has been getting it done (against the Dolphins no less!) year after year.  And they get to the conference championship by running the football!

And on the other, you have my current man crush in Peyton Manning. 

As you may have heard me say in the past, no QB has ever led a team to a Superbowl, and then moved to another team to lead them to a SuperBowl.  Manning looks to buck that trend, and I think (perhaps wish!) he will.

But what of that stat?  Historically, teams will rid themselves of an aging QB (Joe Namath, and Jonny U come to mind), and he may enjoy some success elsewhere - but by then he's older and 'breaking down'....and the sample size is small.  There are only 30 or so possible players who could be in that category, and nearly all of them never played for another team.

So it seems that Peyton could be primed for another SuperBowl appearance.

And by the way, so much for the preseason hype that the Patriots aren't very good, and somehow the Hernandez nonsense would work against them...

It must suck to be a Carindals fan

The NFC championship is being played between two teams in your division, and you beat the Seahawks once, and lost on a last-minute field goal to the 9ers in one game...

And finishing 10-6, you were oh-so-close, but the Packers won their division and got in at 8-8-1...

Can you imagine if instead of the current format there was a seeded tournament?  That would been fun - let the Cards face off against these teams.  From the Gregg Easterbrook, this is his take on such a format:

Here is what the playoff field would look like, if seeding were in effect. (To avoid spending hours running tiebreaker scenarios, I used net-points differential. A seeded format would use head-to-head and common-opponents as tiebreakers.)
Bye teams in order of seeding: Denver, Seattle, Carolina, San Francisco.
Opening round:
San Diego (9-7) at New England (12-4)
Arizona (10-6) at Cincinnati (11-5)
Philadelphia (10-6) at Kansas City (11-5)
Indianapolis (11-5) at New Orleans (11-5)

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Aponte is probably staying

We hear that Dawn Aponte has removed her name from consideration for the executive role at the NFL.  And that probably means that since she got, well, her way, that she wants to remain in Miami.

A thought about the playoffs, QBs, and coaches

Watching the games yesterday made me stop and think...all of the teams that made the tournament have the winning combination of coach and QB. Its not so much that one of the them is so great (though in several cases that's part of it), its that the combination works. They believe in each other and achieve success.

So if we look first at the coaches, what do they generally have in common? IMHO its simple, their in-game decisions are good. They don't do things to harm their teams, rather they challenge them to do their best. And they show a certain level of passion for the game. Now in some of them, its very obvious with the flashy emotion on the sidelines (ie, the Harbuaghs), and with others its more cerebral and their outward emotions aren't all that, but they do get fired up when they need to - and don't for example, give the fist pump when there's a field goal (Bill Bellichick anyone?)

And what does Miami have? A coach who isn't a great leader, and sometimes he makes questionable decisions. Does that make him particularly bad? Probably not, but then he doesn't seem to have "it"....and his relationship with the QB? Well more on that in a moment.

The QBs in the playoffs are all top-tier guys. They have a will to win, and its been evident since the day they took the field. It didn't take over 30 games for people to say "oh yeah, he's progressing and maybe good one day." Nope, they're all guys who can win games, and have always had the talent.

And so, while this will undoubtedly generate discussion and will cause people to call me names, I think Ryan Tannehill is not that type of guy. He's ranked in the low 20s (out of the 39 guys who started a game this year), in Quarterback rating, ESPN's QBR, in efficiency, yards, and a few other categories.

And the thing about him is that still hasn't shown that fire, nor has he taken the team on his shoulders and won a game for them, but he has lost a few through his play.  And it seems to me that the coaches have simplified the playbook for him, because he's not ready or they don't trust him.  And in either case that screams problem to me.

Sure, you could push the blame to the o-line, or somewhere else.  But a top-tier QB will overcome that and elevate everyone else's play (can you imagine Peyton Manning or Tom Brady using that as an excuse?!).

To those of you who say it takes much more time are you willing to give this guy?  He's been at it 2 seasons already.  Want to wait another two?  A few games?  When is it enough?  He needed "weapons" and the team went out and got Mike Wallace, and it seems clear these two couldn't connect, and probably never will.  Wallace needs a guy who can drop it over his shoulder - Ryan is not that kind of a QB. 

Perhaps he could be a decent middle-of-the-road QB (I will never in a million years believe this guy will be an elite QB) with the right coach - but that brings me around to the coach/QB relationship.  These guys don't have it.  Do you think Philbin really believes in him?  Do you think Tannehill would ever argue about being taken out when they decide to kick a field goal?  And when Tannehill has not-too-nice things to say about the departing OC, who is the coach's friend and mentor, how well do you think that relationship will work out?

Bottom line: they need to be on the same page, but neither one is the right guy for the other (and probably neither of them should still have jobs today, but that's another story).

If the coach can't or won't be replaced, the only alternative is to replace the QB.  And I am advocating for them to get one of the top guys in this year's draft!  There are a lot of them, and if Miami doesn't have a problem trading up to #3 to draft a defensive lineman who played about the same amount as I did, then they should be able to maneuver into a position to get Bridgewater!  Wouldn't that be sweet?!  Take the guy and let him compete with Tannehill.  It allows you to possibly stash one and trade him if the other works out.  (and we all know Ryan wouldn't win out in that scenario)

Somebody undoubtedly will want Tannehill - heck the Jags took Chad Henne...

Its just time to move on.  And I'm hoping they do. Bridgewater is my new man crush, and I will watch him wherever he goes.  He's from Miami, so talk about building some hype and putting fans in seats...