Friday, August 22, 2014

We Are Almost There!

You can almost taste it.

Football season.

Its right around the corner. Only two weeks away.

I love week 3 of preseason. The teams are pretty much getting their acts together.

The last dress rehearsal for the starters. Everyone hoping to create some positives and get out healthy.

This past week I was vacationing in Dallas with my cousin, who attended her business convention. Since her company pays for our room and most food, I only had to pay for my flight and some sightseeing.

 As luck would have it, her convention was held at the Gaylord Texan which is the official hotel of the Cowboys. The night before their home games, the Cowboys stay there. And during the preseason, their free agents and those without permanent housing, call it home until they officially make the team.

The first Cowboy I ran into was one of their coaches early Sunday morning. Now I am not going to mention any names here. He is an offensive coach who would wait in the lobby at 6 AM each morning to grab some players to take to practice.

At first, he just grunted when I recognized him. But more and more, through out the week, as I would wonder down to the Starbucks each morning to grab a coffee and the papers, he would open up.

By the third day, after noticing all the Dolphins T-shirts, he told me he knew quite a few of our players. Odrick, Wallace, Wake, etc.

I told him "Wake is a beast". He responded "Derek. You know his real first name is Derek."

You can assume a Pennsylvania connection.

That night I saw him at dinner with some players at the Hotel sports bar with a 50 foot HD TV screen and good food.

He pointed at one of the players he was dining with and said "He hates the Dolphins." I responded "Good. Then you'll over react and screw up by letting your emotions get the best of you."

They laughed. I wished them good luck and good health.

Throughout the week, they were in the gym working out but mostly grabbing dinner in the sports bar.

You could see the stress they were under and I had to remind them that very few people get to experience what they are going through at training camp and they should be very proud of themselves for getting this far, no matter what happens.

They all were very cordial and polite but there was this underlying uncertainty of their future
that they just couldn't hide. I told them all I would be watching for them on TV.

Come Thursday morning, I caught the coach and some players in the lobby around 6:30. I told them "You still have 24 hours to back out. Friday you fly to our neck of the woods."

Coach said "I was afraid I'd miss you this morning."

I told him "Nope, but we will both be leaving town soon."

I wished them luck and then said "Oh by the way, I won't be able to watch the game live on TV but when I see you on NFL Network's replay of the game, I hope you'll be screaming at one of your players for blowing"

Then he said "Now I wished I'd missed you."

Today, I reffed 2 High School scrimmages in New Jersey. Tomorrow, another.

Yep. Football is back and soon enough, it will be for real.

Phins Up!!!

Carl Leone
Dolfan since 12/25/1971

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What if Mike Wallace is Right?

The NFL has become the most balanced and competitive major team sport in America. That is why it has grown so much in popularity.  It really is not much of a debate.  A team like the Yankee’s in baseball will out spend smaller revenue teams to acquire better players. In college football teams like Alabama are going to get much better recruits and players compared to many of the smaller colleges they play against.  My goal is not to put down other sports or leagues, I am just making the point that ALL the teams that compete in those leagues do not have the competitive balance that the NFL has. In the NFL every game is of enormous importance. For that matter every play in the NFL carries a significant amount of weight.

Anyone following the NFL Preseason has been taking note of huge number of flags resulting from the increased emphasis on pass interference. Mike Wallace was so bold to express his opinion that it was not being called fair.  After watching several of the games and what is going on I can’t say he is wrong. I don’t think that there is this big conspiracy that the refs are out to get Miami. However, I think the NFL has created a very delicate situation.  There is SO much that goes into a NFL season. The players, the coaches, even the fans are vested deeply into trying to win.  It all culminates into dramatic hard fought games to see who reaches that dream all teams are working for.  These games have become so close that the outcome of a few plays can heavily influence who wins. Now I ask you after vesting all that time and emotion into the games, does anyone really want to see the outcome of them determined by 2 or 3 calls from a referee? It is almost sickening to me to think of the Dolphins in a hard fought game into the 4th quarter and then a team getting a couple very questionable interference calls on the last drive to beat them. I also would feel like it would be an empty win if we were on the side of the benefit for the calls. I have always said it is simple, if the penalty is not obvious leave your flag in your pocket and let the players decide the outcome of the game. The NFL is pushing the refs to do just the opposite of that now.  It just seems for lack of better word ..just wrong.

All I can think of is who is pushing for this? The players don’t like it, the coaches don’t like it. The fans (i.e. the customers) don’t like it.  The NFL is as popular as it is has ever been. I understand they think that more scoring might mean even more people will watch. Maybe more people that play fantasy football will watch more games? However, is it really worth it? I won’t even get started on how making changes like this makes all-time statistical records worthless. How would Dan Marino and the marks brothers have done if the d-backs would have played in this environment against them? The games now are going to be more heavily influenced by the calls the refs make, bias or not bias. Those calls will now be a heavy factor in who wins games. Is that what we really want to be watching? It makes me think what if Mike Wallace is right and the refs really are not calling the game fair….what will that mean for the NFL if that is true? My message to the NFL executives pushing this rule change (a rule change that will lead to refs having unprecedented power to influence games) is this. “Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered”   If these rule changes concern you, please forward this message to everyone you know that cares.  After all we are the customers.

It has been a while....

Hi everyone!  It has been 7 months since I last wrote here.  I owe a guy a Steak Dinner at Shula's.  So, whoever that is - contact me soon.  I want to pay up.

I got a job in January as a CPA to some touring stars; I am their Tax Manager.  Almost all of our clients are household names.  It is exciting work.  But, no excuse.  I dropped the ball and disappeared.

Last year really hurt me.  It was crushing!  I can still taste the bile in my throat.   We had the talent, but just as I said would be the ONLY reason for a non-playoff year - COACHING FAILED US!

The only silver lining was that Sherman was fired.  He was a disco dancer in a break-dance competition.

My true Diehard Phins Fans Friends feel as strongly this year as I did last year.  I compared last year's first 2 preseason games to this year's first 2 preseason games.  It is like night and day.    Last year our second teams did better, but I first teams struggled.  This year we look a bit more dynamic.  We have nearly 80% completion with Tannehill & Moore.   I like it.  Except for a few big plays in pre-season last year we still looked like we were playing in mud.

I argued with a few of you posters a few times last year that the only way to get more from this team was to change the pace - speed up, change cadence, spread-out, etc...   I believe Bill Lazor brings that with him from Philly.  Think about this.  Nick Foles, the Eagles QB, went from a 79 to a 119 rated QB in the one year with the new system, 27 TDs v. 2 INTs.   That with an offensive line that was every bit as suspect as ours.  If we improve even marginally, and score 24 points per game, we  have nearly a 90% chance of making the playoffs.  If we score over 400 points for the season, the % increases.

You have to admit, things feel different this year.  Can you believe that it will be our defense that may hold us back?  Our defense has the personnel.  It just needs to execute.  Tackle tackle tackle.  JEEZE!

Okay, here we go again:  this year's schedule is more difficult, and I still say we will have a double digit win season and make the playoffs.  Miami will go 11-5.  They will shock the world and beat the Patriots on opening day.

Yours forever in Phins Fanhood we play.

The MadPhinsFan

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thoughts on the preseason and camp up until now...

So I have been pretty quiet lately but have had a lot on my mind about these Dolphins....

I can't help but think, with our linebackers struggling lately, what if Ryan Shazier would have fell to the Phins and we drafted him??? He is absolutely tearing it up in Steelers camp. He would have been fantastic for our defense. On the other hand we probably wouldn't have gotten Ju'wuan James and he really seems to have come into his own at right tackle so which one would you rather have? Which is more important??

I am even more confident in my prediction of Ryan Tannehill for this upcoming season. I know it is only preseason but he seems to be hitting on all cylinders and he has yet to have his full barrage of weapons on the field at the same time. I am very excited to see this offense and what it can do after some actual game planning.

I really feel good about Joe Philbin leading this team. He honestly is a different coach and seems more confident. He is doing things his own way, taking accountability for his team, and just seems to be more comfortable as the leader of this team. He really is coming into his own as a coach. Could it be that daddy Sherman is now gone? There were reports the last 2 years that Sherman pretty much ran things.....

The running game still scares the crap out of me. I thought originally that Lamar Miller would look better at this point than he does. The same goes for the line. They are pass blocking really well but continue to struggle opening lanes for theses backs to run through and when they do, Miller makes the wrong read! Will it get better??...

Will Pouncey be back sooner than anticipated? All reports seem to suggest that he is way ahead of schedule which is good news although Omar Kelly reported today that he saw Pouncey with a noticeable limp today after practice and that he was also wearing a sleeve. Anyone know more about this?...

And finally, what are your thoughts on the season opener VS New England? I have to say that the Patriots didn't look that great last week against Philly. I believe this game will be a lot closer than everyone thinks. The Phins may very well come away with the upset.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Why coaching matters

I have been watching the Little League World Series. For the most part, the teams that make it are pretty even - not unlike the NFL.  Sure one team may have a more dominant shortstop, or power hitter, or pitcher.  But to have gotten this far, they have to be at a certain level.

And also for the most part, coaching is pretty even as well. 

But strategies and tactics matter.  And as I watched a game the other day, it struck me that the South Korean coach was doing his best channeling of Bill Belichick.  He had coached the team on the finer points of the rules, and put them in position to  have success in this game.  Now he may have signaled something to the players to alert them, but I really don't know.

To the best of my recollection, the situation was: end of the last inning, South Korea down by one run and up to bat.  One out, and players on first and second. The ball goes into the outfield, and is caught for out #2.  Player on second tags up and starts racing around third and is waved home.  The outfielder who made the catch is surprised, and has to make a choice to throw home or throw to second - because the genius move was to have the player on first run toward second, thus making it tough for him. 

The throw to home probably wouldn't be in time.  But the play at second was possible - and *if* they got it before the runner tagged home, the run wouldn't count and the game would end. 

He throws to second, and the runner turns back to first (again, genius!) meaning that they now had to get him in a rundown, and by now, the player has scored.  They throw back to first and he beats the throw, so he's safe.

And so in the end, the game is tied, and there's still an out to go.  Do I need to tell you that South Korea scored again to win?  Probably not. 

The coach had them thinking on their toes and moving, so that they created enough confusion to extend the game.  Best case is what happened.  Worst case is that the run doesn't count and they lose.  In the middle is that the run counts and they go to extra innings.

And here's where we bring it back to Belichick and football.  The rules, and the understanding of them, can make the difference in some small number of cases.  The better prepared you are, the more likely you can pull off something like this.

Its not ALL about xs and os.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Changing of the Guard in Miami

Having Mike Pouncey injured is not a good thing to be sure. He is a pro bowl center and a player we need in there to improve our line play.  With that being said it might have not been a completely bad thing when it occurred.  I say this because the after math of the Pouncey injury led to the Dolphins signing Daryn Colledge. So far through the preseason he has been the best guard on the team and has helped to bring some veteran stability to the line. Keep in mind Miami’s plan at guard prior to getting Colledge was to pick two starters from Dallas Thomas, Shelly Smith and Billy Turner.  Coming into the Tampa Bay game Dallas Thomas was holding on to the starting guard spot on the right side. After Gerald McCoy dominated in the game the new right guard is now Shelly Smith.  It will be hard to judge if Smith is truly an upgrade because Dallas does not have a Gerald McCoy on their team to test him.  However, it is possible we may not even be having that discussion if Colledge was not on the team. Smith would probably be the left guard. That prospect could be kinda of scary right not considering how much Thomas struggled.  Furthermore, Pouncey is a big center and can handle D-Tackles better than Satele. he very well may have been able to cover up Thomas’s struggle a bit more allowing the team to go into the regular season before an issue at guard was exposed.  So now the question in my mind is if it is time to consider getting another solid veteran guard in a trade?

Earlier I wrote an article about how well Dennis Hickey did acquiring players like Chris McCain, Damien Williams(RB),  Terrence Fede, and Anthony Johnson. This may be the time to cash in on some of that success and look a trade partner as well.   Here is a list of players I would considering offering for veteran tackle for depth or veteran guard to compete on the right side.

Derrick Shelby – Solid Young Defensive End – With Fede flashing could they afford to swap him for a guard? I like Shelby a lot but I feel like the team as whole would be better with a solid starting guard.

Daniel Thomas – I think he has already been beat out by Damien Williams.  He is a big back that is still young enough to put in several quality seasons.  He would have value from a team thin in the backfield.

Matt Moore – Yes  I know this would be high risk as he is capable of leading the team if Tannehill goes down. But I ask you would Tannehill be as  likely to go down if we had a solid right guard in return for him?

Dion Jordon – Obviously with him still trying to settle in at DE and now with a four game suspension people are thinking trade him. But I personally think his current value vs his upside would make it hard to trade him now and get the correct compensation for him.

Let me know what you think or who you would consider trading to add more competition at right guard.