Dear Mr. Ross,
As I watched Tom Brady and Bill Belichick hoist another Lombardi trophy up in the air in Atlanta Sunday night, I came to the realization that the sports world is witnessing pure greatness. It has taken me the last 18 years to admit that. I have despised the Patriot Way. Hearing the phrase “The Patriot Way” has been a very sore subject for this fan. And while the confetti was dropping in red, white & blue colors while Coach Belichick held his granddaughter and Tom Brady held his little girl, I couldn’t help but think what a buffoon you truly are. I am convinced that you and Jimmy Haslam have been drinking buddies for quite some time.
As I play this season back in my mind over and over again the more crystal clear it becomes that you have not even given your fans a shred of hope that things will get better. I admire that you took blame publicly. That’s never easy to do with the ego of a billionaire. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It’s a good start to the rebuild that awaits. However, it doesn’t solve the fact that the Miami Dolphins organization is used as a punchline in NFL circles.
Through the 1990’s, Jim Kelly and his high-powered Buffalo Bills shredded us roughly twice a year. And from the very beginning of the 2000’s, Bill Belichick has proven time and time again that he is far superior to any coach in the league and that having a GM is a waste of money when he could just do it himself. To be dominated for 30 years by two different teams in the same division has been painful. To invest so much money and time into a franchise that proves to be a slot machine that never gives a return on the investment is agonizing. It’s like buying powerball tickets and having absolutely no chance at winning.
Since your tenure began, we watched Bill Parcells walk out on a “neophyte owner” who had no respect for what the Tuna had done over the course of his career. Next was chasing Jim Harbaugh while you extended a coach’s contract only to be turned down. For this fan, it was even more embarrassing in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes that he would only have a conversation because of the fact that Dan Marino called him personally to arrange it. Good people have been running away from you like you have the plague. And then you bring in Mike Tannen-bum as the football czar who was responsible for putting the Jets in salary cap hell and paying a DT like Suh $19 million per year, more than your QB was making. I have been wondering for a long time if you have any common sense. You’re obviously successful in real estate but you have made every mistake a first-time owner tends to make…except for the fact that you keep making the same mistakes over and over without learning anything. I hope this time is different.
Here we are in 2019 and the AFC East Patriots have just tied the Steelers for the most championships in history. All won by Patriot teams that had decent talent besides Brady & Gronk. The mindset of Bill Belichick and his approach to running a team is historic and hall of fame worthy. Sure, as a fan, I have been jealous of their success. Why can’t this be us? Why can’t we be consistent? How hard is it to provide stability within an enterprise? Obviously, you’ve done that in your business career. Why is this so different? I live in New England and I listen to Boston talk radio every morning, WEEI. Playoffs and Super Bowls are expected here. And while I understand that it isn’t going to last forever, I also don’t see an end in sight for at least a few years.
As a lifelong fan, I am not even asking for a dynasty. What New England has done will never be accomplished again while I am still alive. I am simply asking to put a consistent, mentally tough playoff team in the hunt year in and year out. I am asking for the revolving door of coaches, GM’s, staff and players to have some stability and pride. A winning culture is started by the owner and front his office. You have dug yourself such a large hole that it could take many more years just to become average. And if this front office misses on another QB, it puts the franchise back another decade.
In 2013, I cancelled the season tickets that I had because my family deserves better. I spent $10k per year on tickets, travel, hotels and concessions and received nothing back in return except for mocking and being the butt of a joke. And as much as I hate to admit it, after a 3-0 start before the wheels came off against New England early in the season, I couldn’t bring myself to watch crazy eyes and his girl scout troop embarrass themselves any further. The minute a game started going south, I shut it off to preserve my peace of mind and maintain a healthy blood pressure. You assembled a group of ass clowns to run your organization into the ground. At least Jimmy Haslam (based on 2018) may have finally gotten it right. You simply cannot win in this league consistently without a marquee QB and most importantly, a mentally strong leader of men who can inspire and motivate the 53 guys to play together on Sundays.
Many younger Dolphins fans ask me why I am so negative. Like a bad marriage, you have to realize when to end the cycle of dysfunction. I have never seen the Dolphins hoist a Lombardi trophy. I was born right after the last one and watched Joe Montana take rookie Dan Marino to school back in early 1985. It has been letdown after letdown and I just have trouble drinking the stale Kool Aid that is presented to us year after year.
In 2019, I will be cautiously optimistic that maybe, you have learned a valuable lesson and are committed to the right staff and front office. I am rooting for Brian Flores to build a winner from the ground up. When I think of winning franchises, I think of the 49ers with Eddie DeBartolo Jr, John McVay, Bill Walsh and Joe Montana. I think of the Bills with Ralph Wilson, Bill Polian, Marv Levy and Jim Kelly. I think of the Steelers with Art Rooney, Dick Haley, Chuck Knoll and Terry Bradshaw. I think of the Patriots with Robert Kraft, Jonathan Kraft, Bill Belichick the GM, Bill Belichick the Head Coach and Tom Brady. I would love to have a Miami owner, GM, coach and QB to be proud of. I would love to see a competitive product on the field weekly. Is that too much to ask for?
This story was written by James Barbaro. Follow him on Twitter: @thebigbear1977
It's hard to believe this year marks the 34th anniversary of the last time the Miami Dolphins appeared in a Super Bowl, but here we are, three decades later. In 1984, Dan Marino demolished just about every NFL record into the stars on his way to engineering the Dolphins to a 14-2 record, an AFC Championship, and a trip to Super Bowl XIX to face off against Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers. The battle of two Western Pennsylvania High School football legends. Dan Marino, a city boy from Central Catholic High School and Joe Montana from Ringgold High School about 25 miles south in Washington County in the coal mining town of Monongahela. The Dolphins would lose 38-16 in the title game, but it was automatically assumed that the Miami Dolphins would be back in no time with a QB like Marino. The future was looking bright. Nope. Never happened. Not since.
We sit here 34 years later wondering how it all went wrong and how Marino never got back to the Super Bowl. It's depressing to even discuss. He was 23 years old when that game ended. What went wrong over the next 34 years?
In 1985, the Dolphins won their 4th straight AFC East title and appeared in the AFC championship game where they lost to Tony Eason’s New England Patriots. Dan Marino had an offseason holdout after his record setting 1984 campaign and Mark Duper was injured for most of the first half of the season and the Miami Dolphins were only 5-4 through Week 9 before getting their act together to win the last 7 games.
In 1986, it fell apart and the Phin’s ended the season at 8-8. In the middle of the 1985 season, Shula gave up their 1st and 2nd round picks in 1986 to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the hope that Hugh Green was the missing piece to the defensive puzzle. While Green went on to have solid years with Miami, he wasn’t the X factor that Shula was looking for. The Miami defense gave up an average of 34.5 points per game in all 8 of their losses. While Marino threw for 44 TD passes that season, they couldn’t overcome a porous defense.
1987 & 1988 were even bigger disappointments for Shula’s Dolphins. They recorded an 8-7 record in 1987 (NY Giants game was cancelled) and in 1988, Shula’s last losing season as Miami head coach, they went 6-10. In both years and in all 17 losses, their defense gave up an average of 28.74 points per game. The offense scored an average of 16.9 points per game in those losses.
From 1988 through the 1993 season, Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed became Miami’s Achilles heel. Led by Harvard grad Marv Levy, the Buffalo Bills dynasty was as frustrating for Dolphins fans as the Patriots recent domination of the AFC East. Why? Because we had Dan Marino and Don Shula at the helm. Every time Marino took the field, we felt something good was going to happen. But this was a different era. To win in the NFL thought the 1980’s and 1990’s, a strong run game was required. And Miami never had one. We were a one- dimensional team for a long time. And every defensive coordinator knew it. #13 ruptured his Achilles tendon in October of 1993 and Scott Mitchell came onto the scene.
The 1994 season was the beginning of the end. While Marino won comeback player of the year with 30 TD passes and Miami won the AFC East , the Dolphins fell short in the divisional playoffs to the Chargers 22-21. Joe Robbie had completed the sale of majority ownership to Wayne Huizenga and Don Shula was being forced out of Miami behind closed doors. Shula would coach his last season in 1995 where Miami lost the wildcard game to Buffalo 37-22 and the Jimmy Johnson era was about to begin. Could the curse be over?
In 1996, former Hurricanes and Cowboys head coach Jimmy Johnson came to help Dan Marino get that elusive ring he had been waiting for. The three biggest things that happened in 1996 under Johnson’s watch was they drafted Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas and they had their first and ONLY 1000 rusher in Kareem Abdul-Jabaar under Dan Marino’s guidance since he was drafted. The years following never seemed to blossom the way Johnson’s Cowboys did. By the time Jimmy came to Miami, Dan was truly on his last legs. He had been beat up and was taped like a mummy when he took the field. His last game was a 62-7 drubbing by Jacksonville where Damon Huard played the 2nd half. It always broke my heart that Marino went out like that.
Marino led the league in passing yards per game four times, led the league in passing yards total five times, led the league in passing touchdowns three times and went to the playoffs 10 times.
One player during the entirety of Marino's career ran for 1,000 yards. John Elway was an all-time great quarterback drafted in 1983 like Marino -- he didn't win any Super Bowls until Terrell Davis showed up. Marino's defense wasn't ever consistently great either. Only five times in his 17-year career (1983, 1984, 1990, 1995 and 1998) did the Dolphins have a defense ranking top-10 in points allowed.
Run the ball and stop the run. The axioms remain true today to a degree but they were requirements in the '80s and (much of the) '90s if you wanted to win Super Bowls. It was just a different era.
All of this is to point out the Dolphins had an all-time great quarterback on their roster playing at a high level and staying relatively healthy (despite taking a beating) for 17 years. SEVENTEEN YEARS. In an era where passing wasn't encouraged and defenses could destroy quarterbacks. If Marino played now he would likely average 5,000 yards a year over a decade stretch and single-handedly take the Fins to multiple Super Bowls.
Time and talent conspired against him, and Miami failing to win a title with one of the NFL's greatest quarterbacks is a flat-out shame.
Since Dan Marino hung up his spikes, the Miami Dolphins organization has been a disaster marred with terrible decisions, terrible ownership, terrible coaching and terrible overall draft choices. The fan base is as fractured as any. The current owner who I can’t even bring myself to type his name has been taking this fan base on a wild goose chase. Why should we believe that this time will be different?
This story was written by James Barbaro. Follow him on Twitter @thebigbear1977
Over the last decade, small, elusive scat backs have been emerging onto the NFL scene like a California wildfire. Guys like Darren Sproles, Danny Woodhead, Alvin Kamara, Dion Lewis and Tarik Cohen have made a living out of breaking their opponents’ ankles. They are so quick and elusive and hide so well behind the gigantic offensive linemen that they have become X-factors and game breakers. They also give the bell cow backs a good break through the course of the season.
The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with a bunch of talented X-factors, so I thought it would be fun to evaluate some of these types of running backs.
I know what most of you will say: “We have Kenyan Drake!”
Well, Drake is 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, hardly the small, elusive, shifty scat back that fits the Alvin Kamara or Darren Sproles-like role. Drake is big for a running back to go with his 4.45 forty time which is elite. He has low miles on his legs because he was tucked in the back of the line at Alabama behind T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, which, in Drake’s defense, Yeldon and Henry were just better suited for the scheme that Nick Saban ran.
If Drake went to LSU, Georgia, Florida or Ole Miss, he very possibly could have been a Heisman candidate. Drake has shown Dolphins fans a lot of promise and will go down in the history books for the Miami Miracle at the very least. I believe with the right scheme, Drake could be the bell-cow back that Le’Veon Bell is. He just needs the right system in order to excel. Do you remember Jerome Bettis? The instant he was traded to Pittsburgh in an offense designed around his strengths, he maximized his talents, winning a Super Bowl and being enshrined.
In the last five games of the 2017 season, Drake showed a rare combination of power, suddenness and versatility. He demonstrated with the right playcalling that he could be “the guy.” But like all great running backs, they need a sidekick. They need somebody to spell them and give them a breather without losing production. Since the NFL is brutal on the lifespan of a running back, I have put together some draft diamonds that could “complement” Drake.
All of these running backs are much smaller and would only be able to handle 10-15 touches per game due to their small size and could be had between rounds 3-6. I’m not asking for a big investment in the running game, I’m asking for an electric, change of pace, small back that could hide well behind the OL and find a crease and burst through.
Local Fort Lauderdale running back Devin Singletary of Florida Atlantic fits this mold like a glove. He is 5-foot-7 ½ and weighs 199 pounds. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry and rushed for 1,400 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2018 for the Owls, surpassing former Florida QB Tim Tebow for most rushing touchdowns by any player who attended a Florida FBS school.
He runs a 4.5 forty-yard dash and has solid speed, ankle-breaking moves with great balance and vision. The Dolphins should have scouts all over this kid leading up to the draft in April. He would be ideal running behind Laremy Tunsil and Ja'Wuan James (should he be retained).
Myles Gaskin of the University of Washington is another type of back that fits the bill of an elusive scat back. I watched every Huskies game this season and he was as impressive as any RB I’ve seen this season.
He is listed as 5-foot-9, 193 pounds and runs a 4.53 forty-yard dash. He made some acrobatic catches and flashed as a WR out of the backfield. Gaskin also comes with a lot experience having started for three seasons under dynamic head coach Chris Peterson.
Darrell Henderson out of Memphis University is one of the most electrifying players I’ve ever seen. He is 5-foot-9, 200 pounds and runs a 4.47 forty-yard dash. He averaged 8.9 YPC for 1,909 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also caught 19 passes for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. He is an excellent target in the mid rounds of the draft and could be a great compliment to Ballage/Drake.
Darwin Thompson out of Utah State showed flashes of brilliance all season. Many scouts think he should have gone back for another season but he was eager to make the jump. He is listed as 5-foot-8, 200 pounds and he averaged 6.8 YPC and ran for 14 touchdowns this season. I watched him in a few games this year and it was nothing short of spectacular.
He is described as having elite contact balance while bouncing off defenders like a pinball. His game is a mix of elusiveness, shiftiness, top speed and his receiving ability is off the charts. He could be a lethal force in the screen game and create a huge mismatch in the slot.
Tony Brooks-James, RB from the University of Oregon could be just what the doctor ordered. He is listed as 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds who runs a low 4.4 forty-yard dash. He is a speed demon who is a homerun threat every time he gets his hands on the ball especially when working the boundary.
He has kick returner-like bursts and amazing contact balance. While he doesn’t like to get hit and prefers going down on his own terms, he is a weapon that could be used in all kinds of packages. He would be ideal in a Kamara-like role but will need to add some weight to his frame to minimize injury.
While I like the Drake/Ballage combo, the Miami Dolphins are starving for that elusive gamebreaker and I am hoping that the new regime will add all the pieces around a QB that they will soon select. You can never have too many weapons for a QB and a scat back like these guys could bring the Dolphins to a whole other level.
Coupled with Albert Wilson, Kenny Stills, Mike Gesicki, Danny Amendola and Jakeem Grant, any of these mentioned backs would certainly make defensive coordinators a bit nervous as they are all small, potential homerun threats.
This story was written by James Barbaro. Follow him on Twitter: @thebigbear1977
The great Ron Wolf once stated: “it is worth drafting a QB every year no matter the current roster situation. While there is only room for one starter, you can never acquire too many.”
This is one of the most profound philosophies that this writer has ever heard and it makes complete sense. Let’s take a look at this.
First, in today’s NFL, the most important position is QB. While QB has always been an important position, the truth of the matter is that the NFL has changed drastically over the last 30 years. And it is a QB driven league. The teams who made it to the top four in the playoffs have marquee QBs in Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff.
All top tier QB’s in 2018.
Since the game has evolved into an up-tempo, hurry-up air-raid style offense, teams with these kind of QBs are separating themselves from everybody else.
Over the last 18 years, the Miami Dolphins have drafted six quarterbacks: Brandon Doughty (7th round), Ryan Tannehill (1st round), Pat White (2nd round), Chad Henne (2nd round), John Beck (2nd round) and Josh Heupel (6th round). These names tell me that the Miami Dolphins organization haven’t developed anything except for a fractured fan base and a horrendous case of hemorrhoids.
While Tannehill was the best of the bunch, he is an average NFL starter at best and we find ourselves in 2019 looking at a rebuild. My biggest question is who they are going to tap as QB coach? I hope it’s somebody who has a track record of developing QBs not named Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Tom Brady.
While reports are out there that Brian Flores will be the next Dolphins coach, we do not know this with 100% certainty. If Flores is the next head coach, what kind of offense does he plan on implementing? This will almost certainly determine which QB is the right fit. I have said for years that QBs are all system players.
A great offensive coordinator will tailor the offense to the QBs strengths instead of having a talented QB learn a whole new system. All QBs process information differently and some just simply cannot adjust to a system that isn’t designed to their abilities.
Peyton Manning and Tom Brady would not have been as successful running an offense in Green Bay that required more mobility and elusiveness and the ability to get outside the pocket. In one season, Jared Goff went from looking like the biggest bust to an All Pro…all because Sean McVay overhauled the offense and tailored it to Goff’s biggest strengths.
In 2019, I am not sold on ANY QB as being a high first round draft pick. Many QB needy teams are going to reach and grab a guy who tests well at the combine. We have seen this over and over again. Jake Locker, JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Leaf, Heath Shuler, Rick Mirer, Cade McCown, Rex Grossman, etc. As a college football fanatic, the year to grab a top tier QB is 2020. Who could Miami bring in for some competition and a chance to make the roster in 2nd-5th rounds?
Will Grier is an intriguing prospect and will most likely be there by the third round. He was a transfer from Florida and set the Big 12 on fire in 2018 for the West Virginia Mountaineers. He completed almost 70% of his passes for nearly 4,000 yards, 37 touchdowns and eight interceptions. In two nationally televised games against top tier programs such as Texas and Oklahoma, he threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns against Texas and 539 yards and six touchdowns against Oklahoma. While Oklahoma’s defense was subpar this year, it was an opportunity for Grier to shine and he did not disappoint.
Josh Rosen, starting QB for the Arizona Cardinals could be another option. New head coach Kliff Kingsbury has stated previously that he would draft Kyler Murray 1st overall…does he want to hitch his wagon to Rosen who he did not draft and had run three different schemes at UCLA under three different offensive coordinators.
Speaking of Murray, he was electrifying in 2018. Depending on the type of offense the Dolphins new regime will run, Murray could be an option if he wows scouts at the combine and isn’t playing the NFL against Major League Baseball's Oakland Athletics for a salary increase.
Is Murray worth the risk in 2019 knowing the plethora of QBs available in 2020?
Jordan Ta’amu of Ole Miss has been impressive at the Shrine game. He was a bit banged up this year but still put together a solid season. He will certainly be available in the third round and is worth a flyer. He completed 64% of his passes for almost 4,000 yards with 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He will need developing but has all the physical tools to succeed at the next level.
As one of the biggest critics of the Dolphins organization over the last 15 years, I am cautiously optimistic that Chris Grier will have a plan and will not stop until Miami has their QB. It is a must that they draft a QB in 2019, 2020 and 2021. The focus needs to completely be on getting the right guy to become the cornerstone of the franchise. If the Cleveland Browns could do it, I am certain that they will get it right under Ross or after his departure.
This story was written by James Barbaro. Follow him on Twitter: @thebigbear1977
According to former Dolphins head coach Adam Gase in a June 9, 2018 article published by the Palm Beach Post, regarding 1st round draft pick Charles Harris’ disappointing 2017 rookie season, Gase said this:
“He’s of the guys I’m least worried about."
That statement, Dolphins fans, sums up why Adam Gase, and soon Matt Burke, are no longer a part of the Dolphins organization. In 25 career games, Harris has two sacks. Two. Furthermore, Gase also stated this:
“The more football he plays, the better he’s going to get. I thought he had a pretty good year. He did a lot of good things and we’re excited about what he showed us.”
For the sake of argument, we all know that NFL head coaches lie like cement with the media. Was the scouting department, Mike Tannenbaum and Adam Gase wrong?
It certainly appears that way.
Let’s examine the rest of the defensive ends in 2018. The predicted “four-headed monster" of veteran DE’s Cameron Wake, the addition of Robert Quinn, William Hayes and second year first round pick Charles Harris was anything but a monster. The lack of pass rush, QB pressures and sacks were some of the key reasons for a mid- season skid that made a mess out of Gase’s underwear.
Imagine if the DE’s were actually getting pressure on the QB, Xavien Howard may have had 12 picks. Hayes went on IR, Robert Quinn became the Julius Thomas of this year’s Gase signings, and Wake played like an aging 37 year old DE who made it clear he wasn’t happy. In this writer’s opinion, DE must be addressed in the NFL draft or through free agency.
I can live with bringing Harris back under a new regime due to his age and freakish athletic ability, but Wake, Robert Quinn and William Hayes should be jettisoned out of South Florida. Thank you to Cameron Wake for your amazing career but you were unfortunately imprisoned by one of the most dysfunctional franchises in professional sports…and now Father Time has finally caught up with you.
The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with quality pass rushers, led by the consensus top pick, Ohio State All-American Nick Bosa, brother of Chargers DE Joey Bosa and son of former Dolphins DE John Bosa.
Most likely, Bosa will go in the top seven picks and Miami is in no position to move up for a DE this year with a rebuild on the horizon. But not to worry, the talent at DE this year is rich with talent. Most likely, if Brian Flores is named head coach of the Dolphins, he will be running a 3-4 style defense.
The best alternative options other than Bosa in a 3-4 scheme are Michigan’s edge rusher Rashan Gary, who is 6-foot-5, 285 pounds, and ended the season with six sacks, 12 tackles for a loss and 65 total tackles while missing four and a half games with an AC joint sprain. His size, speed and athleticism make him a rare athlete who could turn into a dominant defender.
Clelin Ferrell, DE from Clemson is 6-foot-5, 270 pounds and runs a 4.77 forty yard dash. He finished 2018 with 55 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for a loss and three forced fumbles. He had a highly productive career at Clemson and will be an impact rookie wherever he lands.
Montez Sweat, DE from Mississippi State is another option for the Dolphins. He is 6-foot-6, 250 pounds and runs a 4.6 forty yard dash. He is built like Jason Taylor but much more explosive off the edge. Scouts are drooling over his footwork and hand techniques.
Other DE’s that are worth mentioning are: Jachai Polite, Florida; Zach Allen, Boston College; Brian Burns, FSU and Jaylon Ferguson out of Louisiana Tech. Honorable Mentions include Oshane Ximines, Old Dominion; Carl Granderson, Wyoming; Austin Bryant, Clemson.
The pure lack of a pass rush makes the rest of the defense vulnerable. In today’s NFL with the amount of mobile QBs who are playing out of their minds, a fierce pass rush is the essential ingredient to preserving the LBs and DBs. We need guys with speed on the ends who are explosive when chasing down QBs and I haven’t seen any of that for a while down in Miami.
Applying pressure in most cases creates panic in a QB’s psyche and that is one of the best friends a defense could ask for. While we have many glaring needs, pass rushers should be at the top of the organizations priorities this off season.
This story was written by James Barbaro. Follow him on Twitter: @thebigbear1997
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