Tuesday, May 6, 2008

A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Four: Disaster (1984-1989)

You want to see the rocks on which Dan Marino’s Super Bowl dreams crashed? Look no further than his team’s drafts from 1984 to 1989. In my previous post, we saw how from 1976-1983 the Dolphins executed a series of great drafts, stockpiling the talent that Don Shula molded into the Killer Bees defense and one of the great passing offenses of all-time. (I was remiss in that earlier post in not mentioning the name of Chuck Connor who became Miami’s Director of Player Personnel in 1978. He deserves a lot of credit for those drafts though by this time surely Shula had final say over all player moves).

In 1982 the Dolphins defense ranked second in points allowed and in 1983 they ranked first. With a record-setting passing installed for 1984, Miami looked to be a Super Bowl contender for years to come. However, 1984 revealed some trouble spots. Miami’s scoring defense dropped to seventh and more disturbingly, they slumped to a well-below average 19th in yardage allowed, a sure sign you’ve got a classic “bend but don’t break” defense, the kind that gets exposed in the playoffs. And exposed they were. In Super Bowl XIX, Miami’s front seven proved completely incapable of putting any pressure on Joe Montana or stopping San Francisco’s run game. The debacle also revealed another weakness: the total lack of a running threat allowing the opposing defense to concentrate on Dan Marino alone. To avoid wasting Marino’s prime then, Miami clearly needed to improve their running game and their front seven.

Not a stupid man, Don Shula attempted to address these two needs in the first round of every single draft from 1984 to 1989. And the pick blew up in his face Every…Single…Time. An unparalleled series of busts really and their names are legend: Jackie Shipp, Lorenzo Hampton, John Bosa, Eric Kumerow, and Sammie Smith. Perhaps sensing they’d just blow the pick anyway, Miami traded away their top choice in 1986 to the Bucs for star linebacker (and Marino’s former Pitt teammate) Hugh Green. Green proceeded to rip up his knee shortly thereafter and was never the same player. Now that was some bad luck. But those draft choices? Shula should have known better. Hampton: only the third-best back on a college team with an overpowering offensive line; Shipp: Classic workout warrior who can’t actually play; Bosa and Kumerow: Reaches and everyone knew it at the time. Too small to play defensive line, too big and slow to play linebacker.

Really, other than John Offerdahl, Miami’s drafts here were all top-to-bottom disasters until 1988. In 1988-1989 at least the team added some productive players to keep their annual first-round bust company, though they obtained no star players at all in this five-year period. All in all, these drafts certainly lend credence to the “best available athlete” theory of drafting rather than simply selecting for need.

The inevitable result of these drafts was Miami’s descent into utter mediocrity. After all the success of the 1981-1985 period, the Dolphins posted a 29-31 record over the next four years (not counting the replacement games of 1987). Just as Marino was heading into what should have been his prime years, he was surrounded by nothing but draft busts and role players. The talent level was so bad, one of the league’s worst, that it was only Marino’s brilliant play that allowed his team to even reach average status.

1984
1 14 Jackie Shipp LB
2 53 Jay Brophy LB
4 109 Joe Carter RB
5 138 Dean May QB
6 165 Rowland Tatum LB
7 194 Bernard Carvalho G
8 221 Ronnie Landry RB
9 250 Jim Boyle T
10 277 John Chesley TE
11 305 Bud Brown DB
12 320 William Devane DT
12 333 Mike Weingrad LB

I previously wrote a little about Miami’s trade up to grab Shipp here. I defended the trade idea; it was just a bad pick. But I must share this little 1984 tidbit about Shipp from Sports Illustrated's online vault (good stuff there):

“TITANIC AWARD: Dolphin linebacker Jackie Shipp, the No. 14 from Oklahoma, may turn out to be the bust of '84. When it comes to pass defense, he's sunk. And Don Shula's playbook baffles him. "The main thing I remember about my college playbook is that it was filled with dorm rules," Shipp says.”

When they're right they're right. Bud Brown lasted for five years as a Fin but he wasn’t good. I’d say this draft was as bad a misfire as a team can have. NOTHING.


1985
1 27 Lorenzo Hampton RB
3 65 George Little DE
3 83 Alex Moyer LB
4 91 Mike Smith DB
4 111 Jeff Dellenbach C
6 145 George Shorthose WR
6 167 Ron Davenport RB
7 195 Fuad Reveiz K
8 223 Dan Sharp TE
9 251 Adam Hinds DB
10 279 Mike Pendleton DB
11 307 Mike Jones RB
12 335 Ray Noble DB

I wrote more about Lorenzo Hampton and the awful RB class of 1985 in this post. Miami needed a back but this was not the year to grab one. The only real worthwhile pick in this whole draft for the Dolphins was longtime offensive tackle Jeff Dellenbach. Fuad Reveiz was a good NFL kicker but only played for the Fins for four years.


1986
2 52 John Offerdahl LB
3 81 T.J. Turner DE
4 107 James Pruitt WR
5 136 Kevin Wyatt DB
7 193 Larry Kolic LB
8 218 John Stuart T
9 247 Reyna Thompson DB
10 274 Jeff Wickersham QB
11 303 Arnold Franklin TE
12 329 Rickey Isom RB

Not counting kickers, Offerdahl was the only All-Pro player selected by Miami in the 1984-1989 period. Unfortunately, Offerdahl was injury-prone and couldn’t stay healthy enough for a long career. As for the rest, T.J. Turner played for seven years and Reyna Thompson made a Pro Bowl. However Thompson made it there in a New York Giants uniform; Miami gave up on him after three years in yet another personnel blunder.


1987
1 16 John Bosa DE
2 43 Rick Graf LB
2 56 Scott Schwedes WR
4 99 Troy Stradford RB
5 132 Chris Conlin G
6 155 Lance Sellers LB
7 182 Tom Brown RB
8 210 Joel D. Williams TE
8 212 Mark Dennis T
9 237 Tim Pidgeon LB
10 266 Bobby Taylor DB
11 293 Terence Mann DT
12 322 Jim Karsatos QB

Another complete debacle. Three picks in the top 56, none of who ever cracked the starting lineup. Mark Dennis lasted for seven years as a Fin so I guess he’d be the best player taken here.


1988
1 16 Eric Kumerow DE
2 42 Jarvis Williams DB
3 73 Ferrell Edmunds TE
4 99 Greg Johnson T
5 126 Rodney L. Thomas DB
6 153 Melvin Bratton RB
6 156 George Cooper RB
7 180 Kerwin Bell QB
8 212 Harry Galbreath G
8 220 Louis Cheek T
9 239 Jeff Cross DE
10 266 Artis Jackson DT
11 292 Tom Kelleher RB
12 320 Brian Kinchen TE

I’ve argued before that the Kumerow selection was the single worst pick in Miami Dolphins’ history. Not only was Kumerow awful, not only should Miami have known he was going to be awful, but they passed on Thurman Thomas to take Kumerow. Ok, let’s not think about this too much. Miami at least got a Pro Bowler in TE Ferrell Edmunds although they couldn’t get rid of the guy fast enough when Keith Jackson became available in free agency. Miami added two good defensive players in Jarvis Williams and Jeff Cross, a Pro Bowler, and a good offensive guard in Harry Galbreath. The first draft of this era that wasn’t a disaster.


1989
1 9 Sammie Smith RB
1 25 Louis Oliver DB
4 92 David Holmes
5 121 Jeff Uhlenhake C
6 147 Wes Pritchett LB
7 176 Jim Zdelar T
8 203 Pete Stoyanovich K
9 232 Dana Batisite LB
10 259 Deval Glover WR
10 275 Greg Ross DT
11 288 Bert Weidner G
12 315 J.B. Brown DB

Ah Sammie Smith. A total bust with a horrible tendency to fumble at the worst possible moments of a game. Well, at least he was a good guy off the field. What’s that you say? Busted for drug trafficking? You don’t say. Alright he’s served his time, get off his back already! Stop chanting “Sammie Sucks, Sammie Sucks”. The 80’s are over!

Once again, Miami went for a running back in the wrong year. Miami was considering taking Louis Oliver with the ninth pick but opted for Sammie instead. As the first round went on and Oliver remained unpicked, Miami made a deal with Chicago for another first round pick and took Oliver. If only they’d just taken Oliver to begin with. He wasn’t great but he was a good DB for several years so for the only time in the 1984-1989 era, Miami picked one quality first-rounder. Miami did get an All-Pro here. Stoyanavich. A kicker. (I have to say, the Dolphins have consistently selected good kickers over the years). Uhlenake, Weidner, and J.B. Brown were all long-time, if unspectacular contributors.


A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part One (1966-1970)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Two (1971-1975)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Three (1976-1983)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Four (1984-1989)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Five (1990-1995)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Six (1996-1999)
A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Seven (2000-2004)

1 comment:

tgilli said...

Except for the drafts that harvested Griese, Csonka and other members of the unbeaten '72 team, plus later drafts that gave us the Killer Bees, and later Richmond Webb and Keith Sims, there have been very few good drafts in the team's history. Sad.

I hope that the 2008 draft will get a better rating in a few seasons.

I get chills when I think of Sammie Smith and Eric Kumerow. And Donald Reese and Randy Crowder.