Sunday, May 11, 2008

A History of the Miami Dolphins Drafts, Part Five: The Bronze Age (1990-1995)

After 1984-1989’s Black Hole of Drafting that reduced the team to an NFL afterthought, it must be said that Shula and company rebounded nicely in the 1990’s. Suddenly, the first round (and usually the second round even) started providing high-quality players that transformed the Dolphins back into a contender from 1990 to 1995. Unfortunately, none of those players quite reached Hall of Fame level so the Dolphins’ “Bronze Age” period falls short of their “Silver Age” achievements in the same way those Silver Agers couldn’t quite the Golden Age of 1970-1974. From 1990-1995 the team made four playoff appearances, won two division titles, and played for a conference championship. That 1992 AFC title game remains the closest Miami has been to a Super Bowl in the now almost-quarter century that’s passed since Super Bowl XIX.

From 1990 to 1994, Miami snared at least a every good player in the first round every time out except in 1991 when they blew their pick on Randall “Thrill” Hill. Yet even turned that into a positive (hard to believe but it’s true). Souring on Hill quickly, they suckered the Cardinals into trading their 1993 number one for him. With the trade for Hill the only draft then of this era that can be considered a failure would fittingly be Shula’s last, the one that kicked off his disappointing final season of 1995.

Miami obtained seven Pro Bowlers in this six-year period. That’s a very good total. The main problem was the number of quality players taken adds up to only 10 in six years. With one definite exception, all the good players came from the top of these drafts. Miami could just as well have quit after the first two or three rounds. Of course, when free agency started up a team’s fortunes stopped resting entirely on the draft. In the 1990’s Shula tried to use both the draft and free agency to make one final run at a Super Bowl. But his teams were still too flawed to reach the mountaintop. Shula understandably gave up on drafting running backs at this point. And why not? He was getting better results grabbing and suiting up guys right off the street like Bernie Parmalee and Mark Higgs. Defense and the offensive line were the areas of concentration now and good picks there got Miami close in 1992. But after the defensive collapse in the 1995 playoff defeat vs. the Bills (the third-straight postseason loss to Buffalo), it seemed clear to all that Shula had only acquired the horses for a good solid team, not a champion. And the team’s fans, and owner, desperately craved a champion.


1 9 Richmond Webb T
2 39 Keith Sims G

3 66 Alfred Oglesby NT
4 93 Scott Mitchell QB
5 137 Leroy Holt RB
6 151 Sean Vanhorse DB
8 205 Thomas Woods WR
9 231 Phil Ross TE
12 315 Bobby Harden DB

A great draft here. Webb’s probably the best offensive lineman Miami drafted since Dwight Stephenson’s retirement and Sims was quite good as well. Mitchell actually created a brief QB controversy when he played well taking over for Marino after Dan's achilles injury in 1993. Some seriously wanted to keep Mitchell and let go of the aging, injured Marino. Of course as Lions fans soon found out, even an older, less effective Marino was far better than Mitchell on his best day.


1 23 Randal Hill WR
3 60 Aaron Craver RB
5 113 Bryan Cox LB
5 121 Gene Williams G
7 191 Chris Green DB
8 220 Roland Smith DB
9 246 Scott Miller WR
11 302 Ernie Rogers G
12 331 Joe Brunson DT

What happened with Hill was bizarre. Shula clearly saw the need for a new deep threat as Duper and Clayton’s careers neared their end. Yet Miami soured on Hill after one game and traded him to the Cards for their 1992 #1 pick. Miami got a much better player out of the deal. The only gem from the 1991 draft was one of my all-time favorite players: Brian Cox. Even if Cox, a Pro Bowl linebacker, hadn’t been any good he still earned a lifetime of credit from me for his two handed flip-off of the Buffalo crowd in Orchard Park.


1 7 Troy Vincent DB
1 12 Marco Coleman DE

2 43 Eddie Blake DT
3 70 Larry Webster DT
4 97 Dwight Hollier LB
5 124 Christopher Perez T
6 155 Roosevelt Collins LB
7 191 Dave Moore TE
8 209 Andre Powell LB
9 236 Tony Tellington DB
10 267 Raoul Spears RB
11 294 Lee Miles WR
11 296 Mark Barsotti QB
12 321 Milton Biggins TE
12 328 Kameno Bell RB

Finally, finally (!) Shula snares some defensive stars in the first round. Do you know how far back you have to go for the last time that happened? 1977? (Was A.J. Duhe considered a star?). Both Vincent and Coleman made Pro Bowls and Vincent turned into one of the best defensive backs of the 90’s. Of course those things happened when Vincent and Coleman had moved on to other teams. They didn’t survive the end of the Don Shula era in Miami. Dwight Hollier played eight years with the Dolphins and Larry Webster had a decent career though mostly with Baltimore. In a big personnel blunder Miami let Dave Moore go early in his rookie season and he ended up playing for 15 years for other teams including the Bucs.


1 25 O.J. McDuffie WR
3 78 Terry Kirby RB

4 105 Ronnie Bradford DB
5 132 Chris Gray G
7 191 David Merritt LB
8 218 Dwayne Gordon LB

No speedster, but a tough possession receiver, O.J. McDuffie was Marino’s only dependable weapon in the last phase of his career. Terry Kirby was your versatile third-down back type but he did that for only three years as a Dolphin.


1 20 Tim Bowens DT
2 54 Aubrey Beavers LB
2 65 Tim Ruddy C
4 112 Ronnie Woolfork LB
5 147 William Gaines DT
6 177 Brant Boyer LB
7 214 Sean Hill DB

Great picks in Bowens and Ruddy, two Pro Bowlers who played many seasons for Miami.


1 25 Billy Milner T
2 53 Andrew Greene G
4 122 Pete Mitchell TE
5 158 Norman Hand DT
6 194 Jeff Kopp LB
7 233 Corey Swinson DT
7 246 Shannon Myers WR

Fittingly, Shula capped his futile push for one last Super Bowl with a totally disastrous draft. For some reason Shula decided he wanted to replicate the 1990 draft but Milner and Greene were huge busts rather than the second coming of Webb and Sims. 1995 was not a good year for offensive lineman. Tight end maybe. Actually, Miami got a good TE but let Pete Mitchell go before he played a down. With hindsight we can see Derrick Brooks was the guy Miami should have jumped on in the first round (he went 28th). Ah, what might have been.

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:

Hal said...

re: 1993. Actually it should be mentioned that Chris Gray has been a Hell of a player, starting a Super Bowl for Seattle in '06 and still starting for them as of last season. He's at the end, but a 15 year career, and a better one than Dave Moore (92) at that.

Also, Ronnie Bradford was let go in TC in 1993, and Dwayne Gordon was let go BEFORE training camp, and both went on to successful NFL careers; Bradford even started a SB in Atlanta I believe.

The 1993 draft could have been superb if we'd kept the later round players.

To be fair, Jimmy is the one who let Chris Gray go. He also let Norman Hand (1995) go, and Hand became a Pro Bowler for San Diego and New Orleans.