Friday, August 22, 2008

The Tuna's Approach

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske wonders “What is Parcells’ Approach in Miami?” The Dolphins and Parcells’ two biggest post-draft personnel moves have been the trade of star DE Jason Taylor and the signing of former Jets QB Chad Pennington, who now looks to be Miami’s starter for 2008. To Maske, these moves contradict each other--the Taylor trade seemingly exhibiting the desire to rebuild with youth while the more recent signing of Pennington, a veteran QB well past him prime, showing exactly the opposite. Yet to me what Parcells has done makes perfect sense--there's nothing confusing about it. Maske makes the mistake of looking at what Taylor and Pennington have in common, their age, while ignoring the things they don’t have in common, their trade value and the positions they play.

Concerning trade value, simply put Taylor has it and Pennington obviously doesn't. Taylor could start for any NFL franchise right now while Miami, with the worst QB situation this side of Chicago, might be the only place where Pennington has a shot at starting. Miami received a second-round pick for Taylor and, since Taylor likely plays two more years tops, if Miami hits on the pick they come out way ahead. Meanwhile, Pennington, a waiver-wire casualty of the Favre deal, costs the Dolphins virtually nothing. He comes cheap salary-wise plus he’s a clear upgrade over McCown as the starter. From every angle Parcells’ moves were coldly logical.

Now Maske admits Miami “at least got something” for Taylor but he implies the trade only became necessary because Parcells “alienated” Taylor. Now clearly Parcells wasn’t crazy about Taylor’s decision to dance with stars instead of reporting to camp but it was just as clear that Taylor wanted out of Miami badly, maybe even more than Parcells wanted him gone (for the right price). Taylor knows he’s near the end of his career and why would he, or anyone, want to spend one more minute playing for one of the worst teams of all-time? Plus Parcells already had cut loose his best friend on the team, Zach Thomas. As for Parcells, sure he could have said some nice things about Taylor but any long-time football fan ought to be familiar with Parcells’ mind games by now. The man loves messing with player’s heads but there’s always a method to the Tuna’s seeming madness. In this case, Parcells got to take a hard line with Taylor and more importantly sent a message to the rest of the team that no one’s expendable. Everyone knows who’s in charge now. If that alienated Taylor so what? Parcells held all the cards with Taylor under contract to Miami. If no team offered Parcells what he wanted for Taylor then no amount of bitterness between Taylor and Parcells was going to make Taylor sit out and forfeit millions of dollars in salary. In the end everybody won. Taylor wanted one more shot at the playoffs; Parcells wanted a high draft pick for Taylor. Parcells got his second-round pick and Taylor landed on a playoff contender. Well, everybody won except for Dolphin fans who’ve rooted for Jason Taylor his whole career. It’s tough to say goodbye to arguably the finest defensive player in Dolphins history but we all know the team has to be rebuilt from the ground up. The trade was necessary although I disagree with the snotty tone HERE. Taylor deserves more after all the years of tremendous effort he put forth. The man could play some ball. Nobody did anything wrong here. Taylor acted in his own best interests and Parcells acted in the long-term best interests of the team.

Maske says the team would be better off to “choose one of the team's young quarterbacks, John Beck or Chad Henne, to be the starter and give him a chance to develop in hopes that he'd be a capable quarterback by the time the club around him was ready to be a playoff contender” instead of bringing in “a 32-year-old quarterback with a history of arm troubles”. It sure looks to me like Miami is going to give Henne a chance to develop. He'll be taking over soon enough, that much is obvious. But quarterback isn’t like any other position. There's a huge learning curve and promising talents have been destroyed by being thrust into the starting lineup too soon, especially when surrounded by less than stellar talent (See: David Carr). Have you checked out Miami’s receiving corps lately? Even Dan Marino didn’t start until the 6th game of his rookie season and Henne probably isn’t going to be another Dan Marino. We all know the injury-prone noodle-armed Pennington will only start for one year at the most, but a has-been like Pennington is still an upgrade over a never-was like McCown (Josh or Luke). Rushing Henne into the lineup before he's ready could easily be counterproductive to his development. Letting him watch Pennington from the bench for awhile doesn't demonstrate a lack of commitment to rebuilding. It shows intelligence. Parcells will make the move to Henne when the time is right just like he pulled the trigger on the Taylor deal.

Maybe Parcells' moves will work and maybe they won’t, but you can’t say they don’t make sense. For the first time in years the team finally has someone in charge with a straightforward clearheaded approach. It's been awhile.

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