Saturday, September 26, 2009

Your 2009 Miami Dolphins-Week Two

OK, time to worry.

When you physically dominate a team like the Dolphins did to the Colts last Monday night and you don’t come away with a win, something clearly went wrong that should not have gone wrong. And what that something was was coaching. Sparano deserves a lot of praise for the job he’s done since filling the tiny shoes of Nick Saban and Cam Cameron, but blame for the 27-23 loss to the Colts rests squarely on Sparano shoulders. A coach is responsible for a lot of things and Sparano got a lot of things right in Week Two. The game plan was great, the execution was better, and we saw a much more motivated and mistake-free performance than we saw in that Week One atrocity. But the in-game play-calling and clock management…ugh.

The three moments that stood out: (1) Facing third-and-seven at the Indy 32 with 56 seconds left in the first half, the Dolphins run Ricky Williams for five. Then they kick the FG on fourth and a short two. The play-calling here foreshadowed the later events including the devastating sequence that probably cost Miami the game. Going conservative and settling for a long-field goal attempt. I thought Miami should have gone for it on 4th down. And since they left 43 seconds for the Colts to score the tying FG, they probably should have. At the very least Sparano should have learned a lesson here. But he didn’t; (2) Third-and-six at Indy 30. 4:33 left in the game. 20-all. A simple 3-yard Ronnie Brown run and a FG for the sadly all-too-brief lead. Sparano went conservative and played for the field goal even though he knew he’d be leaving Manning almost four minutes only trailing by three. Insane. Bill Parcells is supposed to be this guy’s mentor! After playing so well all game why wouldn’t you try to put the Colts away here with a first down?; (3) The botched two-minute (plus) offense. This was what everyone was talking about after the game. ANd rightly so! I haven’t seen a worse hurry-up offense since Donovan McNabb vomited away Philly’s chances in Super Bowl XXXIX. Running on the first two plays. Wasting a time out. Not getting another play off before the two-minute warning. WTF? Miami had one last shot from the Colts 33. Now imagine if they had one or two more plays. Pulling out a win would have been a realistic scenario. I still can’t fathom how the team blew the end of the game that badly. Pennington’s an experienced QB. He knows what to do in that situation. Sparano and coaching staff didn’t help him.

The Dolphins blew a game they should have won. Now coming off a short week they’ve got a west coast game against a good team. You can’t like those odds even against a banged up San Diego team. I’ll say this. If Miami can take this game Sparano will have gone a long way to removing the taste of that coaching debacle from everyone’s mouth. If Miami loses, they drop to 0-3 and a return to the playoffs is pretty much out of the question. And so will be the chances of Chad Pennington QB’ing this team for 16 games.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Your 2009 Miami Dolphins: Week One

Oh Lordy.

I knew my 2009 NFL predictions would eventually prove embarrassing, they always do, but I expected that to come well into the season not the very next day! Who’s the opposite of Nostradamus? We need a term for that. I am that guy. Past Interference hereby officially apologizes to all the guys I singled out for improvement this year. Ronnie Brown? Did virtually nothing yesterday. Anthony Fasano? Well he improved in the category of fumbling the ball away. Jake Long? Manhandled by John Abraham. Pat White? My excitement wore off about the time he sailed a pass about ten yards over Ted Ginn’s wide open head. I mean a wide open Ted Ginn’s head. Oh it was ugly. Let’s not overreact to one bad loss, a road loss to a 2008 playoff team no less, but Miami played very, very badly yesterday and the score could have been a lot worse. The one bright spot was the run defense totally shutting down Michael Turner. Just keep repeating that Dolphin fans. It’s all we have. And Davone Bess looked good.

The worst part of it all was Chad Pennington playing like the 2008 playoff Chad Pennington, not the 2008 regular season Chad Pennington. That’s two horrible games in a row now for him. Sure the offensive line wasn’t giving him much time but Pennington had chances to get rid of the ball and either took a sack or was unable to hit an open receiver to salvage some yards. His arm strength looked weaker than ever and the team resorted to having him throw on the run several times to try to get something going. I should have put a big fat caveat in my 9-7 prediction. We might well see Chad Henne at QB sooner rather than later if Pennington keeps this up much longer and if that happens a losing record is likely. Not that I’d have a problem with the team putting Henne in there if Pennington is no longer what he was most of last year. The team simply couldn’t make any big plays yesterday. The few times they used the Wildcat it didn’t work. They might have been trying to set up a big pass play from White by running out of the formation the first couple of times. If that’s so it would have been brilliant except for White’s inability to hit the broad side of a barn on the play ‘cause that should have been 6. The big pass play Pennington pulled off came off a flea-flicker, not a downfield strike. Don’t be surprised if Henne gets in there sooner than you think (Is that another prediction?! When will I learn?). I still trust the management and coaching when all’s said and done so I’m not too worried (yet) despite yesterday's debacle.

You know, at least my playoff team picks don’t look half bad after a whole week. But I can’t figure out why I named Carolina as a playoff team. I thought they made a big mistake in resigning Jake Delhomme to a huge deal when he appeared finished last year in the playoffs. Like Pennington he’s picked up where he left off. Looks like Atlanta’s the better team right now. But don’t worry Panther fans, A.J. Feely’s on the way! Haha. (Did that trade Wannstedt made for him really happen? A second-rounder? Really?).

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Pat White's listed as the #2 quarterback today! C'mon kickoff.

2009 Predictions

Hallelujah. Finally, the NFL is back. Life is so much more boring without it. I think I started the last two seasons by blogging my predictions but I’m torn about it dong it again. Mainly, because they’re a huge embarrassment! Completely off base and giving anyone who cares to a pretty airtight case that I know nothing about football or anything else. But, in the short history of this blog making bad preseason predictions is the closest thing PI has to a tradition so let’s go ahead and do it anyway. Then forget this post ever existed.

The Miami Dolphins shocked the football world (and me) in 2008 by going 11-5 and winning the AFC East just one year after their 1-15 horror show. The reasons for the turnaround weren’t too hard to spot. With the new Parcells-Ireland-Sparano troika we got a solid draft, good personnel moves (signing Pennington especially), inspired coaching (the Wildcat), and basically the first time this decade the fans felt the team had people in charge who knew what they were doing. However, the Dolphins also prospered thanks to an easy schedule, almost surely an easier one than what the team’s going to face this year. Also, Pennington’s best-ever season made him an MVP candidate. Given his age and injury history odds are 2009 won’t be quite as magical. And with Tom Brady back at least one division opponent is likely to be much improved. Finally, where Miami’s luck in 2007 was all bad, everything that could go wrong went wrong, that all turned around completely in 2008 and the team finished with an impressive record despite only a slightly above-average point differential.

So there’s lots of reasons to think the Dolphins regress in 2008. Regression to the mean, coming back to earth, whatever you want to call it, there’s two things that cut against it: (1) Better players and (2) Playing better. Who knows how the team’s 2009 draft class turns out but so far they seem pretty high on Brian Hartline, they addressed a clear need in the secondary, and I’m gotta say I’m real excited to see what Pat White can do in this offense. Also, Jason Taylor’s back and while he may no longer play like a defensive MVP, any Jason Taylor is better than no Jason Taylor. As for better players, I like Ronnie Brown a lot this year (and my fantasy teams reflect that!). The guy was dominant on a horrible team in 2007 before he got hurt. He’s now in his second year back from the ACL-tear. And you know Miami’s offense is going to revolve around him. I’m looking for the 2007 Brown to be back. With another year experience the receiving corps should also be better. I don’t know about Ginn but I do like Bess and Fasano to step it up this year. And Jake Long will show he was worthy of this draft slot.

The team should be better in 2009 but might have a worse record due to the much tougher schedule. So I’ll say 9-7. Whatever happens it’s just comforting to know the team’s in good hands again. Growing up watching this team in the 70’s and 80’s, I just kind of took for granted the team would always be a playoff contender. But the post-Don Shula/Jimmy Johnson era wised me up permanently. You hand over the reigns of a franchise to incompetents and fools and your team can hit rock bottom pretty quickly.

The Rest. Sure why not. I have no limbs to crawl out on. New England and San Diego should easily win their divisions. The Colts should squeeze out another division title. And the one team I don’t hear too many people talking up is Baltimore. I didn’t like what I saw out of Pittsburgh on Thursday and the last time they won a Super Bowl they collapsed the next season. I can see that happening again. To me the Ravens look like the team to beat in the AFC North. All they need is for Flacco to build on his rookie season to challenge the Pats and Chargers for the Super Bowl. And with New England’s suspect defense and San Diego’s coach, I’m going to say the Ravens make it to the Super Bowl. Yeah, that’s right. In the NFC, the Giants, Eagles, Packers and Bears are the only teams I like as Super Bowl contenders. Seattle and Carolina are probably the best of the rest. I like the Vikings, Cowboys and Cardinals to collapse in the second half of the season. I’d kind of like to pick the Packers or Bears to go to the Super Bowl but the Giants are the best team.

Glad that’s over. Football’s back!