Miami Dolphin fans can finally shut the coffin lid on the abbreviated Cam Cameron-Randy Mueller era. In his one-and-only season as head coach Cameron "led" his team to a franchise-worst 1-15 record. Mercifully both men were fired before the 2008 season began but the residue of that disastrous season lingered for three more years. And by residue I'm referring to the kickoff to the 2007 season, the spark to the gasoline, the fuse to the bomb, the carelessly tossed match to the devastating forest fire, the Dolphins' 2007 draft. A team’s record resets at 0-0 when the next season starts but for good or bad the players taken in a draft can affect their team for years to come. And no better example can be seen than in Cameron and Mueller’s sole draft together. In one word: disastrous. Just three years later, of the ten players selected by the Dolphins in 2007 only two remain: disappointing defensive tackle Paul Soloai and quality punter Brandon Fields. But the 2007 draft is always going to be associated with the stunning first-round selection of wide receiver Ted Ginn.
Most mock drafts had the Dolphins taking Left Tackle Levi Brown or Defensive Tackle Amobi Okoye. And a few predicted Miami would trade up to snag QB Brady Quinn, who a lot of people thought was the best quarterback in the draft. So what to do? Well the 2006 Dolphins weren't half-bad defensively but their best defensive players (Taylor, Thomas) were on the wrong side of 30. Bringing in some younger talent might have been the way to go given the players available with the ninth pick. As atrocious as the team was on offense though, especially through the air, grabbing an offensive player was a defensible move. And when all the teams in front of Miami unexepectedly bypassed Quinn, everyone expected the Dolphins to snap him up and finally draft a successor to Dan Marino. No need to trade up now. Instead, the commissioner shocked us all by announcing the name of Ted Ginn.
(Flashback: Dolphins fans boo selection of Ginn over Quinn).
The shock wasn't so much the fact that Ginn was picked, a lot of folks pencilled him in as a later first round selection, it was the not taking Quinn part that threw us for a loop. Ginn certainly possessed the much-needed speed the Dolphins O was missing. But it's not like there weren't red flags with this guy. A guy named Justin Davis at the apparently now-defunct War Room Report couldn't have nailed it better:
The easy knock on Ginn is that he is a straight line runner that struggles mightily getting in and out of his breaks at speed, therefore hindering his ability to run even average pass routes and that he has questionable hands. Both of those statements are true.
After all of the talk we are hearing about his speed and his big play ability, averaging only 13.2 yards per catch (5.1 yards less that Meachem) this season seems to say otherwise.
Sometimes style blocks the view of substance when evaluating young talent. Whatever team takes Ginn in the top half of round one will be guilty of allowing that to happen.
When you're right you're right. And I've never seen anybody be righter. Would that Cameron and Mueller had been half as smart. You know, I'm glad I found that column. Now anytime I question the utter worthlessness of what I'm doing I can tell myself that some other dude who writes for a website is smarter on personnel matters than two guys running a billion dollar sports franchise. Thanks Justin.
Anyway, for the past three years Dolphin watchers have all seen for themselves Ginn's "questionable hands" and his struggles to run "even average pass routes". Of course Cam and Mueller should have known all that before expending a top-ten pick but you see, they had a vision for the team. You might recall the Chicago Bears run to the Super Bowl in 2006. Obviously it was burned into the brains of the Dolphins' brain trust because one key to that Super Bowl run was the brilliant kickoff and punt returning of one Devin Hester. Ginn doubled as a return man in college and Cameron and Mueller obviously thought he could do the same for Miami. So even if he wasn't a great receiver he'd make up for it in the return game. Well guess what? Just as pure speed isn't enough to make somebody a great receiver, it isn't enough to make a somebody a great return man either. Forget great, how about just average? Here's Ginn's yearly rankings in yards per attempt on kickoffs:
Ginn, KO Average Ranking
As unsuccessful returning the ball as he was catching the ball. Now some have speculated Ginn's failures were the result of a fear of contact. I don't know that. Too often we ascribe a player's successes or failures to amorphous things like character, heart, will or the lack of same. Maybe it was never in the cards for Ginn to succeed for the reasons Justin Davis wrote about above. He just wasn't good enough. No hands. No moves. It's not personal. But it is painful, watching a team desperate for talent burn a first-round pick on a guy who couldn't contribute.
Check out some of the defensive players taken shortly after Ginn: Patrick Willis at 11. Darrelle Revis at 14 (Revis! Dang!). Leon Hall at 18. The Dolphins defense collapsed in Ginn's rookie season and any one of these players would have been a huge help. Maybe passing on Quinn was in fact the way to go but if Miami needed a receiver that badly instead Dwayne Bowe (23) and Robert Meachem (27) were sitting there later in the round and the team could have traded down to get a better, more NFL-ready wideout. So in the end the Ginn pick was yet another in a long line of the past decade's abysmal draft moves for the team. Honestly, I thought Parcells did a great job getting somebody (the Niners in this case) to even give up a fifth round pick for Ginn. Fans in the city by the bay are going to be horribly disappointed I'm sure. But better them than us. Three years showed me plenty (of nothing) though I'll always be grateful for his two kick return TD's that beat the Jets in New York last year. Ginn's one shining moment. Hey, if Mr. Nolan Carroll (taken with the Niners' pick) turns out to be a solid player for Miami, maybe something will have been salvaged after all from the disappointing selection of Ted Ginn.