So what went wrong? Or, more importantly, who can I blame? Well, there’s a lot of blame to go around as usual but Past Interference is going with H. Wayne Huizenga as our Ground Zero. He’s no longer the owner but his fingerprints are all over the 2010 Miami Dolphins. I’ve written before about all Huizenga’s mistakes in installing a winning management/coaching team but it seemed like he’d learned his lesson in 2008. He cleaned house, canned both his failed GM and head coach, and turned the whole thing over to Bill Parcells to fix. A man who’d taken four different franchises to the playoffs and won two Super Bowls, Parcells appeared to be the perfect guy to fix the organization. One minor problem though—Parcells was a great football coach but he wasn’t hired to be Miami’s football coach. No, he was going to run the football side of the operation. He was going to get the Dolphins a coach, a GM and then find some guys who could play.
How hilarious has it been this week watching Bill Parcells serving as a draft guru for ESPN? We know the guy can coach but his track record as a personnel guy is a mixed bag to say the least. Mike Greenberg somehow overlooked Pat White when he was going over all of Parcells’ draft “finds” in his introduction. In Parcells’ most successful tenure as coach, the Giants years, he had little to do with personnel decisions. Parcells left that gig so he could get more personnel juice somewhere else. And after a few years he would keep leaving those new jobs no matter how successful he’d been. So the while the Dolphins hoped for a successful marriage they should have known it was unlikely to be a long one. Still, Parcells had a lot to do with winning Super Bowls and Dolphin fans were getting far too accustomed to losing. How bad a move could it be? But in hiring Parcells Huizenga planted a time bomb. A Tuna time bomb.
Turns out Miami wasn’t the only team interested in hiring Parcells. Atlanta wanted him and went after Parcells hard. Parcells preferred Miami but when news surfaced that Huizenga planned to sell the team, Parcells wanted nothing to do with an unstable situation and decided to sign with the Falcons. Huizenga put the full court press on Parcells and convinced him he wasn’t selling the team. With that reassurance Parcells inked with the Dolphins and Atlanta “settled” for hiring the unknown Thomas Dimitroff as GM. The Falcons have since made the playoffs the last two seasons and had the best record on the NFC last year. Meanwhile, turns out Huizenga planned to sell the Dolphins after all (surprise!) and there was only one way for the organization to keep Parcells from walking—give him the option to leave the team at any time after the sale while still collecting his full salary for the life of the contract! (Haha. It’s true). Predictably, Parcells began to turn over the key decision-making over to his handpicked GM and coach after just two years on the job and pretty much stopped having anything to do with the Dolphins partway through the 2010 season so he’d presumably have more time to count the money he was earning by doing nothing. But at least he left the team in a whole lot better shape than they were in before his arrival right?
Well, back-to-back 7-9 seasons and the worst offense in the league aren’t what anybody had in mind. Remember, Miami was 7-9 in 2006, Nick Saban’s last year. Parcells clearly failed at making Miami a Super Bowl contender. The team can’t score. And the main reason they can’t score if because they don’t have a good quarterback. And the reason they don’t have a good quarterback is because none of the regimes installed since the departure of Don Shula have valued quarterbacks enough to spend a lot to get a good one. Including Parcells. Miami still has not spent a first round pick on a QB since they grabbed some guy named Marino way back in 1983. Dave Wannstedt traded two number one picks to get Ricky Williams. But he wouldn’t draft a quarterback. Nick Saban used the number two overall pick in a draft to take Ronnie Brown. But he wouldn’t spend what it took to get Drew Brees. And Bill Parcells used the number one overall draft pick in 2008 on an offensive lineman, Jake Long. The QB he passed on, Matt Ryan, fell into the lap of the aforementioned Tom Dimitroff in Atlanta. Now I’m not convinced that when their careers are over this move is going to be a clear mistake. In fact Long is the better player at the moment. But when you are desperate for a QB and you pass up on a top prospect like Ryan, you better have a good backup plan. Miami’s was to spend second-round picks on Chad Henne and Pat White. White proved to be perfectly useless and Henne appears to be on the train to Bustville (but I haven’t given up hope yet!). In two years Miami used three second-round picks on quarterbacks. John Beck and Pat White are no longer with the team and Henne may also not be long for the aqua and orange.
Without the Tuna to lead the team to a championship, Miami’s stuck with his handpicked GM, Jeff Ireland, and his handpicked coach, Tony Sparano. But Steven Ross’ all-too-public flirtation with Jim Harbaugh made it all-too-obvious Ross has 0 confidence in Sparano as coach (ignore the face-saving contract extension). A losing season in 2011 surely results in Sparano’s firing and probably Ireland’s too. So once again the Dolphins are led by people in desperate need of short-term success, something that’s worked out so well before. Thanks to Parcells Miami is now just a year away from engaging in yet another search for that elusive “messiah” to overhaul and rebuild the team into the champion Miami’s been waiting for for four decades.