Well another disappointing, heartbreaking season is just about in the books. What makes things even more sickening this time around is that we all know the Dolphins have the pieces to be much better than 500.
Their fourth overall defense tells us this team should be right in the thick of things. If you would have told me at the beginning of the season that the Dolphins would be 6-1 on the road with one trip to Foxboro remaining, I would have said it would be unfathomable for this team to already be eliminated from playoff contention.
Yet here we are. Wildly inconsistent quarterback play, horrendous play-calling on Dan Henning’s part, disastrous special-teams play at times, and the falloff of what was one of the league’s elite ground attacks has ultimately doomed the Dolphins. With more questions than answers, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, should the Dolphins stay the course, or is it time for change once again in Miami?
I’m still very indifferent about Chad Henne. This Sunday’s loss against the Bills pretty much summed up his career so far. Did we see some good things? We saw a pretty solid fourth quarter, where Henne was in a great rhythm that was only interrupted by a mind boggling wildcat call and Dan Carpenter’s nightmare afternoon.
But we saw yet another costly mistake, where Henne tried to force in a dump off to Patrick Cobbs and was picked off on third and long. We also saw Henne look incapable of managing the football game with a wasted timeout late in the fourth quarter and a couple little dink and dunks with no timeouts and less than a minute left to play.
Part of me says that there is absolutely no way somebody who is on the verge of blossoming into a franchise quarterback would ever make some of those silly mistakes. The other part of me is still curious to see how Henne would perform with better coaching and an offensive coordinator who understands how the game of football is played these days.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, though. The Dolphins would only be doing a disservice to their elite defense and solid receiving core if they put off replacing Henne and he never turns out to be the guy. Because if they give Henne another chance and 2011 goes the same way this year has gone, they would have only wasted another season with a defense that is capable of winning now.
Personally, even though these final two games are nauseatingly meaningless, I’m interested to see if Henne can put together a strong couple games. If he does just that, I think the Dolphins should consider giving him another chance with a credible offensive coordinator if a quality starter doesn’t become available in free agency and Ryan Mallet doesn’t fall to them in the draft.
I don’t think I have to say a whole lot here. He may have been a good fit for a conservative Chad Pennington led offense, but constantly playing to settle for the field goals and not possessing the competence to run a balanced offense or effectively use one of the league’s most outstanding weapons will undoubtedly lead to his firing at the end of the year if he doesn’t decide to hang it up himself.
If there was any doubt in any fans head that a good majority of this offense’s problem didn’t stem from Henning, I think he made it very clear that there is something terribly wrong with his mindset when he decided to take a hot Chad Henne off the field to run the wildcat late in the fourth quarter. It was obvious Henning was playing for the tie, not the win. Even if Dan Carpenter wasn’t in the midst of his worst day as a pro I would have had a serious problem with that call.
If I was Stephen Ross, I would fire Henning today and promote quarterbacks coach David Lee to interim offensive coordinator, just to get a taste of how Henne would fair with a sane mind calling the shots.
This is where it gets a little tricky. I firmly believe Tony Sparano is a good football coach. I just don’t know if he’s the best fit for this football team anymore. Back in 2008, there wasn’t a better man for the job. He was a tough, hard-nosed guy that pushed his players to the limit. He also brought with him a conservative way of thinking that would keep the Dolphins in most games by running the football and playing good defense.
But if we’re honest with ourselves, that 08’ squad was nothing more than an average team that benefited from an easy schedule, the ball bouncing their way, and a clean injury report week in and week out. The Dolphins were average then, and they are nothing more than average two years later.
The question now is, does Sparano have what it takes to take this team from average to elite? I think the jury is still out on that one. Does he have the potential to? I think he does, especially if the Dolphins can keep this young, elite defense together for a handful of years. That’s why I was fully behind bringing him back another year, even when I foresaw losses to interior opponents like the Browns and Bills. But the possibility of bringing in a proven, Super Bowl winning coach like Bill Cowher obviously changes things.
I like Tony Sparano a lot, but he’s no Bill Cowher. Not even close. You don’t think Cowher could win with a top five defense? Personally, I think he would make the Dolphins a legitimate contender the second he walked in the building. But if I’m Stephen Ross, I’m not firing Sparano until I hear from Cowher himself that he would sign with the Dolphins if the job became available.
We heard Cowher hint about coming back last season, and if these latest reports of interest in the Dolphins are nothing more than rumors, the Dolphins would be pretty foolish to fire Sparano over just the possibility of landing Cowher. Because if the Dolphins weren’t able to get him, outside of maybe Jon Gruden, I can’t think of too many names that would be a significant upgrade over Sparano.
Let me know what you think in the comments…