How will Parcells be remembered in Miami?

Bill Parcells now officially has no ties to the Dolphins. The Big Tuna stepped down from his role as a consultant with the team to take a draft analyst position with ESPN today.

Under Parcells’ watch as vice president of football operations, the Dolphins rebounded from their worse season in franchise history by pulling off one of the most improbable playoff berths in league history in 2008. After a mediocre 2009 season, though, that saw the Dolphins finish 7-9, Parcells relinquished full control of player personnel to Jeff Ireland before the 2010 season.

So, really, today’s news means nothing at all. Parcells was basically just getting paid top dollar to poke his head in the door every now and then. Still though, now that Parcells officially has no title with the team, it’s as good of a time as ever to reflect on the few years he spent in Miami.

As a coach and football mind, Parcells’ legacy is as intact as any NFL legend. But here in South Beach, how exactly will Dolphins fans recall Parcells’ impact on this franchise? Back in 2007, the Dolphins were the laughing stock of the entire league. They were a fluke 64-yard Cleo Lemon hookup with Greg Camarillo away from completing the first 0-16 season in NFL history. They were in the lowest of lows. They were in a place one of the most storied franchises in the league should never be. They needed an icon to restore respectability, to restore hope.

Bill Parcells was just what the Dolphins needed. From the moment he stepped in the door, a culture change was almost simultaneous. But just because the man was respected and could instantly change the perception of an entire franchise, was he really the reason the Dolphins were able to pull off such a drastic turnaround?

Back in 2008, it was a cardinal sin amongst Dolphins fans to question the almighty Big Tuna. We were all under the impression he knew exactly what he was doing, that he had the exact formula to bring a Super Bowl champion back to Miami. The Dolphins play on the field in 2008 only confirmed that line of thinking.

They were a team that was one of the least talented in the league, but they played disciplined, didn’t turn the football over, and got just about every break fathomable. When you turned on ESPN, the analyst gave all the praise to Parcells. They credited Parcells for the Dolphins’ clean injury report, the birth of the wildcat, and the lack of turnovers.

You would think a first-year coach that saw his team complete the greatest turnaround in NFL history would be a runaway NFL Coach of the Year winner. But Tony Sparano didn’t take home the award because everyone called the Dolphins Parcells’ team.

Looking back at that team, though, it’s hard to credit Parcells much for Chad Pennington falling in the Dolphins lap. Let’s be honest here, the Dolphins are a four or five win team if the Jets don’t kick Pennington to the curve. They would have started the season with either Josh McCown or a rookie Chad Henne under center.

So in reality, you can give Brett Favre more credit for the Dolphins instant success than Bill Parcells. Okay, that may be a stretch, but Pennington meant everything to the Dolphins that year. I think the mentality Parcells brought in the door with him made the Dolphins a better team, but it wouldn’t have led to many more wins if it weren’t for the consistency and leadership Pennington brought to the table.

Having said all of that, though, ultimately Parcells should be remembered by the finished product. Nobody expected much from the Dolphins in 2008. They far surpassed expectations, but before that instant success, everyone knew it was going to take about three years for Parcells to get his players in and get this franchise back to their winning ways.

The Dolphins are much better off than they were three years ago, that obvious. If the goal all along was to take a horrible team and make them average, the mission was accomplished. But three years later, and this franchise is a quarterback away from even being thought of as a contender.

Looking at some of the moves this regime made with Parcells in control, you see some quality signings and draft selections. The Dolphins possess a young defense that is potentially on the verge of surfacing as one of the league’s elite units, thanks to free agent signings like Randy Starks, Karlos Dansby, and Cameron Wake, and draft selections like Kendall Langford, Vontae Davis, and Sean Smith.

But on the other side of the ball, the Dolphins have seen their fare share of misses. Besides from the quarterback position still being nowhere close to being solved, taking Pat White and Patrick Turner in rounds two and three in 2009 still have fans shaking their heads.

You’re aloud a miss here and there, that’s why I’m not going to hold any grudges over the Patrick Turner reach, but to me, taking Pat White in the second round was even a bigger mistake than selecting Ted Ginn No. 9 overall back in 2007. Considering he’s now out of the league, you have to consider White one of the biggest bust in franchise history.

Today, the Dolphins have overall one of the slowest offenses in the entire league. Brandon Marshall gives them some firepower as one of the most dominate receivers in the game, but we’re talking about a unit that needs to be built from the ground up this offseason. The entire interior O-line needs remodeled, two starting caliber running backs need to be added if Ronnie and Ricky sign elsewhere as expected, a speedster would be a welcomed commodity at receiver, a seam stretching tight end would be useful, and a new potential franchise quarterback needs to be brought in to compete with Chad Henne. Overall, just a complete mess on the offensive side of the ball.

While, I believe Parcells was once a football genius, the game has changed since his heyday. You can no longer win in this league by just being the biggest and the toughest. Speed kills and the Dolphins need more of it.

What Parcells did was take the league’s worst team, and made them average. For that, he deserves a round of applause I suppose. But make no mistake, Parcells was far from brilliant with the decisions he made here in Miami.

And I have to say, I’ve lost a little bit of respect for the man with the way he handled leaving. They will tell you it was all part of the plan all along, but Parcells is an egomaniac. He sensed the Dolphins weren’t ready to contend in this league, so he stepped down. He didn’t want the blame for the Dolphins not reaching their destination as an elite team. I won’t go as far as to say it was a cowardly move on his part, but I won’t stop short of saying he quit on this project.

At the end of the day, when I remember the Parcells’ era in Miami, I’ll immediately be reminded of the magical ride we all went on in 2008. I don’t regret him coming to Miami, simply because I don’t know anybody else that could have taken over that team and brought respectability back. But I think I’ve come to the conclusion that Parcells isn’t as advertised. At least not anymore.

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