The off-season has swung into super slow mode with Miami Dolphins players spreading out on vacations. So with news a snail crawl and most focus turns to the 3 unsigned draft picks remaining, it seems a good time to look back at the off-season so far. It’s been a lot of rumor and little substance.
The off-season really began for the Dolphins before the start of last seasons playoffs. The Phins finished the worst year in franchise history making the poor 4-12 record of 2004 a distant memory. While the team faltered in its season, the real story was the fact that little direction was seen in terms of improvement. That alone led to much speculation on the future of then head coach Cam Cameron.
While fans called for his head, and the head of GM Randy Mueller, owner Wayne Huizenga played it close to the hip and refused to comment on the status of his one year coach.
The real changes began shortly after the Dolphins season ended. While most of the media hyped up the Atlanta Falcons and the fact that owner Arthur Blank was close to bringing on board one Bill Parcells, it was Miami who made the headlines. A phone call, a visit, a personal favor, and Bill was on a plane to Miami and the Falcons were holding a blank check and empty bag.
Parcells took the title VP of Football Operations and would reign supreme over all that is Miami Dolphins football. The first order of business was firing GM Randy Mueller. Within days the Dolphins brought in Cowboys personnel guy Jeff Ireland to be the GM, a couple of days later, Cam Cameron was fired.
The new regime wasted little time getting rid of the old. All but two staff members were fired and the two that were retained were assistant defensive coaches on the lower level. Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland immediately took a step to fix a glaring problem with the Dolphins. Quarterback. They did it in the form of hiring QB coach David Lee who started working with John Beck.
The coaching search covered it’s bases but the focus seemed to always be on Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano. After the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs, Tony Sparano was hired as the Dolphins 8th head coach in team history.
The focus shifted from coaching searches, after the staff was hired, to the work ahead changing over the roster to fit a new mentality, a new scheme, and a winning attitude. The off-season however was not all grins and wide open excitement and smiles.
Zach Thomas, the 12 year veteran leader of the defense was uncerimoniously released to chase free agency. While eventually signing with the Dallas Cowboys, talk among Dolphins fans was somber. The talk, and soon to be rumors, shifted to Jason Taylor. It would become explosive both among fans, the team, and the media.
While Jason would head off to Hollywood to “Dance with the Stars”, in Miami, his abscense was slowly simmering into a cauldron of controversy. With free agency coming up quickly, the Jason Taylor issue sat on the back burner and simmered.
Free agency started off with more than a bang. A flurry of 8 signings and one trade would forshadow a philosophy change on offense and defense. Gone were the high-profile signings, gone were the flashy names, in their place were signings of hard nose tough football players. On offense the big name was Justin Smiley. A guard formerly of SF, Smiley is the tough mean spirited player that Bill Parcells loves. On defense, the Dolphins traded for big bodied NT Jason Ferguson to aid in the change to a full 34 defense.
While the first day of free agency would prove exciting and furious, the weekend ended with little else and the free agency period would leave fans wanting more. A splattering of special teams type players finished off the FA season. Focus turned to the draft.
With more hype than substance, the Dolphins and their first overall pick would be the focus of rumor after rumor after rumor. From this player to that player, from a trade with this team to that team, it seems so long ago that talk swirled of a trade with Dallas for Darren McFadden.
While fans built up draft day anticipation the Dolphins would snuff that enthusiasm 4 days before the Commissioner would announce the start of the draft. Signing OT Jake Long to a 5 year contract worth about 57 million. With the first pick locked down, the fans began to focus on the 2nd pick in the draft, but the real speculation would be the future of Jason Taylor.
While Taylor continued to impress on network TV, he did little to impress the new regime and as a result, Taylor became the biggest name in the NFL draft. With each passing pick Jason Taylor was going to be traded, but as time ticked away and teams passed on the All-Pro DE, Taylor remained a Dolphin. The rumors would not stop with the conclusion of day 1 or day 2 of the draft.
While Bill Parcells and Jason Taylor both deny any rift between them, rumors still circulate that Jason Taylor will not play again for the Phins. With training camp 6 weeks away, focus is going to shift to Taylor once again as rumors still say he will not be attending.
While so much more has happened, it is those quick hit highlights that really define the 6 months since Cam Cameron left after one season. New faces on the field, new faces in the front office, new faces in the coaching staff. There is even a new face in ownership with Stephen Ross assuming 50 percent ownership in the team.
So while 6 weeks remain until the season kicks off with the start of training camp, this offseason so far has seen a ton of changes, a ton of rumors, and little substance when it comes to big name players, but the real changes came within the attitude of the staff. An attitude that does not accept losing. We will see how that plays out on the field.