Stephen Ross is officially on the clock. The Miami Dolphins have been nothing short of a huge disappointment this season, and someone has to take the fall for it. Miami went into this season with huge optimism. After the huge signing of Karlos Dansby, and trading for the missing piece on offense, a legit number 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, this was the year the Miami Dolphins were supposed to take a leap forward, not take two leaps back.
Miami was 1-7 at home this year, which ties them for the worst record they have ever had at home. Miami is also not going to the playoffs for the second year in a row, after winning their division just 2 seasons ago. This organization is heading in the wrong direction, and this offseason Mr. Ross will be faced with his first real decision as the owner of the Miami Dolphins.
So what is Stephen Ross to do? He has shown he is an owner that will stay out of the way when it comes to making decisions on personnell. He did have Bill Parcells in place when he took over the franchise, and any owner in his right mind would have let Parcells run the show, after all, they did make huge strides in their first season under the guidance of The Big Tuna.
That division title was 2 seasons and many, many disappointing loses and decisions ago. It’s tough to tell how many decisions were made by Parcells and how many were made by his protege Jeff Ireland. It’s also tough to tell if the coaching staff Parcells left behind is a staff that Ireland wants in place. For all we know, Ireland may not really care for Sparano, so to say BOTH of them have to go at the end of the season isn’t really fair.
This is why Mr. Ross has some really tough decisions to make once the season is over. We fans have no idea what decisions were made by whom, and Mr. Ross is the one who has to find that out and make the proper decision for this organization moving forward. This is going to be his first real decision as an NFL owner as far as the product on the field goes.
I have my own opinions on what he should do. First I think he should keep Jeff Ireland. It’s hard for me to believe it was Jeff Ireland that was conducting the war room decisions on draft day, I think it was Parcells. I think Parcells took Long over Matt Ryan, even though Long is one of the best LT’s in the game, Ryan would have made Miami a perennial contender in the AFC East. He decided to go with Henne instead, and I think once he realized he made a huge mistake going into this season, he took the money and ran. What we saw from Ireland once Parcells left was him making the decisions to get rid of players he didn’t want. Miami suffered because of it, especially on special teams, but they will be better team in the long run because of it. I don’t think Ireland has a ‘profile’ he wants his players to fit, I think he just wants players who can get the job done. Having said that, the QB has to go.
Henne has been horrible this season. Blame it on what you want. It’s either the coaches, he can’t audible, he’s trained to take the less risky throw…….whatever. The dude isn’t a playmaker and he never will be. He plays scared, he doesn’t lead the team, and he isn’t a winner. People talk about the ‘it’ factor, Henne doesn’t know the definition of what the ‘it’ factor is. Many are blaming it on the coaches not developing him, I blame it on him not developing himself. Make a play!!!! I’m so sure Sparano will rip Henne if he took a couple chances and they worked, or if he called an audible and it was successful. What’s Sparano going to do, call a timeout once he hears Henne call an audible? I doubt it. Henne doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to lead a team in the NFL, and the sooner the Miami Dolphins cut ties with him, the better.
The second decision Ross has to make is to keep Mike Nolan no matter what it costs. He has done a tremendous job fixing the defense this year. They are young, and have yet to unlock their full potential. Mike Nolan will be able to keep improving this unit and potentially make it the best in the NFL. Keeping him on board for a couple more years will be the best decision Ross can make this offseason.
The third decision Ross has to make is to get rid of Dan Henning. Henning can say what he wants about his offense not executing, it still falls on him. He is responsible for finding a way to put points on the board, and he has done a horrible job this season making that happen. He’s been there for 3 years, do you think he hasn’t had a say in the offensive personnel he has? I doubt it, especially since he was hand picked by his good friend Bill Parcells. He probably pushed for Henne, now he’s throwing him under the bus and taking the high road. He’s already said he didn’t come back to the NFL out of necessity, he did it as a favor to Parcells. Now that Parcells is gone, it’s time to get rid of him, he doesn’t have it anymore.
The final decision Ross has to make is whether or not to replace Tony Sparano as head coach. I think he has to go. I like the man as a person, but I just don’t think he has what it takes to be the lead man yet. Timeouts are always mismanaged, he doesn’t make good decisions when challenging plays, and he has failed to ‘coach’ the team to come from behind and win. Henne gets a lot of the blame, but the QB and the head coach are sewn at the hip in this league, and if one fails, they both fail.
So who should Mr. Ross hire as the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins? Or does he let Jeff Ireland make that decision? We have all heard about Bill Cowher having the Miami Dolphins on his ‘wish list.’ We know Jon Gruden is another possibility. Even Mike Nolan has been rumored to be a hot candidate. Jeff Fisher? Him too. But there is one name that is flying under the radar for the Miami Dolphins, despite his name being linked to other jobs in the NFL. That name is Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh is linked to many jobs that will be open this offseason. The Carolina Panthers have been the most talked about team, mainly because they also have the number 1 pick in the draft, and current Stanford QB Andrew Luck is a lock for the number 1 pick if he chooses to leave school early, but he’s not going to Carolina. The San Francisco job has also been linked to Harbaugh should he choose to leave Stanford, but I believe Miami has more pieces in place than San Francisco, and can therefore win sooner.
Harbaugh hasn’t been linked to the Miami job yet, but he should be. He and Stephen Ross have 1 major factor in common that no one is considering, they are both ‘Michigan’ men. Harbaugh has also proven he can develop a quarterback in a pro-style offense. Andrew Luck wasn’t this good when he went to Stanford was he? Miami has so many pieces in place that a good, serviceable, QB can lead this team to the playoffs. Whether they take a QB in the draft, or sign a free agent, I think Harbaugh would do a better job getting the most out of that position. He would be able to prepare the QB to get the job done and win games, something I really don’t think Sparano can do.
Now, before you point out that I said ‘Michigan Men’ seem to have a special bond and remind me that Henne is also in that ‘Michigan Man’ group, let me remind you that in my opinion I don’t think he can be a successful QB in the NFL. Ross may think different, and maybe Harbaugh can be the one that helps Henne prove myself and many others wrong. But will Ross be willing to take that chance? He already has to pay Parcells next year, firing Sparano will add another dead salary to the pot next year, and that may be more than Ross wants to take on right now. Not to mention how much money it would cost to get Harbaugh to leave Stanford.
It will be interesting to see how everything plays out with the decisions Ross makes this offseason. One thing is for sure, some people have to go. Henning is the most obvious to be gone next year. After that, it could get sticky. Does Ross keep Ireland, and trust him to bring in a new head coach? Does Ireland keep Sparano and bring in a new QB? Does Ireland get rid of Sparano and bring in someone to get the most out of Henne? Do both Sparano and Henne go? Or does Ross get rid of everyone but Mike Nolan and start new? No matter what happens, I can’t wait to see what does!