So far we have looked at Stephen Ross, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano. I am humming along with that old Sesame Street song, “one of these things just don’t belong here, three of these things are kind of the same”. Those three things that are “kind of the same”? Tony Sparano, Jeff Ireland, and today’s guest of honor Bill Parcells. The odd man out is Stephen Ross.
While I hold Ross accountable for some of the problems for the team, I gave him more of a pass due specifically to what he inherited rather than the decisions he has made. On the football side of things, only one mad held ultimate final say over the team and that was Bill Parcells. Parcells’ arrival in Miami was heralded as a great move by then owner Wayne Huizenga who tried time and again to return this team to it’s former glory. Every step made took the team two steps back.
For all the grief that Ross gets from media and fans regarding minority owners and stadium mall festivities, Wayne did far more damage by trying to lure the celebrity to the football side rather than the business side. Gone was Don Shula, in was Jimmy Johnson. Fail. Gone was Jimmy Johnson’s physicality but left was his voice, enter Dave Wannstedt. Fail. Gone was Dave Wannstedt, enter Nick Saban. Fail. Gone was Nick Saban, enter the highly touted offensive genius, Cam Cameron. Fail. Exit Cam Cameron, enter Bill Parcells. Fail.
And with that, we will look at Bill Parcells.
It’s difficult to place the blame on the team demise on Wayne Huizenga, his intentions were pure and his pocket book was open. He simply put his trust into the wrong people. Consider that Bill Parcells was close to a deal with the Atlanta Falcons. Wayne swooped in and gave BP full control. The Falcons added HC Mike Smith and GM Tom Dimitroff . The Falcons may be struggling now but they are competitive.
Bill Parcells took over the team with a fury. He fired the Cam Cameron staff and wasted no time plucking his former Dallas Cowboy associates and handing them prime jobs underneath him. Nothing wrong with that as that happens all the time. The problems began when Parcells decided to start adding the coaching staff for Tony Sparano. Dan Henning for example was a Bill Parcells close confidant and friend. Naturally he would reshape the Dolphins offense. Well, that didn’t happen.
Parcells added Mike Nolan to the defense and brought Todd Bowles along as well. The hiring of a first time HC in Tony Sparano was not initially a bad move. In fact, despite the shortcomings of Sparano, he may have developed far more quicker as an NFL HC if Parcells would have not been involved. The same could be argued about GM Jeff Ireland who was the senior personnel man in Dallas with Parcells.
Parcells’ failure stemmed from an ego that was far too inflated. He walked on a contract that was fully guaranteed whether he was with the team or not. He had final say on any and all personnel moves including the final 53 team roster advising Sparano who should and should not be there. For the better part of two and a half years, Sparano simply did what he was told and how could he not, the man upstairs was the ultimate czar.
In the offices Jeff Ireland operated as the GM but not without conversing with Parcells first. It was Parcells who let Zach Thomas go and offered Jason Taylor an extension on a piece of paper provided he didn’t involve his agent. What was Jeff Ireland learning here? In Dallas, Parcells did not have that type of authority, Jerry Jones did. Suddenly Ireland was learning from a genius who was acting out as a dictator.
Parcells’ own fallacies were hard to over look. His first move in player acquisition came within an hour of the start of free agency in his first Miami March. He signed Justin Smiley to a multi-year deal, opting for the second level lineman instead of any top level free agents. He quickly added pieces to the team in the form of special teams contributors…yet the special teams never got any better. The focus was clearly on upgrading the defensive line and the offensive line. Yet today, neither are anything close to more than mediocre.
Parcells continued to make bad moves in the player department. Pat White, Pat Turner, John Nalbone, and Shawn Murphy. As well as Chad Henne. The gift to Parcells came in the form of his former QB Chad Pennington who was released during training camp from the Jets. It would ultimately turn the team into a 2008 division winner and at the same time begin the downward spiral of the franchise.
Make no mistake, Parcells did not walk away because he was tired or lacked interest, he walked away because he screwed up. He walked away because he knew that the direction the team was heading was a bad one. Chad Pennington led the team to a division title and then exited the 2009 season early with another shoulder injury. The offense was not designed around Chad Henne as initially planned when Henne was drafted. Instead, it was re-shuffled to fit Chad P. The Dolphins rolled out the Wild Cat in 08 to help Chad Penny be more effective. It worked.
The following season, Dan Henning and Bill Parcells kept the WC formation in play and drafted to accommodate it’s usage…ie…Pat White. Henning stayed the course with the WC under Parcells watchful eye and when Pennington went down, the Dolphins turned to Henne and told him to run the same system the same way. It didn’t work.
Following the 2009 season, Parcells vacated his spot with the team for good, two weeks prior to the start of the regular season. Jeff Ireland suddenly was left without his crutch and Tony Sparano was left with an offensive coordinator that he would have to defend from the media. That season went south quick and the culmination was a long gone Parcells and new full time owner left holding the check with his name on it.
Parcells was tasked with reshaping and remolding this team. It was supposed to be his dream job. Up the road from his Jupiter, Fl. residence, full control and final say on any and all moves related to football. Instead, his own mistakes and the evolution of the game allowed him to deflect the blame on the coaches and the general manger and even on the owner who was not responsible for his hire. Many speculated that Parcells simply didn’t want to work with an owner who wanted the glitzy celebrity life yet he had no qualms of working for Jerry Jones who was his own self-made celebrity. The reality is that Parcells simply took the money and ran when he realized that what he was building wasn’t going to work.
The trio were tabbed the “Trifecta” by Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel but it became clear that the three were more like the the blind mice. Parcells edicts to the staff seemed scattered with no real direction. He built the team around no one because he never found that someone in whom to build it around. No franchise QB, no hulking LB, just bit parts and special teams players. That legacy handed down to Ireland who has failed in the same manner. Make no mistake, when Parcells took over the Miami Dolphins, he gutted it and began rebuilding it.
He simply never came close to finishing. He lacked key components to be successful and he knew it. It’s why he ultimately walked away. In reality, Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano have had one year and 5 weeks of the 2011 season to fix what Parcells did wrong and unfortunately Miami fans and ownership have waited long enough. His draft pick decisions set the team back and place Ireland in a bad position who in turn placed Sparano in a tough position. It all cascades downward.
Parcells is glorified for his legacy to the New York Giants and the New York Jets and even to some degree the Dallas Cowboys. As for Miami, they are an afterthought. That team that will never be recognized in a Hall of Fame speech by the man. They couldn’t even bother to paste in those final years into the Parcells ESPN special. Parcells would love to forget he was ever in Miami, Stephen Ross would love to forget that Parcells was ever in Miami, unfortunately until Sparano and Ireland do something to make the fans view things differently, Parcells will be a part of these Miami Dolphins. His fingerprint is there, all over the team and you can’t get rid of it until you clean house.