It’s a long ways off. The 2012 season that is, much to the chagrin of the Miami Dolphins fan base. At a time when fans should be cheering wildly for a major move up the AFC East ladder, the fans are instead cheering quietly after every loss in the hopes of landing Andrew Luck. Those that don’t cheer losing applauded loudly when the Rams beat New Orleans this past Sunday. With inevitable change on the horizon it begs the question what new system will be implemented into the organization?
It would appear that the Dolphins haven’t had to undergo system change in four years but that is not truly a reality. Defensively nothing has changed since Cam Cameron was fired as Mike Nolan has been in place since the beginning of the Parcellian era. Which also makes you question why the defense plays so badly. Offensively however there has been change. From three years of Dan Henning to this years change to Brian Daboll‘s offense. Oddly enough both have had the same results.
Next year however could bring a major overhaul on both sides of the ball. What will that spell out for some of the Dolphins players?
While every team will eventually go through change it really depends on what kind of coach Stephen Ross hires and whether or not Jeff Ireland remains in place. I suppose for starters it makes sense to look at Ireland first and ask a simple question. If Ireland stays does the coach match Ireland’s player philosophy or will Ireland need to change to match the coach?
Make no mistake here, while Tony Sparano has far more input into the players that are brought in, the decision is final with Ireland. So if say by chance a Rob Chudzinski or a Rob Ryan type comes to Miami, Ireland could likely remain the GM. Neither of them coach a style that is consistent with the current make-up of a Jeff Ireland personnel decision. For example, Ryan wants bruising hitters on defense and could care less about finesse. He wants more than the prototypical defender he wants attitude to go with it. Would guys like Koa Misi and Paul Soliai fit those molds? Sure the Cowboys run a 3-4 like Miami but what if Chudzinski comes to town and wants his defense to be a 4-3?
How does Ireland make that change when all he has known is the Parcellian way of doing things? While Ireland has stepped out from the bulking Bill Parcells shadow his choices in free agency are hardly quality stars and that makes you wonder whether or not he is capable of going beyond his comfort zone or if his knowledge of what “fits” and what “doesn’t fit” will actually fit the next coaching regime.
Ireland is a question mark all his own and personally while I like Jeff Ireland I’m no longer 100 percent secure in my assertion that he is the right man for this team. I don’t care about his brash nature or his off the cuff remarks at the wrong time, I care about product placement and I’m simply not seeing it. In my opinion, if Stephen Ross is going to get himself a new head coach, he needs to get him the surrounding support to give him the best shot at being successful and Jeff Ireland is too much on the edge of losing his job to be that man. I said this a few weeks ago on my Wednesday night radio show, if Ross told Ireland not to trade for Orton and nixed that trade, then he shows no faith in that GM and Ireland should be replaced as well. If you have full confidence in your management you let them do their job. Ross did not…or so it was rumored.
The players have it no easier. A switch to a 4-3 scheme moves Paul Soliai out of Miami and it makes it a smart move on the part of the team not to give him a big contract extension. Of course he never should have been franchise tagged in the first place so pick your poison. 12 million in one year or a new deal that gave him 12 or more guaranteed? Either way any change on the defensive side makes Solia a free agent. It doesn’t just stop with him. The Dolphins are loaded on the defensive front of the ball. The team has more DE’s than almost anyone in the league and 50 percent of their roster along the D-line could be starting on other teams. While that will bode well for a 4-3 switch what will it do for the DE/OLB’s?
Consider that the Dolphins true outside LB’s are Koa Misi and well that’s really it. Misi is being asked to play that strong side linebacker position in the 3-4 where the LB’s are asked to work the edge and up-field pass rush but a change to a 4-3 will take away that responsibility and move the LB’s off the line. How will the Dolphins make that transition? It won’t be too difficult given the plethora of DT/DE’s that the Dolphins currently have. Still, Jeff Ireland spent a lot of draft picks getting hybrid style players who could transition from end to tackle as needed but we will have to wait and see how that changes if a permanent change takes place.
Offensively you have to wonder about a guy like Charles Clay. For these Dolphins, Clay is that FB/TE hybrid player but where would he fit under a Rob Chudzinski style of offense? He really isn’t a pure TE and not really a full time FB. It’s likely that a new coach will want a new TE as well. A big pass catching seam ripper that Miami has avoided under Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano. Remember new coaching brings a new philosophy and a guy like Chudzinski is very fond of his TE’s having coached three stellar TE’s while at the University of Miami. Including Kellen Winslow. So the question once again becomes can a new HC walk into Jeff Ireland’s office and say “I want this kid” and get him? Or will Ireland be resting too much on what he believes to make that happen?
Of course Jeff Ireland could be gone as well. And as I stated earlier he likely should be. Ross needs to make a clean break and move away from the Bill Parcells mistake completely. The next GM, whether he double dips his duties as GM and HC, will no doubt bring in his own style of thinking and his own type of players. That may work out great for guys like Davone Bess who have the hands and solid route capabilities but it may not work in the favor of someone like Brian Hartline who can make the catches he needs to make but really doesn’t elicit fear in defenses.
It’s all speculation of course but change is coming in a little more than 9 weeks, hard to believe that there is only 9 weeks left in the regular season as we enter week 9. With Miami still slated to play it’s remaining nine games so much is riding on what these player can start doing on the field. Consider that very shortly these players will be playing for an audition tape that the next coach will be looking at and their jobs could very well be, should very well be on the line.