Auld Lang Syne plays on the stereo behind me. Seriously. Not the horned version that we all listen to on New Years Day, but the Dan Fogelberg song of the same title. It’s on my iPhone. I like Fogelberg, sue me. Anyways, I digress, the 2011 calendar year ends with the stroke of midnight and the world over will sing the other “auld lang syne”. For the Miami Dolphins, we can only hope that the trials and tribulations of the past year for owner Stephen Ross and his brood of management can turn this franchise around.
It was four short seasons ago that Miami fans became overwhelmingly excited about the teams future when Bill Parcells took over the team. Our year end review concluded with what might this team become. Four years later and we are asking ourselves the same thing. Parcells is gone and so is his appointed coach. Fans still wait and mostly want the same to happen with GM Jeff Ireland.
For a lot of us, so many things went right and for others so many things went wrong. For the Dolphins, there was little to be overjoyed about. Here is a look back at the top ten moments for the Miami Dolphins in 2011, both good, bad, and sad.
Number 10: The NFL Lockout – The Miami Dolphins watched as former OC Dan Henning finally retired and left the team. They hired former Cleveland OC, Brian Daboll. The lockout put the Dolphins coaches in a bad position because they would not be able to implement that new offensive system. Chad Henne joined Brian Daboll behind closed doors to go over the new playbook so that he could conduct “player only workouts” in the off-season. The Dolphins were fined by the NFL for illegal contact between coaches and players. The league new year would be delayed and the team would have to wait until the end of July to finally begin preparations for the new year.
Number 9: Mike Pouncey – The last time that the Miami Dolphins had a center who got the juices flowing was a Don Shula era pick named Dwight Stephenson. Opting to forgo a reach on a QB in round one at pick 15, GM Jeff Ireland skipped the popular choice of Ryan Mallett and selected Mike Pouncey who is currently the first alternate center for the Pro-Bowl. Pouncey had a slow start to kick off the season, attributed to the lockout and lack of contact with the team. However, his progression from week to week caught the attention of the national media and Pouncey became as reliable on the line as Jake Long, giving the team someone who could potentially be a franchise center.
Number 8: Channing Crowder – Crowder was released from the team on August 29th and he took to the broadcast booth locally and immediately charged against GM Jeff Ireland and QB Chad Henne. Crowder became as brash on the radio as he was on the field. The holdover from the Nick Saban era condemned the choices of Ireland and criticized his ideology for building a franchise winning team. His criticism of Chad Henne ignited a fan fury that carried over into open to public practices.
Number 7: Good-bye R&R express – Both Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown were unrestricted free agents as the lockout ended and neither player caught the eye of the Dolphins. Brown joined the Eagles and Williams signed to back-up Ray Rice in Baltimore. For the Dolphins, it was two former first round picks that were gone and franchise running back in Brown that never produced enough to warrant a number 2 overall pick in 2005. Still, coupled with the release of Crowder, Miami Dolphins fans lost three players they followed closely and cheered for.
Number 6: Jason Taylor – After a rough season with the Jets, Jason Taylor was called at home by Jeff Ireland and brought back to the team for what would be his swan song. Relegated early to situation duty, Taylor became a back-bone to the Miami Defense and one of the leaders of it’s mid-season turnaround. After 13 years of Miami Dolphins’ service, Taylor announced his retirement from the NFL effective January 2nd, 2012 following the season ending game against his former Jets. The announcement came three days prior to the end of 2011 calendar year.
Number 5: Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush – Jeff Ireland chose Reggie Bush over more statistically better running backs in free agency and traded two second round picks in 2010 for Brandon Marshall. Despite the teams lackluster play and early season continuity, Marshall and Bush each broke the 1,000 yard mark at their respective positions giving the Dolphins their first RB/WR 1,000 yard combo in franchise history.
Number 4: Kyle Orton – The chants of “we want Orton” as Chad Henne took the field at the Dolphins first public practice resonated loudly around the NFL. It was the first dagger thrown from a fan base that has been hungry for a star QB for over a decade. Jeff Ireland was loathed for his decision to not trade for the then Denver Bronco QB. Even still, fans point to Ireland’s decision to sign Moore over Orton as a mistake. For the Dolphins it was yet another black-eye following a long silent locked out off season. The first week back provided no answers for the QB solution.
Number 3: Tony Sparano – Many fans believed that Tony Sparano would be fired following week 8 of the NFL season but the team turned around and shocked the NFL world by destroying the then playoff contending Kansas City Chiefs. They continued that roll for another two games putting a three game winning streak together putting the name Matt Moore on the tongue of Dolphins fans. Eventually, that enthusiasm wore off and the Dolphins failed to beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving or the Eagles two weeks later. The loss put the final nail in Tony Sparano’s coaching coffin as owner Stephen Ross fired Sparano with three game remaining in the season. Sparano finished his first go around as an NFL head coach 29-32.
Number 2: Jim Mandich – Mandich was heralded this season when his name was forever etched into the Miami Dolphins “Ring of Honor”, a long overdo recognition. Miami Dolphins and Dolphins fans alike bid farewell to the long time radio personality and former standout TE for the team. Mandich passed away in April of 2011 leaving behind a legacy that no other former Miami Dolphin has yet to touch. His vocal ability to ignite fans on air, transferred into the real world where his passion for all things Dolphins never wavered. To this day, he still one of the most beloved Miami Dolphin personalities.
Number 1: Jim Harbaugh – The year had barely started, in early January, the Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross began his exploration of then Stanford HC Jim Harbaugh. Harbaugh a former Michigan QB was the apple to Ross’ eye. An ill-timed flight to California put Ross’ intentions to the forefront of the national media and became one of the single most negative acts in the history of the franchise. Why? Because Ross made the mistake of not firing his current head coach Tony Sparano. For four days, Sparano hung with the wind as media outlet upon media outlet covered Ross’ infatuation with Harbaugh who eventually spurned Ross for the 49′ers job.
Ross was left with a major black eye and a need for a lot of damage control that also included his GM Jeff Ireland who flew to California with him. To this day, it’s one of the main reasons why Ross is loathed by so many fans of the team and even still, his actions have many questioning his ability to land a more qualified coach to run the team now that there is a vacancy with Sparano gone. It will take quite a while for fans to forget, and even longer for the media.
What are your top 10 events of the 2011 year?