The Miami Dolphins had an interesting off-season to say the least. The Well’s Report wrapped up after the NFL season did putting to be the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito mess. Jeff Ireland stood in limbo as he awaited his fate, as did Mike Sherman and Joe Philbin. Ireland lost his job a day after Sherman lost his. Philbin remains for at least another season.
For most that would be enough but not for Miami. A two and a half week process to find a new GM was met with media skepticism that never materialized into anything more positive. Five candidates turned down interviews for the job and three others declined the job after it had been offered. After eight other candidates had been interviewed and courted the Dolphins settled on former Tampa man Dennis Hickey.
Hickey’s free agency, the first of his career in charge, was seen as positive despite the lack of effort to shore up the right side of the teams offensive line. His draft has received mixed reviews. Media pundits are casting “C’s” while most fans give the early paper grade a solid “B”. Now that Hickey’s initial work is over the burden now falls back on the shoulders of HC Joe Philbin.
The question of whether the fault of this teams inability to rise out of the sub-500 doldrums has been heavily debated. Was it a lack of talent or a lack of coaching? Was it both? With Ireland gone and Philbin still in place we will get a better idea as to how much coaching played a role in the teams issues. In Ireland’s time in Miami he had two head coaches he didn’t choose. Bill Parcells’ assigned Tony Sparano and Stephen Ross opted for his choice over Ireland’s, Mike McCoy.
Last season ended in horrid fashion as the Dolphins failed to score more than 7 points in two games. Winning one would have put the team in the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and likely would have saved both Ireland’s and Sherman’s jobs. The fact that both losses came against division foes was even harder to swallow. Fans demanded change and they got it.
This year the Dolphins face a tough schedule home and away but on paper have the talent to win. Can Philbin coach this team above the level they have played at? Consistently. We will find out.
The only way to decide if the Dolphins are better than last year is to let this season play out and then judge the results. The only way to decide who had a bigger hand in the teams mediocrity can only be known when the players leave and strive elsewhere or the coach leaves and a new coach elevates their play.
While the Dolphins made solid changes on the offensive line with the addition of Branden Albert via free agency and Ja’Wuan James via the draft they failed to tweak the linebackers and only made minimal changes in the secondary where they are hoping CB Cortland Finnegan and S Louis Delmas can play at previous levels. It’s often debated whether either are upgrades over Nolan Carroll or Chris Clemons. Perhaps the biggest change was the one that forced by owner Stephen Ross.
Fans are hoping for a breakout offensive season and Lazor could be the guy to provide it. His last offensive coordinator job came in the college ranks but he has been credited with the development of Philadelphia Eagle QB Nick Foles and has received high praise for his work under Eagles coach Chip Kelly. If Lazor can implement an exciting and dangerous game plan, the Dolphins might give the fans a lot more to cheer about. If the Dolphins can score more points Joe Philbin may enter the 2015 season not worried about his job. It’s a merry-go-round.
The changes made to this years roster are small when compared to last years team. The bigger additions as mentioned were on the offensive line where Miami has to improve on the field if they will have any chance of implementing a Bill Lazor game plan. Fans will have another two months to debate the additions and will once again scrutinize mini-camps and organized team activities. Nothing however will provide significant answers until mid-August when the players start taking the field and we get to see exactly what they have. Then in September we know if the dress rehearsal missed the target.
So have the Dolphins “really” gotten better? Not by attrition, sorry the removal of Jeff Ireland does not make this team better nor does the retention of Joe Philbin or the addition of Dennis Hickey make them worse. The fact is the team needs to step up and it begins with the head coach and ends with the head coach. This is Philbin’s year. The draft and free agency was exactly what he wanted and he has no excuses. They may be better in some areas but others are still question marks. We will know if they are better or worse come December.