For many reasons, the 2011 season will go down in franchise history as one of the most dismal ever recorded. Many are predicting the Fins to win no more than two games, and the biggest competition seems to be who will draft first overall and have an opportunity to draft Andrew Luck.
The loss of Henne for the year hurt badly and the Fins were ill prepared to go with newly signed backup Matt Moore. The inability of the defense to put any type of pressure has lead to even mediocre quarterbacks picking the secondary apart and record setting games. After three plus years the offensive line is still, well, “offensive”. The change from Dan Henning to Brian Daboll as the OC is not even noticeable. The defense, highly ranked last year, has been a door mat even though it is primarily the same group of players. So, what can they do? Plan for next year, and here is how.
It starts at the top: Stephen Ross needs to decide what changes need to be made. Tony Sparano is almost certain to be released, but he is not totally responsible. Ross needs to determine which HC candidates he will pursue and if Jeff Ireland will be maintained as well. It is clear that Mr. Ross lacks the experience or knowledge needed to make prudent executive personnel changes and should therefore consult with proven winners in the field. Jeff Ireland, Carl Peterson or Eric Mangini don’t particularly come to my mind.
Play the young guys: Tony needs to coach as if he were playing to win……next year. This year is a perfect year to let the youngsters develop in a real game. Let some of the young WR’s like Marlon Moore get some playing time. There is no good reason for guys like Marshall to get 10-12 passes each week. We know what he can and can’t do. Same goes for all of our TE’s who keep the bench warm. Let’s see what Jeron Mastrud or Will Yeatman can do! How about getting some “significant” playing time for Jimmy Wilson in the secondary? This will certainly define the needs of the team more clearly going into next year.
Evaluate possible personnel changes: Ireland needs to plan like “he will be around” next year and plan as near as possible who will be retained and what the needs are for free agency and the draft. As much as I love the guy, do you see a 38 yr. old Yeremiah Bell coming back? How about 11th year Marc Colombo? Is the organization willing to pay huge dollars to keep Brandon Marshall or Paul Soliai? What do you do about Chad Henne, who is a free agent? Are they happy with the LB corp, which was supposed to be an upgrade from last year? This franchise has some major decisions looming. For the most part, the organization has been getting very poor value for the money they spend on salaries.
Re-evaluate the scouting team: I say this every year, but the next draft will be the most important in franchise history. Yes, I really mean it this time. Unless an asteroid hits North America sometime before next April, the Fins have an excellent opportunity to FINALLY draft a QB in the first round and get the franchise guy they have been searching for since “you know who.”
You don’t hear much about the scouting team, but it is a critical element to the organization. The jury is still out on the first draft since Parcells, but it looks promising. It isn’t known just how much influence the scouting team has with GM Ireland, but now is a perfect time to re-evaluate those who scout the college players.