Only read this if you have a lot of time and want a glimpse into discussion some of us had on the old Sentinel board over 20 years ago. (I think Part I was written right after we got blasted by Jacksonville in the playoffs.) This was a loooooooooooooong post by Bill. If you read far enough, you'll see a reference to carreramia, who is now a regular here. For some reason, I had this saved in my old files, and I thought I'd share here for those who are interested.
Part I: The Shula Years
I originally started writing this as a rebuttal to the folks who
wanted to blame Shula for most of the Dolphins' ills over the
past 15 years or so BJ (Before Jimmy). As a result, some of it
is a little rah-rah, but hey, after yesterday's horror show, we
all need a little something to put on the wounds.
The Dolphins came into existence as a club in '65 and played
our first season in '66. We did not do well at first, but that's
to be expected. Hell, we were an expansion team with none
of the benefits and advantages given to today's expansion
clubs. That changed in 1970.
Shula not only replaced George Wilson as head coach, he
started our rise to greatness. In 1969, Wilson's last year, the
'phins finished last in the AFC East with a 3-10-1 record.
Shula took an emerging fifth year expansion club (props to
George Wilson's building program) and in his first year as
coach guided us to our first winning season and first playoff
appearance. We then capped the next three post-seasons
with Super Bowl appearances, winning two of them and
turning in a perfect season along the way. Not too shabby.
Here's a little something from the Dolphins' section in the HOF
and I quote:
"No pro football club in history ever advanced more quickly
from the first-year dregs every expansion team faces to the
ultimate achievement in its sport than the Miami Dolphins did
in the six-year period between 1967 and 1972. In 1967, they
began their pro football life as the ninth member of the
American Football League. Six years later, Miami became the
only National Football League team ever to record a perfect
season. The 1972 Miami Dolphins won the AFC Eastern
division and AFC championships and then defeated the
Washington Redskins 14-7 in Super Bowl VII to complete an
unblemished 17-0-0 record."
Feeling a little better yet? I hope so. Notice that the HOF
has the wrong dates? LOL.
Anyway, on to the meat of this post. These aren't opinions,
these are facts. During the Shula years from 1970 - 1995,
- Went 259-132-2. That's 66%, an average of 10 wins in a
14 game season, 11 in a 16 game season.
- Went 17-14 in the playoffs. That's 31 games. We won 55%
- Won 12, count 'em, TWELVE AFC East crowns. That's
about one every other year.
- Posted 1, count it, ONE losing record. 1988, 6-10.
Name me another coach who posted that kind of consistency
over 26 years. It'll be a short list. So, of all the potshots at
Shoes, here are the two that bugged me the most and my
1) Shula rode Marino to pad his winning record, neglecting
the team and blowing any shots at the Super Bowl in the
- This one really irks me everytime I see it. How does a team
GET to a SB? Oh, that's right, by losing! How silly of me.
Shula tried to win with what he had. When you win
consistently, you don't get the great picks. Shula's a great
coach, not a great GM. His drafts were mediocre to good, at
best. Considering who and when we drafted, it's a minor
miracle that we were as successful as we were.
2) Shoes is a has-been. The game has passed him by.
- I respectfully submit that the game is still played today
pretty much like it was in 1970. Fundamentals are
fundamentals and they were bedrock to Shoes' philosophy. I
don't think that pro-football the GAME passed him by. I think
pro-football the BUSINESS did an end-around on Shoes.
Shula could coach anybody and get 110% out of them 24/7.
There's a reason why they said he could beat yours with his,
etc. But I think the business side of the game finally caught
him. Salary caps. Free agency. Revolving doors at assistants'
positions. Shula was Old School, love it or hate it. He stood
by his team AND his staff. Why else was Oliva-no-Defense around all
those years? He sure as hell wasn't particularly brilliant. But
Shula understood loyalty and loyalty doesn't pay in today's
I think the salary cap and free agency were the last straws
that broke the camel's back. Shula could probably have gone
on forever producing top-third teams that made almost
annual play-off appearances just because he could get the
most out of what he had. Remember that HOF quote a little
while ago? Right after our second SB win, Warfield, Csonka
and Kiick went to the WFL. They played the '74 season,
then, "Hasta la vista, baby." We kept on winning. How many
coaches can lose what, half? of their offense and still keep
on going? I don't think anyone ever got more out of what he
had than Shoes.
But what he had would never get him all the way to the SB
again. 26 years of almost uninterrupted success will do that
to you. Our draft positions SUCKED. We didn't have a
Beathard or a Polian or a JJ to swing deals. But we kept on
This is Shula's legacy. One of the most winning franchises in
any sport. An NFL team that has a losing record against only
4 other teams...NY Giants, San Diego, Oakland...and Jax. A
team whose success inspires such envy and hatred that we
see folks like Colts Fan and the multitude of Jets fans come
to our board to rag on us when we slip. Because we've
always owned them.
And this legacy is the first part of why we're where we are
now. For 26 years we had nothing but success. Five SB
appearances, 2 wins. Almost annual playoff appearances. A
shot at the Division title every coupla years or so. This
resulted in a fan base that does NOT react well to adversity.
We expect great things. Face it folks, we're spoiled. We were
OUTRAGED when H. Wayne couldn't buy us a SB team and
Shoes couldn't coach it to ultimate victory. The 49'ers do it
every year! Why can't we?!! We want a SB and we want it
now!! You saw where it ultimately got Shula. We'll talk about
what we did to JJ in Part III.
Sooner or later, everybody has to pay their dues. Look at
the 49'ers. Almost 20 years at the top of the league and now
a shell of their former selves. The cap did them in. They'll be
back, but it's gonna be a while. Our own success got us. We
NEED a top five pick. And then another. And maybe another
after that. I'm not going to insult you. Outside of a
mega-trade, you all know that there's only one way to get
that kind of pick. The 'Skins were dreadful for the past few
years. They've apparently turned the corner AND have three
number 1's this draft. Somehow, I don't think they're gonna
suck for much longer. We've got a lot of talent on this team.
Maybe we'll only have to gut it out for a season or two. But
we're gonna have to do it.
Bottom line, folks. Stop bashing Shula. I don't think he's
coming back. I don't think he SHOULD come back. But don't
EVER forget what he made of this team and what he means
to the history of the Miami Dolphins.
Part II: The Marino Years
With all the garbage posts flooding the board, this probably
isn't the best time to continue the thought, but the hell with
it, might as well finish it. Besides, Dan may up and retire any
day now and I want to get my thoughts on him written
So, in Part I we established that Shula had imparted the
'phins with a winning tradition. We lost Csonka, Kiick and
Warfield after the '74 season and still kept on winning. It
took us almost 10 years but we went to
another SB after the '82 season using the WoodStrock
formula. Hey, I know it was a strike shortened year, but a SB
is a SB, I'll take it. We almost had that one, too.
The point is, that team made it to the SB. It played well in
the playoffs. Maybe WoodStrock would have worked for a
while. Maybe Woodley had it in him to grow into the system
and thrive. We'll never know because the 'phins picked Dan
Marino with the 27th pick of the '83 draft. The rest, as they
say, is history.
I'm not going to talk about Marino's records. We all know
them. I'm not going to debate his ranking on the All-Time QB
list. He's one of the best, ever. Hell, it's not even fair to use
him as a measuring stick for other
pure passers. Who in God's name will ever measure up? His
accomplishments in the passing department are like Gretzky's
in hockey. He stands head and shoulders above the rest.
What I do want to talk about is Marino's effect on the
Dolphins over the years. We all know that there are generally
two types of sports greats. Those who are merely great in
and of themselves and those who lift the whole team with
them and make THEM great, too.
Gretzky was one of the latter. He was one of a truly great
cast during his
Edmonton years. He did his thing and had Messier, Kurri,
Tikkanen and Fuhr along to help. Not bad company. Then he
goes to LA, the land of truly bad hockey, and transforms
that franchise. Every team he played on, played better
overall. Pure magic.
Michael Jordan did much the same for the Bulls. Of all his
teammates, who else qualified as a super star? Pippen?
Hmmmm. After his run with Houston, I'm not so sure. But add
Michael and guys like Longely and Kukoc play above
themselves, all the way to championships.
Which brings us to Marino. He's a great player, no doubt
about it. An incredible competitor. A demanding field general.
An absolute genius at reading a defense and picking it apart.
And in his prime, no one was better at getting the pigskin to
the receiver, no matter what. Most students of the game will
concede that throughout his career, Marino made it a habit
of winning a few games for the 'phins that we had no
business winning. Good Lord, a team with a second year QB,
an anemic running game and an extremely inconsistent
defense going 14-2 to face the mighty 49'ers of Montana,
Rice, Craig, Lott ad nauseum?
And I think that was the problem. I stated to Carreramia a
while back that
the one great failing the 'phins had during the Marino era was
allowing him to become bigger than the team. Lord knows, it
must have been easy enough. The man was already a legend
by his third year in the NFL. He
became big enough to lull Shula (Mr. Smashmouth Ball
Control) into a radical change in philosophy. Why not? The
kid got him to a SB pretty much just on the strength of his
arm. Who needs an overpowering ground game, anyway?
Just by being the 'phins most potent weapon, Marino shaped
this team for 13 seasons. The O-line was tailored to pass
protect, not run block. Defense? Hell, we'll outscore them,
we don't need to shut them down. Just slow 'em down a
little. Running game? As long as the back can catch, he'll do.
And the wonder of it all is, it worked. At least well enough to
win a lot of games and get us into the playoffs most years.
And cost us draft
Along the way, something strange happened. Dan Marino
stopped just being the QB for the Dolphins. Dan BECAME the
Dolphins. Play the word
association game with someone, anyone. Say Miami Dolphins
to them and see
what they say. Betcha Dan's name comes up a lot. Hell, look
at our board
this past season! We're not fans of the Dolphins anymore.
You're either for Marino or for JJ. More on JJ in Part III, but I
So, does that make Marino "merely" one of the sports greats
who are great
just in and of themselves? No, I don't think it's that simple,
either. For the longest time, I was content with the status
quo. Marino was great, we had a good supporting cast, we
just need a little luck in drafting an
outstanding RB, right? Who could have seen Overstreet's
death? Franklin tearing up his knee? Smith being a bust? No
doubt, we've had more than our share of bad luck. But year
after year, it was always something. Someone
didn't step up. Some key part of our game never developed.
Could it be that Marino was just TOO good? So good that the
rest of the team just took it for granted that we would
always have a shot as long as it was close? Took it for
granted that as long as Dan was in the game, there was no
need to give 110% when 85% would do?
It really hurts to say this because I've always admired Marino
but I think the 'phins became his cult of personality. I think
he's so much bigger than life with his teammates that the
teams around him have never learned
to be a TEAM. Have never given all they had because
someone else had to
step up. It was always Dan and the other 10 schmoes.
The media hasn't helped. Read player interviews the last few
years? "And how do you feel about being on the same team
as Dan Marino?" "Well, the guy's a (fill in with your favorite
adoring adjective). I grew up dreaming about catching a
Marino pass." Christ, the guy isn't a teammate, he's the
boyhood idol of half the NFL's current crop of receivers and
I truly don't believe that this team will find an identity as a
TEAM, a single UNIT, until Dan retires. There's no telling what
that '82 Dolphins
team would have matured into if we hadn't drafted Dan.
Maybe if he had been drafted higher and we got, say Kelly,
we would have three more
Lombardi trophies to admire. Who knows? That falls into the
realm of what if.
I'll always treasure the memories of watching Marino and his
schmoes do their thing on Sunday. It was a wild ride, a
magical time and always good for getting the blood pumping.
But it's time, Dan. Mac said he'd rather die than see Marino
take a knee to avoid a sack. I think I'd rather die than see
another year of the 'phins being torn apart.
It's not just about the team anymore, and that's wrong. JJ
and Dan split the team and the fans. People losing their
minds over who did this and who said that. Folks blaming
Marino for everything but global warming. People expecting JJ
to deliver a SB with a team that was flawed when he
inherited it and only got marginally better. Somewhere in all
of this, the team got lost. Gee, what's JJ gonna do? Gee,
what's Dan gonna do? Hey, folks, here's a novel question!
What's the TEAM gonna do? I guess we'll find out soon
enough, since JJ is gone and I'd be surprised if Dan does
Did anyone think it would end this way?
Part III: The JJ Years
Ok, folks, this one'll wrap it up. Part I established the
Dolphins as one of the winningest NFL clubs. A perennial
playoff participant, but usually not considered a serious
threat. Part II established Dan Marino as the perhaps the
greatest thing to ever happen to the franchise...or perhaps
the worst. Part III will look at JJ's tenure as head coach and
address the question, "Was JJ really a good thing for this
When it was announced that JJ was going to be our new
head coach, I remember being of two minds. On the one
hand, I can't stand JJ's style. I remember thinking, "Please,
Lord, anyone but HIM." On the other hand, I remember
thinking, "Well, if you're gonna replace a legend like Shula,
you might as well bring in a SOMEBODY." Conventional
wisdom was that JJ was a winner, so I swallowed the
distaste and sat back to see what would happen.
But just WHO is Jimmy Johnson? A quick career recap for
folks who don't know JJ pre-Dallas or pre-UM. JJ started his
coaching career right after he graduated from college. His
first twelve years were a climb up the ladder:
'65 - D line coach at Louisiana Tech.
'66 - Asst. coach at Picayune High School (job at FSU fell
'67 - D line coach at Wichita State.
'68 - DC at Iowa State
'70 - D line coach at Oklahoma
'73-'76 - DC at Arkansas
Hmmm. So far, a picture of a man with a plan. Staying on at
each job just long enough to master it. Constantly moving
up. Can you see where the image of football mercenary might
Let's take a look at the next 17 years, during which JJ made
it to the "top".
'77 - Asst. head coach and DC at Pitt.
'79 - Head coach, Oklahoma State, 30-25-2.
'84 - Head coach, Miami
'87 - Wins national championship at UM.
'89 - Head coach, Dallas Cowboys. 1-15
'90 - Improvement, 7-9
'91 - More improvement, 11-5
'92 - On to the Big Show, 13-3, SB win.
'93 - One more time! 12-4, SB win, big fight with the OTHER
'94 - JJ discovers TV.
'96 - JJ comes "home" to Miami and the head coaching job for
our beloved 'phins.
So, we have a picture of a young man who, after being
selected All SWC as a D lineman and helping his team win the
National Championship, graduated from Arkansas with a
degree in psychology. He then apparently decided to
become, not only a football coach, but an NFL head coach.
Oh, and a couple of national championships and SB titles in
the process would be just dandy, thank you. Kudos to you,
JJ. I can't think of too many folks who have accomplished
exactly what they set out to do, at the cost of all else, with
such single-minded dedication or devotion to purpose. Why'd
you have to go and change on us, JJ? More on this thought
in a bit.
So, in '96, in came Jimmy. Super Bowl winning Jimmy. Draft
guru Jimmy. Trade-God Jimmy. You remember, don't you? I,
along with just about everyone else, figured that JJ was
going to be the guy who could push our under-achieving
squad to the top. Hell, he even had the confidence to say
that he could do it in three years.
Four years later, here we are. New head coach. The broom is
sweeping furiously and assistants are tumbling out the door
like dustballs. Dan is probably done and the team was no
closer to a SB run than it was 4, 8, 12 or 16 years ago.
How'd we come to this? Why couldn't JJ get it done? Wasn't
he supposed to be Mr. Fixit?
The board is now engaged in tearing itself apart between the
JJ camp and the Marino camp. Both sides say that their icon
is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, I talked about
Marino a bit in Part II and no one crucified me, so I'll push my
luck with thoughts about JJ. This oughta do the trick!
There are several arguments made about JJ, let's examine
them, shall we?
First, let's talk about JJ the coach. He's supposed to be all
that AND a bag of chips. His time at UM and Dallas proves
that, right? Maybe not. Let's look at the other side of the
argument and take it step by step.
The UM years: Before JJ was the head coach at UM, he had
the job at OSU. He went 30-25-2 against the likes of
Oklahoma, Nebraska and the rest of the corn-fed
conference. A winning record but hardly stellar at 52%. He
did much better at UM but think about this for a minute. He
inherited a national championship team from Howard
Schnellenberger. Before Howard took UM to the Big Show,
UM was best known for baseball and being the beneficiary of
the Gator Flop. After the Big Show, recruiting was just a tad
easier, wouldn't you say? Anyway, JJ IS good and he took
UM to the Big Show himself. Where Joe Pa and the boys from
Happy Valley promptly handed him his head. He was
out-coached and his team was not prepared. Anyone
remember how the UM team embarrassed the state of Florida
by coming off the buses in cammies and spouting all that BS?
Joe's boys were in blazers and ties and had nothing but
respectful things to say about UM's abilities. Then they
punked UM. I'll give JJ credit, though. He closed out his
collegiate coaching career with a national championship. He
went back in '87 and got it right.
And then on to Dallas! His success there is legendary. Hell, it
MAY even get him into the HOF. Everyone knows what he
did. The turn around from 1-15 to 13-2 and the SB, twice.
But there's always a but. He inherited a team from Tom
Landry that went 7-9, 7-8 and 3-13 the three years before
he arrived. His first two years produced 1-15 and 7-9
records. Good draft positions will work wonders for a team.
Throw in a legendary trade with Minnesota and stir
vigorously! Bake at 350 for one year, add Charles Haley
and...we all know what happened then. But hindsight is
20/20 and it is now acknowledged that JJ ISN'T all that and a
bag of chips purely as a coach. Norv, Dave and various other
assistants have had a lot to say about JJ's success from his
earliest days on. If Footballfreak!!! will admit that JJ isn't all
that as a COACH, then what else is there to argue about?
JJ, Jerry Jones, that is, said in effect that anyone could have
coached those Dallas teams to a SB. Maybe he was right.
That team WAS good, which brings up another side of
At Dallas, JJ started with Irvin already on the team. Landry's
3-13 finish put him in position to draft Aikman (AND Walsh,
just in case). After going 1-15, he had the opportunity to
add Smith. The Minnesota deal gave him the keys to the
candy store. It's hard to miss everything when you have so
many chances to hit. And JJ did hit, you have to give him
that. But with all the picks to work with, HOW COULD HE
We now have history to show that JJ's draft success with
Dallas was a one hit wonder. His first rounders with Miami
have not paid dividends. Granted, no one could have seen Y.
Green getting hurt, and he may still develop, but Avery will
never be E. Smith. We've all been over the other first round
misses at Miami, no need to rehash. Thank God his mid-round
picks produced some gems.
Perhaps a blockbuster trade could have saved JJ's era in
Miami. Nope, no such luck. H. Wayne handcuffed him by
declaring Marino off-limits, the only player who had the
cachet to swing a mega-trade when JJ took over. IF JJ had
had free reign, who knows what would have happened? Lord
knows JJ isn't a Marino fan. And I don't think it's just
because Marino is a holdover from the Shula years or is an
icon in and of himself. Marino just doesn't fit into JJ's style of
football. I'm sure JJ WANTED to trade Marino but there was
no way H. Wayne was going to let his ticket draw leave
town. Perhaps a Marino trade would have done the trick.
Perhaps not. We'll never know.
That only leaves JJ the motivator, JJ the leader, JJ the team
builder. We all remember how JJ swaggered into town. If
anybody could motivate this team of underachievers and
push them to greatness, JJ could! But JJ didn't. He decided
he needed to start over and build according to his blueprint
and philosophy from Dallas. And that's what doomed him,
almost from the start.
First, he had to replace the deadwood and get under the
cap. Then he had to build a winner, and that's where his
nightmare began. In Dallas, he had an owner who held open
the treasury door and said, "Spend." No free agency. No
salary caps. In Miami, H. Wayne held open the door and said,
"Spend", too...but there was the cap and the FA situation to
deal with. Competing bids from other teams. Limits on how
much he could spend. Oh, the higher math! JJ overcame it,
sort of, but the product sure as hell wasn't of the same
quality as the one he produced in Dallas. Parity will do that
Then he took that product and used his tried and true
philosophy. Line up and just play. That's fine when your team
has ALL the best players. Free agency and the salary cap
ended that era. Now parity rules and EVERY team has a
SOMEBODY. You can't beat another team just on pure talent
when EVERYBODY has some of the talent. So what do you
do? You have to out-coach the other team. Well, we know
how that turned out. How many of JJ's assistants are now
unemployed? Has the count gone up again since I started
JJ the motivator would cut players for screwing up at Dallas.
Why is Brock Marion still here? Hmmmm. It's hard to cut folks
for mistakes when you can't replace them. It's even harder
to play head games about someone's job security when they
KNOW you can't afford to go get someone better. Unless, of
course, your name is Mark Dixon.
So, we have JJ coming into Part II of his NFL career
handcuffed by free agency, the salary cap and an owner
who declared the only legit trade bait as "off-limits". No
problem, I thought. JJ will trim here and there, get Dan some
tools and lead us on to greatness! So what happened? He
inherited a HOF QB who was in his prime and a team that had
some keepers among the deadwood. It wasn't THAT bad,
I think everyone knew that JJ was opinionated and stubborn,
but what possessed him to take the approach he did? If
someone gives you lemons, make lemonade. If you have a
HOF QB and a piss-poor running game, you THROW. What if
he had decided to build to complement Marino instead? Kept
Fryar. Kept Byars. Upgraded BOTH the D and the O at the
same time, in stages, instead of the initial emphasis on the
D? JJ is a talker. He had all of us AND H. Wayne sold. Think
he could have convinced one or two of the vets to take a
pay cut or restructure? We'll never know. Guys like Fryar,
Byars, Jackson, Vincent and Coleman went on to other teams
and did great things. While JJ gambled and missed, other
coaches didn't. Coughlin arrived. Shanahan reinvented
himself after the Oakland disaster. Parcells came to our
neighborhood, twice. JJ's good, but he was playing against a
The last thing I want to bring up before I end this is that JJ
himself is probably the biggest reason he didn't succeed.
Miami JJ is not Dallas JJ. Time has a way of changing folks
and JJ HAS changed. We saw from his early career and
meteoric rise that he was clearly a man on a mission. A
mission he accomplished when he won his first SB. The
second one was just gravy. Along the way, he let NOTHING
stop or distract him. It cost him his first family and God alone
knows what else.
How hungry could he have been at Miami? A national
championship. Two SB victories. A franchise HANDED to him.
At least Dallas was a challenge. Props to JJ for having the
courage to go in and try to replace a legend in Landry. And
with an owner who was from ARKANSAS. JJ at least is a
native born Texan but he went to school at Arkansas and
coached in Oklahoma. Texans think of Arkansans and
Oklahomans as sub-human. What he did took STONES. AND
HE PULLED IT OFF. Then, two years later, he tried it again.
And failed. He wasn't quite so young any more. He
remembered that he had children, children he didn't know
very well. He wanted a life with a new wife. He had an ailing
father. The final blow, I think, was when his mother died. JJ
became human and in the process, Miami lost any chance he
may have brought to town with him.
I have often said that I felt that JJ was the best coach
available for Miami when he was hired. After the past four
seasons and the research I did to write this, I'm no longer
sure. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but perhaps we would
have been better off with someone else, even someone who
failed immediately so that we could have started the
rebuilding sooner. JJ's tenure was successful like Shula's
years were...good but not quite good enough.
I hope that anyone who took the time to read this or any of
the other two parts got something out of it. I firmly believe
that the reasons why we're in the pickle we are right now
didn't start with Shula's demise, Marino getting old or JJ
losing his touch. I think it's the result of a LOT of things
going back 30 years. I hope I coherently wrote about those
things in Parts I, II and III. Here endeth the BOOK. Your
Part IV: Summary and Recent Events
OK, so here we are. One of the most successful sports
franchises, ever. Over the first 10 years of our history, a
text book example of how to take an expansion team from
cellar dweller to World Champion. So how do we explain the
last 24 years?
Don't get me wrong...we've been good, VERY good. Just not
good enough. I can't think of any other NFL franchise that
has been as successful for as long. One losing season in 30
years. Pretty good, neh?
But good doesn't earn you the Lombardi Trophy. We almost
had it in the strike year against the 'Skins, but almost only
counts in horseshoes and handgrenades. The SB against the
Niners was a blowout and showed us how far a
one-dimensional team will get against a balanced one. We
haven't had a realistic shot at winning through to the SB
So now, the 90's are over. Shula left. JJ left. Dan may leave
yet. The fans are screaming bloody murder and the owner is
starting to look nervous. We all know he hates it when his
sports franchises don't make enough money. Yes, I'm still
pissed at how he handled the Marlins.
After I posted the Book the first time, a lot of folks brought
up good points. I didn't want to re-write the whole thing and
revise, as Carreramia suggested because I wanted to keep it
true to the time I wrote it. I'm also stubborn and haven't
changed my mind a lot, either. LOL.
But here's a quick recap of each "chapter", my main thought
behind it at the time of writing, and any new thoughts.
Part I: Written right after the Wax in Jax. As stated,
originally a rebuttal to the more rabid "fans" who blamed
Shula for the 'phins not winning the SB every year. I don't
care what you think about the man...his last few years as
head coach can IN NO WAY take away from his career
achievements. The guy was the head coach of a winning
franchise for 26 years. 26. That's three "generations" of
football players. Other coaches get "burned out". The
"pursue other opportunities". Landry and Shula were
legendary in their tenures. To consistently turn out a
superior product, year after year, for a quarter of a
century...the only other guy who comes close in my book is
Joe Pa at Penn State. Period.
Shula's downfall was that he got old...or maybe
old-fashioned. Again, I don't think football the game (as it is
played on the field) passed him by. I think the evolution of
pro-football as big business did the trick. He wouldn't replace
Oliva-no-Defense because good 'ol Tom was one of his boys. That
kind of loyalty is passe today. Read the articles about Dungy
and the Bucs' management over the Mike Shula firing?
You can't run football the business the same today as in
1970. Shula's inability to deal with that and get the coaching
staff to adjust his game to modern conditions were a huge
part of his demise. The other was just human nature. He'd
been head coach for 26 years. How long do you work at
ANYTHING before it's time to retire? He was not young when
he left. He had to deal with new, younger athletes who had
a totally different attitude than the old, traditional blue collar
work ethic. He had a death in the family. He was just human.
Strange how history would repeat itself just a few years later
with a guy named JJ.
Part II: Put out quickly so that it wouldn't look like a Marino
eulogy in case he retired. Still no sign of that, I guess we'll
have to wait a little longer while this soap opera plays out.
What bothers me is how every Marino basher just
DESCENDED on the man like a pack of hyenas. Yes, he had a
horrible year, by Marino standards. If his name was Mirer,
Shuler, Dilfer or Leaf, folks would be saying "Eh, he can do
better. Who's that QB coach?"
Marino had a good year last year. His numbers actually went
UP in four categories THIS year (which allowed the clause in
his contract to kick in). He returned from a serious shoulder
injury. An injury that his line, you know, the one that can't
open a hole for Mini-Me or block my 82 year old Gramama?,
let happen. It's a minor miracle that Huard didn't get a
concussion behind this line. Anyway, he's nicked up, he plays
behind a "line" that's more like a line in the sand, uses a play
book that's even more pared down (is that possible?) than
last year's and the team chemistry is shot because of the
uncertainty around JJ, Dan, the media and who bought the
winning lotto ticket. But he puts in one bad year and HE"S
DONE!!!! NO MORE GAS!!!! HE TURNED INTO JOHNNY U.
OVERNIGHT!!! He didn't play well. That's a given. But please
don't conveniently forget about the 16 seasons he did. If
nothing else, this was an asterisk season. Injury. Team
turmoil. No offensive system to speak of. Christ, give the
man a break. It wasn't all his fault. Is he done? Maybe. I still
think he should hang 'em up. (It is hard to think about him
going out to the tune of 62-7, though). If he wants to come
to camp and compete for the job, fine. With the
understanding that he's not a sacred cow and CAN and WILL
be benched if that's what's right for the team at the time. If
he does come back, I don't think our back-ups are going to
beat him out, smarts-wise. But will the new system make use
of what Dan has best to offer? Huge question. Oh, BTW,
Freak? HE GAVE IT BACK. I hope you and H. Wayne feel
better! (Just playin' witcha.)
Part III: Put out while the "great assistant massacree" was
still going on. I still feel JJ was playing against a stacked
He was never the greatest X's and O's guy to begin with. At
least in Dallas he had the support staff. That couldn't be said
in Miami. Kippy couldn't hold Norv's jock...er, clipboard. Hill
was good, in a one-dimensional kinda way. darn, we pressed
good! Hopefully, Dave and Jim Bates will give our D a new
JJ inherited a Dallas squad that had benefitted from a couple
years of good draft positions and solid hits on players. He
added two more good drafts and an historic trade. He had
ammo for both sides of the ball. But he gutted a
cap-unfriendly team here instead of trying to pare here and
there and restructure contracts. I think most folks just
expected him to fine tune and MOTIVATE the team he
inherited. His gutting job cost him a season. The rebuild itself
was fairly successful...for the D side of the team. We have
the speed to run with anyone. We have some "names". Now
that Hill is gone and Bates is in, perhaps the D philosophy will
get the most out of the D on a consistent basis. At times,
we looked great. At others, we looked lost. I'd say the real
Dolphin D is somewhere in the middle and a lot closer to
great, given the right coaching and philosophy.
On the O side, the 'phins are just a shell of the offensive
machine we used to be. Our O line is pathetic. Once upon a
time, at least it pass-blocked well. Marino had all day in the
pocket and went what, almost two years without a sack,
once? Now it can't get out of it's own way. Brown played
well for the Jets. What, it's too hot here or something? Webb
has declined. That's to be expected. He's been playing a long
time. But how much is also due to his being generally PO'd
about how his contract is handled? Missing camp doesn't
help, that's for sure. Gogan was playing in the wrong position
for several games, then had to rotate with Donalley. Ruddy is
a great technician who spends a lot of time picking himself
up from the turf. Oy, vey! And with this JJ wanted to
establish a dominant running attack. And my Gramama will be
next year's rushing leader with the Browns.
Was it pride? A lack of raw material and money to build a
proper line? Both? Who knows. We blame Shula for not being
able to adapt and get the proper assistants to improve the
team. Yet JJ inherits a play-off team geared to pass, with a
HOF QB in his prime...and decides to run the ball. After he
guts the existing line. And releases or drives out the best
offensive players. Hmmmm. OK. It'll be a long term kind of
thing. This retooling may take a while.
Except for one thing. JJ has never held a job ANYWHERE for
longer than four years. He's not a Shula or a Landry in terms
of sticking around. Instead of taking what the 'phins did best
and using Marino's last years productively, he did a 180
offensively. Tried to implement a system that was going to
take years to mature. Years he probably wouldn't be around
JJ, if you weren't going to use Marino, just why DIDN'T you
take the Tampa job? Ooops. I'm sorry. Did that sound bitter?
I had high hopes when JJ showed up. I truly believed that
the end of the "mediocre" Dolphins was at hand. But now we
have more questions than ever before.
So there you have it. An expansion club that rocketed to the
top through a blend of good players and a great coach. The
team easing into "merely good" mode when the first
"generation" of good/great players gradually left the game
and were replaced by merely "good" players (lack of drafting
skills and low draft position). The arrival of a superstar QB
who may or may not have actually hindered the team. The
embarrassing "retirement" of a coaching legend to make way
for another coaching legend. Who had no better luck. A fan
base who's favorite line is "Get rid of the bum" applied to
coaches and players alike. And now, more questions about
the head coach and the front office. Franchising Webb?
Keeping Ruddy? OH! THE DRAMA!
Is it just me, or are we cursed? How can a team that has
been so consistently good for so long...keep falling short for
so many different reasons? I don't know how to explain it. All
I know is that it surely wasn't just Shula or Dan or JJ. This
has been going on for a long time. The question is, how do
we turn the 26-year corner? 'Cause that's how long we've
languished. Always in the race, but never taken seriously. A
perennial appetizer for the other "real" playoff teams.
I suggested before that perhaps we could rebuild on the fly,
ala Buffalo. I take it back. Buffalo kept plugging along after
their SB runs, yes. But are they any closer to getting back
there? Truly? They sort of resemble us, actually. A little more
solid, of course, but now that Polian is gone, how much
longer can they keep replenishing the talent pool? B. Smith is
almost done. A. Smith can't hold Thurman's jock...er, helmet.
How much longer can they keep the key players? We're
targeting R. Brown. So is everyone else. See what I mean?
They've been to the playoffs just like us the past few years.
And lost in the first round.
Bring on a couple of 4-12 seasons. We need the picks.
What's a couple of more years after 26?
Sorry this took so long, guys. I'm sure I took a wrong turn
somewhere but I'm confident that the board will square me
away. OK, let's talk!