It's been nearly three years since Greg Camarillo's 64 yard catch and run against the Ravens prevented the Dolphins from becoming the first team in NFL history to go 0-16. But three full offseasons later, the Dolphins are now facing a December of meaningless football and quite possibly as many questions as they faced following the '07 season.
Let's discuss some of these questions that need answering and some of the voids that this football team needs to fill.
General Manager and Coaching Staff
Let me start this off by openly declaring that I hope head coach Tony Sparano returns. You can criticize his use of poor usage of timeouts and question his decisions along the interior offensive line all you want. After all, he was supposed to be an offensive line guru. But that unit clearly regressed this year thanks to personnel decisions that I'm sure he had a hand in.
With that said, the one thing you can't deny is that Sparano's players like playing for him. He does a great job of getting maximum effort out of his players. He controls the locker room. And I'm just not ready to blame Tony for this team's disappointing season.
There are three people I do want to put the blame on - other than the players, of course - and one of them is no longer part of the organization. Yes, I'm referring to Bill Parcells - who cowardly jumped ship before it really sank. I guess his suddenly "reduced role" should have been a clue that things weren't going as well as we all hoped heading into the season. But the way he's been able to avoid any of the blame for the mess that this team is in baffles me.
There's a reason why a Parcells team has not won a playoff game in over a decade. Now we know why - he's clearly not the personnel genius that people want to make him out to be, or that he once was.
That brings me to general manager Jeff Ireland and offensive coordinator Dan Henning. I'm not even going to waste time on Henning. We all know he needs to go. He may not be the entire problem - but he's certainly part of the problem. Whether Henning is fired or he retires, he's most likely gone after the season.
Ireland, though, is who I'm torn on. Owner Stephen Ross is going to have to decide if he wants to give Ireland one more offseason to turn things around - now without having to answer to Parcells. If Ireland gets one more year, that would be fine with me. If he doesn't, I'd be fine with that as well.
Of course, if Ireland was to go, would that mean Sparano would go as well?
This is obviously where it all starts this offseason. Tony Sparano said on Monday that there's going to be some decisions to make following the season regarding the future of Chad Henne and the quarterback situation in Miami:
"At the end of the year we’ll have to sit down from our standpoint and re-evaluate the whole big pictur. I do think this guy is getting better, (but) we’re going to have to evaluate everything at the end of the year."
That is what I call a warning shot. Henne is now on notice. He has four more games to make a case to remain the starting quarterback of this team. But even four strong showings probably won't help Henne avoid at least some kind of competition next year for the starting job.
The question now is really who Henne will be competing with. Will it be a rookie whom the Dolphins will spend a high draft pick on? Will it be a veteran they acquire in some way?
I'm very much ready to move on from Henne if those making the decisions feel that it is also time. But there has to be a suitable replacement. No retreads. No band-aids. No aging veterans.
With that said, would the current regime - meaning Ireland and Sparano - be willing to take a chance developing another young quarterback? Would they even still be around to see through the quarterback's development? I'm not sure this current regime would survive the cultivating of another rookie quarterback - which makes me wonder if starting over from scratch from the GM on down might actually be the best idea.
As you can tell, I'm not really sure anything regarding the general manager, coaching staff (outside if Mike Nolan, whom the Dolphins are lucky to have), and quarterback. Luckily, I don't get paid to make those decisions. And I don't envy those that do.
Here's what I am sure of, though. I'm sure that the Dolphins need serious upgrades at the following positions:
Running Back - The Dolphins have some decisions to make as all of their running backs are free agents after the season. I'd expect one of the big two - Ronnie Brown or Ricky Williams - to be back. But this team needs a speedy running back who can be a game-breaker because none of Miami's current backs are.
Guard and Center - The Dolphins can't run the football and you can't just blame the running backs for the team's 3.8 yard-per-carry average. Joe Berger is a below-average starting center who is a bad run blocker. And all of the team's guards have serious weaknesses. A healthy Nate Garner will be a plus next year. But if the Dolphins don't improve the team's interior blocking, their running game will be doomed again.
Outside Linebacker - Cameron Wake is a monster and is probably the team's MVP. But the Dolphins get no pressure from the other outside linebacker spot. Koa Misi has a great motor but has shown little in the pass rush. And Ike Alama-Francis is nothing more than a guy who can set the edge. A legitimate strong side linebacker would really take this top ten defense to another level.