You probably noticed I wasn't around the site too much this weekend. I used these last couple of days to really take a step back and look at the big picture of this Miami Dolphins team. Like all of you, I'm disappointed and frustrated with how this season has turned out. There's nothing worse than meaningless December football and the Dolphins are really teetering on the brink of that very situation.
With that said, allow me a few minutes to just share some random thoughts about this team, this season, and the future:
1. Dolphins face more questions now about their quarterback situation than they did this time last year. If nothing else, this season was supposed to really solve Miami's long-standing quarterback problem. The plan always was for Chad Henne to spend all offseason and training camp as the starting quarterback and then watch Henne lock up the starting job for years to come beginning in week one this year. But somewhere along the line, this plan failed.
As if his benching wasn't a problem enough considering the indictment the move was of Henne's performance this year, he then has a chance to redeem himself after Chad Pennington goes down only to suffer a knee injury himself. And while I'm not going to completely write off Tyler Thigpen yet (he really got no help from his line or receivers on Thursday night), I saw a little too much "John Beck-esque" play from Thigpen.
This now leaves the Dolphins in a terrible position. The franchise has got to figure out of Henne is the long-term answer at quarterback. I'll admit that I feel much more unsure about Henne now than I did entering the season. Of course, the longer Henne is out, the fewer the opportunities he has to prove he might be "the guy."
It's a shame Henne did suffer this knee injury because he was actually playing quite well when he came on to replace Pennington. He had a little bit of an "F--- You" swagger that afternoon against the Titans. Maybe that benching was the kind of stoking Henne needed. But if Henne doesn't get another shot this year to show something, then you have to imagine his long-term future in Miami is in question - especially with a couple of talented quarterbacks available in April's draft.
2. The offense stinks - and it's not all the quarterback's fault. Everybody likes to blame the quarterback when offenses struggle. But Miami's offensive ineptitude goes far beyond just quarterback play. Consider this sobering fact - eleven teams this week put more points on the board than the Dolphins' season high in points (29). And Miami remains the only team yet to top 30 points in a game. All of that does not fall on the quarterback.
3. It's time for Dan Henning to go. It's that simple. I'm sure most Dolphin fans would agree with me. I don't really know who should replace him. I haven't given that much thought. But by spending my Sunday flipping from game to game, I came away with two observations.
First - the Dolphins have to be one of the worst teams in terms of play-calling in the league. It seems like every other team I watched play on Sunday had some perfectly timed play calls. And two - why can't the Dolphins receivers be as open as some of these other receivers in the league? Is it because Miami's receivers just aren't as talented - or as fast? Maybe. But I also think some blame has to go to the route tree that Henning's offense utilizes. Why don't the Dolphins use slants often? When was the last time a slot receiver ran a seam route down the field? Or how about the deep 15 yard out? I don't know - maybe I'm just naive.
4. The Dolphins are going to draft a running back this year. And it's likely going to be a speed back - something this offense lacks. The only question is if they will use an early, mid, or late round pick on one.
5. It is somewhat amazing to me that Miami's interior offensive line has struggled so much despite our head coach's specialty being the offensive line. Those who are not fans of Tony Sparano will point to this fact as an indictment on his ability to be a head coach in this league. While I wouldn't go that far, I can't help but wonder about the decisions made by Sparano and this front office regarding the interior line - cutting two starters from a year ago only to see the unit take a step back from where they were last year. I do want to point out, though, that we should not underestimate the loss of Nate Garner. How beneficial would a guy of his skill and versatility have been to this offensive line right now?
6. Bold statement of the week: I have a feeling that Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams will not be back in Miami in 2011. Crazy thought? I don't think so. What do either of these two do that the Dolphins can't get from younger backs at this point in their careers? (And note I'm a huge Ronnie fan)
7. Mike Nolan's defense is not the problem. He's helped this defense play much better than Paul Pasqualoni's unit a year ago. The 2010 version has shaved 40 yards per game and 4 points per game off of their 2009 numbers - despite allowing a higher percentage of third downs to be converted. And these improvements were made while the defense got much younger - with first-year starters at both outside linebacker positions and at free safety. If there's one thing I'm relatively happy with, it's the fact that this Miami defense is going to be a very good unit for a number of years.
8. Cameron Wake is a beast. That's all I really need to say. We all know that his 9.5 sacks is second most in the league. But did you know that he's also second in the league in tackles for a loss with 9?
9. Dan Carpenter is indeed worthy of the DC$ nickname. He's 22 of 25 on field goals, including a perfect 12 for 12 inside of 40 yards. Even more impressive might be his 3 of 4 from 50+ yards out. His 75% success rate is tied for best in the league among kickers with at least 3 attempts. And not to be overlooked are Carpenter's kickoffs. They average traveling 66.9 yards per kick - tied for 12th best in the league and over a three yard improvement from last year. His 20% touchback rate is a big improvement over his 8% rate from a year ago. In only his third season, DC$ should only get better.
10. What about all of the Bill Parcells misses? I watched that NFL Network documentary on Bill's career and I didn't hear them mention, for example, the selection of Pat White in the second round. Nor did they discuss picking Phillip Merling with the 32nd pick of 2008. They failed to mention this regime's inability to find a legitimate second tight end to replace David Martin (despite the list of guys who Miami could have drafted in 2010). And it's looking like taking Jared Odrick and Koa Misi over Dez Bryant might have been another missed opportunity.
Those are just some of the misses by this front office since Bill Parcells got to Miami. I'm not here to say his tenure has been a failure. This franchise is better off now than it was when he got here. But this franchise only had one direction to go after that 1-15 season. What Parcells did not do in Miami - and hasn't done in many years - was build a title contender. And that is something Bill has not done in a long time.