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  Thereís Only One Solution for These Dolphins
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Itís become a tiresome affair, these Dolphins. Once again on the wrong side of .500. Once again with a slow start. Once again with trouble scoring points. And now, shockingly, trouble with stopping others from doing the same.

It was supposed to be different. 2007 was never supposed to happen again, a virtual impossibility under a Bill Parcells-built organization. After all, the coaches are different and the front office has been almost completely turned over. So has the roster as only four players remain from that 1-15 season: Yeremiah Bell, Vernon Carey, Brandon Fields, and Paul Soliai.

So why hasnít the current regime realized more success?

Simply put, their organizational formula and philosophy hasnít been properly executed. It should be working, but it isnít. The reasons are many, yet the current state is nevertheless a painful and disheartening reality for a team that desperately needs consistency and stability in leadership. Another regime change is the last thing this team needed.

Now after four seasons of effort, only one of which was a success, the next step for this organization is all too clear: Owner Stephen Ross must clean house.

This means Jeff Ireland and Tony Sparano, together, should go. Because the first guy hasnít done a very good job of finding players, especially with high draft picks and via free agency, and the second hasnít done a very good job of making them better.

I donít offer the above paragraph in a rage of emotion, nor do I derive any joy or satisfaction from the words. I genuinely like both men. Ireland is a bright and respected football man with good bloodlines. Sparano has a lot of Shula in him, a quality I greatly admire. Both should be enjoying a lot more success than they have since that historic 2008 campaign.

But neither man can honestly claim that theyíve done a good job since. And neither can legitimately hide behind Parcellsí shadow. Not any longer. They own these stinking Dolphins lock, stock, and barrel. They are wholly accountable for this product.

If there are two things that give me pause in judging these two good men so harshly, itís that the lockout clearly had the adverse effect I expected it would, and that Ross compromised Sparanoís credibility during the offseason when he went off courting Jim Harbaugh. And there was no undoing either of those events, to which we should make due note.

We know Ross was a blockhead, but why is the lockout still an issue? Again, itís because the new offensive system is still not fully mastered; we continue to see too many mistakes, one of which arguably lead to QB Chad Henneís shoulder injury versus the Chargers. Itís because there are more than a few conditioning related injuries, mostly to legs, that donít happen when players are participating in a full offseason of team supervised work. And itís because new players on both sides of the ball are thinking way too much, leading to reduced reaction times (i.e. being out of position) and broken plays.

These are burdens that a team in transition, like the Dolphins, can ill afford to absorb. Not when more stable franchises like the Patriots and the Packers arenít skipping a beat.

Still, the sum of what weíve seen from this team really goes beyond the lockout. Because when players en masse arenít playing to their talents, for whatever reasons, it is an indication of a pervasive culture of complacency and indifference. This is what happens when players stop buying in, and thatís the death sign that a regime has lost the organization. And changing the culture was a top priority of this regime!

They didnít get the job done, so Ireland and Sparano need to go. And a new leadership team will replace them and flush out the players who simply donít have a place on a championship contender.

These actions can (and will) go down at the end of the season, because as with Cam Cameron in 2007, thereís no point in doing it sooner as midseason corrections usually fail.

So what about the rest of 2011? What can we expect?

Firstly, I think we will see young players get more of a chance to prove themselves. Guys like CB Jimmy Wilson, WR Clyde Gates, and RB Daniel Thomas should see more snaps. Theyíre young and eager to perform, and that energy can be infectious. Thomas needs to shake off the injury bug however, as great players must be counted on all the time.

Secondly, I think we will see a re-simplification of the playbook. If the coaches can just get the players to do a few things well, it will create a better foundation for success later in the season. Right now, the players are not doing very many things consistently well. Thatís a teaching and learning problem.

Thirdly, I think we will see a continuation of the injury bug. This is not a well-conditioned team, top to bottom, and players who are tentative and donít go at full speed tend to be injured more easily. We saw this in 2007, weíll see it again as 2011 progresses.

Finally, we will see the true competitive character of the players on hand. It isnít in victory that you best judge a manís character, but in defeat. Who has the will, the spirit, the determination, and the pride to go full out in a season that has no hope of lasting past New Years Day? Those are the men the Dolphins want to be a part of their future.

 
     
   
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