Q: The Dolphins are going nowhere for the next several years, so why not trade Zach, Chambers, and Jason Taylor NOW while you can get some good draft choices for them and start rebuilding?
A: The NFL's trading deadline passed last week. Plus, it would be almost impossible to deal any of those players at this point because it would trigger mass salary acceleration into the Dolphins' already-tight cap.
Of the three aforementioned players, Thomas is the player who I think would be most likely to go in 2006 because of a combination of age (34 next September), salary ($5.65 million in 2007) and the possibility the Dolphins could target a cheaper replacement either in the draft or free agency.
Q: Why do the Dolphins wait to make adjustments? Jason Taylor was dominating early, so the Packers started moving Brett Favre around and having him throw short, quicker passes. Doesn't it seem like the Dolphins are inept at making adjustments on the fly?
A: Let's look at the big picture here. The Dolphins' defense had quality efforts against Buffalo and New England, performed adequately against Tennessee and Houston, and was disappointing against Pittsburgh, the New York Jets and Green Bay. I don't know if adjustments are the problem so much as not having talented enough players at some spots, especially in the secondary, to effectively execute the plays being called.
As for Green Bay's adjustment to Taylor, the decision to move the pocket and provide more double teams was effective. The latter, though, should have provided a coverage edge to the Dolphins with Green Bay having one less receiver running a pass pattern. Favre only completed a modest 54.3 percent of his passes but threw two touchdowns with no interceptions.
Q: Is it time for the Brady Quinn countdown?
A: An intriguing question, especially if the Dolphins remain on track for landing the first pick in April's draft. When the Dolphins selected at No. 2 in 2005, there were no quarterbacks worthy of being chosen that high. Quinn, a standout at Notre Dame, shows all the signs of potentially being the 2007 draft's top choice.
Hypothetically, if the Dolphins selected at No. 1, would the Dolphins tab Brady as their long-term answer at quarterback and essentially strip Daunte Culpepper of that status? Or will Joey Harrington impress enough this season that he remains a starter indefinitely? We'll know the answers soon enough if the Dolphins keep losing.
Q: We need to quit making excuses for this lousy team. The whole team needs a makeover. The coaching is terrible, and there is no discipline on this team. When will Nick Saban start being held accountable?
A: Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga isn't about to make an immediate change after making such a heavy investment in Saban. I expect Saban to have at least another season to get the Dolphins turned around before Huizenga would even entertain a coaching switch.
Q: Don't you disagree with Nick Saban when he said the mistakes the team is making aren't coachable? His receivers are using wrong techniques when catching the ball - or I should say attempting to catch the ball. How is this not coachable?
A: Obviously, some of the lessons being conveyed by the assistant coaches aren't being executed. Especially alarming are the large number of drops (17 through seven games) and penalties (46 for a whopping 414 yards) that are avoidable through better discipline. Saban and his staff particularly position coaches Derek Dooley (tight ends) and Charlie Baggett (wide receivers) -- are ultimately responsible for correcting the problems and winning games.
Saban came across as frustrated when doing what some have perceived as scapegoating his players for the team's current difficulties. Saban clarified the point he was trying to make during his Monday news conference.
"I think what I was trying to make a point of is that we want to be able to make corrections," Saban said. "That's important that we do that. We want to do it. It's like when I'm asked the question, 'Are you wondering why?' If you start wondering why sometimes, it makes you wonder, 'How are we going to get this done?'
"Well, we have to know the process. They have to believe in the process. We have to work on it to do it together. I'm not pointing any fingers. I think everybody has tried to get me to point the finger at somebody at some point in time and I refuse to do it. We don't want players to mess up and we're going to coach everything that we know so that they don't mess up. That's what we're going to continue to do. Everybody's question is, 'If you're doing all of that, why does it continue to happen?' Then everybody wants to point a finger and try to say, 'It's your fault. It's my fault.'
"I say it's my fault, ok? (It's) nobody else's fault because if I said it's somebody else's fault, then I'm pointing the finger. I can't win this one, so it's my fault. You understand?"
Q: How could Randy McMichael do so well his first four seasons and then turn in a stinker?
A: That's a great question, especially considering McMichael had dedicated himself to the Dolphins' offseason workout program more so than at any point previously in his five-year NFL career. Clearly, McMichael has committed a season's worth of crucial drops already and is seemingly pressing too hard to try and produce in the passing game. His whiff when blocking blitzing Packers cornerback Charles Woodson also was a major blunder on a day McMichael would like to forget.
But while McMichael could play better, don't forget that he leads all NFL tight ends with 31 catches for 346 yards and is emerging as a more prominent part of the offense since Harrington replaced Culpepper.
Q: Please tell me Mike Mularkey won't be back next season?
A: Mularkey's future is an intriguing topic (and one that I unfortunately can't present from his standpoint because of Saban's policies barring assistant coaches from speaking with the media). Although their styles are different, I initially thought there would be little drop-off between production under Mularkey and former coordinator Scott Linehan. As the St. Louis Rams and Dolphins have shown, obviously that isn't the case. Mularkey preached to his players about being a physical power-running team but has instead opted for a pass-first approach that has resulted in running back Ronnie Brown receiving 17 or fewer carries in five of seven games. Mularkey also got too cute with his play-calling early in the season with ill-advised gadget plays for a unit that still had problems finding its "bread-and-butter" plays that would work on a consistent basis. Harrington has done a better job running Mularkey's offense than Culpepper but that hasn't paid dividends on the scoreboard. I imagine Mularkey will be subject to a stringent postseason evaluation from Saban, who showed he isn't afraid to change coordinators if a perceived upgrade is available a la the offseason hiring of Dom Capers to replace Will Muschamp and Richard Smith running the Dolphins defense.
Q: With this being a lost season, are there any diamonds in the rough that we don't know about that could make an impact if given a chance?
A: Wide receiver Derek Hagan and free safety Jason Allen are the only rookies currently receiving playing time, although Marcus Vick may eventually have the chance to contribute as a receiver and returner. It doesn't appear that young offensive linemen Joe Berger and Anthony Alabi are in line for playing time yet, while Saban has opted to stick with his veteran defensive linemen rather than give novice defensive tackles Fred Evans and Kevin Vickerson some snaps. With the Dolphins only allowed to keep 46 players active on game-day, it's often difficult for a reserve to score action if playing at a position with quality depth.
Q: Alex, thanks for your insight each week. My question is how could a guy like Saban who came through the college ranks have back-to-back terrible drafts?
A: I wouldn't describe the 2005 draft as terrible with the selection of three starters (Brown, linebacker Channing Crowder and cornerback Travis Daniels), one contributor (defensive end Matt Roth) and two reserves still in the developmental stage (Alabi and Vickerson). The jury is still out on the Class of 2006, whose members have largely failed to make a significant contribution so far. Jason Allen (pictured) has been used sparingly after being taken 16th overall.
Overall, Saban has yet to unearth the same kind of difference-making talent that Jimmy Johnson did when stocking the Dolphins from 1996 to 1998 with such future Pro Bowl selections as Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain. That is especially disappointing considering Saban had better familiarity with the talent in the past two drafts than arguably any other NFL coach from having spent 1995 to 2004 in the college ranks.
Q: Why is no one placing any blame on GM Randy Mueller?
A: Mueller is somewhat insulated from criticism because Saban has the final say on personnel decisions. Saban also has muzzled his general manager from speaking with the media. The Dolphins added several players who had a history with Mueller in New Orleans during the offseason with varying results. Linebacker Sedrick Hodge failed to stick even with the team's suspect depth at the position, while late signing Kendyl Jacox has proven a versatile backup at guard and center. Otherwise, it's difficult from a distance to differentiate between which acquisitions were championed by Saban or Mueller.
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