After several seasons as one of the league’s most underwhelming teams, and after a long run where South Florida’s professional football team struggled with legitimacy and stability, the Miami Dolphins have finally figured out how to fix things. They will appear on “Hard Knocks,” a show that features only the most desirable and interesting NFL franchises (or, if those teams all said no, the Dolphins).
Bill Parcells! The erstwhile Tuna. You know the guy, he has worked for every single NFL franchise in existence, just searching for more kickers to belittle and psychologically assault. Anyway, he was most recently running the football operations of the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are bitter rivals of the New York Jets, one of the many spots where Parcells used to work.
The Dolphins, a team Parcells helped mold, are at home for the second straight postseason; the Jets, a team he hasn’t worked for in a decade, are in their second straight AFC title game. You might think Parcells would have nothing to say this week. You’d be wrong! He wants to make sure you know he told the Jets to hire Rex Ryan, and he totally would have hired Ryan if not for his relationship with Tony Sparano. And that whole thing where he was working for the Dolphins but giving the Jets crucial hiring advice? That’s just the way football is played. But please, please pay attention to Bill Parcells. If the Steelers make the Super Bowl, expect Parcells to let everybody know he seriously considered drafting Ben Roethlisberger, and also he literally birthed Mike Tomlin and Troy Polamalu.
Since they failed in the Jim Harbaugh sweepstakes, Miami decided that what they’ve been doing for the last three seasons might be good enough. They’ve signed Tony Sparano to an extension through 2013, adding two years to his current contract. Because when you have a mustachioed head coach who has missed the playoffs for two seasons in a row, and you have no faith in him but can’t find another coach, you have to extend him for two years because that’s just what you do in Miami. He gets some say over personnel decisions, while his salary remains in the same $2.8 million range, so when he’s fired after 2011 or 2012 they don’t have to pay him an exorbitant fee after hiring Jon Gruden.
And this is how the Dolphins will remain a decent team — not great, not bad, just good enough to hover near .500 and not pick up any high draft picks — for the next couple of seasons.
So, now it looks like the Dolphins won’t be getting Jim Harbaugh as their highly-paid new coach. They’ve gone back to Tony Sparano, who was under contract for next season anyhow. Of course, he can’t be feeling the love from the Dolphins right now, nor any semblance of job security. (As the Sun-Sentinel puts it, even if they offer him an extension through 2012, it’d just be “the NFL’s version of the “Baby, I’m so sorry” ring Kobe gave Vanessa.”)
Meanwhile, get excited for Dolphins football next year and beyond! Ricky Williams is probably gone, they have no faith in their head coach, they still haven’t solved the decade-long quarterback problem and they retained the general manager who constructed the roster that was problematic in the first place.
The Miami Dolphins are apparently really serious about this Jim Harbaugh thing.ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Miami owner Stephen Ross, alongside general manager Jeff Ireland, headed west to meet with Harbaugh this morning. Per Mort, the Fins are “willing to make Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in the NFL, which would place his salary in the $7-to-$8-million range.”
There are several problems here. The first and most obvious one is that Tony Sparano is still the head coach of the team, he’s still under contract and owed $3 million for the 2011 season. There’s also the Rooney Rule, which requires that NFL teams interview minorities for head coaching openings, but that’s almost meaningless because the Dolphins can knock that out with a perfunctory meeting with Todd Bowles or something. (The rule is good in spirit, but like so many things, it winds up doing nothing because teams want who they want.) And Harbaugh can also consider coaching the 49ers or Broncos, not to mention Michigan, to say nothing of Stanford.
There’s also this: we’ve been here before, haven’t we? A highly-touted college coach ready for the next level. Big offers coming in. A franchise desperate to compete. Six years ago, it was Miami hiring Nick Saban. It was a colossal bust, as almost all college coaches-turned-NFL-coaches are. Sure, there are exceptions (in the modern era, their name is Jimmy Johnson). Sure, Harbaugh’s quasi-nemesis Pete Carroll has a playoff spot in his first season coaching Seattle (with a losing record). Sure, Harbaugh is the new hotness and if he’s the big coach on the market, Miami wants to take a look. But Miami is still recovering from the Saban years. And this all feels very, very familiar.
Ricky Williams, the Miami Dolphins running back and endlessly interesting enigma wrapped in a mystery and shrouded in weirdness, is probably done with the team. He had some less than pleasant things to say about head coach Tony Sparano, star wide receiver Brandon Marshall, the team’s quarterback situation and, generally, the entire operation.
Of course, if the Dolphins are legitimately in the running to hire Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh, the coach everybody wants right now, it could be a different story. For what it’s worth — and this really says very little but, hell, it’s worth noting — Stanford has ranked in the top 31 rushing teams the last three seasons. Even after losing Toby Gerhart, they were a top 20 team on the ground.
The fact that Williams has been with the Fins since 2002 is astonishing. Sure, there was the drug suspension and the stint playing in Canada and the injury that knocked him out for a season. But the point is, when he was playing in the NFL, he was playing for Miami, and that kind of longevity from a dude that unique and fascinating is something.
I hope he stays. He’s 34, so he clearly has lean years ahead in terms of playing ability. But he is a truly fascinating individual and does still have some skill as a player. In a league full of boring, robotic superstars (Brady, Manning), creeps (Roethlisberger, Ray Lewis, Donte Stallworth), gaping chasms of self-aggrandizement embodied by an unending ego (Favre) and all of the other issues, both public and private, it’s nice having one guy who just seems so damn different.
Bill Parcells has cleaned out his office at the Davie headquarters of the Miami Dolphins. This is being termed a “leave of absence,” but does anybody really think he’s coming back? Parcells stepped aside and ceded full organizational control to general manager Jeff Ireland on Sept. 7, but he’d been coming into the office every day since then, according to the Miami Herald.
He signed a four-year deal with the Dolphins in December 2007 while the team was limping towards a 1-15 record, cleaned house, set up Ireland and coach Tony Sparano and generally turned the Fins back into a legitimate football franchise. He also signed a deal allowing him to leave at any time and still get paid his $12 million, so there was always the lingering question of when the Tuna would swim off (Eh? Eh? Ugh, sorry) to his next gig.
Interestingly, there’s no place on the horizon for Parcells to set up shop. The potential labor stoppage means any work he’d do might get postponed or negated, and does a 69-year-old Parcells really want to sign a deal and wait around to see how things shake out?
It’s also notable that a source told the Herald: “Bill is a football guy. When it gets into the hands of the lawyers and the owners, it’s not football. And that bothers him. Right now, he wants nothing to do with that.” Except football is being played right now, and the labor stoppage isn’t going to touch the 2010 season, so why depart now? There are rumors of friction with the new ownership, which makes sense. Or it could come back to the potential 2011 lockout, and Parcells simply doesn’t want to waste time preparing the team for 2011 if there will be no football in 2011. We’ll see if he comes back to help the Fins with the 2011 draft.