This week we had an opportunity to chat with Andrew Abramson of the Palm Beach Post. Andrew has close to a year as the Dolphins beat reporter and has covered the ups and downs of the Dolphins 2013 season. Andrew shared with us some insight on the aftermath of the Ted Wells report, where the Dolphins could look in the draft and in free agency, and if there could be a Dan Marino sighting in the Miami front office.
1. Despite what has been written in the Ted Wells Report, where do the Dolphins go from here? What are the lasting effects that could very well affect the Dolphins personnel-wise? Could this plague the Dolphins in the future when attracting free-agents?
The Wells report might be the most embarrassing chapter in Dolphins history, but it doesn’t have to be a franchise killer. This isn’t the NBA where players have guaranteed deals and can sign with the most popular team. The Dolphins will still attract quality free agents because there’s only so much money to go around in the NFL.
But this will hurt the Dolphins financially because fans are already fed up with a decade and a half of mediocrity and the Martin/Incognito saga is giving the fan base even less reason to be excited about the 2014 season. Only winning will bring fans back to Sun Life Stadium.
The Dolphins next move has to be bringing in high-character players who won’t do anything to further sully the franchise while figuring out a way to get the most out of this roster since the majority of the key players (offensive line withstanding) will return in 2014. The Dolphins completely lacked an identity last season and the coaching staff has to step up in a big way in 2014.
2. If you are GM Dennis Hickey, what do you do to fill the holes on the offensive line especially if Center Mike Pouncey is suspended? In other words, where does he start looking: draft or free agency?
With the possibility of four or even five vacant starting spots on the offensive line, it has to be a combination of free agency and the draft. The Dolphins have more cap room than all but six other NFL teams which should allow them to bring back cornerback Brent Grimes, re-sign either defensive tackle Paul Soliai or Randy Starks while adding a high-priced offensive lineman.
Although there are questions of whether the Dolphins should break out the check book to sign left tackle Branden Albert because of his age (30 in November) and past health issues, he’s a Pro Bowl tackle who will likely be available. Coach Joe Philbin was interested in trading for Albert last offseason, so you have to believe the Dolphins will give him a serious look.
It would be surprising if Miami doesn’t use its first round pick on an offensive lineman. A player like Notre Dame’s Zack Martin could work as a tackle or a guard. Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio could also be available. The Dolphins likely won’t be able to find a left tackle with the 19th pick that can excel immediately, although Michigan’s Taylor Lewan could possibly be a Week 1 starting left tackle if he drops that low.
Realistically the Dolphins can’t start more than two rookies on the offensive line, so they’ll have to find a reasonably priced guard on the market. And while I still don’t expect Jonathan Martin to return to the Dolphins, my odds of him competing for the right tackle spot in 2014 has jumped from 0 percent to 20 percent.
As for Pouncey, I figure he’ll be suspended somewhere from 4-to-8 games in 2014. Nate Garner can fill the center spot until Pouncey returns. It might not be ideal, but it doesn’t make sense for the Dolphins to sign a center. If they draft a center, it signals that Pouncey isn’t in their long term future. Despite Pouncey’s recent off-the-field issues, I still believe Miami wants him for the long haul.
3. What role does the committee formed by Stephen Ross with Dan Marino, Curtis Martin, and Jason Taylor play in the aftermath of the Ted Wells investigation?
Until I hear otherwise, I still see this as a PR move by the Dolphins. I do believe Ross wants to find every way possible to clean up the locker room. But will Marino, Martin, Taylor and others actually have the time and will to meet regularly and come up with meaningful change? We’ll see. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is talking to current and former players about locker room reform, so the league and Dolphins are serious about change. I’m just not sure if it’ll come from this committee so I remain in wait-and-see mode on this one.
4. What does head coach Joe Philbin bring to the Miami Dolphins franchise? Could he be the subject of further investigation by Stephen Ross and or the NFL?
At the moment Philbin is a NFL head coach with a career 15-17 record whose team had an embarrassing collapse at the end of the 2013 season – not to mention an even more humiliating locker room scandal.
Philbin came to Miami with the reputation of an offensive guru, yet the Dolphins’ offense is in the bottom third of the league. But Ross continues to believe in Philbin. There is no doubt he’s viewed around the league as a high-character coach and Ross sees something in Philbin that has convinced him Philbin deserves more time to turn the Dolphins around. If you’re looking for a positive, Miami was the least penalized team in the NFL in 2013 and Philbin has strived to minimize unnecessary penalties.
In terms of the Wells report, Philbin came out relatively unscathed, even as many outsiders continue to question how things got so out-of-hand under his leadership. I doubt he will be investigated any further. But Philbin needs to show progress on the field or else he’ll be just another post-Don Shula Dolphins coach who couldn’t get it done.
5. Football question: What are the positives heading into this offseason as quarterback Ryan Tannehill works with new OC Bill Lazor? What are the negatives heading into the offseason? What kind of players could be added to help Tannehill have more options and be put in position to put more touchdowns on the board?
Tannehill’s biggest weaknesses in 2013 were deep ball accuracy and pocket awareness. Can coaching make a difference in those areas? Maybe. One of Lazor’s top priorities should be taking advantage of Tannehill’s athleticism and running ability. That’s not to say Tannehill should become a “running quarterback.” But former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman went out of his way to keep Tannehill grounded.
Sherman’s logic was that Tannehill only had limited time as a college quarterback and he needed to develop his pocket presence. It was a flawed logic. Tannehill excelled at times last year when he scrambled out of the pocket, even if some of it was by necessity with a dysfunctional offensive line.
While Dolphins fans might be hoping that Lazor brings some elements of Philadelphia’s unusually high-tempo offense to Miami, the key to the Eagles’ success was balance. The Eagles had about a 50-50 pass-run split, and a successful (or even slightly above average) running game will take the pressure off of Tannehill.
The Dolphins are basically locked in at receiver for 2014, but Miami could really use a tight end with height. Charles Clay exceeded expectations last year, but he would be best paired with a tight end who can pluck the ball out of the air. Miami basically lacks any receiver with that ability.
6. One final question: Based on what you are hearing, how likely is it that Dan Marino comes back to Miami in an Elway type of role? What are the factors involved and could Stephen Ross make this happen? Who could push most for this to happen?
It's no secret that Dan Marino wants another shot at a front office job — he said it himself several months ago and it's been 10 years since his disastrous attempt to run the Dolphins front office.
There's no way Marino is going to get an Elway-like role with the Dolphins yet. He had that chance in 2004 and changed his mind after just three weeks on the job.
But it does seem like the perfect time for Marino to get some official role with the organization. He's unemployed after he was canned by CBS on Tuesday, and Dolphins fans want something to get excited about.
Hiring Marino would be a fan-friendly move for Ross and it could bring some credibility with free agents. The danger is that if the Dolphins struggle at all in 2014, new GM Dennis Hickey will lose any credibility he has with the fanbase and the public would be clamoring for a Marino promotion. Hickey's just getting started and does he really want the large looming figure of Marino breathing down his neck?
It's a risky move for Ross, but it might be tough for him to turn down Marino if he's willing to take an entry-level executive position.
We thank Andrew for his continued balanced reporting of the facts surrounding the Dolphins. We appreciate his follower loyalty and to be sure, please follow Andrew at the combine and throughout the offseason @AbramsonPBP .