SCHEDULING NOTE: NO BLOG ON NEW YEAR’S EVE, NEW YEAR’S DAY, OR JANUARY 2. WILL RETURN FRIDAY, JANUARY 3 WITH THE LATEST AND GREATEST, ALONG WITH MY PICKS FOR THE FIRST ROUND OF NFL PLAYOFF GAMES.
I wish all of you a very Happy New Year and may 2014 be better than 2013.
After losing yesterday to the New York Jets, the Miami Dolphins will, once again, be watching the NFL playoffs on TV. The 20-7 loss yesterday started an avalanche that saw the San Diego Chargers clinch the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC, as the Baltimore Ravens also lost. More on the playoffs later.
Back to the Dolphins. They will have the whole offseason to ponder what could have been, and possibly what should have been. It was another disappointing season, as this team continues to flounder right around the .500 mark. In reality, they are much below what we should consider an average team. This offensive squad managed to score only SEVEN points in their last two games, against the Bills, playing with their backup QB, and the Jets, who are even more offensively-challenged than the Dolphins. To put their offensive futility in better perspective, the Dolphins managed to score only ONE TOUCHDOWN in their last 25 offensive series of the season. The defense, which was supposedly much-improved, yielded monster rushing numbers in their final two games against the Bills and Jets. The vaunted pass rush recorded only two sacks in their final three games.
Who is going to answer for this? Will this finally be the season that Jeff Ireland has to shoulder the blame? Will the axe fall on Head Coach Joe Philbin? Will the offensive and defensive coordinators be shown the door? Are any of the position coaches safe?
The sad reality is that I honestly feel that this team is not that far away. They managed to lose four games by less than four points this season: A three-point loss to the Ravens, a two-point loss to the Bills, a three-point loss to Tampa Bay, a four-point loss to the Carolina Panthers were all games that could have gone in the Dolphins’ favor. Just one win in those four contests, and the Fins would be playing next week. BTW, last season the Dolphins lost five games by seven points or less.
The bottom line is that the responsibility has to fall first on the GM, who gets the players that go on the field. The head coach has to be able to put the players that he is given in a position to win. Jeff Ireland hasn't had any success in stocking the roster with talent. He continues to miss on draft day, as evidenced by this year’s first round pick, Dion Jordan. The Fins selected him with the #3 pick in the draft, after trading up to get him, when it was obvious to everyone but Ireland that the Dolphins needed help on the offensive side of the ball. Jordan had only two sacks all year in very limited playing time. Consistently missing on high-round draft picks is unacceptable.
What’s going to happen is anyone’s guess. Owner Stephen Ross gave Ireland millions to spend, and all it got the team was one more victory than the year before. That tells me that it is time for Ireland to go. I don’t believe that Ross has any other option but to finally fire Ireland. Anything other than firing Ireland is not acceptable.
In regard to the coaches, I truly believe that Joe Philbin worked miracles this season keeping this team together, after the much-publicized distraction involving two starters on the offensive line, Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito. Unfortunately, he could not get his players to respond when they had everything to play for the last two weeks of the season and instead choked against to inferior teams in their division, where the Dolphins managed to go 2-4. That is also unacceptable, and could end up costing Philbin his job. He doesn't come across as a vocal leader of men, although he is steady, consistent, and brings stability. However, that steadiness, consistency, and stability shouldn't translate to a record around .500. Ireland’s failures may end up giving Philbin a little more time, even though it wouldn't shock me to see the team just go in another direction altogether.
In all probability, however, the team will probably keep Philbin, but he will probably have to return without offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Will Sherman resign and go away quietly or will Philbin be forced to fire his friend and mentor? This team averaged less than 20 points per game, and couldn't figure out a way to run the ball or protect QB Ryan Tannehill, who was sacked 58 times this season, a Dolphins team record. Mike Wallace gave the Fins the deep threat they desperately needed, but he and Tannehill have not synched up like they should have. These guys need to learn from Peyton Manning and his receivers, who work endless hours during the season, and, more importantly, during the offseason, to get on the same page. That needs to happen right now. Let’s face it - they will have enough time this offseason. This needs to be a priority.
If the team decides to make a change in the offensive coordinator, one just became available yesterday. The Cleveland Browns just fired head coach Rod Chudzinski, after just one season at the helm. Chud would definitely be an excellent choice to run any NFL offense.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, the Fins gave up more than 130 yards rushing in 10 games this season. Remember when the Fins’ defense was really good against the run? The defensive end tandem of Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon combined for 20 sacks the first 14 games of the season, but none in the last two. Defensive Coordinator Kevin Coyle has to step up his game or he will probably be the next to go, if they do decide to keep him after this season.
I had picked this team to finish 9-7, and make the playoffs. I was right on what should have been, but wrong on the final result. The Dolphins are becoming the Chicago Cubs of the NFL. The last time this team won a Super Bowl was after the 1973 season, and for those of you keeping score like me, that was exactly 40 years ago. That is unacceptable.
Team owner Stephen Ross has to make the right choice and put this team in the hands of a GM who can make the right choices and bring this once-proud franchise back.
Here’s more on the Dolphins from Armando Salguero:
There’s always next season. The Dolphins will play the AFC West and NFC North in addition to their usual AFC East opponents.
Their home schedule includes a visit from Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, and they will be traveling to Denver to face the Broncos and Peyton Manning. One game date is already determined: the Fins will play the Oakland Raiders in London on Sept. 28. That will count as a road game. The rest of the exact game dates will be announced in the spring.
2014 Home schedule: Buffalo, New England, NY Jets, Kansas City, San Diego, Green Bay, Minnesota and Baltimore.
2014 Road schedule: Buffalo, New England, NY Jets, Denver, Chicago, Detroit, Oakland (in London), and Jacksonville.
Here is the 2014 draft order, according to ESPN. There are coin flips pending and the final order will be determined by playoff results. The only thing that is certain is that the Houston Texans are on the clock.
I do have questions for you all regarding the draft order . . . If the Fins ended up finishing third in the AFC East, behind the Jets, why do they pick after the Jets? Does that make sense? Another question . . . if the Chargers had lost yesterday, the last playoff spot would have gone to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Why do the Steelers pick ahead of the Ravens, Jets, and Dolphins? One last question . . . if they base the positioning on record and break ties based on strength of schedule, shouldn’t the team that had the most difficult strength of schedule select ahead of the other teams with the same W-L record?
By the way, the Fins need to make sure that they address the needs on offense. A stud running back, and lots of help on the offensive line, both at tackle and at guard. How about nothing but offense in the first four rounds?
Here’s more on the Dolphins from Armando Salguero:
The NFL regular season is over, and I had a second consecutive 3-3-1 week against the spread, and 5-2 overall in my picks yesterday. I finished the season with a 61-51-7 record against the spread, and 72-47 overall.
Yesterday’s NFL results:
NY Jets 20 Dolphins 7
Cincinnati 34 Baltimore 17
San Diego 27 Kansas City 24 (SD-9)
Green Bay 33 Chicago 28
New Orleans 42 Tampa Bay 17
San Francisco 23 Arizona 20 PUSH
Philadelphia 22 Dallas 20 (Phi - 6 ½)
Carolina 21 Atlanta 20
Minnesota 14 Detroit 13
NY Giants 20 Washington 6
Pittsburgh 20 Cleveland 7
Indianapolis 30 Jacksonville 10
Tennessee 16 Houston 10
New England 34 Buffalo 20
Denver 34 Oakland 14
Seattle 27 St. Louis 9
The Wild Card games are this coming weekend, with two games on Saturday, and two games on Sunday.
AFC Wild Card
Kansas City @ Indianapolis 4:35 pm NBC
New Orleans @ Philadelphia 8:10 pm NBC
San Diego @ Cincinnati 1:05 pm CBS
San Francisco @ Green Bay 4:40 pm FOX
In the AFC, the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots have the first-round byes, while in the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks and the Carolina Panthers have the week off.
Check out the links below, for the complete playoff picture and the conference standings.
Of course, we can all continue to sleep at night, knowing full well that Aaron Hernandez remains in jail, where he belongs.
Here’s the latest around MLB baseball:
Will major league baseball players ever learn? Yasiel Puig was arrested in Naples, FL and charged with driving his car at 110 MPH. How stupid can these millionaire players be? Just goes to show you that money doesn't buy happiness, and it also doesn't buy intelligence.
Marlins’ pitchers and catchers report February 16th, position players arrive February 20th, and the spring training games begin February 26th, when the Fish play the University of Miami Hurricanes. They will then play the FIU Panthers on the 27th. Both of those games will be in Jupiter.
Here is the complete preseason schedule for the Fish:
In college football,
The University of Miami got blown out by Louisville in the Russell Athletic Bowl by the score of 36-9. Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater, who was originally a Hurricane commitment before deciding on Louisville when Randy Shannon was fired, threw three touchdown passes, ran for a fourth, and passed for 447 yards. He also offended UM fans for mocking the “U” symbol and making a throat-slitting gesture. He apologized for that classless move after the game. UM fans should have been more offended by the spanking Louisville gave them and their horrible performance in the game.
Here’s something for UM fans to ponder the next few weeks:
Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien is reportedly taking the head coaching job with the NFL’s Houston Texans. UM head coach Al Golden is an alumni of Penn State, and would be the perfect candidate for that embattled program. Don’t let it shock you if it happens.
The BCS National Championship game will have the Florida State Seminoles squaring off against the Auburn Tigers in Pasadena on January 6th. The rest of the bowl schedule is here, including a good one in the Orange Bowl Classic, where we will see the Clemson Tigers and Ohio State Buckeyes do battle at the Seven Names Stadium.
Manny Navarro and Susan Miller Degnan have the latest from Coral Gables.
Here’s the latest from FIU. David J. Neal of the Herald has the details:
Here’s the latest from Tallahassee and #1-ranked FSU:
From Gainesville and the University of Florida:
Moving to the hardwood:
After an overtime loss to the Sacramento Kings on Friday, the Miami Heat had to face the Portland Trailblazers, the team with the best record in the NBA, without LeBron James, who sat out with a strained groin muscle. No problem. Chris Bosh lit up the Blazers with 37 points, including the game-winning three pointer as the Heat beat Portland, 108-107. The long road trip comes to an end tonight, in Denver, as the Heat take on the Nuggets. The Heat’s upcoming schedule:
Heat @ Nuggets Mon 12/30 9:00 pm Sun Sports
Warriors @ Heat Thu 1/02 7:30 pm Sun Sports
Heat @ Magic Sat 1/04 7:00 pm Sun Sports
Raptors @ Heat Sun 1/05 6:00 pm Sun Sports
Pelicans @ Heat Tue 1/07 7:30 pm Sun Sports
TODAY’S TRIVIA QUESTION: LeBron James won the 2013 Male Athlete of the year, becoming only the third NBA player to win the award. Who were the other two NBA greats to win the award? The answer comes later, alligator.
More Heat and NBA coverage:
Here is the Heat’s complete regular season schedule:
On the NHL ice, the Florida Panthers snapped a three-game losing skid and defeated the Montreal Canadiens yesterday 4-1. The Cats will be at home all this week, as they host the New York Rangers tomorrow, and then welcome the Nashville Predators to the BB&T Center on Saturday, January 4th. Tomorrow’s game starts at 5:00 pm and Saturday’s game is at 7:00 pm. You can watch both games on Fox Sports Florida.
In boxing news,
Here is Santos Perez’ weekly boxing spotlight column from the Miami Herald. This week’s column includes a synopsis of 2013:
I’m selling three lots totaling a little over five acres in the beautiful North Carolina mountains, overlooking the New River, a quick 35-minute drive from Boone and Blowing Rock. Click here to see some photos and feel free to contact me if you have any questions:
THE ANSWER TO TODAY’S TRIVIA QUESTION: LeBron James won the 2013 Male Athlete of the year, becoming only the third NBA player to win the award. Who were the other two NBA greats to win the award?
Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Bird won the award in 1986, and Jordan won it three years in a row, 1991, 1992, and 1993.
Behave yourselves, and always remember that tomorrow will bring us a brand new day.