Could the 2009 Rams Duplicate the 2008 Dolphin's Season?
One can only wonder how bad it is in the Rams locker room these days. One would imaginine that it is devoid of both group and individual self-esteem. Reading about the woes of last year's Dolphins when the team hit rock bottom, made me realize that we will have the same opportunity to improve. Sure Billy D. isn't in the same echelon as Parcells, (few are), but he'll have the chance to prove he belongs there .. We have a chance to tie last year's dismal record this Sunday, but it appears unlikely we'll get a win on the road in Atlanta .. The removal of Shaw and Zygmunt was our Xmas gift from the Chipster .. Let's hope Billy D. can hire the right coach and personnel gurus to lead us to the promised land.
FOX Sports on MSN - NFL - Dolphins are one win from complete turnaround
Dolphins are one win from complete turnaround by Alex Marvez.
Alex Marvez is a Senior NFL Writer for FOXSports.com. He's covered the NFL for 14 seasons as a beat writer and is the president of the Pro Football Writers of America.
The Miami Dolphins highlights airing on a locker room television caught Vonnie Holliday's eye.At this time last season, the Dolphins defensive end would have turned away. The only Dolphins footage being shown was future material for a "Football Follies" special. And now? Miami can complete the greatest turnaround in the NFL's 88-year history Sunday by defeating the host New York Jets.
As Terrell Owens would say, getcha popcorn ready.
"To be in December and have people talking about the Dolphins in a good way is what I'm most proud of this season," Holliday said Wednesday at team headquarters. "Here we are in the thick of things. Last year, we were the butt of jokes. This year, we're for real. "Really.. By defeating the Jets, Miami (10-5) would win the AFC East. Snow in South Florida seemed more likely entering the season. No one-win team had ever rebounded to post double-digit victories the following year, let alone make the playoffs.
"I don't think if you would have looked at our roster at the beginning of the season that you would have seen a 10-5 team," Dolphins cornerback Andre' Goodman said. "But the fact is we are a team. We lift each other up. You didn't feel that last year. "Goodman admits he couldn't have fathomed such a reversal of fortune when the 2007 Dolphins were sitting at 1-14 heading into a season-ending home loss against Cincinnati. What a difference......a year makes. The Dolphins have gone from 1-15 to 10-5 and in the playoff race. A look at the statistical turnaround:
Stat 2007 2008*
Points scored 267 321
Points allowed 437 300
Turnovers 29 12
TO margin -7 +14
Pass YPG 207.4 237.4
Rush YPG 98.1 118.1
* -- through 15 games
"You heard at the beginning of the season about what we can be, but I've heard it all before," said Goodman, a seven-year NFL veteran. "Now that you know how good it can feel, it's hard to imagine unless you know how bad it was. And it was bad. "Atrocious is more like it. The Dolphins didn't win their first game until Week 14. Even that didn't come easy, as Miami needed overtime to win at home against another downtrodden franchise (Baltimore). By then, Dolphins players had long since given up on Cam Cameron. The first-year head coach lost all respect when allowing himself to get verbally undressed by outside linebacker Joey Porter during a team meeting without taking disciplinary action in response.
A fight involving three players (Rex Hadnot, Vernon Carey and Keith Traylor) on a charter flight epitomized the lack of team chemistry. Goodman was so distraught that he "started questioning why I play ... After we went 0-8, everybody started counting down the days."
"Our team was kind of like a heartbeat until midseason," long snapper John Denney said. "It went up, then dropped (after losses). The last couple of weeks, we flat-lined."
Dolphins owner H. Wayne Huizenga didn't even wait until season's end to yank Cameron and general manager Randy Mueller off life support. By mid-December, Huizenga already had finalized a deal to have Bill Parcells head Miami's football operations. Parcells brought in a new head coach (Tony Sparano) and general manager (Jeff Ireland) who had worked with him in Dallas. The trio assembled a quality coaching staff, changed more than half the roster — ditching defensive mainstays Zach Thomas and Jason Taylor in the process — and stressed player accountability in off-season workouts more than anyone in the Dolphins had since Jimmy Johnson arrived as coach in 1996. Because of Parcells' reputation as a turnaround specialist, Miami was expected to show some improvement. But the Dolphins were still considered at least one season away from being a legitimate playoff contender. Tight end Anthony Fasano heard as much from friends and former teammates after he was traded from Dallas to Miami in April. "People said, 'Oh, you guys should do a little better this year,'" Fasano said. Maybe only nominal improvement would have occurred had quarterback Chad Pennington not become available. But when he was released by the New York Jets in August after the Brett Favre acquisition, the Dolphins quickly signed Pennington to a two-year contract. Forget about a rollercoaster history with the Jets marred by injuries and shaky deep passing. Pennington — who bulked up considerably through off-season workouts — was the perfect fit for a club set to begin the season with rookie Chad Henne as a starter because journeyman Josh McCown and second-year quarterback John Beck struggled so badly during training camp. Pennington's smarts and attention to detail have rubbed off on his teammates. He has thrown just seven interceptions in 446 pass attempts. Combined with five lost fumbles, Miami has the NFL's lowest turnover total with 12. "If you look at our offense, they've taken on his personality," Holliday said. Fasano said Pennington has provided direction to Miami's young offensive linemen and wide receivers "when things get hairy out there." Pennington didn't wait long to assert such command. Running back Patrick Cobbs said Pennington began taking ownership of the offense from the first team meeting he attended. "If he needed to see something from you, he was going to tell you," Cobbs said. "He's been a different kind of leader than what we've had around here in the past."
Pennington isn't the only Dolphins player to rebound from a dismal 2007 campaign. Once again being deployed at outside linebacker in a pure 3-4 scheme, Porter has increased his sack total from 5.5 to a career-best 17.5. Wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr., converted strong-side linebacker Matt Roth and cornerback Will Allen also have shown marked improvement under Sparano and his assistants. Equally impressive is the emergence of previously unheralded players and Sparano's willingness to field talent based on performance rather than contracts. For example, wide receiver Ernest Wilford received $6 million guaranteed as part of a four-year, $13 million free-agent deal he signed during the off-season. But the former Jacksonville starter is buried on the depth chart behind players like Davone Bess, an undrafted rookie from Hawaii who is third on the team in catches with 48. Cobbs (three touchdowns), rookie free-agent kicker Dan Carpenter, starting left guard Ikechuku Ndukwe and special-teams contributor Courtney Bryan — who was working at an Arby's until being re-signed by Miami in November — also have risen from obscurity."A lot of guys here, nobody knew their names last year," Denney said.
The Dolphins, though, still have Rodney Dangerfield Syndrome about their league-wide perception. Players are well aware their team is more likely to get grouped with a weak division winner like Arizona than squads like Tennessee, Pittsburgh and the New York Giants.
Miami and Indianapolis are the only clubs to have won eight of their past nine games, but the Dolphins have thrived against a lower caliber of opposition. Miami's average margin of victory in that span is 6.3 points even though just one foe — the slumping Denver Broncos (8-7) — is above .500. Miami also handily lost its lone game against a playoff contender, falling 48-28 to a New England team that avenged what was then considered a stunning Week 3 loss to Miami in Foxboro.
"Respect has to be gained," Goodman said. "We don't have that yet." It will come if the Dolphins defeat the Jets — as will the TV time that Holliday is relishing.
"Nobody expected us to be here," Holliday said. "I'm sure going into this game we'll be an underdog and people still think we don't have a shot, but that's the way it's been all season. Here we are again with another chance to take a big step and do something we set out to do — change the culture around here. We've done a pretty good job up until now."
Why not the Rams in 2009?