Q: What is the chances of Dan Marino becoming the GM next season? And do you think he would be able to convince Bill Cowher to coach again? - Vinnie Stevens, Austell, GA.
A: No disrespect intended, but how about we talk about a GM and coaching changes AFTER the Dolphins have been eliminated from the playoff hunt? I don't get why Dolphins fans can't grasp the fact this team is on the verge of achieving everything many experts (including myself) thought was possible. Have the Dolphins squandered away some wins? Absolutely! Are they poorly coached? No arguments here. BUT....the Dolphins are on the verge of making the playoffs, and that could save everyone's job. How about we let that play itself out. As for Marino, he spent a few weeks as the Dolphins' top executive nearly a decade ago and discovered it was too much work. He quit. I doubt he'll do it again because as one scout told me, "he discovered it was real work." Marino presently makes roughly one million dollars a season doing television, working twice a week for maybe 25 weeks out the season. Cowher has had two opportunities to become the Dolphins' head coach and passed on them. The man clearly isn't ready to become a head coach again, and there's no shame in that. Plus, if Cowher ever does decide to coach again I'm pretty certain he'll cherry pick a team with an upper echelon quarterback.
Q: Is Mike Gillislee such a drop-off in talent from Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas that the coaching staff doesn't even want to give him a try? I have a hard time believing that he lacks the right stuff to run the ball ahead of the other two guys since Gillislee faced very tough SEC defenses every week at Florida, and posted over 1,000 rushing yards doing so. - Pat H, Naples, FL.
A: I'm not a big SEC guy, but I see where you're going there. You're looking at Gillislee's one productive season at UF and concluding this former Gators standout should be better than Miller and Thomas because of his conference. Nevermind that Miller and Thomas were more productive in college than Gillislee. Ignore that both were drafted higher than Gillislee, have more experience, and outperformed him in OTAs, training camp and the exhibition season. If Gillislee was tearing it up in practice - he's not - I'd hear about it from the players like I did when Kory Sheets was flashing. I haven't earned a single word about Gillislee all year. Gillislee's 21 rushing yards on six carries last week was a good start. Now he needs to build on that by doing more, being better, playing well on special teams. In the NFL opportunities are usually earned, not given. As mediocre as Miami's rushing game has been, Miller has earned his starting spot, and Thomas earned his playing time by being the team's best pass protector.
Q: With Cameron Wake and Olivier Vernon playing well at defensive end, and Koa Misi, Dannell Ellerbe & Philip Wheeler locked up long-term at linebacker, where does that leave Dion Jordan? - Matt, Cromwell CTA: The running philosophy in the NFL is that a team can NEVER have enough pass rushers, and that's the line of thinking the Dolphins used selecting Jordan in the first-round of the 2013 draft. I happen to agree with that approach. Jordan has had an impact in his four roles - quarterback shadow, tight end coverage specialist, third down pass rusher, and special teams contributor - as a rookie. His main priority should be to build on his small successes. His versatility ensures he can play as an edge rusher or stand up linebacker, and he fits in the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He's the key component to the Dolphins; speed package because it is never safe to predict his role. You can never have enough of those types of players. I initially thought Jordan would gradually take some of Misi's roles, but the extension Misi signed earlier this season makes me second guess that. Still, the Dolphins rotate their pass rushers, and if that trend continues I can easily see Jordan playing 25-30 snaps a game moving forward. And that's before factoring in injuries.
Q: Everyone that complains about the draft class fails to take into account the fact that injuries have slowed their development. I think if Dion Jordan and the rest of our defensive players drafted are coached by Rex Ryan they could turn out to be All-Pro talents. What do you think? - Israel Castillo, Miramar, FL.A: Injuries and late arrivals to training camp have slowed the development of some of the Dolphins rookies, but that's nothing more than an excuse. I don't accept excuses. Jordan, who missed all of the offseason program but rookie camp because of Oregon's quarter system, got off to a slow start because of his shoulder injury. But he hasn't been on the injury report for two months. By this point in the season he's no longer a rookie, and should be playing more. The same can be said about Jamar Taylor, Dallas Thomas and Will Davis, who all play positions of need. While injuries have slowed the development of those second and third-round picks, their slow development is the reason they aren't active on game day. Not injuries. And as for Rex Ryan, keep in mind his first two draft picks (cornerback Dee Milliner and quarterback Geno Smith) are probably struggling more than any other NFL rookies, so not sure that's the best example to make. But I should point out I'm generally patient with rookies because they need at least a season to get acclimated to the big leagues.
Q: I see many people complaining about the lack of production from the 2013 draft class, but it seems like the players in front of them are doing quite well. I can't make that case for offensive lineman Dallas Thomas. Is this an accurate assessment? – Ryan, Morro Bay
A: It is troubling that Sam Brenner, an undrafted rookie, has started two NFL games, and easily leapfrogged Thomas (pictured) on the depth chart. But it is not exactly fair to compare the two rookies considering Thomas, the Dolphins’ third-round pick, has spent most of his practice time learning how to play offensive tackle. While Thomas has been cross-trained at guard and tackle throughout the year Will Yeatman’s season-ending knee injury forced him to become the primary backup offensive tackle three weeks ago. These days that’s the only position he works at. However, it is fair to conclude Thomas was a questionable draft pick because he had more opportunities than every rookie but Caleb Sturgis to earn a starting spot and failed to do so. Thomas will have next year’s offseason and training camp to cement himself as a decent NFL prospects. If he struggles then it is fair to put him on the large pile of offensive line busts drafted during Jeff Ireland’s tenure as General Manager.
Q: Do you think the Dolphins should look into either drafting or searching the waiver wire for a physical running back? – Carl Bryant, Hartford, Ct.
A: They’ve needed one all season, and nothing changes now considering the Dolphins still struggle converting third-and-short, or fourth-and-short situations. Last Sunday’s failed attempts to gain that tough, physical yard against the Jets simply reminds Dolphins executives that they need a true fullback, or big back able to move the pile. While Michael Egnew has been adequate as the new H-back, he’s not capable of handling the ball as a rusher. The Dolphins have been working to develop linebacker Austin Spitler as the short yardage runner and lead blocker, but they haven’t felt comfortable enough with his development to unleash him in a game. Miami needs to make adding a fullback, or a physical runner one of the team’s top priorities this offseason.
Q: What has enabled Olivier Vernon to blossom in the second half of this season considering his 10 sacks now leads the team. Jeff, Kendall, FL.
A: Sometimes young players need time and opportunity to blossom. This is Vernon's first season as a starter, which means he's getting a lot of new looks, and being put in a lot of new situations. While Vernon struggled earlier this season with his role as the starting right defensive end, he's blossomed in the second half. Vernon has contributed 5.5 sacks in the last three games. He's been an active tackler (10 against the Jets) and he's setting the edge against the run much better than the season's first month. Considering he's got plenty of raw athleticism his emergence isn't that surprising. The question we have to wonder now is if there's more upside left in the former UM standout?
Q: Are the Dolphins' coaches playing for their jobs? - Jim M