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Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Pleasantly dull: Dolphins enter 2009 composed


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Outside of a few isolated verbal outbursts from Joey Porter and Channing Crowder, the Dolphins have had a quiet offseason.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham


The Miami Dolphins haven't made sensational copy.

While the rest of the AFC East has generated tantalizing storylines throughout the summer, the Dolphins have been comparatively humdrum.

No zing. No flash. No scandal. No major injuries. No Joey Porter proclamations.

The Buffalo Bills have Terrell Owens and recently took a machete to their offense. The New York Jets traded up to draft a glamour quarterback. Their head coach talks smack. The New England Patriots are making headlines with major transactions.

What has been the Dolphins' sexiest story? The vagueness over what's wrong with outside linebacker Matt Roth? Not exactly prime material for a "Dateline" episode.

"I think boring is good," Miami coach Tony Sparano said early in training camp.

Sparano, football operations boss Bill Parcells and general manager Jeff Ireland used to work amid the drama that swirls around the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones was their boss.

In South Florida, the Dolphins' leadership triumvirate has replicated another Big D: Dullsville.

"Where you may call it dull, we just call it business as usual," Ireland said by phone Tuesday afternoon. "It is by design."

The Dolphins have been masterful at avoiding turmoil. New owner Stephen Ross is infatuated with selling off pieces of his team to celebrities, but the football department has been pleased to maintain a low-wattage profile.

"We're not trying to make a splash," Ireland said. "We're just doing what we do, and trying to get better from a day-to-day basis and flip over rocks. If it makes a splash, it makes a splash, but we couldn't care less if it does or not."

Boys-will-be-boys stuff has occurred off the field, yet nothing that could be labeled turmoil.

High tranquility and minimal disorder are substantial reasons why the Dolphins are the NFL's most overlooked defending division champs.

"We know that the target's on our backs whether we're in the papers making a splash or not," Ireland said.

They've been out of sight, out of mind since their stunning turnaround campaign -- the greatest single-season reversal in league history -- ended with a thud in the playoffs.

A couple of June eruptions threatened to roil the Dolphins. Porter, agitated the Patriots already were being trumpeted as favorites, spoke up about a perceived lack of respect. Jabber-jaw linebacker Channing Crowder got into an entertaining verbal joust with Jets coach Rex Ryan. Orations lasted a few days before Ireland stopped it.

Miami's front office expects its players to maintain a certain level of decorum. We haven't heard many colorful comments from Porter or Crowder since then.

The Dolphins got rid of outspoken kicker Jay Feely last year because they could save a couple bucks with Dan Carpenter, an undrafted rookie who knew to keep his mouth shut.

Economical sound bites are part of Parcells' one-voice philosophy that makes sure one man speaks for the team. It's a belief also practiced by Parcells coaching descendants such as Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Eric Mangini and now Sparano.

"The players on the team need to understand where the message is coming from," Ireland said. "You'd like for your team to be able to think the way you think and operate the way the leadership operates.

"This head coach is about eliminating distractions. Therefore, I'm assuming he wants his players to eliminate those distractions from their own lives."

The Dolphins prohibit their players from using Twitter.

Meanwhile, Chad Ochocinco leads the league in tweets. The Jets hired a social-networking associate to help players manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts. T.O. can't figure out why his VH-1 reality show tanked.

Even the tight-lipped Patriots have had a more colorful offseason than the Dolphins because of Tom Brady's return from reconstructive knee surgery and the notable roster moves Belichick has made.

Miami's biggest offseason acquisitions were run-blocking center Jake Grove, safety Gibril Wilson and pass-rusher Jason Taylor, a homecoming muted by lowered expectations. Taylor is coming off a disappointing season for the Washington Redskins and wasn't expected to be an every-down player when he signed a one-year contract.

The Dolphins declined to enter the market for a veteran receiver or cornerback, choosing instead to address those needs in the draft.

"The opportunity to develop younger players, and the price tag that comes along with them, they're usually the best bang for the buck," Ireland said.

Miami's front office wasn't interested in reuniting with Owens when the Cowboys cut him. At the NFL owners' meeting in March, Sparano praised Owens' game-changing skills and work ethic. But when asked twice why the Dolphins didn't pursue him, Sparano responded each time with a laugh, a shake of his head and a "No comment."

"Some teams operate certain ways," Ireland said. "Some teams operate where every signing they have, there's a press conference involved. That's not our deal.

"We felt like the moves that we made in the offseason helped this football team. There were certain aspects we knew we needed to get better. We hope that makes a splash on the football field. That's all we're looking for."