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Can Dolphins actually get past this mess?

1/7/2011

The Miami Dolphins prolonged their public relations disaster Friday.

Miami Herald beat writer Jeff Darlington reported the Dolphins had set up a meeting with Eric Mangini, but canceled it. Darlington wrote unidentified team sources informed him the Dolphins weren't going to speak with Mangini about being their coach, but just wanted to seek his advice.

Allrighty then.

Also reported Friday was a looming contract adjustment for Sparano, supposedly to smooth over any hard feelings. The Dolphins' front office embarrassed itself with a futile courtship of Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh and and reported contact with retired Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

Chicago Tribune and National Football Post writer Brad Biggs reported the Dolphins never made an actual contract offer to Harbaugh. Biggs, quoting an unnamed source, wrote Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was "intoxicated" with the idea of hiring Harbaugh after spending time with him in the days leading up to the Orange Bowl, but that Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland remained behind Sparano.

The Dolphins called a news conference for 4:45 p.m. Friday presumably to declare their allegiance to Sparano and then postponed it until noon Saturday with no word about whether Sparano's contract has been amended or if he's coming back for next season at all.

Strange days indeed.

All this happened while I was traveling for Saturday night's playoff game between the New York Jets and Indianapolis Colts in Lucas Oil Stadium. I had been playing phone tag with ESPN analyst Herm Edwards all day, and once we finally connected, I had to ask for his take on the Miami madness.

"Feelings are hurt, obviously, because of the way things went about," said Edwards, the former Jets and Kansas City Chiefs coach. "But, hey, they didn't have a good record. They could have fired him.

"But that's the sad part. They had a coach under contract. They wouldn't fire him, but they went and interviewed people. If you're going to do that, man, you need to do that on the QT. This didn't have to be public. You don't need to bring that attention to your organization."

Edwards, though, stressed this saga won't necessarily drag down the team and noted the more critical concern should be what the Dolphins do at quarterback than the current mess.

"If you win, all this goes away," Edwards said. "If you win, this is no big deal. The good part is the season's over with. The players aren't even in the building right now.

"By the time training camp starts, if anything the players look at it and say 'The coach is in the same boat we're in.' The players get it. But if the quarterback doesn't get better they'll be in that same boat again in a year."

For additional perspective on what it's like to hang by thread, I rang up former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel for his thoughts.

"If you have the right guys on the team, they'll battle for the head coach," Fassel said. "Players know regardless, they're still going to be judged on their own performance. It won't affect their performance unless they're not very smart.

"The way it might play a role is in the discipline phase of it might say 'I don't care what he says to be anymore.' But that would a small minority of the players."

Edwards felt more sympathy for the coaching staff than for Sparano.

"The assistants are the ones who are suffering," Edwards said. "They're tied to the head coach. You want to let these 15 or so guys know because when the merry-go-round stops and all the jobs have been filled, you're stuck."