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Miami Dolphins

Why is Kris Richard My Savior?

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe I’m a bit naive for thinking this way, so help me understand the logic a bit more: why do you want Kris Richard to be the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins?

What evidence can you bring to me that proves that Kris Richard is the man who’s going to bring the Miami Dolphins out of the depths of mediocrity?

I hear some of these reasons loud and clear, but I have a hard time grasping why they’re captivating for Richard and why they’re hollow for Darren Rizzi. Can anyone cure my confusion and bring me aboard the Richard train everyone seems to be on? I seem to be missing out…

Note: this article is going to come across like an endorsement for Darren Rizzi as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, and that’s not the case. I realize after writing this that a lot of the language comes across like I’m skeptical of Richard and convinced about Rizzi. This article was generated because of all the amazing feedback/reasons I heard for making Richard the head coach and this is a bit of a devil’s advocate perspective on it. I’m open to selecting the best candidate for the job; whether that’s Richard, Rizzi or even Brian Flores. But I’m also looking for an answer that’s more convincing than assumptions made off of 64 seconds worth of video.

Passion

There are a couple of videos circulating around social media that portray Kris Richard as a passionate coach who is yearning to get the best out of his players.

These videos were taken when Richard was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks. Notice how loud and in-your-face Richard gets with is players. And I don’t mean that as a negative, it’s actually refreshing to see a coach that isn’t afraid to challenge their players right to their face. This is the kind of passion and enthusiasm that Dolphins fans desire.

This seems to be the main reason why Dolphins fans have concluded Richard is the obvious choice. And this seems wrong for plenty of reasons, but I’ll stick with two of them:

  • One: what’s the difference between Kris Richard’s passion and Darren Rizzi’s?
  • Two: since when does passion = results?

We’ll get to the results later in the article, because there’s plenty to go over there, for now, let’s address how young, energetic and passionate Richard is.

I believe most of us can agree that we are “over” selecting the next best offensive mind or defensive mind in the NFL. We’re beyond looking at a head coach because this microscopic aspect about them is desirable and thus, all of them must be desirable.

Most of us would like the Dolphins to select a head coach that can lead a group of men out on the football field each week and have those players play their hearts out. This person needs to manage personalities, the media, locker room drama and everything else that comes with babysitting a 53-man roster.

This charisma is much more desirable than having the knowledge to deploy complex schemes. Adam Gase and Matt Burke deployed very complex systems and it was (partially) their downfalls in Miami. It’s hard to outsmart your opponent when you complex systems don’t maximize two of your best draft picks this decade (Jarvis Landry and Jay Ajayi) and your charisma allows them to walk right out the door.

Thus, we’ve concluded that Richard is the guy because it’s evident he’s a leader based on a couple of videos.

If that’s the case, what do these videos about Darren Rizzi mean?

Are we going to ignore years of these memes or are we going to give Rizzi the same benefit we’re giving Richard?

Maybe it’s because we’ve seen Rizzi all of these years that we overlook just how passionate he has been up-and-down the Dolphins sidelines each Sunday. You wanted someone that held their players accountable; yet, you already have that. Why are we turning him away just so we can take a chance on another unknown commodity that might portray the same aspects?

Maybe Richard is the more-passionate option, but why is this passion dismissed for Rizzi when it’s a hiring-point for Richard?

Experience / Results

Kris Richard has been working in an NFL coaching capacity since 2010. His NFL resume reads something like this:

  • Position Coach (defensive backs): 2010-2014; 2018
  • Defensive Coordinator: 2015-2017

Take it with a grain of salt because of all of the talent he was given, but you can’t dismiss what Richard accomplished during this time:

  • 2010: 27th ranked passing defense
  • 2011: 11th ranked passing defense
  • 2012: 6th ranked passing defense
  • 2013: 1st ranked passing defense
  • 2014: 1st ranked passing defense
  • 2015: 2nd ranked overall defense
  • 2016: 5th ranked overall defense
  • 2017: 11th ranked overall defense
  • 2018 (with Dallas): 13th ranked passing defense

Richard was in charge of the “Legion of Boom” when it was at its peak, taking Russell Wilson and the rest of the Seahawks to the Super Bowl in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, and winning the title in 2013. His attitude and moxie are prevalent in how he talks to his players.

This reminds me a little bit of Adam Gase. His “creativity” and brashness while working with one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL (Peyton Manning) was a desired trait by many NFL front offices. What many have come to conclude is that Gase was a product of Peyton Manning and not the other way around.

So if we want to apply the same logic to one of the greatest secondarys the NFL has ever seen in its history – as well as one of the best overall defensive units the NFL has ever seen – why are we applauding the coach when it’s probable the players are the catalyst behind the results?

Recreate the 2013-2015 Seattle Seahawks defense and I’m pretty sure we aren’t looking for a new head coach in 2019.

Darren Rizzi took over for as the Special Teams coordinator in 2010 and has been the team’s assistant head coach since 2017. His results look something like:

What hall of fame players did Rizzi have helping his unit throughout this time?

This goes back to the argument: do you want someone who is a “leader”, or do you want someone who has a track record of results? Regardless of your answer, the options are the same. Both candidates have given you both.

Endorsements

So a few Cowboys fans in the comments section of social media, Rod Marinelli, and a couple headlines that proclaim “The Cowboys Don’t Want To Lose Richard” have convinced you that Richard is so coveted that reverse-psychology says he must be good?

That thought alone has flaws with its logic, but if we wanted to apply the same logic to Darren Rizzi, then what do endorsements by current and former Dolphins players mean to you?

Brian Hartline and Reggie Bush didn’t even play for Darren Rizzi’s unit and they had great things to say about him.

We convince ourselves that the grass is always greener on the other side because it’s different than what the Dolphins have currently and different must be good because different isn’t mediocre.

Don’t be surprised if Richard uses this head coaching vacancy as leverage to receive more money from the Dallas Cowboys.

Let’s be honest, none of us actually know what Richard was like all of these years. We are all relying on the minuscule amount of (new) information that has been presented to us over the past 7 days. No one in South Florida genuinely knows how good Kris Richard will be as a coach. Is it because Richard is different and Rizzi has been with the organization for 9 years already?

If you have something convincing, by all means, step forward, because the alter is a bit barren right now and the wedding is going to begin soon.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Kent Taylor

    January 10, 2019 at 12:41 pm

    Excellent. I hope Steve Ross and Chris Grier will read. Let’s not be deceived by the hype surrounding Richard.

  2. corners

    January 10, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    Landry yes, Jay Ajayi as one of our best picks of the decade? No way….
    Id put Tunsil, and Howard easily above him. Landry i think will be a HOF. But Ajayi had 4 games over 100 yards ([email protected] 200 yards) as a dolphins. He wasnt some awesome great pick. Hes going to be a one hit wonder.

    I do hope we get Richards also

    • william burke

      January 10, 2019 at 3:11 pm

      and i wouldnt be bothered if it was Rizzi. Cant we have them both on our team!

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Sign Chris Reed

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Looks like the Miami Dolphins have begun replacing the plethora of offensive linemen they either released or let walk this past offseason.

According to the Dolphins official social media account, the team signed offensive guard Chris Reed.

Details of the contract are currently unknown, but with the losses of Ja’Wuan James, Ted Larsen, Josh Sitton and possibly even players like Jake Brendel and Travis Swanson, the Dolphins need bodies to fill out their roster.

After signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars as an undrafted free agent out of the 2015 NFL draft, Reed was placed on the team’s practice squad and wasn’t activated until September, 2016. Over the past three seasons, Reed has been active for 25 games and started 8 of them.

You can’t expect too much from this signing, as Reed is simply expected to compete for depth on the offensive line and it’s possible he doesn’t even make the team out of training camp. Then again, Ted Larsen was originally supposed to be offensive line depth and he ended up playing 1,272 snaps over the course of his two-year Dolphins career.

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Miami Dolphins

Rebuilding Previous Rebuilds

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we have accepted the notion that the Miami Dolphins are going to start rebuilding their franchise in 2019 (and as a result, a lot of losing will incur), we have moved on to the optimistic hope that this team is going to build their foundation “right”.

Hope is about the only thing that will temper the frustration that comes with going 6-10 with freshly signed Ryan Fitzpatrick as our starting quarterback, so over the next calendar year, you’re going to hear how most decisions are geared towards 2020.

Sure, Fitzpatrick will dazzle us with a couple 400-yard passing games and a few offensive performances that trick us into believing that we don’t need to desperately grab a franchise quarterback, but don’t let those extremely inconsistent anomalies fool you. Miami most definitely needs a franchise quarterback – one that leaves us with minimal doubts at the top of the draft.

Are they going to trade up for one in 2019? Or are they going to, um, conveniently lose in 2019 and attempt to save their assets for 2020, where there’s a chance that four starting-caliber quarterbacks come out of college – all of whom are possibly better than the top-2 quarterbacks in this class: Dwayne Haskins and Kyler Murray?

As Travis echoed on Sunday, the Miami Dolphins are building a treasure trove of draft picks that will allow themselves to navigate the murkiest of trade waters in either 2019 or 2020. With the trade of Ryan Tannehill to the Tennessee Titans netting Miami an extra 4th-round draft pick – along with the assumption that losing Ja’Wuan James to the Denver Broncos will return an extra 3rd-round pick as a compensatory selection – Miami will have the ability to tack on whichever mid-round picks are required to seal the deal for a top-3 draft pick.

But with all of these assets in mind, can we confidently assume that the Dolphins are just one year away from being a relevant franchise that can sustain success? No, not one bit.

Since Chris Grier took over as the Director of College Scouting in 2007, Miami has had 5 drafts in which they have had at least 9 draft picks to work with. Although it’s obvious that not every draft pick is going to pan out, the assumption is that a team should be able to identify enough cheap labor to fill their roster. You don’t need superstars in every round, though it would be nice if the Dolphins drafted even one of them.

Before you get ready to soak in the success of 2020, I’m going to remind you of the somber past we have together. Hopefully, Grier doesn’t allow history to repeat itself:

2007

Chris Grier’s first year on the job yielded Miami with multiple draft steals, but came with an ample amount of draft busts as well.

Whether the selection was general manager Randy Mueller‘s, head coach Cam Cameron‘s, Grier’s, or a combination of the three, the Miami Dolphins shocked everyone by selecting Ted Ginn Jr with the 9th-overall pick in the draft.

Choosing Ted Ginn Jr over Brady Quinn proved to be the correct choice, but was Ginn really the player you wanted to commit a top-10 pick to? Especially when he was coming off of an injury and was seen more as a dynamic kick returner than an elite, #1 receiver?

Here are a few players taken shortly after Ginn was picked #9: Patrick Willis (11), Marshawn Lynch (12) and Darrelle Revis (14). I was going to include Lawrence Timmons (15th-overall), but I don’t think Miami fans are going to think too fondly of that linebacker (though let’s be honest, he was still a better pick than Ginn).

But the Miami Dolphins had 10 draft picks in 2007, and should have been able to build a team with more than just a failed 1st-round pick, right? Alas, this is what they graced us with that year:

Paul Soliai in the 4th-round and Brandon Fields in the 7th-round ended up being phenomenal choices for the Dolphins, as both players combined to play 227 games with Miami. Even Samson Satele was a good selection in the 2nd-round; Miami just doesn’t understand their own talent and allowed Satele to be a good starting center for two other teams instead of their own.

The rest of that draft class? Combined to be active for 32 games with the Dolphins. All of which were off the team by the start of the 2008 season.

2008

Coming off of a 1-15 season that felt less like a rebuild and more like a purgatory, the Dolphins were now poised to genuinely begin their ascension with the 1st-overall selection in the draft.

The thing is, Miami’s biggest mistake wasn’t selecting Jake Long with the #1 overall pick, but bringing an archaic Bill Parcells on board to build a team for the future.

Parcells figured there was no sense having a franchise quarterback if there was no one to protect him (the opposite logic of what the Dolphins did with Ryan Tannehill throughout his career), and selected Jake Long to protect whoever’s blindside.

You might be able to excuse Parcells for selecting a potential hall of fame left tackle (for the first four years of their career) over Matt Ryan, since Miami did have 8 more draft picks that year. Instead, this is how the draft shook out:

Kendall Langford was a solid player on the Dolphins defensive line throughout his rookie contract, but other than Jake Long he was the only player to plug a hole on the roster. You can say Chad Henne played prominently for the Dolphins, but we all know he was a detriment more than a solution, and even forced Miami to pick yet another quarterback in the 2nd-round the following draft.

Phillip Merling gave us that exciting interception against Brett Favre and the New York Jets the year Chad Pennington led the team to the playoffs, but other than that, he was basically an extra 1st-round pick that ended up being a complete bust.

After two years and 19 draft picks, the Dolphins should have set themselves up to be a young team worth reckoning with. Looking back, there were really only 5 players that filled a capable roster spot: Satele, Soliai, Fields, Long and Langford. For reference, NFL rosters held 52 players…

2009

After two failed drafts and nearly 19 wasted draft picks, the Miami Dolphins actually got a draft right. This comes with the caveat that it’s the third-consecutive year in which the team is selecting a quarterback in the 2nd-round, so it tells you just how lost the Dolphins really are.

Pat White was a fascinating college athlete to watch, but he had no business being a quarterback in the NFL. The football community was stunned to see White selected so high, but the Dolphins envisioned a quarterback that could complete their wildcat offense and keep opposing defenses confused at all times.

The only confusion White caused was on Miami’s offense, because the playbook was extremely small for the limited quarterback, and the offense was stale at best.

Miami’s best selections came from Vontae Davis and Sean Smith. The team also envisioned having a pair of young, cheap, shutdown corners to give Tom Brady, Brett Favre and whoever the Buffalo Bills had hell. And they were really onto something for a little bit, but Joe Philbin‘s inability to handle egos mixed with some immaturity on the player’s side “forced” the Dolphins to trade Davis and allow Smith to leave in free agency.

At the time, this was a very good draft, but looking back at it, it’s just some more disappointment:

Brian Hartline received a contract extension with the team and probably outperformed all of our expectations. Maybe it speaks to the lack of playmakers the Dolphins have had over their history, but Hartline has the 7th most receiving yards and 9th most receptions in Dolphins history. We can knock the extension as a separate topic, but selecting Hartline in the 4th-round was a very good draft pick.

Chris Clemons ended up playing 80 games with the Dolphins and served as a valuable depth player for 5 seasons.

This can be deemed a good draft for the Dolphins, but the problem is, we’re excited the team was able to find 3 starters. While every team would love to say they found 3 starters in each draft, the Dolphins didn’t have much of a roster around those guys, which meant the team hadn’t rebuilt much of anything up to this point.

A budding franchise looking to sustain success is going to need more than a good #3 receiver to escape mediocrity.

2012

2012 was another very good draft for the Dolphins that saw virtually no sustained success going forward. This is the point where you have to wonder if the Miami Dolphins legitimately try to win or if they’re fine creating media headlines and bringing in ad revenue.

Ryan Tannehill was the first 1st-round quarterback the Dolphins selected since Dan Marino back in 1983. Between all of the excitement and optimism, fans were sold on the fact that Tannehill was going to turn the team around (after he firmly learned the quarterback position). His old coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, was set to be his offensive coordinator, so you know Miami was really building this thing right because, you know, “chemistry”.

7 seasons later, and there are no surviving members of the 2012 draft class. In fact, only one of them made it past year 4 (Tannehill) – which also happens to be the same number of players eventually arrested from this draft class (Jonathan Martin).

How can a team sustain success when the team doesn’t sustain any of their successful players?

Olivier Vernon and Lamar Miller proved to be great risks that Jeff Ireland took. Coming right out of the Dolphins backyard from the University of Miami, Vernon and Miller were underclassmen that Ireland saw potential in. And he was right.

Both outperformed their draft status and earned themselves wealthy contracts in free agency. This goes back to the argument that the Dolphins are incompetent when it comes to signing their own draft picks, so overall, this draft doesn’t seem like much, but this draft could have been much more than a free agent payday for 3 of their selections.

Rishard Matthews was one of the best 7th-round picks in Dolphins history, but Philbin’s deadpan personality placed Matthews on the bench for most of his rookie contract rather than the starting lineup ahead of players like B.J. Cunningham and Legedu Naanee.

As of 2019, the Dolphins are still looking for a player at every position from the list of 2012 draft picks (QB, RT, DE, TE, LB, WR and DT). You can say Miami doesn’t need a running back, but that’s also the easiest position to find and it’s not even like the team currently has a solidified running back room anyway.

2013

Identifying a “can’t-miss” athlete in an inactive market, Jeff Ireland made one of the best draft-day trades of the century and traded the team’s 1st-round pick (12th-overall) and 2nd-round pick (42nd-overall) to move up to #3 overall. That kind of trade would be unheard of today, where those top picks are commodities that you have to pry away with current and future draft capital.

So what did the Dolphins do with their robbery? Select a stellar athlete with a history of demons that rivals that of Josh Gordon.

Dion Jordan was built to be a football player, but he never actually wanted to be a football player. He wanted to escape reality and realized this was a profession he was good at. Fortunately for Jordan, but unfortunately for the Dolphins, Jordan took 5 years to mature past all of those inner turmoils and emerge as a defensive threat.

But like the theme of this article, his success doesn’t benefit the Miami Dolphins one bit.

Dion Jordan wasn’t the only player to fail Miami’s expectations yet perform better elsewhere.

2nd-round pick Jamar Taylor was always hampered by injuries and was shipped to the Cleveland Browns for a 27 slot draft boost in the 7th-round (a farcry from #54 overall). Dion Sims was a solid backup and blocking tight end before cashing in with the Chicago Bears. Mike Gillislee was a decent kick returner who has seen a good amount of success as a running back with the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots. Even Caleb Sturgis was viewed as a “bust” and has since played 36 games for other teams.

You could argue that Don Jones was Miami’s best draft pick behind Dion Sims that year, and that’s only because he was a very good gunner on special teams.

Truth is, the Dolphins have had plenty of opportunities to rebuild and yet, years later, here we are, still trying to rebuild. So now that Chris Grier has ultimate control, will this be the rebuild the Dolphins finally turn it around? 6th time’s a charm, right?

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Miami Dolphins

Free Agent Analysis: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick

Travis Wingfield

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Buckle up, Phins Fans – the Fitzmagic Roller Coaster is coming to your town

Ryan Fitzpatrick is on his eight NFL team following a circuitous route that spans 14 seasons as a professional football player. The journeyman stopgap heads to America’s retirement home on a two-year contract that starts at $11 million and could escalate to $20 million if unspecified incentives are met.

Though details of the contract’s structure are not yet available, it’s a near certainty that the bulk of the money will be paid out in year-one. With the Dolphins eating a chunk of dead cap, and pushing assets down the road, this move not only helps Miami get closer to the salary floor, it secures a sturdy backup quarterback for the 2020 season.

Whether it’s Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Tua Tagovailoa, Jake Fromm or any other quarterback prospect, Fitzpatrick has been heralded for his calm demeanor and approach to providing this very important element to his past teams.

Barring a trade-up for one of the top two prospects in this draft Fitzpatrick will be under-center when the Dolphins open the season on the second Sunday in September. Only one September ago, Fitzpatrick was on an unprecedented roll for a quarterback of his caliber – of any caliber, really.

After the three-game stretch of consecutive 400 yard outputs, Fitzpatrick throttled into a nosedive throwing for less than 250 yards in four of his next five starts. Cumulatively, his passer rating on the season was 100.4, but he failed to eclipse the 90.0 mark in all but one of his final six starts.

The strengths and weaknesses of Fitzpatrick’s game are abundantly clear. Where the flashes with Ryan Tannehill provided false hope, Fitzpatrick is an open book – it only takes a couple of games of all-22 to figure out exactly who he is.

First, the strengths. I’ve talked at length about the importance of a backup quarterback providing the locker room and huddle with a sense of comradery. Whether it’s this season or next, Fitzpatrick will eventually be relegated to the number-two QB. The Ewing Theory suggests that the rest of the roster can elevate its game when the backup enters the lineup, but that typically only applies when said backup is likable.

That clip also showcases the gamer-mentality of Fitzpatrick. With reckless abandon, he’ll take a hit for his team in a way you’d never want your franchise quarterback to play.

As for Fitzpatrick the starter, the strength of his game is also his biggest weakness. He trusts his eyes as much as any quarterback going right now and will let ‘er rip without hesitation. There’s a hint of Matt Moore in his game where he evaluates pre-snap and makes quick decisions based on the leverage of the defense.

The first touchdown of the season for Tampa Bay provides a terrific example of Fitzpatrick’s ability to move the defense with his eyes and hips. The clip also showcases his strength as a play-action passer when given a comfortable pocket.

There’s a reason he’s been on eight teams in 14 years, however. That anticipation, coupled with sloppy mechanics, gets him into a lot of hot water. If the defense is at all nuanced, and capable of disguising coverage, he’s going to turn the ball over a heck of a lot.

Randomly, the ball will sail as he is prone to rushing his setup and spraying bullets all over the field. Pressure in his face only amplifies this shortcoming.

All things told, this was the best veteran option available both in terms of playing time and veteran mentor to the inevitable draft pick coming in a year or two. There will be equal parts excitement and sheer frustration with Fitzpatrick playing in Miami.

As far as the Tank for Tua conversation, this signing likely solidifies that Miami will not be the worst team in football. I’ve argued that they would never reach those valleys to begin, even with a rookie or Luke Falk under-center. I believe too strongly in Brian Flores and the staff he has assembled for this team to lose a number of games in the teens. Fitzpatrick at least gets Miami out of the massive hole of unworthy NFL quarterback territory.

Ideally, the Dolphins find their quarterback straight away and never have to start Fitzpatrick. The more likely outcome is that he starts the season and puts the Dolphins in a tough spot regarding the playing time incentives in his contract.

This signing is great from a financial standpoint right now, but if the Harvard product (had to get it in) starts hitting those contract escalators, that would not be ideal.

@WingfieldNFL

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