These have been busy days for the Miami Dolphins — putting together a new playbook on offense, defense and special teams, evaluating the current roster, evaluating some players in free agency, evaluating players for the draft.
So the work has been long and difficult as the Dolphins have been trying to catch up with other teams that didn’t change coaches and reshape parts of the personnel department.
That hasn’t left folks with a lot of private time to spend with … me!
(Which is a mistake).
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But in the moments team ownership, coaches and personnel staff have spent in the public eye, there has been some discussion of the team’s roster. And although everyone is trying to stay away from specifics, some things simply are too logical to not address more specifically.
So, yes, the Miami roster is about to undergo significant turnover, but the names of some players who are in the team’s future plans have come out. And they have come from the coaching staff and personnel staff themselves.
Allow me share the names of players coaches and personnel people have made no secret about either having a future with the Dolphins or having a chance to stay if contract details can be sorted:
James, by the way, is a free agent who will have the option of going to another team once free agency begins in March unless the Dolphins blow his agents away with a huge offer beforehand — which isn’t likely. So his Miami future isn’t nearly certain.
And yet, coaches and others have said they would like James on the team in 2019. Offensive line coach Pat Flaherty, for example, is aware James is not signed for 2019, but already knows he would like him back.
“I think it keeps the continuity there, if we’re able to retain him,” Flaherty said. “We sure hope he does [stay]. He’s a good football player. I’ve had an opportunity to go back and watch every game from 2018. He’s a fairly young guy also, so he has some things technique-wise that he can get better.”
Dolphins people have even talked about players most fans are not necessarily familiar with or excited about — like recently signed quarterback Jake Rudock — as a player who will get a chance in the offseason and training camp.
“He’s attentive. He’s very detailed, works hard,” said tight end coach George Godsey, who was the quarterback coach in Detroit last season when Rudock was in his second year with that team.
“He’s going to be a good asset to bring in here. He’s competitive, so he’ll go out there and earn it on the field. He’s from down here, too, so that probably helps. He knows the location. He’s a hard worker. I’m really anxious to see him again down here after last season. There’s a lot warmer weather down here than up in Detroit.”
So this offers some insight on the future. But you know what players the Dolphins haven’t said have a future with the team?
Pretty important players, such as starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Some young players, such as DeVante Parker.
Some accomplished older players such as Cameron Wake, Josh Sitton and Robert Quinn.
And to be fair, just because a player has not been mentioned by the new staff, or newly empowered general manger Chris Grier, does not a 100 percent guarantee that player is no longer in the plans.
But we are in late February. The coaching staff has been in place for nearly three weeks and all have spoken to reporters. And head coach Brian Flores had a news conference. And Grier spoke at the end of the season and at the Flores introductory presser.
And no mention of the starting quarterback’s future?
No mention of the team’s best edge rusher the past decade?
No mention of the 2015 first-round draft pick?
If that seems odd, this might explain the approach: We have seen this kind of stuff before. There truly is nothing new under the sun.
The Dolphins have changed coaching staffs and general managers and, well, almost everything, a lot of times since Don Shula ended his 26-year run in 1996.
And each time, the lack of mention or — even neutral mentions — by incoming coaches and general managers have been a harbinger for players getting cut or traded or simply going unsigned by the team.
“If a player’s name isn’t on a coach’s lips, he’s likely not in the coach’s plans,” a longtime club source said recently.
Jimmy Johnson, for example, talked enthusiastically about Dan Marino in his opening days as head coach. And Marino remained Miami’s starting quarterback after Shula.
But successor Dave Wannstedt never mustered any enthusiasm whatever about the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
“Ah, you know what, I … yeah, I mean, Dan had a tough year because some injuries and so forth,” Wannstedt said. “Dan and I will talk. What his plans are for the future, I don’t know. We’ll hold off on the Dan thing.”
Wannstedt declined multiple times to say whether he wanted Marino back.
Because he didn’t.
You know how many times Cam Cameron was asked if Daunte Culpepper was in his plans? Multiple dozens. He often commended reporters for asking and then refused to give a straight answer.
Because Culpepper wasn’t in his plans.
When Bill Parcells, Tony Sparano and Jeff Ireland came aboard in 2008, they weren’t expansive about Trent Green or Zach Thomas.
And both were soon gone.
When Joe Philbin was hired in 2012, the Dolphins had a wide receiver who had caught 81 passes for 1,214 yards and six touchdowns. He had just set a Pro Bowl record by scoring four touchdowns on six catches for 176 yards.
But Brandon Marshall’s name was not prominently mentioned by Philbin or even Ireland, who had traded for him in 2010. And Marshall was traded a month later to the Chicago Bears.
This approach is not new, folks.
And so the lack of message for bringing Tannehill or Wake or others back is of itself a message.
General manager Grier said weeks ago the quarterback is on the team, “as of right now,” which makes no promises about two minutes from now.
Offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea said he has “a tremendous amount of respect for Ryan.” But O’Shea didn’t want to talk about Tannehill’s future and didn’t even want to talk about what he thinks of Tannehill’s ability.
“I don’t want to get into specific traits, weaknesses or strengths,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea did, however, mention specific traits he would like in a fictional Dolphins quarterback, “whoever that is,” he said, again not mentioning Tannehill.
Consider this: The Dolphins coaching staff has discussed working with Rudock, who was signed in January, but has declined to have a similar discussion about Tannehill, who has been on the team since 2012.
That non-message is indeed a message.