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Diner morning news: A new draft philosophy

In Miami, workout warriors, ‘fat cats’ are out, football players are in. Michael Lombardi

Print This April 27, 2010, 11:00 AM EST
20 Comments

QUOTE: “Wisdom is not communicable. The wisdom which a wise man tries to communicate always sounds foolish....Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom.” -- Hermann Hesse

I love this item:

Two signs hung in the Dolphins’ draft room last week. The first:

“For the next three days, we are going to draft prototypical players that play football well in their pads on the football field.”

My translation: The Dolphins were not going to fall in love with combine players or anyone who had a great workout. They wanted to focus on football players and not let a 40 time or individual workout alter their thought process. They made it a point to have their draft board completely graded before they went to the Indy combine. They weren’t going to be swayed by workout warriors, and they were going to make sure they stayed true to their philosophical beliefs. Those beliefs are centered on size and speed football players — but the speed is functional football speed.

What was the motivation for this sign? It certainly had to do with the Dolphins’ process last year, but more specifically, it had to do with the players they drafted. From quarterback Pat White to wide receiver Patrick Turner, Bill Parcells could not have been happy spending such high picks on players who don’t play as fast as their reported 40 times. Football speed and 40 speed are always different. For example, Rolando McClain of Alabama ran a 4.7, while Brandon Spikes of Florida ran a 5.0. Yet when watching tape, both players play the same, both are similar in their speed on the field and both will be challenged to play on third down in the NFL next season. Both will make an impact in short-yardage, goal-line and red-zone defense with their respected teams. The 40 times of both players can be manipulated in a workout, but on tape, both play football well.

The second sign:

“Mascot players, fat cats and other favorites will wait until late on Saturday.”

My translation: “Mascot players” are the size/speed guys who don’t play well with their pads on. They’re going to be on our free-agent board but not on our draft board. The Dolphins, according to this sign, are not willing to take players strictly on their measurables. They’re also not going to take players who have little production when playing the game. They might sign these players as free agents but won’t invest a draft choice in them. “Fat cat” players are players with weight problems who will have to be managed — something the Dolphins aren’t willing to do. “Other favorites” refers to players who come with media hype but don’t have the production on tape — someone with a huge profile but with little value for the Fins.

I love that the Fins were proactive and reminded everyone in their organization that last year’s draft was part of the reason the 2009 season was disappointing. This year, with the addition of wide receiver Brandon Marshall and a very good draft that centered on finding more speed for their defense, the Dolphins will have a chance to get back to the playoffs. My only hesitation about their return is their tough schedule, particularly in the early part of the season with road games against the Bills, Vikings, Packers, Bengals and Ravens. They have the kind of team that can handle the tough schedule and clearly are a very hungry and determined team.

Big Ben issues statement

Ben Roethlisberger issued a statement saying he accepts full responsibility for his actions and promises to never again place the organization in a bad light. Now, with a six-game suspension a possibility, the Steelers must develop a quarterback to handle the starting job for at least the first four weeks. My guess is that it will be Dennis Dixon, who surprised many people last season with his play in the Baltimore game.

Dixon is athletic, but he’s not a run-around player. He views himself as a quarterback who can make all the throws. I love his potential, and if he gets the work in this summer, he might be able to hold down the fort. How coach Mike Tomlin handles quarterback repetitions at camp this summer will be vital to their start. Right now, Tomlin will use the OTA days and mini-camps to collect information on each quarterback, then make a decision on how to handle training camp reps.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

Comments

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brian
Apr 27, 2010
11:39 AM

dixon's play in that baltimore game is more overrated each day. he started off well but finished completing something like 3 of his last 17 attempts and, yeah, threw the game losing pick-six in OT. if i'm tomlin, dixon is definitely QB-3 while ben is out.

Lance
Apr 27, 2010
12:32 PM

Ben's statement clearly was written by his lawyer - his actions will speak louder than what his lawyer writes.

It's great the media loves Bill Parcells but it would be good if someone actually wrote and analyzed about his lack of success in the past decade. He's great at marketing himself as some sort of football genius but as far as results go he's lacking.

Mr. Murder
Apr 27, 2010
12:58 PM

Draft football players first, round out the roster on athletes that work out, with later players. They can be coached up coming from the later rounds. Signing a workout type early gives him improper motivation, horse ahead of the wagon style.

Dixon was impressive at stretches of the game. You might have to double up his scripted plays to get the same kind of execution, or script out a package set such as their no huddle. Also do that for the four minute mark to kill time when up by a lot or down by a lot. Give him things to manage the game better and deny the other team opportunities.

Sometimes that means getting the game over, win or lose. Sometimes it means attacking the scoreboard. Always, it means that you execute the offense. Given more reps, Dixon should be productive, based on elements of his past performance.

BPIMU
Apr 27, 2010
01:11 PM

Great read, Mike - You have peaked my interest here with your interpretations and breakdown, sir -



“For the next three days, we are going to draft prototypical players that play football well in their pads on the football field.”

Translation: This isn't the year to be gambling on upside - We need productive players who can come in and contribute for us right now -




“Mascot players, fat cats and other favorites will wait until late on Saturday.”

Translation: We're not betting on any front-runners this year boys, only closers -



A couple interpretations I disagree with here would be -

First the implication that Miami is unhappy with Pat Turner - Tony Sparano's biggest regret of last year was in not getting Turner on the field as he should have - Don't forget that Keyshawn Johnson never had great speed either, it's not a prerequisite of a Bill Parcells receiver - But catching the ball is...just ask Ted Ginn Jr.

Second would be your take on "other favorites" as it applies here - Other favorites would be guys like 7th round pick Austin Spitler, a Parcells favorite like John Nalbone was last year -




Nice call on Dennis Dixon - I really like his game from way back when he was running the spread at Oregon - Arguably the best college team in the country before Dixon's injury - Instinctive athletic competitive and a leader of men who can be an extremely accurate passer when in his comfort zone - You let this kid start the first 4-6 games and we could be hearing about a QB controversy in Pittsburgh -

Brad James
Apr 27, 2010
01:52 PM

Lombardi,

I agree about the Dolphins. They appear to be a team that can contend in the AFC and notwithstanding the toughness of the AFC East, they have just as good of a chance as the Jets or Pats. That Koa Misi is a player as is Jared Odrick. Miami can be a legitimate darkhorse in the AFC this season. As for Big Ben, what a jerk. It's a good thing Mike Tomlin knows what he's doing and should keep the Steelers afloat if nothing else

deljzc
Apr 27, 2010
02:12 PM

If this is "new" what have the Dolphins been doing under Parcells to need such a blatant reminder?

I thought Parcells has been making the decisions. Did he put up a sign to remind himself? Do 60+ year olds need reminders like this? Maybe he could have tied a string to his pinky instead.

I don't quite understand the need for three major mentions on how great the Dolphins draft was. I think is was middle of the road.

I like Odrick a lot, but this team has already invested in Merling and Langford at DE in 2008. And still has questions at NT for the first 8 games. And I still don't see how Misi can go from a 5 sack guy in a weak college conference to a 10 sack guy in the NFL while making adjustments to standing up and coverage requirements as an OLB. This idea Misi is ready day one to contribute seems far fetched to me, even for Lombardi.

Miami did have a nice off-season. But so did the rest of that division. New England still has a huge advantage at the QB spot and I see Miami and the Jets beating each other up physically for the whole season.

Tough for me to think Miami is now over the hump and a legit playoff contender because of these two catch phrases.

GC in DC
Apr 27, 2010
02:13 PM

Great post about the Dolphins war room. Year in and year out I wonder if the real reason for the combine is an excuse to meet with a lot of agents quickly and to gull sensible people into doing stupid things.

I soooo want Dennis Dixon to come in the way Brady came in when Bledsoe went down. I think the rest of Pittsburgh does, too. It'll be interesting to see who gets the reps at training camp.

Mr. Murder
Apr 27, 2010
02:47 PM

Misi hardens the edge so you have to go back inside. Funnel football rules the world when done well. Parcells teams play their best in that way. Koa will kill strongside runs and allow Miami to set the front opposite him so no help can be put on their best pass rushers.

Mike
Apr 27, 2010
03:06 PM

Lance, what "lack of success in the past decade" are you talking about with Parcells? The Cowboys owe much of their current success to him. He drafted a number of talented players in his short time there and made the team what it is today.

The gritz blitz
Apr 27, 2010
03:13 PM

I could be wrong . I am a silly amount but I bet Byron Leftwich starts for the Steelers. He just seems more ready to step in & it's just for the first 6 games . He knows the system . As far as Bens apology the point really is mute . I don't see how that guy can spend any public time hanging with the ladies & drinking . Its not even a short leash thing . The amount of attention this has generated has to have forced him to stay low key & thats a good thing . I would have to think just grocery shopping would be uncomfortable .

As far as the fish , It was hit on by GC , what really is the point of going to the combine if you have everyone graded & workouts aren't playing a role in drafting . I could see gauging interest & meeting agents but past that why not stay on the beach & watch the NFL networks coverage. I also get not wanting to reach for a player but shouldn't you have enough invested in coaching to where you should feel comfortable taking on " projects" if the upside is high enough . Terrence Cody comes to mind . Just saying , if he's good enough for Ozzie Newsome ......

The gritz blitz
Apr 27, 2010
05:05 PM

Mike
I know you have an affinity for the fish & thats cool . Curious though . By now I'm sure you know there is an article out now stating that Jeff Ireland in a predraft interview asked Dez Bryant if his mom was a prostitute . That sure doesn't seem wise . If it is character or temperament they are looking for in a receiver why bring in Brandon Marshall . What are they going for ? Obviously to ask a humiliating question like that they are interested in more than game film & on field performance . Why ask something like that ?

Mr.Murder
Apr 27, 2010
09:55 PM

That is extrapolating a bit too far on the subject.

As for the play of Dixon, he would have been welcome to the Raiders at any time as a motivated prospect at quarterback. Gradkowski played us some great football also, but depth would certainly be an item there in terms of quality and desire to improve. All about "the Commitment."

Big Papi
Apr 27, 2010
10:12 PM

When was the last time a Parcells run orgnization won a playoff game?

deljzc
Apr 27, 2010
10:55 PM

Who's to say drafting Jerry Hughes and Terrance Cody wouldn't have brought in more impact players?

What if Odrick just ends up another Kendall Langford (very good 5-technique but not really a difference maker)? What if Misi ends up good on the strong side, but never that impact pass-rusher? (Or a guy that is really a #2 pass-rusher that needs a #1 opposite him doing all the hard work?)

All the while Indianapolis found it's next Dwight Freeney and Baltimore the next Casey Hampton?

I sort of think that scenario is just as likely, if not more so, than to spout off how Parcells changed his draft philosophy at age 65 because he drafted lousy in 2009.

john
Apr 27, 2010
11:32 PM

New draft philosophy sounds like Don't take any risk, draft the safe pick. That is fine but there isn't anything 'new' about it. Lots of teams draft that way........another way of putting it is "Don't draft on potential......" I guess this way you are not disappointed when the guy never gets any better, at least you knew what you were getting.

NickC1188
Apr 28, 2010
01:21 AM

It sure does beat what the Lions used to have in their draft room:
"For the next two days, we are going to draft a receiver in the first round followed by players that the scouts didn't recommend and people who received a lot of hype."

"Our overpaid, over-hyped draft picks will look good trying to find reasons to cheer for our god-awful football team."

My bad attempt at humor aside, I like Parcells' philosophy. Film should speak louder than Combine testing.

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Sloan
Apr 28, 2010
04:30 PM

I agree with Lance about Parcells' success, or lack thereof, for the past few years. A team being run by Parcells probably won't be a BAD team, but just how successful will they be? On the other hand, many people credit Parcells for building the current Cowboys team. But, did he really? There were good years, and bad years, when he was with Dallas; there have been good years, and bad years, since he left.

Current Cowboys drafted when Parcells was there:
2003: T. Newman, J. Witten, B. James
2004: P. Crayton
2005: D. Ware, M. Spears, M. Barber, J. Ratliff
2006: B. Carpenter, J. Hatcher, P. Watkins, P. McQuistan

Undrafted free agents signed when Parcells was there:
2003: T. Romo
2006: S. Hurd, S. Bowen

"Bill's Guys": free agents from other teams signed when Parcells was there; many came, few (one actually) remain:
2005: M. Colombo

Sloan
Apr 28, 2010
04:49 PM

“For the next three days, we are going to draft prototypical players that play football well in their pads on the football field.”

Parcells has always been big on quotes and slogans as motivational tools. I agree that a lot of the stuff he posts on bulletin boards, walls, etc. amusing, even humorous, but I question the real, long term value. I agree wholeheartedly with The gritz blitz, and I wonder whether that sign was up there before the Jeff Ireland interview with Dez Bryant.

Mike L., I would really like to read your opinion on the apparent disconnect between "words" and "actions" within that Dolphin front office.

Trevor
Apr 28, 2010
11:43 PM

deljzc

adjustments to standing up and coverage requirements as an OLB. This idea Misi is ready day one to contribute seems far fetched to me, even for Lombardi.

Standing up in the 3-4 defense is completely different then standing up in a 4-3 defense. In the 3-4 majority of the time you are going to be rushing the QB, which basically happens to be the same thing as if you had a hand on the ground. You still have to have a technique and the ability to get off of blockers, thus it shouldn't take much time for him to get accustom to such a move. He won't have to face much coverage packages and even when he does they won't be a daunting task to do.

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