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Grading the Dolphins


The Dolphins started the 2004 season with playoff expectations, it ended as the worst year in Dolphins history. From the begining it only went down hill and they hit rock bottom as the team became one of the worst teams in the NFL. Head Coach Dave Wannstedt resigned by week 9. There were all kinds of injuries. The Dolphins went through six RBs and their biggest off season acquisition never played a single down. Their first round pick couldn't crack the starting lineup even though Miami's offensive line was by far the worst in the league.

It all started a few days before training camp when star RB Ricky Williams decided to retire because of various drug issues. The offense was totally depended on Williams. The Dolphins didn't have time to acquire a decent RB this late in the offseason. They had to try and play with what they had. Looking back Rick's retirement and the on going saga of will-he or won't-he return ended the Dolphins season. The problem was coach Wannstedt was under pressure to perform so a few decisions were made that wouldn't have necesarrily been made under a different coach and GM.
The Dolphins desperate to get a RB gave up their 3rd round pick (which turned out to be the 2nd pick in the 3rd round) for Rams' third string RB Lamar Gordon. To put it in prespective the Eagles gave less for Terrell Owens and the Pats' gave up a second round pick for Corey Dillion. Dillon rushed for more than 1600 yards in 15 games. Gordon played a few plays, didn't leave a mark and was injured for the year.

The RB situation was enough to burry the team but that was not everything. The Dolphins biggest offseason acquisition WR David Boston was brought in to start opposite Chris Chambers. He looked great in practice and the Dolphins finally had a 2nd WR. Unfortunately, Boston was injured and didn't play a down for the Dolphins in 2004. He was also caught using steroids and had he been able to play he would have been suspended for 4 games. The offseason troubles didn't end there...

When writing the 2003 season summary I had to choose an MVP. The choice came down to two players, CB Patrick Surtain and DE Adewale Ogunleye. I chose Ogunleye because he had 15 sacks in 2003 and made the pro bowl. The Dolphins couldn't sign Ogunleye and after the Boston injury the Dolphins decided to trade Ogunleye. Desperate from the Boston injury the Dolphins traded Ogunleye to Chicago for a 2004 third round pick and WR Marty Booker. Booker is a very good WR, no doubt. He came into an awful situation. There was no no clear number 1 QB, no offseason, didn't know the offense, playing for a bad team. He still managed 50 catches. At least this desperate acquisition will pay dividends in the future.

The Dolphins off season troubles didn't end there. The Dolphins gave up a 2nd rounder for QB AJ Feeley. Feeley was supposed to take the starting position from Jay Fiedler without much trouble. He was given every opportunity to take the starting position but he just couldn't. It wasn't because Fiedler played like a pro bowl QB, it was because Feeley played even worse than Fielder did. Therefore, the Dolphins started the season with a QB controversy, Fiedler started the first game with the team's high priced acquisition on the bench only to be yanked at halftime. Feeley then started the next two, played awful and the team returned to Fiedler up until his injury and the Wannstedt resignation, in short another mess, this time at QB.

It's a wonder how the hell this team even won one game, let alone four.

The Dolphins finished the season with their worst record ever, it was by far, the most awful season in the franchise's 38 year existence and even interim coach Jim Bates late success couldn't turn this team around. It was time to start over and that's what the team did in signing head coach Nick Saban for the 2005 season.

Now let's get personal...

QB Jay Fielder - Fielder had his worst year in his career. He was 101 of 190 for 1186 yards, 7 TDs and 8 INTs. His rating was only 67.1. He finished the year on injured reserve. Grade - D-

QB AJ Feeley - He came into training camp as the high priced (2nd rounder) QB that should easily replace Fielder. He couldn't win the starting job in training camp and when given the opportunity to play, played bad. Some say he played better at the end of the season. It's true but not that much better. He will start in 2005 but after that who knows. He had a rough start finishing the season with 191 of 356 (53 percent completion) for 1893 yards 11 TDs and 15 INTs for a 61.7 rating. Nobody can explain his ability to continually throw INTs returned for TDs. Grade - D-

WR At least now the Dolphins have a number two WR. The Boston injury and the QB situation really hurt the Dolphins. Considering the circustances they played OK.
Overall Grade - C+

WR Derrius Thompson - 23 catches, 4 TDs. He showed some ability at the end. Could be a decent number 3 or 4 WR. A bad year turned average at the end.
Grade - C

WR Marty Booker - Booker is a very good WR. He came into an awful situation - no training camp, a problematic QB situation and a really bad team and he still managed 50 catches (Chambers had only 19 more), doubling last year's second WR production. He will have a good year next year, has the skills. He caught only one TD to go with his 638 yards.
Grade - B-

WR Chris Chambers - We are still waiting for Chamber's breakout year. Everybody keeps saying he has probowl potential. But, Chambers hasn't had a 1000 yard season ever, he can go through an entire game without doing anything. I realize he could have much bigger numbers playing for another team, but right now 2004 was somewhat dissaponting. Finished with a career high 69 catches for 898 yards and 7 TDs.
Grade - C+

TE Randy McMichael - By far, the best performance of his career. Had a pro bowl season, no doubt. It's a shame his monster season got overshadowed by the Dolphins woes. Led the team with 73 catches. He had only 4 TDs to go along with his 791 yards.
Grade - A

RB Oh, what did we have this year ? six RBs for the Dolphins - After the Ricky retirement we had the priveledge to see (in no particular order) - Sammy Morris, Travis Minor, Lamar Gordon, Leonard Henry, Brock Forsey and Vick King. A player went from practice squad to starter in a few days (Henry) and from starter to cut in a few days (Henry, Forsey). A player played a few days after being acquired (King, Gordon even started)). Everybody got hurt. A total and complete mess. It didn't help they had to run behind Miami's O-line. Overall Grade - D-

RB Sammy Morris - Morris was brought in to play backup FB. He ended up being Miami's starting RB. It tells a lot about Miami's RBs in 2004. "Led" the team with 523 yards on 132 carries (4.0 average) and scored 6 times.
Grade - C

RB Travis Minor - Finally he was given his opportunity. The chances of him returning in 2005 are not that big. You can conclude for youself. He was injured when the opportunity came. Finished with 388 yards on 109 carries and 3 TDs.
Grade - D-

FB Rob Konrad - We keep hearing he is a solid FB. He played OK, but nothing fancy.
Grade - C-

RB Leonard Henry - He got his NFL chance and he blew it by fumbling the ball. Had 141 yards on 46 carries (3.1 average), never scored.
Grade - D-

OL- Smith/McIntosh, James, McKinney, Whitley/Hadnot and St. Clair -
Overall Grade - F

The line is a mess. first rounder Vernon Carey (actually the Dolphins spent a 1st and a 4th on him) couldn't crack the starting lineup which was very bad to begin with. 6th rounder RG Rex Hadnot played better. The LT position played poorly. Wade was benched in favor of McIntosh, and McIntosh had what seemed like a million penalties.

Whitley didn't play well at RG, McKinney's days as center could be over and James never lived up to his high salary. a total mess. They weren't helped by the Ricky retirement also.
Both Fiedler and Feeley were injured on back to back plays. Both QB ended the season injured. I'm surprised neither QB was killed with their blocking. And, Oh, there was no runnig game either.

The Defense


Defensive line - The D-line played OK against the pass, not so good against the run. Both DT were lost for the season early and that played a significant role in their performance. Robinson, Zgonina, Romero and Williams played OK in their place but they are not in the Chester/Bowens category. The loss of Ogunleye was felt although David Bowens had an OK year.
Overall Grade - C+

DT Jeff Zgonina - Finished with a career high 5 sacks, but he is not the answer full time at DT. Grade - C+

DE Jason Taylor - He made the pro bowl on an off year. He had 9.5 sacks and he also suffered from the absence of Ogunleye. He still is the best Dolphin player.
Grade - B

DE David Bowens - He replaced Ogunleye in the starting lineup. Nobody expected him to duplicate the 15 sacks Ogunleye had but a 7-8 sack year was expected of him. He finished with 7 sacks and usually played well. Grade - B-

DT Dario Romero, DT Bryan Robinson, and DE Jay Williams - They started and had big roles during the season. Romero had 3.5 sacks and was a pleasent surprise.
Grade - C+

LBs - Injuries forced Miami to play backups Moore, Pope and Ayanbadejo and they played well. The starting unit played well most of the season although Miami's run defense wasn't very good by enlarge due to the injuries at DT.
Overall Grade - B

LB Zach Thomas - Zach was his usual self. He played very well but didn't make the pro bowl. Grade - B+

LB Junior Seau - He showed everybody he can still play. He no longer is the player he was but he did play well. Finished the year on injured reserve. Grade - B-

LB Morlon Greenwood - He had a solid year in his contract year, if the Dolphins won't bring him back he played well enough to have a few interested teams going after him. Grade - B

LB Eddie Moore - He missed his rookie year with an injury so this was his real rookie season and he played OK. Grade - B-

LB Derrick Pope and LB Brendan Ayanbadejo - Both of them played OK when given the chance. Pope had the hit of the year and Ayanbadejo's INT against the Pats set up Miami's biggest win of the year.
Grade - B-

Defensive backs - This was a solid unit that played very well all season. Surtain went to the probowl and Knight and Madison aren't that bad either.
Overall Grade A-

S Sammy Knight - Knight played well and had 4 INTs.Maybe he is not the fatest player in the world but he keeps making plays. Grade B

S Antuan Edwards / S Arturo Freeman - Edwards started the first half of the season and was cut when Wannstedt resigned, it looked a bit odd to me - from starter to cut, it's not like the team was making a superbowl run and had to make room for another player, he was quickly signed by the Rams and even played in the playoffs. Freeman started the second half of the season and he was solid finishing with 4 INTs.
Grade B-

CB Sam Madison - Madison played well, very well. He had a good season although he failed to get a single INT. He still is a very capable CB. Grade B+

CB Patrick Surtain - He had 4 INTs and made another pro bowl, 3rd straight. Another very good season. Grade A-

Special teams

K Olindo Mare - You can say a lot of good things about Mare but a 2 million a year kicker shouldn't miss easy kicks. He was injured and the Dolphins had to bring 2 replacements. He finished 12 of 16 kicking.
Grade D-

P Matt Turk - He had an above average year. He punted 98 times for a 41.7 average.
Grade C+

Coverage Teams - The Dolphins had a solid year on their coverage teams.
Grade B-

Return Teams -
Finally the kickoff return drought is over as Wes Welker returned a kickoff for a TD for the first time in 15 years. Welker had a 23 yard average on kickoffs (long of 95 yards for a TD) and 10.8 on punts (long of 71 yards). Welker was voted as NFL special teams player of the year when he returned kicks and punts and also connected on a 29 yard FG when Mare went down. Grade B


Coaching staff -
The coaching staff is ultimately reponsible for the team's performance. Wannstedt led the team to a 1-8 record before he resigned. Bates then finished the season with a 3-4 record. Granted, there were a million reasons for the team's worst year ever which had nothing to do with Wannstedt - Ricky retiring, Boston going down, both DTs getting injured, Gordon getting injured before he got a fare chance. Heck, 4 different Dolphins kicked a FG for the Dolphins because of injuries. But some were the coaches' fault, The revolving door at QB to name one. Ultimately, the team played very poor, This is not a good team, but it's not that bad either. There could be no different grade when a coach resigns by week 9. Grade F


Let's look at the candidates.

You have to consider Patrick Surtain, He is perhaps the best corner in the NFL and he played very well last year. Jason Taylor is always a good candidate and he played well in 2004 earning another trip to the probowl. Another strong candidate is Randy McMichael, his 73 catches were the most by a Dolphins TE ever and led the team in 2004. He was a constant force on a very poor offense and managed his career year despite the revolving door at the QB position and the overall awful play by the offense, especially the line, the RB and the QB position.

At the end you have to come to a decision even though the Dolphins had such a bad year that not giving the MVP to anybody is a valid option. Finally, I thought I had to choose between 2 options, not having an MVP or TE Randy McMicahel, McMicahel played very well and had the breakout year expected of him. He has played better every year since joining the NFL. He was voted a pro bowl alternate. He didn't make it because it's hard to break the Gonzalez hold on the position. That is why Randy McMichael is the 2004 MVP

Now that you have read our 2004 summarry and saw 2004 MVP pick Let us know what you think. If you like we'll post your MVP selection or your comments on the 2004 season, so let us know what you think. MVPs
1999 K Olindo Mare
2000 RB Lamar Smith
2001 S Brock Marion
2002 RB Ricky Williams
2003 DE Adewale Ogunleye
2004 TE Randy Mcmichael


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On the 18th of February 1970, Don Shula, 40, became head coach and vice president of the Miami Dolphins after coaching for 7 years the Baltimore Colts. His record with the Colts was 71-23-4. He replaced George Wilson who coached the Dolphins for 4 years.

On the 28th of January, 1969, Miami selected Bill Stanfill with their first round pick. Stanfill was the 11th player selected. Two months later, on March 24th, 1969, Miami obtained all time AFL middle linebacker Nick Buoniconti from Boston in a trade for QB Kim Hammond and LB John Bramlett. After the 2000 season Buoniconti was selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

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