Andy Cohen: So Many Crucial Decisions Ahead

Posted Jan 3, 2012

One of the most important off seasons in franchise history has now officially begun. So many decisions that will shape the immediate and not-so-distant future of this team. A head coach. A quarterback. A carefully mapped out direction. Plenty of work to do.

The intriguing part of it all, the one factor you can not overlook, is that these Dolphins proved over the last nine weeks of the season that they simply aren’t that far away.

No, the 0-7 start can not be ignored. That would be foolish. But neither can a 6-3 finish. Neither can the step-up performance of this defense over much of the final half of the season. Neither can the play of Reggie Bush, who offers legitimate big-play hope for next season.

Whomever the Dolphins hire as their next head coach – and I have a feeling we won’t have to wait long to find out – he will not be inheriting a reclamation projection. What he will be getting is a team in need of some upgrades, upgrades in several important areas.

But if the right moves are made, if the Dolphins are prudent in their drafting and their free agency signings, I saw enough positives at the end of the 2011 season to justify a turnaround record in 2012. Make a few impactful moves and 6-10 and can rather easily become 10-6.

Over the next several days, and perhaps even hours, rumors will begin filling the air like footballs about the next head coach. I have my opinions. You have yours. But it is the opinions of Stephen Ross and Jeff Ireland that matter most. I don’t think money will be an issue. I believe that Ross totally understands the value of bringing in the right person, regardless of the price tag.

Know this about Stephen Ross as the off season hits full throttle: There is nobody any more passionate in his desire to get this franchise another Super Bowl. He didn’t purchase this team for the long-term investment value. He purchased it because he grew up here and wants to see a return to the magical 70’s. And he will do anything within his vast resources to accomplish that goal.

But before we look too far ahead, take a second and swallow what just ended. As I look at the record, as I evaluate the pieces that contributed to 0-7 and 6-3, I see a few games that could have made everything so different, a few fourth quarter leads squandered that would have changed the script of an entire season. Losses to the Browns, Broncos and Giants were probably most damaging. That’s how 6-10 becomes 9-7.

As heartbreaking as those three losses were, there is a reason the Dolphins lost those games and those reasons are what needs to be examined and improved upon in the months ahead.

So where do the Dolphins stand as 2012 begins? A very early and brief breakdown: • Quarterback: I liked a lot of what I saw in Matt Moore over the last nine weeks of the season. Yes, the Dolphins need to find a young quarterback. Yes, it is essential. But if Moore continues to improve, at least now there is a solid bridge in place.

• Running back: The Reggie Bush experiment succeeded in a big way. Daniel Thomas shows promise. This, in my view, is not an area of great need.

• Offensive line: The center and left tackle spots are secure for years to come. The other positions are up for evaluation. There are age and contract issues to consider. This line was up and down this season. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dolphins draft a right tackle.

• Wide receiver: So many pieces are in place. Give me one more game-breaker, be it a veteran or a rookie, and this group has a chance to be as good as any.

• Tight end: Anthony Fasano did a lot of good things in 2011. But this has become a tight ends league (see New England and New Orleans). The Dolphins need more big plays from this position. They need an infusion of a young talented newcomer to team with Fasano.

• Defensive line: So much depends on whether the Dolphins switch to a 4-3 from a 3-4, which has everything to do with the new head coach. I like a lot of the pieces here. But there are contracts to consider – Paul Soliai for instance. There is also a huge pass-rushing void to replace with the retirement of Jason Taylor.

• Linebacker: Same question regarding a 3-4 or a 4-3. But how can you not like the futures of Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett and Cameron Wake who each bring something different to this defense? It is time, I believe, for Koa Misi to show he can take his game to another level.

• Defensive back: The Dolphins are in fine shape at cornerback. I personally believe a big-play safety could be the final piece this secondary needs.

• Kickers: Stand pat. Dan Carpenter and Brandon Fields are about as good a tandem as you’ll find in this league.

See what I mean? Plenty of promise on this roster. Now, the challenge becomes turning that promise into results. That’s where the new head comes in. And that’s where we stand as this pivotal offseason begins.

Nobody is happy with 6-10. Now, it is time to do something about it.
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