Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Parcells theory: Bigger is Better

I thought I'd share this great column from Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News focusing on the Miami Dolphins free agency strategy-- the columnist is a pro football hall of fame writer, and it shows. Really good insight you don't see in most papers or even ESPN or in any sport.


Bigger is better: Parcells beefs up Dolphins' roster

Jeff Ireland may be the general manager of the Miami Dolphins. But the thumbprints of Bill Parcells are all over the rebuilding of the Dolphins.

Parcells likes big people. He coached teams in New York that won Super Bowls by controlling the line of scrimmage. His Giants were gigantic on the offensive front and physically intimidating at the point of attack on defense.

When Parcells was allowed to "buy the groceries" for New England and the New York Jets in the 1990s and Dallas in the 2000s, he built playoff contenders with size up front.

As the director of football operations of the Dolphins, Parcells spent the opening week of free agency collecting players who can physically match up with the New England Patriots in the AFC East. He signed seven players and traded for an eighth. The one common denominator is size.

Six of his additions are blockers and tacklers. Even the two skill players Parcells added have size – 6-4, 220-pound quarterback Josh McCown and 6-4, 218-pound wide receiver Ernest Wilford.

The Dolphins acquired 310-pound nose tackle Jason Ferguson from the Cowboys in an effort to shore up their run defense.
The rest of the newcomers will make the Dolphins more formidable in the trenches. He acquired nose tackle Jason Ferguson in a trade with the Cowboys. He goes 6-3, 310 pounds. Fellow defensive tackle Randy Starks (Tennessee) goes 6-3, 312, and linebackers Charlie Anderson (Houston) 6-4, 245 and Reggie Torbor (NY Giants) 6-2, 250. Parcells expects them to toughen up the NFL's worst run defense.

The Dolphins also signed 6-4, 300-pound guard Justin Smiley (San Francisco) and 6-5, 265-pound blocking tight end Sean Ryan (Jets). Parcells expects them to help build a backbone for the NFL's 23rd-ranked rushing offense.

The Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets stole the headlines on the opening weekend of free agency with lavish contracts to big-name players. The Eagles gave $57 million to Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel and the Jets $40 million to Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca.

But Parcells bought in bulk and the Dolphins will be better off for it come December.

Tony Romo II?
I liked Miami's signing of McCown. It's always puzzled me why this league hasn't embraced a quarterback with his skills.

McCown has spent six seasons in the NFL on some wretched teams at Arizona (2002 to '05), Detroit (2006) and Oakland (2007), posting a 12-19 record as a starting quarterback. That's a pedestrian .387 winning percentage in his 31 career starts. But his teams managed to win only 23.1 percent of the 65 games he did not start over those six seasons. So he can elevate the level of play by his team.

In the final game of the 2003 season, his 5-10 Cardinals hosted 9-6 Minnesota in a game the Vikings needed to win to clinch a playoff spot. McCown fired a 28-yard TD pass to Nate Poole in a fourth-and-25 situation as time expired to upset the Vikings, 18-17. So he can make the clutch play.

When the Lions wouldn't give McCown snaps at quarterback in 2006, he helped out in practice as a wide receiver – and even caught a pair of passes in a game against New England. So McCown is a willing team player.

McCown threw for 394 yards against Carolina and its top-three defense in a 2005 game and 313 yards against Detroit in the 2007 season opener. He also beat Denver with three touchdown passes last season. So he has the arm to win in this league.

Yet his teams have always shoved an older, more experienced player in his path to the field: Kurt Warner at Arizona, Jon Kitna at Detroit and Daunte Culpepper at Oakland. Maybe the Dolphins will finally give McCown his chance – and maybe Parcells has come up with another Tony Romo.

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