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20 posts from December 2011

December 16, 2011

Heat's Big 3: How many rings will define success? (with poll); plus NFL picks, Brian Billick, Lamar Miller, Ryan Braun & more

[1. You can still vote in our Tony Sparano firing poll in post directly below this newest one. 2. Signs we're a big-time sports town: Marlins introducing Jose Reyes and Heath Bell and Heat making available Pat Riley just hours apart today. 3. Give us a follow on Twitter at @gregcote]

Bulletin: Heat coach Erik Spoelstra gets contract extension! Reality: Contract extensions mean little. Um, how'd Tony Sparano's contract extension work out for him...

SETTING THE BAR ON HEAT EXPECTATIONS: The Heat's first of 1aa1big33two exhibition games is Sunday here vs. Orlando prior to the lockout-delayed, truncated NBA regular season opening Christmas Day in Dallas. Close enough now to set the bar on Heat expectations and what will define "success" for Miami's Big 3 era launching Year 2 after last season's loss in the Finals. Miami is favored again to win it all (see below), so fan optimism goes without saying. The question: What must Miami's Big 3 accomplish overall to have fulfilled expectations in your mind? Take a dip in our poll and say why.

HEAT FAVORED FOR TITLE, LEBRON FOR MVP: Latest odds from Bovada.lv have Heat favored at 9-4 to win it all, followed by Lakers 9-2, Bulls 7-1, Thunder 15-2 and Mavericks 10-1. Miami's LeBron James tops the MVP order at 3-1 followed by Kevin Durant 9-2, Derrick Rose 11-2, Dwight Howard and Kobe Bryant both 15-2, and Heat's Dwyane wade 9-1. Rookie of the year pick is Minnesota's Derrick Williams at 7-2. Heat's Norris Cole checks in tied for 10th at 16-1.

1aa1fripixNFL PREDIX: Sometimes, against logic, you just get a gut feeling, you know? Hence my picking the Dolphins to lose at Buffalo on Sunday. Click on Week 15 Gems for that and all our latest picks, and on Judging Ireland for my Friday Page NFL column on why Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland wasn't fired, and the defining onus upon him.

ON BRIAN BILLICK: The former longtime Baltimore Ravens head coach (1999-2007) says the Dolphins job opening interests him. The interest should be reciprocal. Billick, 57, has enough on the resume' -- an 80-64 career record including a 2000 Super Bowl ring -- to merit consideration. (Here comes the "yeah but"). But his teams made the playoffs only twice and were 0-2 his final six seasons, so we're talking diminishing returns. The question for owner Stephen Ross: Is a man out of coaching four years who last won a playoff game in 2001 the best you can do? I'd like to think not.

'BORDERLINE BEAST': Dolphins receiver Brandon Marshall has filmed a documentary called "Borderline Beast" about his struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder. The doc will be out in spring of 2012. Click here for a 1-minute trailer. 

1aa1millerlLAMAR MILLER ROLLS THE DICE: The Miami Hurricanes' gifted running back is leaving UM (and Al Golden) for the NFL draft two seasons sooner than he might have. Attention is on what NCAA penalties might await The U in the Nevin Shapiro scandal, but the early attrition of guys like Miller is the steady coach-killer. Miller is gambling that another productive UM season wouldn't substantially raise his draft stock. Right now Miller is judged a borderline/low first-round pick, ranked 29th overall, for example, on Todd McShay's latest ESPN.com list of top 32 prospects.

1aa1braunmvpWHY RYAN BRAUN MATTERS: I have read it posited that Ryan Braun's positive drug test is no big deal. Wrong. If true it is a big 1aa1braunrdeal, literally as well as symbolically. First it would taint the former Miami Hurricane's 2011 MVP season with the Brewers. It would mean a possible 50-game suspension and permanently tarnish the "Hebrew Hammer's" reputation. More broadly, it would be an indication that the sport's infamous steroids/PEDs era didn't end with the Bonds/McGwire generation but continues. It would mean we can't trust baseball or its players yet. The assumption of Braun's guilt exemplified in this cartoon might be unfortunate and harsh, but it's reality: Don't want to be assumed guilty, players? Then don't fail a drug test.

1aa1hurdsSAM HURD, PROFESSIONAL A--HOLE: He's the Chicago Bears receiver facing federal cocaine trafficking charges, and if the accusations are true he's the worst kind of drug dealer. It is one thing to be involved with that out of sheer poverty and desperation (still wrong), but somehow worse when someone of ways and means gets involved. What, Sam? The fame and riches of playing in the NFL weren't enough? Loser.

JERRY SANDUSKY'S GAMBLE: The disgraced former Penn State defensive coordinator pleading not guilty to sexual-abuse charges and seeking a jury trial looks like a severe risk, given the parade of accusers and the eye-witness testimony of Mike McQueary. The plea allows Sandusky to continue to play falsely-accused, for now, but finding a sympathetic jury won't be easy.  

'THE PROTESTER': Ever since getting terrible service once on a visit to my local Too Jays deli, I have had a personal boycott of that restaurant. I believe that makes me Time magazine's "Person of the Year."

1aa1mileycyrusMILEY CYRUS' BREASTS: This recent appearance on the red carpet has fueled speculation that Miley Cyrus has had breast implants, which she denies. Great debate ensues. I personally don't give a crap, but since she's over 18 and my wife isn't looking I pass along this photo for purely educational purposes.

Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost...

December 12, 2011

Dolphins fire coach Tony Sparano! Agree with decision? Vote now (with poll)

[Click on Mind Over Matter for my newest column, online and in today/Wednesday's pulp editions, on the Heat's new attitude. Also, join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Click on Not Much Help for my column  on the firing of Dolphins coach Tony Sparano.

 DOLPHINS FIRE TONY SPARANO: Club owner Stephen Ross announced late Monday at 1aa1tonyspathe team's Davie HQ that he had fired head coach Tony Sparano and that assistant Todd Bowles would take over on an interim basis the rest of the season. Doing it now, reasoned Ross, gives the club a jump start on finding a replacement, with the usual suspects -- Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden et al -- among the speculated potential candidates. General manager Jeff Ireland, who somehow keeps his job, sat at Ross' right elbow at the news conference. I was the only Miami Herald writer who attended the announcement and my resulting column, now online and on page 1A of the pulp editions, is linked above. Take a dip in our poll and say in a comment why you feel as you do.

December 11, 2011

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 11.9%

[Main Dolphins-Eagles game post is directly below this in blog. Also, join us on Twitter @gregcote].

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: GAME 13: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter, and they show 11.9 percent overall satisfaction in the wake of Sunday's 26-10 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, a result putting Miami's season record at 4-9. The figure is the lowest since Game 5, with most voting in prior to the firing late Monday of coach Tony Sparano.

1aa1dsmThe DSM, in its fourth season, is a continuous gauge of how fans feel about the team and its direction. Right after each game, I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. I also suggest your vote be based on this season only, and not how it might affect the 2012 draft.

The poll never closes but results are certified official after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 9 a.m. today/Tuesday.

2011 Dolfan Satisfaction Meter

Next poll: Dec. 18 following game at Buffalo.

G13: 11.9% satisfaction (7.4 very, 4.5 somewhat) following 26-10 loss vs. Philadelphia.

G12: 65.4% satisfaction (29.7 very, 35.7 somewhat) following 34-14 victory vs. Oakland.

G11: 38.5% satisfaction (14.0 very, 24.5 somewhat) following 20-19 loss at Dallas.

G10: 58.5% satisfaction (23.8 very, 34.7 somewhat) following 35-8 victory vs. Buffalo.

G9: 35.9% satisfaction (7.8 very, 28.1 somewhat) following 20-9 victory vs. Washington.

G8: 31.6% satisfaction (16.0 very, 15.6 somewhat) following 31-3 victory at Kansas City.

G7: 19.6% satisfaction (18.1 very, 1.5 somewhat) following 20-17 loss at N.Y. Giants.

G6: 14.5% satisfaction (14.0 very, 0.5 somewhat) following 18-15 loss vs. Denver.

G5: 9.6% satisfaction (9.2 very, 0.4 somewhat) following 24-6 loss at New York Jets.

G4: 5.6% satisfaction (5.4 very, 0.2 somewhat) following 26-16 loss at San Diego.

G3: 3.9% satisfaction (3.3 very, 0.6 somewhat) following 17-16 loss at Cleveland.

G2: 3.7% satisfaction (2.6 very, 1.1 somewhat) following 23-13 loss vs. Houston.

G1: 34.4% satisfaction (3.9 very, 30.5 somewhat) following 38-24 loss vs. New England.

2010 Final: 3.8% overall satisfaction.

2009 Final: 31.2% overall satisfaction.

2008 Final: 96.9% overall satisfaction.

G13: Philadelphia 26, Dolphins 10 (Final): Check, check, reality-check...

[Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Look for latest edition of Dolfan Satisfaction Meter in separate post beginning at 6 p.m. sharp!

G13: PHILADELPHIA AT DOLPHINS: Final: Reality check. After four wins in past fives games (the only loss by 1-point at Dallas), this was closer to the Miami that started 0-7. Defense was good enough today. Offense was not. And three Miami turovers led to 17 Phily points. ..... 4Q: Oy. Miami somehow turns 1st-and-goal from 10 to 4th-and-goal from 20, and Losman takes a sack. ..... JP Losman sacked in end zone for safety. ..... Dolphins down by "only" two TDs but game feels over. ..... JP Losman returns for another series. Matt More will not return, called out with a "head injury," which almost always means concussion. ..... On appeal, Dolphins lose ball on downs when muffed snap/sneak by JP Losman is ruled short of first down. ..... 3Q: Matt Moore shaken up, off, JP Losman in at QB. ..... Miami has 1st-and-goal from 10 but settles for 22-yard Carpenter FG to draw witin 24-10. ..... Sean Smith INT of Vick. Alas, a punt results. Dolphins offense still stuck on a meager 3 first downs. ..... Half: The story of Dolphins' first half? Simple. As many turnovers (3) as first downs. Sloppiness + no offense (82 total yards) = 24-7 hole. ..... 2Q: Lex Hilliard, Miami fail on 4th-and-1, ball to Philly. ..... And it's now three Miami turnovers all leading to Philly points, this for a 24-7 hole on a 34-yard Vick to DeSean Jackson TD pass. No Dolphins defender in the same area code. ..... DeSean Jackson lateral pass on punt return is fumbled, recovered by Miami's Tyrone Culver at PHI 24 -- but Dolphs give it right back on Moore fumble loss. ..... Lot of Eagles fans here. ..... Davone Bess loses fumble at own 34, Birds turn Miami turnover into 40-yard FG and 17-7 lead. ..... LeSean McCoy 1-yard TD run after Matt Moore bad overthrow intercepted by Kurt Coleman and returned 35 yards to Miami 1. ..... Eagles tie it 7-7 on LeSean McCoy 2-yard TD run. Eschewing that punt came back to bite Miami. ..... CB Vontae Davis now out with "stinger"; return questionable. ..... 1Q: driving as quarter ends. ..... Dan Carpenter misses 55-yard FG try. Un-Sparano-like to not play field position and punt there. ..... LT Jake Long out out with back injury; return questionable. ..... Miami 7-0 on Matt Moore 16-yard scoring pass to Brandon Marshall. ..... Original post: The Eagles were this season's alleged Dream Team, remember? The 1aa1dolhel 1aa1dolhel2Dolphins began the year with playoff hopes, remember? They intersect today both 4-8. Philly started 1-4 and hasn't won more than two in a row all season. Miami of course started 0-7 before the current surge. Game is judged even with Miami a token 3-point home-field favorite, but I think the return from injury of Michael Vick will see an upset by Birds. Ronnie Brown makes his return to Miami but he's a bit player for Philly. It is LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, Jeremy Maclin, Jason Avant and Brent Celek giving Vick too many weapons. Oh, and enough please with the comparisons of McCoy and Reggie Bush, as if they are mirror players having similar seasons. McCoy is better, is having a Pro Bowl year, is gunning for a league rushing title, has 1,411 combined scrimmage yards and has produced 88 first downs. Bush has come on lately but overall has paled with 904 scrimmage yards and 37 first downs. Pick: Eagles, 31-23.

December 09, 2011

Watch out! David Stern is loose! Plus, name Dolphins' all-time greatest running back (with poll), Dwyane Wade, NFL picks, Paul Simon & more

[Time flies but greatness endures: Remembering John Lennon one day after the 31st anniversary of his murder. Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also, you can still vote in our Hanley Ramirez poll in the post directly below this one].

Note: Heat star Dwyane Wade appeared Saturday in an ABC special, "Primetime Nightline: Bringing America Back." Wade is featured among inspirational stories for his work on behalf of children.

DAVID STERN'S YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY: I'm going to go ahead and say that David Stern, the NBA's erudite and at-times snooty-ish commissioner, could only be having a worse year if suddenly all of 1aa1chrispaulhis 1aa1davidsternleague's basketball courts were devoured by a dark cloud of termites. First he oversees a labor lockout that erases a chunk of the regular season. Now -- for reasons dubious -- he vetoes the three-way mega-trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the L.A. Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets, and Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a 1st-round drat pick to the New Orleans Hornets. Pictured: Stern, frowning, and Paul, reacting to the veto. The deal seemed reasonably fair to me. Stern nixed it ostensibly "for basketball reasons" but the real reason seems to be the vehement negative reaction of many club owners including the Cavaliers' Dan Gilbert. The problem is that club owners beyond just the three involved in the trade have a right to stick their nose in because the NBA owns the Hornets, meaning, in effect, the other 29 owners own the Hornets. The obvious conflict of interest in a league owning a team has played out in the worst possible way here, shoving the beleaguered Stern into yet another a no-win situation. Parochially, how should a Heat fan regard the trade not happening? All depends on which Lakers you judge a tougher championship roadblock for Miami: The would-have-been smaller Lakers with CP3 in Kobe's backcourt? Or the bigger, as-is Lakers with Gasol still haunting the key? I call it a push.

WELCOME BACK, RONNIE BROWN: Eagles at Dolphins Sunday brings Ronnie Brown back to town. Alas, he is Philly's third back and hasn't played much, so opportunities to give him the appreciative cheer might be rare and fleeting. His return got me to thinking: How does Ronnie rank among the Dolphins' all-time best running backs? I'm curious how you feel. The poll lists alphabetically the top six guys in franchise career rushing. The order in terms of yards would be Larry Csonka, Ricky Williams, Brown, Mercury Morris, Jim Kiick and Tony Nathan. Your votes will decide the real order. Start casting!

1aa1fripixNFL PREDIX: EAGLES' TALENT COOLS HOT DOLPHINS: Granted I've apparently been overestimating Philly's talent all year, but I think the return from injury of Michael Vick and LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and others at his disposal will be too much for Miami. Call it 31-23, Eagles, in a slight upset. Click on Week 14 Gems for all my latest NFL picks, and on Aaron's Year for my King Sport Third-Quarter Awards.

1aa1paulsimonON PAUL SIMON: Wife and I saw Paul Simon the other night at the Hard Rock. He puts on a truly terrific show. Great live performer. Not a single reference to Simon & Garfunkel, with "Sounds Of Silence" beginning one encore the only S&G song performed. Otherwise all from his own catalog, leaning heavily to his wonderful Graceland album and to his critically acclaimed latest CD, So Beautiful Or So What. Simon songs are interesting aurally, with Afro-Caribbean rhythms and instruments such as accordions and washboards. But it is his lyrics, his storytetlling, that always has distinguished him. A legendary career still going strong. Great to see and hear.

COLOMBIA VS. MEXICO: It is announced that Dolphins Stadium on Feb. 29 will host a Colombia vs. Mexico international soccer match. I suppose that would be the match voted most likely to be interrupted by warring drug cartels.   

PSSST. THE PANTHERS ARE REALLY GOOD. SHHH...: The Florida Panthers picked a hell of a time to be good again. Playoff-good. Maybe even great. The NBA lockout ending foists the Heat back onto center stage locally. The Marlins' major free-agent spending crowds the stage, too. So does the Dolphins' resurgence. With a continuing lockout, the usual baseball frugality and the Dolphins who started 0-7, the Panthers might own the stage. Now? Off in the wings. Winning, but off in the wings.

Click back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost...

December 08, 2011

Taking sides on latest Hanley Ramirez controversy (with poll); plus Heat land Shane Battier; also, Elian Gonzalez, Madonna, Saban, Heisman odds & more

[Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

COULD SOMEBODY PLEASE GIVE HANLEY RAMIREZ A CLUE?: The suddenly free-spending Marlins are the talk of the town. Even not getting Albert Pujols, Miami has signed shortstop Jose Reyes, closer 1aa1hanleyrHeath Bell and starter Mark Buerhle, has an offer in to starter C.J. Wilson, and may yet pursue first baseman Prince Fielder. No club has been more active or improved more, the metamorphosis of the entire franchise a stunning thing to behold as I write in this column today. It's all bells 'n whistles and upbeat notes but for that one clanging, dissonant sound. That would be Hanley Ramirez (pictured in a happier moment). The Marlins' high-strung, needing-to-be coddled incumbent shortstop balked this week at moving to third base to accommodate Reyes, and now suggests through his agent that a "restructured" contract -- i.e., a lot more money -- might ease the move for Hanley. The club in turn is upset, as it should be, and reportedly is exploring trade options. Earth to Hanley: What an opportunity you are missing here. You have a chance to remake your image, to be seen as a magnanimous team-first player, to become a true team leader and to gain the popularity of fans who have never fully embraced you. Instead you are only underlining your reputation for petulance and a me-first attitude. The worst of all this is that is smacks of ego. Giving up your position to a man signed for more money than you are making evidently is too much for the ego to bear. Somebody should remind Hanley that, across town, Dwyane Wade agreed to a cut in salary last year so the Heat could sign both LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Hanley, your deal averages $12 million a year. If that isn't enough only because Reyes is making more, that isn't a fairness issue, that is an ego issue. Meanwhile the idea of trading Ramirez is worth exploring, but I would do it only for compelling value in return, something that suits a Marlins need. I would trade him straight up for Washington all-star 3B Ryan Zimmerman, for example. I would not trade him for prospects. The best situation is that Hanley swallows his pride and becomes the team player he has never quite managed to be. Of him, alas, that is a lot to ask. OK, enough of me venting. Your turn. Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

1aa1battierHEAT LAND SHANE BATTIER: The Heat has agreed to terms with free-agent 6-8 small-forward Shane Battier, late of the Memphis Grizzlies. Battier himself at 9:42 this morning Tweeted, "Let's Go Heat!" He is 33, reiterating Miami is all about winning now. Getting Battier signals the end of Mike Miller here. Battier will play the same reserve swingman role, lending not as much offensive spark perhaps but clearly better defense. Heat's FA priority now should be help at center (Samuel Dalembert too pricey, Greg Oden too injured) and maybe point-guard help for Mario Chalmers.

PUJOLS TO ANGELS: THE IMPACT: From Bodog: With Albert Pujols leaving Cardinals and signing with Angels, St. Louis' odds of winning the World Series went from 14-1 to 18-1, and LAA's odds went from 22-1 to 12-1. Over/unders on Pujols' 2012 season are .310, 37.5 homers and 120.5 RBIs.

1aa1eliangHAPPY BIRTHDAY, ELIAN: Elian Gonzalez, the small boy taken from his Miami relatives in 2000 and returned to Cuba, just turned 18, and is seen here in the embrace of Cuban president Raul Castro. I'm not sure what Elian wanted for his birthday, but if he wanted to be a propaganda pawn for the Cuban government, his wish came true!

MADONNA A CLASSIC NFL CHOICE FOR SB HALFTIME: Madonna (whom I like to call Lady Gaga's mother) is 53 (at least) and last had a song top the American pop charts in 2000. She is both legendary and on the far side of her popularity/relevance arc. Which, of course makes her the quintessential NFL pick for a Super Bowl halftime performer, joining the parade of recent choices including The Who, Bruce Springsteen, the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. The NFL's halftime mindset calls to mind the name of a song I like from the Rocky Horror soundtrack: Time Warp.

NICK SABAN: WARM AND FUZZY INDIVIDUAL: Former Dolphin Heath Evans tells a story embodying the warm good nature of coach Nick Saban. Click here for the tale. The one point I might dispute: If at any time Jeno James was the Dolphins' best offensive lineman, this franchise was in worse shape we thought.

HEISMAN, SUPER BOWL ODDS: Our friends at Bodog have Baylor QB Robert Griffin III a prohibitive 1-5 favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, followed by Alabama RB Trent Richardson at 11-4 and Stanford QB Andrew Luck at 5-1. Wisconsin's Montee Ball and LSU's Tyrann Mathieu are window dressing and have zero shot. Super Bowl favorite continues as Green Bay at 9-5 followed by New England 17-4, New Orleans 13-2 and Baltimore and Pittsburgh both 9-1.

ME, PICKS: I went an OK 10-6 straight-up last week on my Friday NFL predictions page but a sterling 12-4 against the spread. The latter ties my all-time best for ATS wins in a week. Details coming, happily, on this Friday's page.

ME, FANTASY: Greg's Lobos set a season-high for points last week in winning, 197-146, with six players topping 20 points led (as usual) by Aaron Rodgers' 39 points and 30 from Maurice Jones-Drew. At 4-9 I enter the final week of our fantasy regular season with a slight chance to still back into the playoffs. I need one other team to lose, me to win and then win a tiebreaker.

Click back. Will be adding more to this latest blogpost...

December 05, 2011

Welcome to Miami: America's Hottest Sports Town!; plus BCS final: Is LSU-Alabama right game? (with poll) & more

[1) Remembering Pearl Harbor on its 70th anniversary. 2) Musical treat: Click here to see and hear Paul McCartney and Ron Wood performing "Get Back" in London this week. 3) See results of latest Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll in blogpost directly below this. 4) Click on A Reminder of Better Times for my column off Raiders game. 5) Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

NOBODY IS HOTTER THAN US (I SAID NOBODY!) Swaggering South Florida preens like a peacock in professional sports today, and why not. No city in America is hotter than Miami right now in the BIg Four 1aa1joser 1aa1lebronj 1aa1stephenw 1aa1reggiebsports. Consider: 1) Marlins are the talk of baseball for the right reasons, adding former Mets star shortstop Jose Reyes, ace closer Heath Bell and starter Mark Buehrle -- and then a serious push for Albert Pujols -- to a team already featuring Mike Stanton, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson. The new ballpark will see a team of huge promise, a playoff contender. 2) Heat are the betting favorites to win the NBA championship in Year 2 of the Big 3: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. 3) Panthers are in first place in the NHL Southeast Division, in case you hadn't noticed. The retooled Cats are playing the best hockey we've seen down here since 1996. And 4) Dolphins have won four of their past five games and are playing, right now, at a playoff-caliber level. Pictured left, Reyes rocking the new hat and LeBron eyeing a championship. Pictured right in action: Reggie Bush and Stephen Weiss. "Miami: Don't Touch Us. You Might Get Burned."

QUIET DOWN, GROUSERS. LSU-'BAMA IS THE RIGHT TITLE GAME: Love this time of year. The holidays? 1aa1bcs12That, too. But I meant BCS-bashing season. I'm a rarity. I think the BCS usually gets it right, and did this time with No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama in the Jan. 9 championship game. This season's obligatory National Seat of Outrage is Stillwater, Okla., where fans of No. 3 Oklahoma State are assigned the annual We Wuz Robbed! role. You weren't Cowboys. You aren't as good as Alabama. That's why The AP poll and also the USA Today/Coaches poll also had you third just like the final BCS rankings. I have no doubt LSU and 'Bama are the two best teams in this 14th season of the BCS and sixth straight year an SEC team will reign. Nor does a "rematch bowl" bother me, the fact LSU beat Alabama 9-6 in OT on Nov. 5. Some complain that a Crimson Tide win next month would leave an unsettled feeling, as if they should play again and make it a best-of-three. Nope. This game is what it should be: Two best teams. Winner take all. No one claiming a shred of sanity can argue against unbeaten LSU in the title game. The fair debate is whether the Tigers should be playing Alabama (again) or if Oklahoma State is deserving. Vote now and say why.

Other bowls I care about, in chronology: FIU-Marshall Dec. 20 in St. Petersburg; FSU-Notre Dame Dec. 29 in Orlando; Florida-Ohio State Jan. 2 in Jacksonville; and West Virginia-Clemson Jan. 4 in Miami (because it's the Orange Bowl, not because the matchup scintillates).

Click back. Will be adding more to this latest blogpost...

December 04, 2011

Dolfan Satisfaction Meter: 65.4%

[Main Dolphins-Raiders game post is directly below this in blog. Click on A Reminder of Better Times for my column off the game. Also, join us on Twitter @gregcote].

We interrupt this Dolfan Satisfaction Meter to remark on the Marlins agreeing to terms with former Mets shortstop Jose Reyes. Astounding. Closer Heath Bell, now Reyes. The once infamously cheap Marlins are now the talk of baseball with their aggressive foray into free agency. This is exciting.

DOLFAN SATISFACTION METER: GAME 12: Results are certified in the latest Dolfan Satisfaction  Meter, and they show 65.4 percent overall satisfaction -- a season high -- in the wake of Sunday's 34-14 home victory over the Oakland Raiders, a result putting Miami's season 1aa1dsmrecord at 4-8.

The DSM, in its fourth season, is a continuous gauge of how fans feel about the team and its direction. Right after each game, I invite you to share your overall degree of satisfaction. Criteria for voting is your own, but I suggest fans consider the most recent game's performance and caliber of opponent, the season as a whole, the direction the club is heading and your overall degree of optimism -- all in the context of reasonable expectations. I also suggest your vote be based on this season only, and not how it might affect the 2012 draft.

The poll never closes but results are certified official after one full day of voting. In this case that was around 10 a.m. Wednesday. The one-day delay was due to human error (mine).

2011 Dolfan Satisfaction Meter

Next poll: Dec. 11 following game vs. Philadelphia.

G12: 65.4% satisfaction (29.7 very, 35.7 somewhat) following 34-14 victory vs. Oakland.

G11: 38.5% satisfaction (14.0 very, 24.5 somewhat) following 20-19 loss at Dallas.

G10: 58.5% satisfaction (23.8 very, 34.7 somewhat) following 35-8 victory vs. Buffalo.

G9: 35.9% satisfaction (7.8 very, 28.1 somewhat) following 20-9 victory vs. Washington.

G8: 31.6% satisfaction (16.0 very, 15.6 somewhat) following 31-3 victory at Kansas City.

G7: 19.6% satisfaction (18.1 very, 1.5 somewhat) following 20-17 loss at N.Y. Giants.

G6: 14.5% satisfaction (14.0 very, 0.5 somewhat) following 18-15 loss vs. Denver.

G5: 9.6% satisfaction (9.2 very, 0.4 somewhat) following 24-6 loss at New York Jets.

G4: 5.6% satisfaction (5.4 very, 0.2 somewhat) following 26-16 loss at San Diego.

G3: 3.9% satisfaction (3.3 very, 0.6 somewhat) following 17-16 loss at Cleveland.

G2: 3.7% satisfaction (2.6 very, 1.1 somewhat) following 23-13 loss vs. Houston.

G1: 34.4% satisfaction (3.9 very, 30.5 somewhat) following 38-24 loss vs. New England.

2010 Final: 3.8% overall satisfaction.

2009 Final: 31.2% overall satisfaction.

2008 Final: 96.9% overall satisfaction.

G12: Dolphins 34, Oakland 14 (Final): Surging Miami makes it 4 wins in past 5 games

[Find our Farewell to Howard Schnellenberger in blogpost directly below this. Also, join us on Twitter @gregcote]

Vote now in latest edition of the Dolfan Satisfaction Meter poll in separate post directly above this one! 

1aa1doloakG12: DOLPHINS 34, OAKLAND 14: MIAMI DOMINATES!Final: A rarity. A day of all-round dominance by Dolphins. Click on A Reminder of Better Times for my column off the game. ..... 4Q: Another late TD pass draws Oakland closer at 31-14. ..... Carson Palmer 40-yard TD pass to a wide-open T.J. Houshmandzadeh averts shutout, makes it 34-7 with 7:51 to play. ..... Matt Moore still in for Miami. Imagine we'll see backup QB JP Losman next series. ..... 3Q: Kevin Burnett interception  off a deflection and 34-yard TD return for a 34-score with 4:41 left. ..... Matt Moore 6-yard TD run makes it 27-0 with 5:01 left in third. ..... Raider Richard Seymour ejected for throwing a punch. A lame punch at that! ..... Clyde Gates 77-yard kickoff return launches second half for Miami. That and a pass interference penalty in end zone set up 1-yard Reggie Bush TD run and 20-0 lead with 13:56 to play. ..... . ..... Half: Miami defense dominating, allowing Oakland only 107 total yards in first half. Here comes the 1aa1jimmhalftime ceremony honoring the late Jim Mandich with his Honor Roll induction. Well deserved. ..... 2Q: Big sack by a blitzing Vontae Davis. ..... Davone Bess 12-yard scoring pass on slant from Matt Moore and Dolphins in charge, 13-0, with 8:24 to play. ..... Kevin Burnett penalty negates Karlos Dansby INT, but Burnett makes amends with punt-forcing sack of Carson Palmer. ..... 1Q: Bush beats their Bush. Reggie led Michael in 1Q rushing yards, 53-3. ..... Miami has 1st and 10 from Oakland 11 but somehow settles for another FG, this from 33 yards, and a 6-0 lead with 1:30 left. ..... Dan Carpenter 48-yard FG and a 3-0 Miami lead with 10:11 to play. ..... Original post: A meeting of two franchises steeped in history and good ol' days both trying to find some good new days. Dolphins improbably shook off 0-7 to win three straight before losing by 1-point at Dallas on Thanksgiving, an impressive 3-1 surge. But a surge to what? To respectability? To maybe saving coach Tony Sparano's job? To simply a lower first-round draft pick? Finding out is the intrigue left in this season as Miami tries out the spoiler role, hoping today to deal a hit to Oakland's playoff chances. A tossup game, to me, but I like Miami's chances of controlling the ball, clock and game against a Raiders run-defense allowing 5.3 yards per carry. Pick: Dolphins, 23-17.

December 02, 2011

A farewell to Howard Schnellenberger; plus NFL predix, new D-Wade ad, Heath Bell, radio ratings, Carl Pelini, Newt, Frosty & more

[Join us on Twitter @gregcote]

A FOND FAREWELL, HOWARD SCHNELLENBERGER: Howard Schnellenberger deposited 53 years of football coaching into the past tense Saturday, placing a life's work in the memory box as Florida Atlantic hosted Louisiana-Monroe. The sun set on the stadium as it set on a man's storied 1aa1howardumcareer. Of course it would be ending differently had anyone put me in charge of the fairy tale. It would be ending in a bowl game, with Howard triumphantly on the shoulders of players, being carried off the field. Instead it would end in a half-empty campus stadium with another loss, this one 26-0. The coach's sendoff was a 1-11 record. One must step back, though, way back, to take in the full measure of what Schnellenberger has meant to South Florida. In college or pro coaching, I think only Don Shula has meant more. Schnellenberger helped guide the Dolphins to their 1972 Perfect Season, he led the Miami Hurricanes to their watershed 1983 1aa1howardfaunational championship, and he founded from scratch the FAU football program, bequeathing it a brand new stadium borne of his own initiative and persistence -- a stadium that should be renamed in his honor. And those are just the highlights. I'll never forget the snapshot of Schnellenberger drinking in that national title the night of Jan. 2, 1984 at the old Orange Bowl, the then-ubiquitous pipe in his hand, and wife Beverlee at his side, incongruously but somehow appropriately in a full-length mink. They were royalty. They had set the Hurricanes off on their remarkable way. This man was a big part of the best of Dolphins history, then a bigger part of the best of UM history, and finally the only part that mattered in making history in Boca Raton, literally creating a football program from nothing. Pictured is the man in his halcyon UM days at left and in his later FAU years at right, hair gone snow-white but fire still burning. Now he retires at 77, and he has earned the rest. A monumental and well-spent career that mattered is ending. Well done, Howard. Farewell.

Other Collball Week 14 state FBS games: South Florida lost Thursday to No. 23 West Virginia, 30-27. National top-25 matchups: 24-Southern Miss d. 6-Houston, 49-28; 17-Baylor d. 22-Texas, 48-24; 1-LSU d. 14-Georgia, 42-10; 3-Oklahoma State d. 11-Oklahoma, 44-10; 20-Clemson d. 5-Virginia Tech, 38-10; and 15-Wisconsin d. 13-Michigan State, 42-39.

1aa1fripix 1aa1rolandomcclainNFL PREDIX: DOLPHINS IN SPOILER MODE: Miami beats Oakland on Sunday, 23-17, playing spoiler to the Raiders' playoff hopes. Dolphins defense has played well enough in this 3-1 spurt to handle Carson Palmer, and I think Miami can control the ball offensively vs. an OAK run-D allowing 5.3 yards per carry. Raiders MLB Rolando McClain is expected to play Sunday despite a Thursday arrest in Alabama for allegedly threatening a man with a pistol and firing a shot near his head while in town to attend his grandfather's funeral. McClain is pictured at right during his arrest, grinning like a fool. Literally. Click on Week 13 Gems for all our latest NFL picks. Also check out my Friday Page column on how three unusual QB situations lend intrigue to an otherwise drama-free playoff chase.

THE NEW DWYANE WADE AD: "This Is Flight," the new D-Wade commercial for Jordan Brand. Impressive. Click here.

MARLINS HIT BIG WITH BELL, SEND MESSAGE: The Miami Marlins now have a premier closer in former 1aa1bellhPadre Heath Bell, who has had 42, 47 and 43 saves the past three seasons, an all-star each year. Call it an early Christmas present for Josh Johnson and for other starters who can probably count on two or three more victories each from what would have been blown saves. The Closer Formerly Known As Leo Nunez is relegated to an odd bit of club history now with Bell's arrival. The message? Two-fold. 1. Bell is 34, meaning the Marlins want and expect to win now. 2) This formerly penurious franchise is serious about spending, and contending. Are you listening, Jose Reyes? You'd also think a free-agent starter like lefty C.J. Wilson finds the Marlins a lot more enticing with Bell closing than when the position was a question mark. Bonus: Bell (pictured) comes with the good, menacing Closer Beard.

790 THE TICKET IS KICKING WQAM'S A--: I compare the four major South Florida sports-radio stations -- 790 The Ticket, WQAM-560, WINZ-940 and 640-WMEN -- by combining the full day (6 a.m. to 7 p.m.) November ratings for each station's four programs in the most-desirable men 18-34 and men 25-54 1aa1mikeradiodemographics. Results: 790 a combined 17.7 rating to QAM's 10.0, 940's 3.5 and 640's 0.8. Here is the breakdown: 6-10 a.m.---790's Jorge Sedano beats QAM's Joe Rose a combined 4.9 to 3.1, with 940's Mike & Mike at 1.6 and 640's Armando & The Amigo at 0.3. 10 a.m.-1 p.m.---790's Colin Cowherd whips QAM's Gino Torretta, 4.6 to 2.5, with 940 and 640 in at 0.3 and 0.0, respectively. 1-3 p.m.---790's The Sports Brothers beat QAM's Michael Irvin, 2.9 to 1.7, with 940 and 640 at 0.8 and 0.1. And 3-7 p.m.---790 Dan Le Batard & Stugotz crush QAM, 5.3 to 2.7, with 940 and 640 at 0.8 and 0.4. Summary: WQAM needs to find a way around or through 790's across the board dominance, which only figures to be enhanced now that the Heat are on again. WINZ-940 has disappointed despite becoming the flagship station of the Dolphins. As for 640, well, based on these numbers...why bother?  

1aa1carlpeliniFAU REPLACES HOWARD WITH THE "OTHER" PELINI: Howard Schnellenberger puts the wrap on 53 remarkable years in football coaching Saturday, and now word comes that FAU will replace its retiring program creator with Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, 46, the brother of Huskers head coach Bo Pelini. Hmm. Carl (pictured) was last a head coach in 2002 at Fitch High in Austintown, Ohio. Since then he has been a defensive assistant at two small colleges (Minnesota State, Ohio) before being hired at Nebraska by his look-alike younger brother. I'm not saying nepotism, but I do think The Other Pelini has much to prove. The Nebraska bloodline alone makes him a credible hire for FAU, but I can't help but think a major-program defensive coordinator who is highly regarded and seen as head-coach material might land a bit higher than the Owls, no?

NEWT GINGRICH?: Newt Gingrich predicted flatly this week, "I'm going to be the [Republicican presidential] nominee." At that, the sound you heard sweeping the nation was the collective relieved exhale of Barack Obama supporters. In 2008 Obama might well have lost the presidency if John McCain had not boneheadedly chosen Sarah Palin as his running mate. In 2012, Obama will be susceptible to defeat again but for the lack of an electable opponent. Enter Newt. The perception here is that Obama's reelection campaign has no greater hope than Newt Gingrich grand-marshaling a parade of Herman Cain, Michelle Bachman and Rick Perry on the other side.

1aa1frostyMAN DRESSED AS FROSTY THE SNOWMAN TERRORIZES SMALL TOWN: Well, I guess that headline about about says it all. Click here for the tale.

Check back. Will be adding more stuff to this latest blogpost...