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11 posts from July 2014

July 31, 2014

Miami Big 5 next-champion poll too close to call, voting extended to midnight; plus Marlins, Riley, Dolphins, Sharknado & more

1) It is SATURDAY, AUGUST 2. Happy new month all! 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Miracle Marlins, Micky Arison's open letter, Canes odds, Tannehill-support results, naked TV & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

LeBron saga gets stranger: Three weeks later, LeBron James' departure from the Heat occupies a murky space in the gray between amicable parting and bitter divorce. I explore in my latest column. Click on Bad Blood Wrapped In Civility to read.

New NFL, Dolphins odds: New pre-preseason odds from Bovada show Broncos the Super Bowl fave at 13-2, followed by Seahawks 7-1, 49ers 15-2, Patriots 8-1 and Packers 10-1. Dolphins tied for 23rd at 66-1.

THE MIAMI TEAM BEST-POSITIONED TO NEXT BE CHAMPION IS...: This poll question -- and voting is extended through midnight tonight/Saturday because it's too close to call -- wouldn't be here if
LeBron James hadn't left Miami. What would have been the point? The answer would have been 1aa1abig5foregone. Heat, obviously. Now, not so much. 1aa1anextchampNow the playing field for this question has leveled. I could make an honest argument that any one of our Big 5 South Florida teams -- Dolphins, Heat, Hurricanes football, Marlins or Panthers -- is best-positioned and most likely to win our next championship. That is what makes picking just one tough, but that's your challenge here. Your other challenge is to not make it a favorite-team vote. It isn't. Not asking who you most hope has a parade next, but who you honestly think is most likely to. Who your money would be on in an even-odds wager. Vote and say why.

MARLINS SCREWED BY REPLAY REVERSAL: I'm not a kill-the-ump/blame-the-ref guy. Pinning your 1aa1amredteam's loss on the officiating almost always comes off as lame, an excuse. But not Thursday night. The Marlins got screwed when a blown decision by an MLB replay crew in New York turned a 1-0 Marlins lead into a 3-1 loss to the Reds. An inning-ending throw to the plate by Giancarlo Stanton that nailed the runner easily was wrongly overturned based on the new 7.13 rule preventing catchers from blocking the plate -- even though the rule should not have applied in this case based on when and where the catcher possessed the ball. The Marlins including manager Mike Redmond (shown protesting) were livid, and justifiably. MLB responded yesterday with a statement backing up the role reversal, but admitted the application of the new rule will be reviewed, and that last night's 6-minute review was far too long. Will the screw-job lead to a tailspin? Marlins lost again last night.

Marlins trade for starting pitcher: Fish beat this week's MLB trade deadline with a six-player swap 1aa1acosartwith Houston, acquiring righty starter Jarred Cosart, 24, who is 9-7 with a 4.41 ERA; utilityman Kike' Hernandez, 22; and outfielder Austin Wates, 25. Cosart (pictured) will join the rotation and should help right away. Traded away in the deal: OF Jake Marisnick, IF Colin Moran, RHP Francis Martes and a draft pick. Cosart must become a productive fixture in the rotation beyond this season for this deal to feel good, because chances are either Moran or Marisnick will turn into a very good player.

ON PAT RILEY'S RESTRAINT: We media adore Heat prez Pat Riley because he is effusive, eloquent, candid -- everything you want in a good quote interview. So there was great potential this week when Riles agreed 1aa1aprileyto a conference call with reporters. Then there was a letdown. We thought Riley wouldn't be able to resist veering off the high-road just a bit for a few pointed jabs at LeBron James, but he didn't. "We were shocked, but we recovered," he said. "We are going to build another championship team and that’s it." Riley said he plans to still be around in 2016 when the Heat will have much salary-cap flexibility for a bounty of free agents that will include Kevin Durant. "It has fired me up," he said. "We are going to try to make it another generational team. That’s my objective." On this coming season: "We feel very good. I feel we are going to be as competitive as anybody in the Eastern Conference." Riley never gives a bad interview, but this one was mild. It was like a deposition with the good stuff redacted. He could have made national news with the the hint of a LeBron rift the sound bite and headline. To the media's disappointment but his credit, Riley did not.

SHARKNADO NATION: If I have to explain the Sharknado phenomenon, you fail Pop Culture 101. 1aa1asharknadoSharknado 2, sequel to the made-for-TV disaster B-film, premiered on the SyFy channel this week. Proudly, I did not see it. Sharks eminating from tornadoes! Need I say more? In the sequel, the flying sharks attack New York City. (As if living in NYC wasn't dangerous enough, right?) The Sharknado vehicle is preposterous high camp owing to ancestors like Mothra, the giant moth that terrorized Tokyo in 1961. I am officially predicting a Sharknado vs. Mothra sequel, with a cameo by Godzilla as a Jimmy Carter-esque mediator who fails to ameliorate the mayhem.     

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July 29, 2014

Miracle Marlins!; plus Arison's open letter (no thanks for LeBron), Canes odds, support for Tannehill rising, naked-TV trend & more

1) It is WEDNEDSDAY, JULY 30. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Faith-in-Tannehill poll, Joe Philbin, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 2) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

"The Dolphins signed rookie QB Seth Lobato from Northern Colorado. If he made the team and won the starting job, would that mean the offense had undergone a Lobatomy?" --Greg Cote

MARLINS FANS: DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?: You saw one two nights ago against rival Washington,
1aa1abillymwith Miami turning a 6-0 deficit into a 7-6 walkoff win. Last night it was a 3-0 whitewash win. Now the Marlins have won six straight games and nine of the past 10. The team has now crept back up to a .500 record and is within five games of the NL East lead and, as important, within four games of a wild-card spot. This is still the periphery of playoff contention, but Miami has put itself in the conversation, given itself a chance. The team should now be buyers, not sellers, if there is any movement before Thursday's MLB trade deadline looms. On my count, 1-2-3 ... "Everybody's doin' the Fish! Yeah yeah yeah!" It would be a sporting miracle if Miami, sans Jose Fernandez, came from where they were to make the playoffs. They have a fighting shot.

ON MICKY ARISON'S OPEN LETTER TO HEAT FANS: 'WE ARE NOT DONE': The Heat's owner linked to his upbeat message from his Twitter account. Back in the day, he'd have taken out a full page ad in 1aa1amickyx3the Miami Herald. (Why do I think of everything in the context of the Newspaper Deathbed?) Anyway, Arison didn't go all Dan Gilbert and rail against LeBron James for the way he left. He went high-road, extolling the franchise's great accomplishments and expressing optimism moving forward. The letter appeared beneath the photo shown here. The key points, to me: After spending the first half of the letter bragging up all the club has done, and won, he wrote, "I’m here to tell you something else: we are not done; not even close." And, "We are laser-focused on the present and the task at hand of defending our Eastern Conference championship ... while also positioning ourselves for maximum flexibility and maneuverability in the future." And, "Our roster is comprised of players capable of versatility and who are out to prove something to the rest of the league." Finally, a plea to fans: "Like Dwyane [Wade] said when he announced his return to the Heat, I am a #HeatLifer. That’s how I want you to feel about your role as a Miami Heat fan -- that you are a #HeatLifer –- 'all in' with us." I found it interesting that Arison neither mentioned LeBron's departure nor thanked him for his time here. The underlying tone was very much that losing LeBron is a hiccup that this championship-pedigree club will overcome.

CANES CONFERENCE ODDS: ACC media recently voted Miami as the favorite to win the Coastal Division this season. Professional oddsmakers do not agree. New Bovada lines out today have North Carolina the Coastal pick at 8-5 odds, followed by UM and Virginia Tech at 3-1 each. 

POLL RESULT: SUPPORT FOR TANNEHILL SHOWS MODEST RISE: "What will Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill be three years from now?" We asked the poll question during last season and again as this training camp opened to gauge any change in support, and we saw a modest rise in faith. The comparative results:

Poll Answer                2013        Now

A star                        8.2          13.5

A solid starter            39.1        41.4  

A marginal starter      30.4        21.8

A reserve                   7.5         7.1

Gone                         8.4         10.4

Too soon to say          6.4         5.8

In sum, Tannehill's plus-rating in the two most positive categories -- star or solid starter -- rose from 47.3 percent to 54.9%. Tannehill generally has rising support, but it isn't broad, and doubters remain.

MEET TV'S LATEST DUMB NAKED SHOW: It is called Dating Naked and it airs Thursdays on VH1. The title is fairly self-explanatory; see photos. This in many ways is a golden age for television, with terrific shows such 1aa1adatingnaked 1aa1adatingnaked2as Shameless, Boardwalk Empire, Ray Donovan, Girls and many more. However all is not gold. There is still plenty of tin. TV executives out of fresh ideas tend to cannibalize each other, and this element has collectively decided that nudity is trend-worthy -- Fleshtone is the New Orange -- and so Dating Naked might call itself the illicit child of Discovery's Naked and Afraid and TLC's Buying Naked. Bulletin: Most people look much better clothed. (If you don't believe me, take an eye-opening stroll along the textile-optional stretch of Haulover Beach in north Miami). The "naked" shows also are fraudulent or at least misleading, sort of like ESPN The Magazine's annual "Body" issue that pictures athletes artfully nude but not really, their private parts tastefully covered. Dating Naked is a similar big tease of false advertising, with the frontal stuff obscured and viewers left with small doses of butt crack. I watched some of one episode on VH1's website in order to write this item. The show is not daring enough to be revolutionary, and somehow manages to make nakedness boring.

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July 26, 2014

What's your faith in Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill? Poll. Last day to vote!; plus Hot Button Top 10, Joe Philbin, Morgan Freeman does LeBron & more

1aa1amick1) It is MONDAY, JULY 28. Just learned our recent column headlined "LeBron James' departure leaves Miami Heat fans divided" was the most-read thing locally and nationally on MiamiHerald.com last week. Thanks, readers. 2) Mick Jagger turned 71. Rock on and roll on, Mick! 3) Frank Caliendo as Morgan Freeman as LeBron James reading his back-home essay is hilarious. Click HERE if you haven't heard it, or to enjoy it again. 4) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Welcome back football/Dolphins expectations poll, college football betting odds, Hot Button Top 10 & more. 5) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1ajoepPhilbin on hot seat: I write in my latest column that Dolphins coach Joe Philbin must get Dolphins into playoffs this season or see his job in peril. Click Impatience = Imperative to read. For other recent columns click A Distraction to Embrace (Michael Sam) and Opportunity and Responsibility (Football Town).

Dolphins, NFL victory over/unders: New from Bovada, latest NFL over/unders on wins show Dolphins at 7.5, not a playoff number but still second in AFC East after Patriots (11) but ahead of Jets (7) and Bills (6.5). Joining Pats in double-digit club: Broncos at 11.5, Seahawks at 11, 49ers and Packers both 10.5, and Saints 10.

"Are you rooting for LeBron to win at least one championship with the Cavaliers?": ESPN SportsNation asked, and 63 percent overall say yes. The only state answering no: Oklahoma at 57%. The closest with only 52% yes: Florida and Illinois.

WHAT IS OUR FAITH IN RYAN TANNEHILL ENTERING HIS CRITICAL YEAR 3?: NFL quarterbacks are said to make their biggest advance entering Year 3, such as Ryan Tannehill is right now. That is only one of many 1aa1artannyfactors putting pressure on Tannehill to have a big season and end the Dolphins' playoff drought. Others include the team bolstering its offensive line with Brandon Albert and Ja'Wuan James, adding Jarvis Landry to an already solid receiving corps, beefing up the 1aa1alaurentground game with Knowshon Moreno and hiring a new offensive coordinator in Bill Lazor. All of these things remove the excuses that have protected Tannehill and put the onus on him to show us how good he can be. Click on Tannehill Under Pressure to read our column discussing all of this, off tghe opening of training camp. But enough of my opinion. I want yours. I know you wholeheartedly approve of hottie-wife Mrs. Lauren Tannehill, gratuitously pictured at left, but I'm asking here how you feel about her husband. We had this same poll question last year, and I'll find it interesting to compare results, gauge the level of faith in Tannehill, and see if it is trending upward or not. So take a dip in our poll. Vote and say why.

Poll result: Dolfan expectations modest to low: We asked in the previous blogpost if you expected -- not hoped, but expected -- the Dolphins to make the playoffs, and it was 38.7 percent yes for a breakthrough and 61.3% no for more disappointment. "No" votes were actually a bit higher (62.6%) in Florida, where a greater concentration of Dolfans might be assumed.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button 1aa1ahotbuttonis a newish feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on hiatus until August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. Dolphins: The heat is on: Curiously, Ryan Tannehill said, "the pressure's off" as Miami opened training camp. Funny, but I would think that, for a QB and a head coach trying to establish themselves and a franchise seeking its first playoff win since 2000, the pressure might be closer to on.

2. Marlins: Signs of life: Erratic Fish surfed strong pitching to win six of past seven games entering today's game. Playoff contention is back on the horizon, although binoculars still are required.

3. Cooperstown: Big six: Baseball Hall of Fame inductions today include slugger Frank Thomas, aces Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, and mega-managers Bobby Cox, Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre. And other than LaRusss'a blind eye to Mark McGwire, not a whiff of steroids!

4. UM football: Preparations begin: It is 35 days until the Canes' Sept. 1 season opener at Louisville. Do you know who your starting quarterback is? (Neither does Al Golden). UM has two players, RB Duke Johnson and LB Denzel Perryman, on preseason All-ACC team. That bad news? FSU has nine.

5. Soccer: Guinness on: The eight-team Guinness International Champions Cup is undereway with the title match Aug. 4 at Dolphins stadium. The World Cup just ended. Remind yourself you love soccer, right?

6. Tour de France: All Nibali: Italy's Vincenzo Nibali seemed a cinch to win cycling's signature event ending today in Paris, pending post-race urinalysis results. 

7. Heat: All quiet: Quiet, non-newsy week for the Heat. But they still make our top 10 because I don't want them to think that, post-LeBron, we stopped caring.

8. Outdoors: Lobster time: South Florida's annual two-day lobster miniseason is Wednesday and Thursday. You can fight the crowds and fish your own spiny delights out of the sea. Or you can quit being so cheap and go to Publix like me.

9. British Open: All Rory: Rory McIlroy won golf's latest major wire-to-wire. That reminds me. Whatever happened to Tiger Woods? Does he still play?

10. Panthers: Big Cubano: Cats have a new backup goaltender, Al Montoya, nicknamed "Big Cubano." I'd call that pandering or smart PR if I thought there was such thing as Cuban hockey fans.

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July 20, 2014

Welcome back, football!: Dolphins expectations. Poll. Vote!; plus Canes, FSU, UF odds; also Michael Sam, Hot Button Top 10, Heat's poll hit & more

1) It is FRIDAY, JULY 25. Click on A Fandom Left Divided for my column on how so many Heat fans are conflicted on how to feel about LeBron James in the wake of his departure. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Who-owns-this-town poll, ESPYs, World Cup in 245 seconds, Kate Upton & more. 3) Follow us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram. All three include new stuff from yesterday's Le Batard Show appearance.

Word of the day: cockalorum: A boastful, self-important person. "You'd have to be a real cockalorum to include a word-of-the-day in your blog."

Michael Sam: I write in today's latest column that Tony Dungy has it wrong, that Michael Sam, the NFL's frst openly gay player, is a distraction to be embraced, not avoided. Most sports distractions are self-inflicted and dumb. This one is important, and necessary. Click A Distraction to Embrace to read.

Football Town: I posit in Thursday's column that LeBron James' departure opens a door for this to become a Football Town again, but that it will take the right football team, a team better than the Dolphins or Hurricanes have been for a decade-plus. Click on Opportunity and Responsibility to read.

WELCOME BACK, FOOTBALL: This is the first week of summer when we may look around, nod, and think, "Yes, football is back." Coach Al Golden's Miami Hurricanes have been up in Greensboro, N.C. at

1aa1acaneshel 1aa1adolhelthe annual ACC Media Days, a sign the college preseason is officially underway. And the Miami Dolphins under coach Joe Philbin open their full training camp today, Friday. The seasons will be here before you can blink twice, with the Canes opening Sept. 1 at Louisville and the Dolphins beginning Sept. 7 vs. New England. UM is the media choice to win the ACC's Coastal Division, though it's a tight vote with Duke, Virginia Tech and North Carolina all right there. Uncertainty at quarterback lends the doubt. On the NFL side the Dolphins are not generally seen as a likely playoff team, although a leap by Ryan Tannehill could change all that. We're lifting the lid on football with a Dolphins poll here. Asking for your honest expectation -- what you'd place a bet on -- not what you hope will happen. Vote and say why.

College football betting odds for Canes, Noles, Gators and more: From our friends at Bovada, Florida State is now even with Alabama to 11-2 odds to win the national championship, followed by Oregon 7-1, Oklahoma 9-1 and Auburn 10-1. Florida is tied for 13th at 33-1 and Miami tied for 25th at 100-1. Victory over/unders for the state's Big 3 are 11.5 for FSU, 7.5 each for Gators and Canes.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is 1aa1ahotbuttona newish feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on hiatus until August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. Dolphins: Training camp opens: Full preseason camp kicks off this coming Friday. An exciting time. Although I'd have thought team could have come up with better marketing campaign than, "The Mediocrity Continues!"

2. Heat: Wade sacrifices again: In wake of LeBron James' departure, Dwyane Wade accepted a two-year deal for $31 million to remain in Miami, far less than he turned down by opting out. #Loyaltyover royalty.

3. UM football: ACC Media Days: Event in Greensboro, N.C., signals start of preseason for Canes and rest of league. Cannot confirm luncheon menu consists of crab legs provided by FSU'S Jameis Winston.

4. Marlins: Fast fade for Fish: The All-Star break did not reverse Miami's sagging fortunes. Team is 0-2 in second half and has lost six straight overall. Giancarlo Stanton said, "It's time to make a push." His teammates weren't listening.

5. British Open: Rory roaring: Rory McIlroy carried a comfy six-shot lead into today's final round of golf's latest major, while Tiger Woods barely made the cut and was 22 shots off the lead. Time to admit Tiger's majors-winning is a thing of the past?

6. Panthers: Kulikov stays: Florida Panthers re-signed free agent defenseman Dmitry Kulikov to a three-year, $13 million deal. He'll use the windfall to buy the missing vowel in his first name.

7. Soccer: U.S. dips in rankings: U.S. fell two spots to No. 15 in FIFA World Ranking despite the recent round-of-16 finish in World Cup. Guess the world wasn't as impressed as America seemed to be.

8. College basketball: Miami hosts DH: The Heat's downtown arena will host a Kentucky-South Florida and Memphis-Ohio State doubleheader on Nov. 27, 2015. I'm eas excited as I can be about an event happening in a year and a half that doesn't include any teams I care about.

9. Tour de France: Final week: The grueling test will end next Sunday in Paris, if there are any cyclists left who haven't tested positive for PEDs. 

10. WNBA: All-Star Game: The East beat the West 125-124 in the WNBA All-Star Game, surprising analysts who were unaware the WNBA season had started.

Poll result: Football strikes back! Canes, Dolphins both top Heat: We asked in the previous blogpost, "Which of South Florida's five biggest sports teams do you follow or care about the most?", the response was big, and somewhat surprisingly Hurricanes football (40.5 percent) and the Dolphins (32.3%) both beat the Heat (24.5%). The Marlins (1.4%) and Panthers hockey (1.3%) both lagged with scant representation. Scientific? Not even close. But still interesting, at least to me. The genesis for the poll was my supposition that the downsized, post-LeBron Heat opened a door for this to become a Football Town again, and poll results seemed to reflect that.

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July 16, 2014

Dolphins vs. Heat vs. Canes poll extended through today only. Vote now!; plus ESPYs, World Cup in 245 seconds, Kate Upton & more

1aa1amandela1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 19. Thinking of the late, great Nelson Mandela (pictured), who would have turned 96 on Friday. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Post-LeBron Heat outlook poll, Stanton/Jeter/All-Star break, Pouncey's latest woe, Hot Button Top 10, my ill-timed vacation & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Word of the day: balter: To dance gracelessly, without particular art or skill, but perhaps with some enjoyment.

WHOSE TOWN IS IT, ANYWAY? HAS LEBRON'S EXIT OPENED THE DOOR?: One of the little-considered 1aa1akingmiamibyproducts of LeBron James leaving Miami is the idea that, if this had become a "basketball town" over the past four years largely because of him ... is it still? (Was it ever?) Do the Dolphins now have a large opportunity to reclaim what once was theirs? I know this poll question is tough for some of you because many of us, me included, follow more than one local team closely and hate to choose. Still, you know your heart and gut feeling must start somewhere. The poll is limited to South Florida's four major pro teams plus UM football. Apologies to others, but this clearly is our Big 5 teams. And, apologies to the Marlins and Cats, but we imagine a three-team race for the crown. So, post-LeBron and moving forward, which of our biggest teams do you follow most closely or care about the most? King James is gone. In his wake, who's our King Team? Vote and say why.

Heat fans still optimistic in wake of LeBron departure: We asked in the previous blogpost, and 70.7 percent of you said you remain optimistic about Miami entering this coming NBA season, versus 15.9% who are pessimistic. The other 13.4% were undecided.

ESPN, NORMALLY LOATH TO SELF-PROMOTE, ROLLS OUT THE ESPYS: I've never fully embraced the ESPYS as necessary annual awards -- sports has too many already -- but here they came again last night, 1aa1aespyswith Drake (pictured) hosting. ESPN leads the league in self-promotion, and the ESPYS are the Worldwide Leader at its preening best. Not many Miami/South Florida athletes among finalists in this year's 34 categories. I wonder if LeBron James, up for best NBA player, would have thanked Miami fans if he'd won? New Heatnik Shabazz Napier was up for best championship performance while with UConn, Serena Williams from Palm Beach was up for best female tennis player; and IndyCar's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who lives in Fort Lauderdale, was up for best driver. Only Hunter-Reay won. An auction benefitting the V Foundation for cancer research was held, in conjunction with the ESPYS, and when last I checked the high bid among 258 items was $46,000 to watch a Mavs game with owner Mark Cuban. (I'd pay at least that much to not sit next to Cuban for two hours). Bargain: For a mere $3,050 you could watch a Heat game with Dan Le Batard, Papi and Stugotz, although I'd imagine Stugotz will scalp his ticket to a broker and miss the game. (For $1.99 you could smoke a cigar with me in my garage, if you bring the cigars).

THE ENTIRE WORLD CUP IN 245 SECONDS: Click here for a 4 minute 5 second video that summarizes the 2014 World Cup. For futbol aficionados, it may be emotional. For casual fans, it may further whet the appetite. For soccer agnostics, it may (hopefully) offer a glimpse of what they've been missing that so enthralls so much of the world.

1aa1akateupton"DEAR GREG...": "Your blog's OK but I feel like it has been a long time since you've had a gratuitously sexy photo of Kate Upton. Can this be remedied?" Dear Reader: That depends. Is there a gratuity in it for me?

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July 14, 2014

Heat's post-LeBron outlook. Poll, vote; plus Wade sacrifices again, Stanton gags, Radio Tuesday, Pouncey's woe, Hot Button Top 10 & more

1aa1aklotzr1) It is WEDNESDAY, JULY 16. Red Klotz (pictured), maybe the biggest loser in sports history, yet beloved, is dead at 93. For 60 years he played for, managed or otherwise ran the Washington Generals and other prop-opponents that toured with -- and lost to -- the Harlem Globetrotters. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron-gone poll, Germany wins World Cup, Heat add Luol Deng & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Dengue Fever: Mosquito-borne tropical disease.

Deng Fever: Heat fans' excitement over Luol Deng.

Updated NBA championship odds: New via our friends at Bovada, LeBron's Cavaliers are favorites ar 7-2, followed by Spurs 9-2, Bulls and Thunder both 13-2, and Rockets and Clippers both 10-1. Miami is 25-1, which is ninth overall and fourth in East.

THE HEAT OUTLOOK, POST-LEBRON: The flurry is settling. LeBron James is gone. Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade (notably) will be back, along with Udonis Haslem (official today), Mario Chalmers and Chris "Birdman" Andersen. Wade also became official today, accepting a two-year deal not a longer one, which is a huge positive for the Heat. Luol 1aa1aboshDeng has been added, along with Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger. Someone else may yet be added, but it will likely be a role player in that $2.7 million exception slot, not someone of great significance. Basically, we now know what the Heat will look like entering the 2014-15 season. The loss of LeBron is seismic and makes Miami appreciably worse. Now, it will be interesting to see how Bosh is deployed and if he is up to leading, and if Wade can develop a 3-point shot and revitalize himself phyiscally. Deng looks to me like a solid, underheralded add. The Heat's Big 3 is surely downsized post-LeBron, but I think Bosh-Wade-Deng make a decent one. (Bosh is pictured in what he posted on Instagram to announce he'd be back). An onus he hasn't had before will be on coach Erik Spoelstra. I think the Heat still will be among the top four teams in the Eastern Conference, a threat to compete to reach the Finals, but not a championship contender. What is your outlook as of now? How has Pat Riley done in response to the loss of his irreplaceable superstar? Take a dip in our poll and say why you feel as you do.

Poll result: Most fans understand, support LeBron's decision to leave: We asked -- Do you blame LeBron for leaving? -- the response was enormous, and 63.1 percent said no and wished him well. Yes-I'm-upset-at-him drew 17.8%, and another 19.1% were undecided or had mixed feelings. In Florida the percents were 61.5 no/wish well, 14.4 yes/upset at him, and 24.1 undecided/mixed.

STANTON GAGS IN HR DERBY; JETERFEST TONIGHT: Marlin's Giancarlo Stanton sort of choked in the Home Run Derby last night in rainy Minneapolis, impressively advancing to earn a bye, but then gagging with zero homers in the round that could have put him in the finals. Yoenis Cespedes won. Big letdown for Stanton, whose power is made for the Derby and who was a betting favorite going in. The Home Run Derby has pretty much become something that sucks, by the way. Tonight is the All-Star Game, a.k.a. a three-hour living euology for Derek Jeter. 

MIKE POUNCEY'S TAILSPIN: Dolphins center Mike Pouncey and brother Maurkice assaulted a man at Cameo night club on Miami Beach around 4:20 a.m. Saturday, according to the alleged victim, Ricky 1aa1apounceybdayVasquez. It is said to have happened during the twins' annual advertised birthday blowout (see photo). Vasquez on Twitter claimed he had been "gay bashed," and a woman who witnessed the beating also went on Twitter. A police report and a related lawsuit have been filed; no charges as of today/Tuesday. Whether or not there are, the Dolphins should publicly address the situation. Recall that Mike Pouncey was a figure in last year's Bullygate mess, embarrassed himself with a related Tweet, and was photographed wearing a hat in support of accused murderer Aaron Hernandez. When Pouncey underwent hip surgery last month I wrote in the blog, "I wonder if he is just coming into the prime of a Pro Bowl-caliber career, or if we have seen his best and can expected a flameout. That may be harsh. Let's find out." The latest alleged incident piles on.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button is a 1aa1ahotbuttonnew feature of the blog because our Sunday notes-column package is on hiatus until August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. Heat: LeBron leaves Miami: The unthinkable happened. LeBron James left Miami to take his talents (back) to Cleveland. The good news, relatively speaking: Miami contracts (Luol) Deng Fever.

2. Baseball: All-Star festivities: Marlin Giancarlo Stanton is betting fave in tonight's Home Run Derby in Minneapolis. Stanton and pitcher Henderson Alavrez will rep Miami in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

3. World Cup: Germany wins: Viva Deutschland! Or something like that. Lionel Messi and Argentina fell. The good news for Argentines? You were still better than Brazil.

4. Marlins: Slumping into break: Team had lost foive of six and slumped to fourth place in NL East entering the Midsummer Classic. BOLO alert for those playoff hopes.

5. Dolphins: More Pouncey trouble: With July 25 start of training camp looming, center Mike Pouncey finds himself accused of a gay-bashing at a Miami Beach nightlcub. True or not, an embarrassment.

6. UM football: 2 Canes get boot: JaWand Blue and Alexander Figueroa were kicked off team and from school relalted to a sexual battery on campus. Some students never learn.

7. British Open: Tiger tries again: Golf's third of four majors is this week, with Tiger Woods seeking his fourth British but first since '06. Remeber the old days when Tiger was the favorite in any major?

8. Panthers: Developmental camp: Recent No. 1 pick Aaron Eklbad led the young Cats skating in club's developmental camp. Yes, that in out Top 10  does mean the dog days are here.

9. Wimbledon: Fortnight ends: Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova won and anounced plans to use their earnings to buy the missing vowel in their surnames.

10. College football: Preseason awards: The watch lists are out. FSU quarterback Jameis Winston is listed in categroies of player of the year and crab-leg stealing.

MY ILL-TIMED SUMMER VACATION: Me and a family-n-friends party of six returned Sunday from a week's sojourn aboard the biggest cruiseship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. (I don't
1aa1agolfbahamaswanna say it's a huge ship, but we took a cab from our stateroom to dinner). The LeBron-gone news broke while I was away, and I wrote a column from the ship's Internet room somewhere off the Virgin Islands. We had a great time touring Nassau and St.  Maarten. Three of us played golf at the tony Oean Club near Paradise Island, Bahamas, not the most famous course I have played (Pebble Beach), but the most aesthetic with its ocean vistas. My kid Christopher and I (pictured) both birdied the par-4 17th. Birdies are routine for him. They make me do mental cartwheeels and backflips. NBA star Carlos Boozer was aboard our cruise, ogled and approached by fans who hated to bother him but did, anyway. I gained five pounds on a diet of alcohol and nonstop eating. Finished Stephen King's Mr. Mercedes over cigars on deck. Even did quite well in the casino especially on the roulette table, including a hit with five chips on 33 and four on 20. A great time. But I told you all to mind LeBron while I was gone. Geez I can't leave you people for a minute!

1aa1agermanrabbitDEAR GREG...: "...Your blog's OK but would be  better if occasionally you would show a picture of a man carrying a gigantic rabbit. Thank you." Dear Reader: I doubt there is such a thing but I'll check.

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July 11, 2014

Deutschland! Germany beats Argentina for World Cup; plus Heat add Luol Deng, LeBron-gone poll (vote now) & more

1aa1atat1) It is SUNDAY, JULY 13. Little-considered byproduct of LeBron leaving: All across South Florida and beyond, there are inked-up Heat fans in the quandary pictured at right. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): LeBron and Heat free agency, World Cup & more. 3Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

1aa1adengHeat add Luol Deng: Miami has agreed to a two-year, $20 million deal with longtime former Chicago Bull and recent Cavalier Luol Deng, 29, a 6-9 high-minutes veteran forward who has averaged 16 points in his career. He is pictured. Thus far in free agency the Heat has retained Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, and added Deng, Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts. Does not offset the loss of LeBron James, but it's none too shabby, either.

I'm back: We've been cruising the Caribbean the past week, back today. (The LeBron-leaving column linked below was written at sea, somewhere off the Virgin Islands). I'll bore you with vacation details later. For now, thanks for indulging the blog irregularities of the past week.

1aa1ahotbuttonHot Button Top 10: Our blog's regular Sunday feature, the Hot Button Top 10, will appear Monday morning this week.


1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! WORLD CUP: FINALLY, THE CHAMPIONSHIP: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier results. We are down to the Final at last:

GERMANY (def. Argentina, 1-0): As host Brazil licked it wounded pride, a mighty, marquee-filling South America vs. Europe final went on
1aa1agermanwithout it. Argentina had advanced on penalty kicks over Netherlands after a scoreless draw, while Germany had utterly embarrassed Brazil, 7-1. The Germans, with 11-2 odds of winning coming in, claimed their fourth World Cup championship but first since ever-distant 1990. The Argentines, with 4-1 odds coming in, were after their WC title and first since way back in 1986. Both international powers had been waiting a long time to reign again. Sorry, Brazil, but it was a great finals. Germany seemedc the more solid all-round team coming in, but I stuck with my original prediction that Argentina and Lionel Messi would win it all. Instead, full respect to the Germans, deserving winners. My pick was: Argentina, 3-2.

Third-place match: Netherlands def. Brazil, 3-0.

Final World Cup goal scoring including championship: 64 matches, 171 goals, 2.67 per.

LEBRON LEAVING MIAMI, RETURNING TO CAVALIERS: [Click on Thanks, Not Anger for my column off the news LeBron is leaving ther Heat] Heat owner Mickey Arison's reaction probably mirrors that of Miami fans 1aa1alebronjeverywhere. "I'm shocked and disappointed," said the Heat's owner. James stunned much of the NBA and sports world Friday by revealing he will leave the Heat in free agency after four seasons and return to his hometown of Cleveland. The huge negative is offset only somewhat by the word Chris Bosh (and Dwyane Wade) will remain. James leaves Miami with two championships in four seasons but also leaves the Heat in a lurch, and scrambling to remain a power in his wake. What is your gut reaction to the news of James' decision? The disappointment goes without saying. But is there anger, too? Our poll question could as easily have been worded as this: On LeBron's first return to Miami in a Cavs uniform, what will be your reaction? Say how you feel about LeBron leaving and why you feel as you do.

July 05, 2014

On LeBron's decision; plus Argentina-Germany finals. Which team are you most rooting for to win World Cup? Poll. Vote!

1) It is THURSDAY, JULY 106. In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): World Cup quarterfinals, U.S.-success poll result, Heat free agency, Canes new helmet & more. 2Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

HEAT ADD 2. NOW RELAX, FOLKS: LEBRON WILL BE BACK WITH HEAT ... OR WILL HE?: The preceding headline is a 1aa1alebjamessteadfast prediction. You want me to go all Joe Namath? OK. I guarantee it. Click on Relax, Everybody for my recent column on Heat free agency. There is a bunch of noise and misinformation and rumors and tea-leave-reading going on, but when you cut through all the clatter it remains very likely LeBron James will join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in leaving Miami's Big 3 intact, to be augmented by two or three free-agent additions. We should know by today, the day when teams first may sign free agents. Could there be a monumental surprise? Of course. LeBeron couldreturn to Cleveland, the viable option. Or Bosh could sign with Houston. But the odds are far greater Tres Grande, led by leBron, will simply be staying put. Meantime Miami adds power forward Josh McRoberts and small forward Danny Granger in free agency.

1aa1abrazilwcFINAL FOUR. YOU PICK ONE. WHICH OF REMAINING TEAMS WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE WIN THE WORLD CUP?: Maybe your team is still in it. Maybe you're rooting against someone more than for anyone. Maybe your allegiance is to your wallet and a bet. Maybe you're a U.S. fan adopting a team to cheer. I mean, these are four football giants in the World Cup semifinals (matchups below). If you're a soccer fan you must like one of these teams more than the others. Yes? Not asking here for you you think will win. Asking for you you most want to win. Vote for your rooting interest and say why.

FUTBLOG! WORLD CUP: FINAL FOUR: THE SEMIFINALS: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier results. We are down to the Final Four:

GERMANY (def. Brazil, 7-1): Titans, both, kings of South America and Europe. Brazil was a 3-1 1aa1abrazil
1aa1agermanbetting favorite entering the tournament, gunning for its sixth World Cup title and first since 2002 -- doing so with the home crowd behind it but without injured star Neymar. Germany, with 11-2 odds coming in, is seeking its fourth WC championship but first since ever-distant 1990. That's eight World Cup wins represented in this powerhouse matchup. It isn't that Germany won. But 7-1? A declaration of World Cup intentions for Germany. And a monumental embarrassment for Brazil.

ARGENTINA (def. Netherlands, PKs): Another cross-continent semifinal between football 1aa1aragebtinsa 1aa1anetherlands
giants. Argentina, a 4-1 near-favorite coming in and powered by the great Lionel Messi, motoring after its third World Cup title but first since way back in 1986. Netherlands playing the clear underdog in this final four, at 25-1 odds coming in and never a champion -- though a three-time runnerup. When your Cinderella is the Dutch, your Final Four is mighty. But Argwntina gets by on penalty kicks after a scoreless draw thorugh overtime.

Ensuing schedule: Third-place match--Brazil vs. Netherlands Saturday July 12, 4 p.m. Championship match--Argentina vs. Germany Sunday July 13, 3 p.m.

HOT BUTTON: TOP 10 THINGS SOUTH FLORIDA SPORTS FANS ARE TALKING ABOUT: Hot Button 1aa1ahotbuttonis a new Sunday feature of the blog (this is our third one) because our Sunday notes-column package in the print edition (newspaper) is on summer hiatus, set to return in August. Hot Button means what's on our minds as the sports week just past pivots to the week ahead:

1. Heat: Decision Week for Big 3: This Thursday is first day NBA teams may sign free agents. It won't be a televised 'Decision' this time, but expect LeBron to be keeping his talents in South Beach.

2. World Cup: Semifinals set: Brazil vs. Germany and Argentina vs. Netherlands makes for a heavyweight final four on Tuesday and Wednesday. I thought they should have canceled rest of tournament when U.S. was eliminated, but that's just me.

3. Dolphins: DE Jordan suspended: Last year's top draft pick Dion Jordan will miss first four games for using a banned substance, a week after center Mike Pouncey's hip surgery will shelve him even longer. Suddenly, Dolphins are losing the offseason.

4. Marlins: Stanton in Derby: The bad news? Playoff hopes are fading. The good news? At least Giancarlo Stanton will be dropping bombs in the Home Run Derby next Monday as part of All-Star Game festivities. 

5. Wimbledon: Fortnight ends: While Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer formed a marquee men's final, the women's final was a no-name affair partly because Serena Williams bowed out early, ill. Reports now are she may be pregnant. I swear, I thought she was on the pill!

6. Competitive eating: Chestnut: Joey Chestnut inhaled 61 hot dogs to win the annual Nathan's crown yet again. Places on Earth I'd least like to be: Chestnut's bathroom the hour following the event.

7. Panthers: Cats waive Jovanovski: As the hockey club attacked free agency, quietly, the Ed Jovanovski era ended. He was a rookie when Florida reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 1996 and rejoined in club in 2011. Now, it looks like the end of the skate for Jovo.

8. Cycling: Tour de France: The once-prestigious Tour de France is underway. The winner will be the last cyclist to not test positive for anything.

9. Golf: British Open: It's coming up next week as Tiger Woods continues preparations for his latest majors disappointment.

10. Horse wars: Gulfstream wins: Gulfstream won near total control over horse racing dates from Calder. That would be big news, if tracks still cared about racing and weren't mostly casinos now.

Honorable mention: Former Dolphin Garo Yepremian is fighting adrenal cancer and a brain tumor. (Click here for my column). Best wishes to one of most colorful characters in local sports history.

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July 04, 2014

World Cup semifinals set: Heavyweight Four!; plus Heat free agency, Hurricanes' new helmet & more

1aa1afourthjuly1) It is SATURDAY, JULY 5. Hope you had a happy birthday, America! You look good for 238. My Boston butt on the Big Green Egg came out fabulous, by the way. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): Garo's Biggest Fight, U.S. World Cup success poll, Dion Jordan's suspension, Tannehill's rank & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Heat free agency: We'll have a column on Heat free agency on Sunday and online late today. Despite the agent visits and everything else you hear, Heat remains very confident LeBron James will re-sign to complete the return of Big 3. Main free-agent targets are Trevor Ariza and Pau Gasol or Luol Deng, but Pat Riley is asking significant financial sacrifice from each. First day to sign is Thursday the 10th.

Hurricanes' new helmet:
It depicts the state of Florida, the peninsula whose outline is as distinctive as any U.S. state, with the 'U' logo where it should be down south.

1aa1abrazilwcFUTBLOG! WORLD CUP: GREAT EIGHT: THE QUARTERFINALS: FUTBLOG! is the official World Cup post of this blog, a continually updated daily dose of the month-long soccer spectacle in Brazil. See earlier posts for earlier results. Today concludes the quarterfinal round. The event might have been called off once the United States was eliminated but, somehow, was not. The four matchups, chronologically:

GERMANY (def. France, 1-0): Europe palpitated as mighty Germany and the

1aa1agermansurging French kicked off the quarters. France enjoyed a redeeming World Cup after a nightmare four years earlier, and had dispatched Nigeria 2-0 to get here, but the run ended. The Germans, who carry the European banner as (arguably) the best non-South American contender, struggled somewhat in getting here past Algeria, 2-1 in overtime, but made an early goal hold up here. I'd chanced an upset. I was wrong. My pick was: France, 2-1.

BRAZIL (def. Colombia, 2-1): The most anticipated of the four games, and not just because

the host
1aa1abrazilcountry would be swooning, but because of volatile, attacking football between the South American rivals. Brazil had yet to thrill its fans with optimum play, and needed luck to get here past Chile, 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw. Colombia had been as impressive as anyone in the tournament, at 4-0 with an 11-2 goals differential after getting here past Uruguay, 2-0. The favorites prevailed but at great cost, losing star Neymar to an injury. I had sensed an upset. I was wrong. (Again). My pick was: Colombia, 3-2.

ARGENTINA (def. Belgium, 1-0): Cross-continent duel found Argentina and the sublime Lionel

Messi 1aa1aragebtinsa(my picks to win it all) still seeking to find all of their cylinders offensively, after getting here past Switzerland by a modest 1-0 score. Belgium eliminated the United States 2-1 in overtime but put an impressive, constant barrage on American goalie Tim Howard. Argentina still wasn't amazing with the ball but one goal was all it took. My pick was: Argentina, 3-1.

NETHERLANDS (def. Costa Rica, PKs): Costa Rica gave the final eight its one true Cinderella but fell in 1aa1anetherlandspenalty kicks after a scoreless draw, the Dutch looking like geniuses for a daring goalkeeper change just before the PK shootout. Netherlands was stymied by Costa Rica's offside trap but prevailed when all was on the line. My pick was: Netherlands, 2-0. 

World Cup goal scoring entering the semifinals: 60 matches, 159 goals, 2.65 per.

Ensuing schedule: Semifinal Tuesday July 8--Germany vs. Brazil, 4 p.m. Semifinal Wednesday July 9--Argentina vs. Netherlands, 4 p.m. Third-place Saturday July 12--Semifinal losers, 4 p.m. Championship Sunday july 13--Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.

Poll result: U.S. World Cup run (mostly) a success: We asked, and a plurality of 39.6 percent called it a success without question, while 36.5% called it a success but a "modest" one. Not a success but a decent show drew 16.5%, while only 7.4% called it "closer to a failure."

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July 02, 2014

On Garo's biggest fight. The back story; plus was World Cup a success for U.S? Poll. Vote!; also, Dolphins' Jordan suspended, Tannehill ranked & more

1) It is THURSDAY, JULY 3. For those who are asking, my radio appearances on the Dan LeBatard Show are scheduled to resume on Tuesday July 15. 2) In The Previous Blogpost (ITPB): U.S. ousted as World Cup reaches quarterfinals, Heat free agency and Big 3 poll result & more. 3) Join us on Twitter @gregcote. Also Vine and Instagram.

Futblog! World Cup quarterfinals preview coming Friday: Apparently FIFA has decided to continue the World Cup in Brazil to its conclusion despite the elimination of the U.S. The nerve! Watch for our blog's round of 8/quarterfinals preview here Friday morning.

ON THE GARO YEPREMIAN COLUMN: I have a 1A column today on former Dolphin Garo Yepremian's fight with adrenal cancer and a brain tumor. You'd click Garo's Biggest Fight if you haven't yet read it. 1aa1agaroyMy email and Twitter response suggests the story has touched a lot of people. I won't reprint it here (you have the link), except to summarize by saying Garo, the lovable kicker from the '70s, has had a tough life but hasn't lost his spirit. The Garo Yepremian Foundation since 2001 has raised money for brain tumor research and now its founder was himself afflicted with a brain tumor. Can you imagine? The photo is from Garo's 70th birthday on June 2. The wide scar above his left eye is from his brain surgery to remove the tumor. I'd invite you to visit the Garo Yepremian Foundation at yepremian.org. From there you can find its Facebook page, where best wishes may be expressed, and where you'd 'like' the page to get updates on his medical situation and health. I thank the Yepremian family, especially Garo, his wife Maritza and son Garo Jr., for reaching out to me with the honor of sharing their story. I was a novice reporter yoo young to have covered Garo in the '70s but met and spoke with Maritza last August in a Washington, D.C. hotel lobby, the day the '72 Perfect Season Dolphins were being honored at the White House. That casual, chance conversation led to my being trusted to share this story, which is filled with pain and loss but ultimately offers the steady beam of light that is Garo's spirit and will. If my column helps increase traffic or donations to Garo's foundation even a little bit, it will have mattered.

WAS THIS WORLD CUP RUN A SUCCESS FOR UNITED STATES?: The question isn't simple. How do you define "success"? We seem to do so differently in international soccer, where we accept the U.S. is 1aa1aussoccernot top-echelon (yet) and so judge more leniently. The American sports mindset most other places is "winning is everything," but on world-stage soccer we seem to be more OK with stuff like progress and effort. Consider: The Dolphins go 8-8, the epitome of right-in-between, of average, and no fan is happy about that. But the U.S. men reach the round of 16 and advance no further in a 32-team tournament -- also sort of in-the-middle-average -- yet the gut reaction to the eliminating 2-1 loss to Belgium seemed to be praise. We applauded heart and grit as we nominated goalkeeper Tim Howard for sainthood. Are our standards too low? Should we be more demanding? The World Cup was filled with images like the one pictured, but peel away the surrounding patriotism and simply judge the team for its performance, by however you define success, and in whatever context you think is fair. Now that the ouster has settled in ... was this World Cup run a success for the United States? Vote and say why.

Chunk of World Cup coming to Miami: Seventy-six players from 22 World Cup teams (though none from U.S.) will participate in upcoming annual Guinness International Champions Cup, featuring eight top club teams competing across the U.S.: Inter Milan, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, AC Milan, Olympiacos, Real Madrid and AS Roma. Dolphins stadium wil host the champion match Aug. 4.

DOLPHINS' DION JORDAN SUSPENDED: Dolphins defensive end Dion Jordan today was suspended without pay for the first four regular-season games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing substances. "We were disappointed," said coach Joe Philbin. Said Jordan: "I tested positive for stimulants that are banned. I take full responsibility for the test results. I’m very sorry for the impact of this situation on my teammates, coaches, Stephen Ross, the entire Dolphins organization, fans and my family."

OY. TANNEHILL RANKED 23RD-BEST STARTING QB: The proving is hardly finished for Ryan Tannehill. 1aa1artannyTwenty-third of 32 starting NFL quarterbacks is hardly brag-worthy, but that's where 26 anonymous "league insiders" rank the Dolphins' QB in a new survey for ESPN. Click here for the full story and list. The usual Big 4 of Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers tie for first with a rating of 1.04 each. (So much for Brady's supposed accelerated demise). Tannehill is 23rd overall with a 3.32 rating, and included in the third of four "tiers."

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