Six players from four Florida schools are playing in Super Bowl 50

I know a lot of you are snowbirds, or permanent transplants from that faraway world where blizzards are all the rage. Here’s an idea, though, for those who feel like identifying most closely with the Sunshine State.

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 24:  Andre Caldwell #12 of the Denver Broncos signals a first down in the first quarter against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on January 24, 2016 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO – Andre Caldwell of the Denver Broncos signals a first down in the AFC Championship game against the New England. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Because Denver has four players on its roster from Florida universities, and because the Carolina Panthers have just two, I’m going to suggest that those of you who have no particular rooting interest might find it more natural to lean toward the Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

Not saying that Denver will win. I’ve already published a column saying that won’t happen.

It’s just a matter of finding a reason to pull for one team over the other if you really don’t care about anything but what kind of food will be served at the Super Bowl party you’re attending, and who is going to bring it.

 

 

 

Here then are the state-school Broncos expected to play on Feb. 7.

WR/KR Andre Caldwell from Florida.

G Max Garcia from Florida.

OLB Lerentee McCray from Florida.

CB Kayvon Webster from South Florida.

(All right, so that’s a lot of Gators, which will work for some but not for others)

Now here are the active Panther players from our state schools.

K Graham Gano from Florida State.

TE Greg Olsen from Miami.

(Offering a little more of something for everyone, perhaps)

What, you say I’m leaving out a Glades Central High School kid who plays for Carolina?

Well, yes, but Kelvin Benjamin, the spectacular wide receiver who won a national title for FSU a few years

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 24:  Greg Olsen #88 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates defeating the Arizona Cardinals with a score of 49 to 15 to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
CHARLOTTE, NC – JANUARY 24: Greg Olsen of the Carolina Panthers celebrates defeating the Arizona Cardinals  to win the NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium on January 24, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

back with a late, late touchdown pass, is hurt. He tore an ACL in an August practice and hasn’t played all season.

Maybe you don’t care. Maybe seeing Kelvin get a Super Bowl ring to go with his BCS championship ring is reason enough to howl like mad for the Panthers.

Suits me. I’m just giving you some options.

There’s got to be something more to this game than Cam vs. Peyton.

 

Sooner or later Jordan Spieth will have to give in to Honda Classic’s siren call

 

It’s a month out from the Honda Classic (Feb. 25-28) and there’s no reason to believe that Tiger Woods, who hasn’t played since August, is even a remote possibility.

You know what that means. Time for this tournament, the major event on Palm Beach County’s annual sports calendar, to go after a new giant.

PALM HARBOR, FL - MARCH 15:  Jordan Spieth celebrates after a birdie putt on the third playoff hole to win the Valspar Championship during the final round at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 15, 2015 in Palm Harbor, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
PALM HARBOR, FL – Jordan Spieth celebrates after a birdie putt on the third playoff hole to win the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort Copperhead Course on March 15, 2015. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Sooner or later the Honda needs Jordan Spieth, No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings, to show up at PGA National. It won’t be easy. The guy’s been pretty busy, playing in Shanghai, Hawaii and Abu Dhabi of late. He’s at the Singapore Open right now, as a matter of fact. Also, unlike a lot of the other young stars of the PGA Tour, Spieth is not based in Palm Beach County so playing the Honda would be just one more long week on the road.

Still, the Honda staff is always shooting for aggressive, new goals. Nobody ever thought they’d get Tiger, but they did. Phil Mickelson was another longshot. He’s played here a couple of years in a row.

One day it will be Spieth, too, joining Rory McIlroy (already committed) and Rickie Fowler (assuming he’ll make the commute down from Jupiter again, too) and all the other young superstars of the game. PGA National’s Champion course, the kind that brings a great paycheck for anyone who can get under par, and the PGA National resort is a spectacular draw for the players’ families.

Surely Spieth, a two-time major champion at 22, has heard about all of this from his peers, and I’m guessing he would like to see if it’s true. What gets in the way is a schedule that’s sort of custom-fitted to include other Florida stops on tour, and a schedule that you’d have to figure would include five competitive weeks in a row if he were to play the Honda.

First of all, Spieth is the defending champion at the Valspar Championship north of St. Petersburg. That tournament is where the Texan first secured regular playing status on the PGA Tour, finishing tied for seventh in 2013 while playing on a sponsor’s exemption. Innisbrook has been good to Spieth, in other words, and it would be tough for him ever to skip the event, which comes two weeks after the Honda.

Also, there’s the Cadillac Championship at Doral, which falls the week after the Honda. Since that’s a World Golf Championships event, all the top players are basically required to attend.

How about the tournaments that immediately precede the Honda? That would be Pebble Beach and the Northern Trust Open in Los Angeles, two glamorous West Coast stops to which Spieth already is committed.

If there’s anything working in the Honda’s favor here, it’s that the WGC-Match Play tournament, a marathon event that often leaves its survivors longing for a little rest, has been moved to late March in Austin, Tex.

Doesn’t mean that Spieth will substitute the Honda for Innisbrook on his schedule this year, but one day he might.

As for Jason Day, another of golf’s young stars, we’ll have to wait and see about the Honda.

[The Dolphins, always in need of OL help, let a Super Bowl 50 starter get away]

[Here’s hoping Dwyane Wade can recapture the fun of his rookie season]

[New Dolphins offensive coordinator has counseled Adam Gase before]

He last played at PGA National in 2008 and missed the cut. Then, in 2010, he withdrew before the tournament began, saying he was exhausted after playing six rounds in the space of four days to finish third at the Match Play in Arizona. Day has played Doral and Bay Hill and sometimes Innisbrook in recent years, but the Honda will eventually pull him in, too.

It’s just too good of an event to ignore, and too good of a field to resist.

The Dolphins, always in need of offensive linemen, let an eventual Super Bowl starter get away

As any Miami Dolphins follower knows all too well, the offensive line is the toughest unit to shore up, or even to keep in basic working condition.

Very few teams are good at it for long. Injuries happen. High draft picks fail to develop. A desire to develop quality depth is quickly replaced by an urgent search for warm bodies on the waiver wire.

Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, right, celebrates after a field goal with Evan Mathis during the first half in an NFL football divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)
Denver Broncos kicker Brandon McManus, right, celebrates after a field goal with Evan Mathis during an NFL divisional playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Jan. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney)

The Denver Broncos, for instance, are starting a guard named Evan Mathis in the upcoming Super Bowl. It’s a name you may remember, not only because the veteran is a two-time Pro Bowler but because Miami was one of several teams trying to figure out how to sign the guy last summer.

Turns out Mathis cost too much, especially for a Dolphins team in a severe salary cap pinch, so he signed a one-year deal with Denver worth up to $4 million with incentives. He wanted to go to a contender anyway, so it’s unclear whether Miami could have offered enough to bring him here or whether Mathis will be pursued again this offseason.

What is clear is this. The Dolphins already had Mathis on their roster, way back in 2008, and they let him go, either because the 304-pounder wasn’t carrying his weight or because Miami’s coaching staff couldn’t see a way to build him into a valuable piece of the ever-shifting offensive line puzzle.

Now, to be fair, a lot of things went right for the Dolphins that season, Tony Sparano’s first as head coach. Miami won the AFC East with an 11-5 record and actually made the playoffs, two things that haven’t happened since. It was a sensational one-season turnaround from the bomb crater of Cam Cameron’s brief reign. Also, the franchise made great progress in addressing its offensive line needs at the most vital position when left tackle Jake Long, a Pro Bowl instantly and often, was taken with the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft.

For whatever reason, however, there was a disconnect with Mathis, and it wasn’t the first time. Carolina, the team Mathis is facing in the Feb. 7 Super Bowl, drafted him in the third round but eventually gave up on him after three seasons. When the Dolphins picked Mathis up as a training-camp cut in 2008, he never got a start and was gone after seven games.

[Here’s hoping Dwyane Wade can recapture the fun and the finish of his rookie season]

[New Dolphins offensive coordinator has counseled Adam Gase before]

[Some things to remember about concussions from an ex-NFL player who has trouble remembering]

The easiest conclusion is that Mathis is one of those later bloomers, that he really didn’t figure out the pro game until an extended run of starts at Philadelphia from 2011-14. He was in his 30’s then, having accumulated all kinds of experience and instruction, the kind he finally managed to put into full motion.

Looking back, though, at that whiff in Miami makes you realize how difficult it is to train linemen, and how tricky it is, in the first place, to identify the ones who are worth the trouble. Think of Billy Turner, drafted in the third round by the Dolphins in 2014 but inactive for his first 14 pro games.

It was more of the same last season until Dan Campbell became the interim head coach and decided to switch some things up in search of a more physical offensive attack. That’s when Turner became the starting right guard, and that’s where he stayed for the final 12 games of the season.

All I know about Mathis in 2008 is that the Dolphins never considered him worthy of a start and made what ultimately was a bad decision by cutting him at midseason. Here’s how it went. Miami signed the former All-SEC player from Alabama in a frantic September rush when Donald Thomas was lost for the season with a foot injury. Then, in November, the Dolphins let Mathis go, promoting guard Matt McChesney from the practice squad to take his place on the roster.

McChesney? He played in one game for the Dolphins, was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury and was cut in the offseason. He started four games in his NFL career and retired in 2010 after badly injuring an ankle. It seems he was stepping out of a golf cart when another cart raced by, clipping him in the process.

Found an old quote from Mathis that gives his view on why things didn’t work out for him in Carolina or Miami or Cincinnati before he finally made it work with the Eagles. It speaks to the extreme patience that is required in developing offensive linemen, and how that collides with the immediate need to keep quarterbacks healthy and running backs moving forward.

“When I was drafted,” Mathis told Pro Football Focus in 2009, “Carolina moved me to the only position I had never played, right guard. After not playing my rookie year, I started my second year at right guard, only to be moved to tackle the next year and not play a snap. They bounced me to third team center the next year only to cut me at the end of camp.

“I got picked up by Miami and practiced every spot with them and was splitting reps at right guard on Sundays. They cut me after week 12 and that’s how I ended up in Cincinnati. The Bengals had me practicing at every spot on the line every week for the rest of the season. After the season, I called Marvin Lewis and told him I wanted to play defensive end. He ultimately laughed at me and told me he thought I could compete for one of the inside spots.

“I conceded and vowed to do what it takes to get the job done. They had me working the inside three spots in mini-camp and OTA’s. When camp came around, I worked mostly left guard and was able to settle in and get comfortable. Personally, I believe that staying in one spot is much better for players than having to bounce around.”

Not much more to say about this, except that Mike Maser, the offensive line coach who worked with Mathis in 2008, was fired by the Dolphins after that season and didn’t work in the NFL again. Silly to put it all on one person, though. Sparano was an offensive line specialist throughout his early coaching career and Bill Parcells, the Dolphins’ chief executive at the time, kept a close eye on everything.

Dolphins’ RB coach Danny Barrett was a monster athlete at Lake Worth High School

 

People never know when to start in describing Danny Barrett, the Miami Dolphins’ new running backs coach.

You may already have seen it mentioned that Danny was a head coach in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Rough Riders. That can only help Adam Gase, a first-time NFL head coach, in organizing his program and bouncing ideas around.

dannybYou may also have heard that Barrett was recently interim head coach at Central Florida, which may help in getting a solid read on potential Dolphins draft picks he faced in the American Athletic Conference.

Oh, and Danny also played quarterback at the University of Cincinnati and later professionally for six different CFL teams. He even held the record for a time up north by passing for 601 yards in a CFL game.

All of this is interesting and impressive, but I’ll always go back to the starting point when it’s time to talk about Danny.

Way back when I was new at the Palm Beach Post, covering high school sports and sometimes dictating my stories in over pay phones, Barrett was the senior quarterback for the Lake Worth High School Trojans.

Without him, the 1978 Trojans wouldn’t have gone 10-0 for the time in 18 years. Barrett, who lived in Boynton Beach, was the mature leader of a team that hadn’t won many games his first few seasons. The more he touched the ball, however, the more good things happened.

Danny played quarterback, and did it well enough to make The Post’s All-Area second team. Pahokee’s Ronnie Osborne, a future All-Big Eight pick at defensive back, was our first-team quarterback in 1978 so there’s no shame in that.

Also in that spectacular senior season of high school, Barrett kicked extra points for the Trojans. He punted, too, and when basketball season came around, he was a starting guard on a Lake Worth team that featured future NBA first-round draft pick Otis Thorpe. Led the hoops team in scoring quite a few times, as I remember.

The Trojans wound up losing their first playoff game to Deerfield Beach in 1978, but there were so many spectacular moments. The most amazing was an 80-yard touchdown pass from Barrett to Walter Duncan with four seconds left on the clock to beat a good Martin County team 28-21.

As for all-around dominance, how about Barrett’s performance in a 34-15 win over Boca Raton? He passed for 126 yards and a touchdown that night, rushed for 35 yards himself, kicked two extra points and ran for a two-point conversion.

Best of all, at least my view, Danny ended the night by giving a rookie sportswriter the kind of money quote you rarely hear in high school sports.

“We looked at them (Boca Raton) on film and we knew they didn’t have anything on defense,” Barrett said. “We knew we were going to score our points. The question was whether our defense would stop them, and it did.”

Maybe now that Barrett is coaching the Dolphins’ running backs, we can hope to get a little more of that out of Lamar Miller, one of the most careful quotes in the locker room.

Either way, it’s good to have him back here on the Post’s sports pages, where if feels like the two of us pretty much grew up.

The link below provides an image of an old story on Danny and the Trojans the night they completed their perfect season. It’s written by Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame member Dick Sanford, which is kind of cool because Barrett is a member of the same Hall of Fame, inducted in 2002.

http://palmbeachpost.newspapers.com/image/134899660

 

Here’s hoping Dwyane Wade can recapture the fun and the finish of his rookie season

What do you want for Dwyane Wade this season, understanding that there aren’t many seasons left?

Oh, sure, a fourth NBA title would work just fine for the franchise’s most enduring star, but that’s not happening. Pretty tough figuring out how to get one win right now, much less a string of playoff series wins, even in the relatively weak East.

What, then, is realistic to hope for right now, in his 12th season in the league and in his 34th year on the planet?

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19: Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade #3 talk during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice: (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – Head coach Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat and Dwyane  talk during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2016. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

I’m looking back at Dwyane’s rookie season, all the way back in 2003-04. It makes a pretty nice bookend for a discussion like this and in a few ways it kind of looks familiar.

Miami was bumping along at the season’s midpoint with no real reason to think a division title was coming and no guarantee of making the playoffs at all. It felt like a transition period, even with some pretty talented players on the team, just as it is today.

There was no 10-time all-star like Chris Bosh, but 6-foot-10 Lamar Odom was a pretty smooth operator for a guy in his fifth pro season. Odom averaged 17.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game that year. (Bosh scores a little more, rebounds a little less and brings the bonus of good three-point shooting).

Eddie Jones was a veteran guard who made a ton of three-balls for Miami, third-most in the league, during Wade’s rookie season. There was no defensive monster in the middle like Hassan Whiteside, but that 2003-04 Heat team had a scrappy rookie named Udonis Haslem, who put up numbers like rookie Justise Winslow does now. Brian Grant played good defense and grabbed rebounds, too, in the basic manner of Luol Deng today.

Then there was Wade. He had none of the polish as a rookie but so much raw energy and such a head for the game. The numbers aren’t as different as you might think.

As a rookie he averaged 16.2 points per game, shot 47 percent from the field and contributed 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

Jump ahead to this season and Wade is averaging around 18 points per game. His shooting percentage isn’t any better than it was in that debut season and his assists are pretty much the same. The steals are down just a bit.

Anyway, with Pat Riley looking on from the office and leaving the coaching to Stan Van Gundy, Miami finished 42-40 in Wade’s rookie season. That was good for a No. 4 playoff seed in the relatively weak Eastern Conference.

Next came a seven-game win over the New Orleans Hornets in the opening round, with Wade hitting a 10-foot runner with 1.3 seconds remaining to make his first career playoff game a winner.

Then there was a match with top-seeded Indiana in the conference semifinals. That didn’t go so well. The Pacers won it in six. Still, Wade led the Heat in scoring in the series with 21 points per game and kept it interesting.

It was enough to get Riley busy again, trading away Odom and Grant and Caron Butler to get Shaquille O’Neal and start ramping up for a title run. Who knows what Riley might be working on this offseason to reel in a big free agent as a supplement for Bosh and Wade?

[Something to remember about concussions, from an ex-NFL player who has trouble remembering]

[It’s not true that Joe Philbin never called plays during his Packer days]

[Mark Richt wasn’t that far behind another of Nick Saban’s championship teams]

So that’s my most optimistic picture of what could happen for Wade this year, a mid-range playoff seed, a first-round series win and a rumble of an effort in the Eastern semifinals that ultimately falls short.

Not entirely realistic, perhaps, the way Miami is playing and the way the roster has been shredded of late. Wade’s shoulder problems are a part of that. Get some guys back from injuries and it can get better, though how much better than 42-40 is just a guess.

If you see a deeper run in the playoffs, it’s probably just a little of that Dwyane Wade love bubbling up. He’s done so much for the Heat. To think of it slowing down or even stopping is more than most of us are in the mood to do.

New Dolphins’ offensive coordinator has counseled Adam Gase before

 

There’s something different about this guy from the moment you hear his name.

Clyde.

According to the website NamePlayground.com, the average age of people named Clyde in this country is 80.5. It hasn’t shown up among the top 1,000 most popular baby names since 1998 and hasn’t been in the top 50 since 1883, the same year that overhead wires were first used to deliver electricity to cities.

clydeYeah, so we’re not exactly talking trendy here, and when Clyde Christensen was selected as the new offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins, it wasn’t a trendy pick.

Adam Gase, the youngest head coach in the NFL at 37, needs a steady hand to help him with the Dolphins offense. He needs a guy who has built all kinds of game plans and has been a part of multiple playoff staffs. If not a mentor, Gase needs a trusted lieutenant, and one with a few battle scars.

Christensen, who turns 60 next week, rings all of those bells.

He’s been coaching in the NFL for 20 seasons and missed the playoffs just four times. He worked with Peyton Manning in the Hall of Fame quarterback’s prime and with Andrew Luck in the former No. 1 overall draft pick’s first four professional seasons. All of that happened during a 14-year run at Indianapolis, where Christensen came in with Tony Dungy and outlasted just about everyone in the many changes that followed.

Of course it’s easy winning with quarterbacks like Manning and Luck. Did you know, however, that Christensen also steered Trent Dilfer and Shaun King as Tampa Bay’s quarterbacks coach in 1999 and almost made it to the Super Bowl with them?

I didn’t know that either until looking it up, which is pretty bad because I covered the NFC Championship game that year, an 11-6 Rams’ win over Tampa Bay in St. Louis, and all I remember is that King was a pretty pedestrian quarterback and it was too bad that Dilfer was out with an injury in such an important game but, on the other hand, Dilfer was a pretty pedestrian quarterback, too.

So it seems that Christensen might know how to win some games with Ryan Tannehill, a more talented passer than either of those former Bucs. Gase has said he will call the Dolphins’ plays and that’s fine because he’s supposed to be some kind of an offensive whiz kid but listen to this.

When Gase worked previously as Denver’s quarterbacks coach in 2012, he used to call Christensen in Indianapolis for tips on coaching the future Hall of Famer. It couldn’t have been anything about X’s and O’s since the two men worked for different franchises. More likely it was about relating to Peyton, reading his signals, gaining his confidence.

Can’t have too much of that kind of information, whether you’re an assistant in Denver or a new head coach in Miami, working with a young quarterback who has all kinds of talent but continues to go about his work more robotically than he should after four seasons as a starter. Building Tannehill’s confidence and getting him to attack defenses more instinctively might just be a two-man job and those two men might just be Gase and Christensen.

Nothing against new Dolphins defensive coordinator Vance Joseph, who is 43 and making his first try at this job, but it would have been worrisome if all of Gase’s major hires were still working toward the primes of their careers.

Christensen will be the wise old bird in every offensive meeting room. Doesn’t mean he will be right on everything, but it does mean he has seen everything, and usually from a winning perspective.

This makes me feel better about the remade 2016 Dolphins, who still don’t have anybody on the staff with previous NFL head coaching experience. What they do have is a Clyde to go with all those cool cats who are trying on new titles and thinking, at some level, that their ideas are better than anything that’s ever been tried.

 

Clyde Christensen’s 20-year NFL coaching career

Yr       Team             Position       Record     Playoffs

1996   Tampa Bay    TE’s             6-10           None

1997   Tampa Bay     TE’s             10-6           Lost Divisional rd

1998   Tampa Bay     TE’s             8-8             None

1999   Tampa Bay     QB’s             11-5           Lost NFC title gm

2000     Tampa Bay   QB’s             10-6           Lost WC

2001   Tampa Bay     Off Coord.   9-7             Lost WC

2002     Indy               WR’s           10-6         Lost WC

2003     Indy               WR’s           12-4         Lost AFC title gm

2004     Indy               WR’s           12-4         Lost Divisional rd

2005     Indy               WR’s           14-2         Lost Divisional rd

2006     Indy                WR’s           12-4         Won Super Bowl

2007     Indy                WR’s           13-3         Lost Divisional rd

2008   Indy                 Asst. HC       12-4       Lost WC

2009   Indy                 Asst. HC       14-2       Lost Super Bowl

2010   Indy                 Off. Coord.   10-6       Lost WC

2011   Indy                 Off. Coord.   2-14       None

2012   Indy                  QB’s             11-5       Lost WC

2013   Indy                  QB’s             11-5       Lost Divisional rd

2014   Indy                   QB’s             11-5       Lost AFC title gm

2015   Indy                   QB’s             8-8         None

 

Some things to remember about concussions, from a player who’s having trouble remembering

What price does a person put on his or her long-term health, or on the risks associated with chasing and realizing a dream?

It’s a question that comes up a lot in sports, not only because athletes are tempted to try dangerous substances in order to transform their bodies but because the dangers in their profession don’t stop at retirement.

092604 gc fin o--Miami-Pittsburgh's Antwaan Randle El slips past Miami's Yeremiah Bell on a punt return during the Dolphins 3-13 loss to the Steelers at Pro Player Stadium in Miami Sunday. Staff Photo by Gary Coronado NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION OUTSIDE COX PAPERS. OUT PALM BEACH, BROWARD, MARTIN, ST. LUCIE, INDIAN RIVER AND OKEECHOBEE COUNTIES IN FLORIDA. OUT ORLANDO. OUT TV, OUT MAGAZINES, OUT TABLOIDS, OUT WIDE WORLD, OUT INTERNET USE. NO SALES.
MIAMI GARDENS – Former Pittsburgh wide receiver Antwaan Randle El slips past Miami’s Yeremiah Bell on a punt return during the Dolphins 13-3  loss to the Steelers in 2008. (Palm Beach Post Staff photographer Gary Coronado)

So here’s a ballpark figure to kick around, as provided by former Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El.

The best that I can tell, he made at least $8 million playing professional football and possibly more than $10 million when signing bonuses and such are factored in.

Now Randle El is telling the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he wishes he could go back in time and skip football altogether, which in turn means he would do without all those millions as part of the deal.

At 36, he sees signs of his memory slipping. There are the usual physical problems, too, like trouble walking down stairs. Just as it is with all of us, those physical issues will get worse with time, but in the case of Randle El it’s all happening just a little too fast.

Do you think he’s whining, having already enjoyed the riches of NFL life?

Do you think he should have taken all the risks into account before he put on a helmet and charged into the chaos of repeated collisions? After the fact, Randle El and others sued the NFL for what they deem as a coverup on the effects of concussions and they shared in the compensation of a major settlement.

It’s an issue that conflicts with my love for hunkering down in the recliner and watching football all weekend. Included in that is cheering loudly for every crushing hit my defense delivers and sometimes longing for a quicker resumption in the action when it takes several minutes to help an injured player off the field. Lousy to admit such a thing, but there it is.

In all of this, however, is a deep personal dread for loved ones and friends who battle with memory problems. When it’s bad, they lose great chunks of their lives. When it’s worse, everyone they knew becomes a stranger, no more dear than a first-time acquaintance.

If there was an amount of money to be paid to reverse that process completely, who wouldn’t give all they could through gifts and loans and bake sales and pledge drives to make it happen for someone important to them? Who, in the case of a family member, wouldn’t consider somewhere between $8 million and $10 million to be a worthy price for such an exchange.

Randle El makes me think hard about such things. I believe him when he says he is scared. I believe him when he says that football ultimately was not the right sport for him, and that he regrets participating in it now rather than baseball.

Will millions of young players and their parents skip right over this story and get back to working for a college football scholarship or a professional football contract, or will they simply prefer to focus on the fun? Yeah, I believe that, too.

Good thing, I guess, that I don’t have the astonishing levels of skill and drive that make it possible to play professional football. Then I wouldn’t be able to just sit around and noodle on the maybes and the what-if’s. I’d have to make a decision.

A potentially life-altering decision, for the good or the bad, or more likely a ton of both.

If these guys truly are the “lucky” ones, which is how we view NFL players with their fat contracts, at least they should understand the odds. If nothing else, Randle El and others in his same situation are opening a window on that.

 

 

 

It’s not true that Joe Philbin never called plays during his Packer days

Now that former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is back in the news as offensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the time has come to set the record straight.

He really did call plays for the Green Bay Packers, contrary to popular belief, and he absolutely killed it.

Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, (L), chats with Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after the Packers defeated the Fins 27-24 during NFL game Oct. 12, 2014 at Sun Life stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, (L), chats with Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after the Packers defeated Miami 27-24 during NFL game Oct. 12, 2014 at Sun Life stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

Of course, it was just one game, the 2008 Pro Bowl, when Packers coach Mike McCarthy was in a festive mood and turned over the play-calling duties to Philbin, his offensive coordinator.

Working with Tony Romo, Matt Hasselbeck and Jeff Garcia at quarterback, and plotting against the lowered defensive intensity that is common in these all-star exhibitions, Philbin discovered that just about everything he sent in worked under the sunny Hawaiian sky.

Adrian Peterson rushed for a couple of touchdowns. Terrell Owens caught two scoring passes. Romo caught a 34-pass from Owens. Heck, the only guys who didn’t get a workout were the punters as the NFC scored a 42-30 comeback win over the AFC.

The Packers’ official bio for Philbin in the team media guide made a special point of listing this game as one where he was directly involved in the execution of every offensive play.

Oh, what fun, though when it came time to play games that counted the following season, and when Brett Favre was back taking the snaps, McCarthy resumed his role as Green Bay’s playcaller. That’s the prerogative of the head coach.

Philbin, meanwhile, returned to his duties preparing game plans in grand detail and, above all, running offensive team meetings.

[Fun to know Dolphins are returning to LA Coliseum, site of Perfect Season’s Super Bowl]

[Richt had another of Saban’s Alabama national championship teams right in his sights]

Years later, when he got the job in Miami, Philbin described how seriously he took those meetings.

“If any PowerPoint slide had a spelling or grammar mistake, any typo, any scheme error, that was my responsibility, just like a teacher,” Philbin said.

I’m hoping Philbin does well with the Colts. He’s a good man and a hard worker. Looking back, though, it’s more difficult than ever to understand why the Dolphins didn’t pick up on the warning signs of a quote like the one above, stressing punctuation over the raw power of leadership.

They should have.

On anniversary of Perfect Season’s Super Bowl, it’s fun to know Dolphins will return to Coliseum

So the St. Louis Rams are moving to Los Angeles. Works for me, and so does the concept of the Miami Dolphins returning to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. That’s the most likely spot for the Rams to play while a new stadium is being built for them.

It was 43 years ago today (Jan. 14, 1973) that the Dolphins completed their perfect season, and they did it at the Coliseum.

Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula waves the Super Bowl trophy for a crowd for of some 2,000 fans as the team arrived in Miami after winning the Super Bowl in 1973. (Leonard Parness/Miami News)
Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula waves the Super Bowl trophy for a crowd for of some 2,000 fans as the team arrived in Miami after winning the Super Bowl in 1973. (Leonard Parness/Miami News)

The old building was pretty worn even then. Built in the roaring Twenties, the Coliseum played host to the 1932 Summer Olympics, the 1959 World Series, decades of USC football and every other kind of competition capable of drawing massive crowds.

Oh, and the inaugural Super Bowl (Green Bay over Kansas City in 1967) was played at the Coliseum, too.

For Dolphins fans, however, one game played there trumps them all, Miami’s 14-7 win over Washington to complete the only perfect season in NFL history. Howard Twilley and Jim Kiick scored the touchdowns for Don Shula’s team and Garo Yepremian handed one to the Redskins on a blocked field goal and a wobbly pass attempt and fumble return by Mike Bass.

If Garo had made the kick instead, the 17-0 Dolphins would have won the game 17-0, which would have been just a little bit better than perfect.

Through the years, there just weren’t that many chances for Miami to play at the Coliseum. The Rams left for Anaheim in 1980 and eventually for St. Louis. The Raiders, meanwhile, used the stadium only from 1982-94.

Altogether, the Dolphins were 3-1 in the games that counted at the Coliseum, including one against the Rams, two against the Raiders and that one glorious Super Bowl. Add in a 2-1 preseason record against the Rams and Raiders and you wind up with an all-time record of 5-2 in the Coliseum for Miami.

Now maybe it’s assuming too much in predicting the Rams will play in the Coliseum and not somewhere else, like the Rose Bowl or Dodger Stadium or even back in Anaheim. The Coliseum wants them, however, and might try to get the Chargers back temporarily, too, providing that franchise also gets approval to move from San Diego to L.A.

I’d like to see it happen, though, and it just might, as soon as next season.

The Dolphins are scheduled to travel to both the Rams and the Chargers in 2016, on dates yet to be determined.

 

Dolphins games in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Yr.         Event            Opponent         Result

1971     Regular        Rams                 W, 20-14

1973     SB VII            Redskins             W, 14-7

1974     Preseason    Rams                 L, 31-13

1983     Regular         Raiders             L, 27-14

1984     Preseason   Raiders             W, 29-23

1985     Preseason     Raiders             W, 23-17

1988     Regular         Raiders             W, 24-14

 

If it matters, the Dolphins also were 2-0 against the Rams at Anaheim Stadium (1980 and 1986) and a crushing 0-1 at the Rose Bowl (a 27-17 loss to the Redskins in Super Bowl XVII on Jan. 30, 1983).

 

 

Florida Panthers’ win streak is over but appreciation goes on

The Florida Panthers pushed their amazing win streak to 12 games before losing a 3-2 overtime killer at Vancouver on Monday night.

Now maybe they’ll start a new streak Wednesday night at Calgary or maybe they’ll revert to their wishy-washy ways, as one Sports Illustrated expert suggests on the basis of hockey analytics.

Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr congratulates center Aleksander Barkov on his goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Ottawa Senators, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2015, in Ottawa, Ontario. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)
OTTAWA, Ontario -Florida Panthers right wing Jaromir Jagr congratulates center Aleksander Barkov (16) on his goal during a game against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 7, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press via AP)

I don’t know anything about hockey analytics. Truth is, I barely comprehend how a Zamboni works.

All that’s certain is the Panthers deserve a ton of credit for flirting with NHL history. The league’s record winning streak is 17 games set by the 1992-93 Pittsburgh Penguins, a team featuring Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr.

Hey, wait a minute. Jagr is still playing all these years later at the age of 43, and for the Panthers, no less.

Whether there is more magic coming for the Panthers franchise this season is up to the Nordic gods, I suppose. If nothing else we must pause to compare what this team accomplished against the other major league outfits in our area.

As you might guess, the Marlins don’t measure up very well in this category heralding consistent success.

Longest win streaks for South Florida teams

Team                                     Streak                             Year       

Miami Heat                           27 games                              2013

Miami Dolphins                   18 games                       1972 plus 1 ’73 game

Florida Panthers                   12 games                             2015-16

Miami Marlins                         9 games                       4 times, last in 2006