Beating Atlanta in tonight’s preseason game wouldn’t make Adam Gase a great coach, but it sure would set a tone

The Miami Dolphins’ third preseason game is tonight in Orlando and who cares if they lose?

Something tells me that Adam Gase does, whether or not he’ll admit it.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on August 10, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase at training camp in Davie, Florida. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

He’s a rookie head coach, for openers, and it builds confidence to have the other guy meeting you with congratulations at the postgame handshake rather than a conciliatory pat on the back.

Also, Gase means to build a winning culture in Miami. He wants every play to count on the practice field for every individual, and every group effort to yield positive results. Losing preseason games may not stop that momentum, but it does get in the way.

So the Dolphins prepare to play the Falcons, knowing that many of the players who take the field at Camping World Stadium won’t make the NFL regular-season rosters of their respective teams. Who cares if they lose?

Fans do. They see the good things that the first unit did, even in a lousy loss like last week’s 41-14 blowout at Dallas. They understand the process of winnowing through a long list of players and philosophies to see which ones stand up to pressure. They really do get what’s happening here, but they also really do want to trust in Gase’s ability to turn around the franchise, sooner rather than later.

That’s the difference between 2-1 and 1-2 once this Falcons game is finished.

That’s why Don Shula winning his first three preseason games as Dolphins coach was such a boost. Before his arrival the franchise had only won 20 games altogether, regular season and preseason included.

That also is why Joe Philbin going 0-4 in his first preseason as Dolphins coach was so predictive of the mood to come. Counting the regular season, Joe lost seven of his first eight games here. Each failure was met with calm analysis and a note of congratulation to the other side. There would be small winning streaks in the future, but never enough of a psychological wave in the opposite direction.

Now I’m not saying that exhibition records are the best method for dividing the sideline savants from the duds. Cam Cameron won his first two preseason games as Dolphins coach, after all, and Nick Saban lost his first three.

[Don’t tell Anthony Steen what happened to Dolphins’ last fill-in at center]

[If head coaches had to play QB in an emergency, who would you leading your team?]

[A look back at 1985 Dolphins, loaded for the Super Bowl return that never came]

Gase will make certain, however, that his players learn to hate disorganization, to hate sloppiness, to hate losing, no matter the opponent or the circumstances. That begins with the preseason, and in tonight’s game he will be earnestly working, too, on the art of head coaching, from the bus ride to the stadium to the final gun.

There’s just no use in wasting these opportunities. Cameron did. In the fourth and final preseason game of 2007, a 7-0 loss to New Orleans featuring tons of reserves on both sides, he didn’t even wear a headset, abdicating his normal playcalling duties and giving to an assistant coach the job of throwing the red challenge flag.

That’s not Gase. It can’t be.

Please don’t tell Anthony Steen what happened to Dolphins’ last emergency starter at center

Ryan Tannehill’s ability to communicate and cooperate with a potentially new center is something to worry about at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, the league’s loudest stadium. That’s where the Miami Dolphins open the regular season on Sept. 11, and that’s why the timeline on Mike Pouncey’s return from a hip injury is so vital.

(l to r) Miami Dolphins offensive guard Jamil Douglas, (75) Miami Dolphins tackle Kraig Urbik, (60) Miami Dolphins offensive guard Anthony Steen (65) and Miami Dolphins guard Billy Turner (77) at Miami Dolphins training camp in Davie, Florida on August 9, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Anthony Steen, No. 65 in this training camp image of backups on the Miami Dolphins’ offensive line, has moved into the middle of something big this week as the replacement for injured Mike Pouncey at center.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Anthony Steen, a converted guard who never has played center in an NFL game, will give it a try in Thursday’s third preseason game against Atlanta. He gets the opportunity over Jamil Douglas, another converted guard who filled in at center during the last two games of 2015 during another Pouncey injury and had a nightmare experience.

Douglas snapped the ball prematurely, before Tannehill and the rest of the Dolphins expected it, and a fourth-and-goal chance to pull out a game in the final minute against Indianapolis was ruined. Few players reacted at the snap of the ball and Tannehill was sacked to put the wrap on an 18-12 Dolphins loss.

Maybe Steen will be better suited to the emergency duty, but it’s a lot to ask. What new coach Adam Gase needs is a rapid solution on the order of what Samson Satele gave the Dolphins in 2014.

Pouncey missed the first four games of that season but Satele played so well in his absence that former Dolphins coach Joe Philbin wanted to keep both of them in the lineup when the opportunity presented itself. That happened when Pouncey came back in Game 5 and was moved to right guard, leaving Satele at center for the entire season.

If you’re thinking about Satele now, he didn’t play at all last year after getting tryouts with several NFL teams and is still floating around out there now so it figures he’s not physically up to the job any more.

In the next few weeks, however, all kinds of options will be considered by all kinds of coaches as the final cuts are made and rosters get reshuffled by new signings. No telling who still might wind up in Miami as insurance at center, or even as a possible starter.

And if you’re nearing a panic on this point, remember that no one player makes an offense work or bog down all by himself.

If Gase can get his offensive line figured out in the next few preseason games and if Tannehill can find some confidence with whoever is in his huddle, good things can still happen. It’s on Gase, and not just Steen, to make all of that happen.

As good as Pouncey is, for instance, I looked back at the games he has missed the last three seasons. Miami went 4-4 with him and 18-22 without him.

Tannehill, meanwhile, has his second-highest quarterback rating of the 2015 season with Douglas at center for the final game, a 20-10 win over New England. He completed 25 of 38 passes that day for 350 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions and one sack.

It might be encouraging for Steen to know that as he prepares to start at center Thursday in Orlando.

More encouraging to me would be the signing of a serviceable veteran center by Miami in the next few weeks, just in case Steen gets hurt or Pouncey stays hurt or any number of bad surprises come to offensive line coach Chris Foerster between now and Sept. 11.

Foerster was Miami’s offensive coordinator under head coach Dave Wanntstedt in 2004, when the 4-12 Dolphins had a solid center in Seth McKinney but problems just about everywhere else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the head coaches had to take over the huddle in a pinch, which old-timer would you want quarterbacking your team?

 

From the childish category of my-dad-can-beat-up-your dad, here’s a question for you.

Pictured below with quarterback's coach Earl Morrall are (left to right): Vinny Testaverde, Kyle Vanderwende, Jim Kelly, Mark Richt and Bernie Kosar. (Contributed photo)
Pictured below with former UM quarterbacks coach Earl Morrall are (left to right): Vinny Testaverde, Kyle Vanderwende, Jim Kelly, Mark Richt and Bernie Kosar. (Contributed photo)

If in a charity football game you had to name a quarterback to save the day in the fourth quarter, and if that quarterback had to be one of the head coaches from Florida’s major college football teams, which one would you pick?

Here’s my order.

  1. Scott Frost, Central Florida – He’s 41, which helps, and he’s 6-foot-3, which hurts anyone trying to tackle him. Most importantly, Frost quarterbacked Nebraska to a share of the national championship in 1997. Michigan won the AP title. The 13-0 Cornhuskers, led by Frost’s three touchdown runs, beat Peyton Manning and Tennessee 42-17 to win the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.
  2. Willie Taggart, South Florida – He’s 39, finishing up his career at Western Kentucky in 1998 as a four-year starter at quarterback. Was an All-America at the I-AA level and a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, which honors the top offensive player in that division. Payton, by the way, played at Jackson State so don’t underestimate small-school talent.
  3. Jimbo Fisher, Florida State – He’s 50 and still pretty spry. Bounced around a bit after high school before landing at Samford, where he was the Div. III Player of the Year in 1987. Played a little Arena Football League, too, after getting his college coaching from Terry Bowden. Maybe you’ve heard of Terry’s dad.
  4. Mark Richt, Miami – The oldest of our contestants at 56, he was a star quarterback at Boca Raton High School and led the Bobcats into the state playoffs. A backup to Jim Kelly at Miami, he completed 45 percent of his passes over a four-year Hurricanes career with nine touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Finished in 1982, one year before Howard Schnellenberger’s national title team.
  5. Jim McElwain, Florida – He’s 54. Played a little quarterback at Eastern Washington in the early 1980’s but gave up his senior season of eligility to pursue a more promising career as a graduate assistant coach. Good multi-sport star in high school back home in Montana.

Can’t rank Charlie Partridge of FAU here because he played defensive line at Drake. FIU’s Ron Turner was a receiver at Pacific.

Tell the truth, though, I’d like to stretch this imaginary category a bit further if it’s a matter of winning or losing, and when isn’t it?

Give me Steve Spurrier off the bench at Florida. Of course, he’s going to need a clean pocket. The ol’ ballcoach doesn’t get around like he used to, but he’s still crazy competitive.

[Thumbs up for Hard Rock Stadium, which sounds as loud as a stadium should]

[Strange but true, American football once was an Olympic sport]

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Dolphins]

A look back at 1985 Dolphins, loaded for the Super Bowl return that never came and still hasn’t

Found a 1985 Miami Dolphins media guide in the bottom of the drawer. That’s when the franchise was coming off its last Super Bowl appearance and it seemed that young Dan Marino would play for many more championships in the years to come.

The Dolphins had one retired jersey to that point, Bob Griese’s No. 12.

Home games were played at the Orange Bowl, with chairback sideline tickets selling for $23, sideline bench seats for $19 and end-zone seats for $16.

Dan Marino and Miami Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula at Dolphins mini-camp in 1983. (Post file photo by Don Preisler)
Dan Marino and Miami Dolphins Head Coach Don Shula at Dolphins mini-camp in 1983. (Post file photo by Don Preisler)

Don Shula had 242 career victories, postseason included. That put him one behind Tom Landry and 84 behind George Halas, both of whom he eventually would toast with an NFL record total of 347.

A man named Marlo Hanson had just come on board as Coordinator of the Dolphin Stadium Corporation. Plans for a new 73,000-seat stadium, the same one just rebranded as Hard Rock Stadium with $500 million in 21st-century renovations, were in the beginning stages, with everybody wondering how Robbie was going to pull it off.

On the personnel side, Marino was coming off a 48-touchdown season. That’s twice what Ryan Tannehill had last year.

Mark Clayton was coming off a season in which he caught 18 touchdown passes in 16 regular-season games and two more in the playoffs. Jarvis Landry and Rishard Matthews led last year’s Dolphins with four touchdown receptions each.

Also, the Dolphins were on a roll against New England as the 1985 season began, having won seven of their last nine games against the Patriots, who were coached by Raymond Berry, not Bill Belichick.

In short, it was a time of endless promise, and of South Florida fans spoiled to the max.

There was no trip to the Super Bowl for the 1985 Dolphins, however, because the Pats won 31-14 in an AFC title game at the Orange Bowl, and there have been none since for the franchise.

Eventually that return to the big game will happen for the Dolphins. It has to happen. After all, Miami is one of only eight NFL franchises locked out of the Super Bowl since 1984, joining the New York Jets, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Houston, Kansas City, Detroit and Minnesota.

[Thumbs up for Hard Rock Stadium, a loud and rowdy brand]

[Strange but true, American football briefly was an Olympic sport]

[Voices and memories from Dolphins’ first training camp in 1966]

This seems a good time, however, to recognize and appreciate how difficult it is to reach the Super Bowl and how much needs to happen if Miami is going to get there in Adam Gase’s time as head coach.

It’s a pretty brutal and capricious league when a combo like Shula and Marino gets to the championship game just once together. Tannehill has never played a postseason game. Gase has never been a head coach at all.

Patience is what I’m preaching, and not just for another season or two.

If Gase is really the guy to pull this all together, and he just might be, he’ll need to find a way to catch this franchise up to the real contenders. Only then can he get to work on passing them all.

Thumbs up for Hard Rock Stadium, which sounds loud and rowdy like a stadium should be

 

Hard Rock Stadium has a nice ring to it.

Sure, there are some who will insist on calling it Joe Robbie Stadium forever, and others queasy over the Miami Dolphins’ partnership with a casino hotel.

Artist's rendering of Sun Life Stadium once $450 million in renovations is complete. (Courtesy of Miami Dolphins)
Artist’s rendering of Sun Life Stadium once $450 million in renovations is complete. (Courtesy of Miami Dolphins)

At least the naming sponsor is located in South Florida and reflects the flash and the money and the personality of the market better than previous brands like Sun Life (a financial-services company based in Canada) or Pro Player (a name given to a defunct line of Fruit of the Loom sportswear).

The gambling line, meanwhile, has become so blurred that the only taboo everyone agrees on is that fixing games is bad and could burn down the whole sports industry if tolerated.

All other shades of this topic are gray rather than black and white. Casinos have advertised at stadiums for years. The NFL, NBA and MLB are big investors in FanDuel and DraftKings. There’s an NHL franchise headed to Las Vegas in 2017, which might break another logjam. Many other teams have talked about moving to Sin City in the past, including the Marlins, who met with Las Vegas’ mayor in 2004 to prime the pump on getting public money for a new stadium in Miami.

That same year I remember wondering about the mixed message of walking past rows of slot machines at the Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood to meet Pete Carroll and Bob Stoops out by the hotel pool. They were at the casino for an official Orange Bowl press conference to discuss a national championship game involving their college teams from USC and Oklahoma.

If anybody else was worried about the mixed message, it didn’t come up and the Hard Rock has become a center for sports promotions of all kinds, not just boxing and MMA and such.

[Voices and memories from Dolphins’ first training camp in 1966]

[AP’s all-time Top 100 favors Buckeyes, but FSU is on fastest climb]

[The Olympic gold-medal sprinter who played for the Dolphins]

Anyway, football fans will have less trouble adopting this newest new name for the stadium where the Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes play. Hard Rock naturally sounds like a loud place, a fun place and it works especially well when concert tours swing by. Millenials will relate to it far better than a stadium with the name of some life insurance company. That’s geezer stuff better suited to Sunday afternoon golf telecasts.

As for the spinoff names and jokes that go with it, I sent out a tweet earlier suggesting that the Dolphins, a playoff team just once in the last 14 years, might find a better fit in a facility called Hard Luck Stadium.

That didn’t get a very good reaction, but this is August, the season of hope in the NFL, and nobody wants to hear that. Nobody likes a smart aleck, either. Right?

With money obstacle removed, A-Rod to the Marlins is a less-than-crazy concept

(UPDATE – Alex Rodriguez’s spokesman said Monday afternoon that a potential return to baseball with some team other than the Yankees is not happening in 2016. Still no word directly from A-Rod)

Working right now on a print column about Alex Rodriguez as a possible pickup for the Miami Marlins after being cut by the Yankees.

The shorthand version is that such a move would work just fine for me if they don’t have to pay him. Dog days of summer, looking for a boost, Giancarlo Stanton is out and the player in discussion has 696 home runs. Where, other than the fact A-Rod can’t seem to hit these days, is the problem?

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez acknowledges the crowd during a ceremony prior to his final baseball game with the team, against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez acknowledges the crowd during a ceremony prior to his final baseball game with the team, against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, Aug. 12, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Meanwhile, here is a column I wrote last summer when A-Rod and the Yankees played at Marlins Stadium. It speaks of the excitement his one pinch-hit appearance brought to the game that night, and of the possibility that he and the team might one day get together if ever the money problem could be solved.

Give it a read for some 2015 quotes from A-Rod about loving Miami, his hometown, and admiring Jeffrey Loria for what he has done with Marlins Park.

Here goes.

 

(Dave George, Palm Beach Post columnist, in a reprint from June 16, 2015)

Could disgraced slugger wind up career in childhood home of Miami?

Do you loathe Alex Rodriguez enough to totally shun him and the famous pinstripes that clothe him in credibility? Judging by Monday night’s attendance, a sassy crowd of 33,961 to watch the New York Yankees lose 2-1 to Miami at Marlins Park, the answer is no.
Now comes the tougher question. Could you tolerate A-Rod enough to enthusiastically welcome him to Miami by trade some day?
That would take some serious rethinking for a fan base that doesn’t show up regularly to watch Giancarlo Stanton, a young slugger with no steroid history.
It would take some compromise by the Yankees, too, because Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria isn’t about to take on the megamillions that A-Rod is owed through 2017. Still, A-Rod on the verge of 40 is an everyday spectacle with his 666 home runs and what soon will be membership in the 3,000-hit club.
He lit the stadium up Monday with a two-out pinch-hit appearance in the ninth inning. His game-ending fly ball to right field had everybody screaming, pro and con.
“I’ve gotta tell you,” A-Rod said without prompting before Monday’s game, “I think Jeff Loria is doing a great job with his franchise. Obviously, he built an incredible-looking stadium and Miami is an incredible market for baseball. It’s a beautiful park. It seems fair and I’m just so proud being a Floridian that we get this beautiful piece of art in the middle of our city.”
Never mind that Loria didn’t build the stadium alone in the public-private financing frenzy that made Marlins Park happen. Never mind that Miami is an incredible market for World Series play alone.
The details matter less than the dance if A-Rod and the Marlins are ever going to get together, next year or any year. He’s high-maintenance in every way, rarely plays in the field and, because the National League doesn’t have the DH, his value here might be in the all-or-nothing category of late-inning pinch-hitter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not start A-Rod Monday and likely won’t again today for the conclusion of the two-game series here.
Still, being back in Miami clearly makes A-Rod feel like a kid again, poking holes in the impossible.
“These milestones,” he said, “have made me kind of take a step back and think about my childhood when I grew up here in Miami, watching Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez on TV and then running to my backyard and literally taking a hundred swings and then going to watch their other at-bats and then doing it again.
“I would do that over and over again nightly. Some people think it’s obsessive. Even my biggest haters would say, though, that I’m disciplined and a hard worker.”
He’s trying to soften the image by speaking of his baseball genesis, and not of Biogenesis. Missing an entire season will do that to you, and that’s what cheating did to A-Rod in 2014.
“This year has been an amazing experience for me,” Rodriguez said. “I know that a lot of people gave up on me. There were days that I gave up on myself. It’s been a long, long journey back .”
Derek Jeter didn’t do all this talking but was adored on the day of his retirement as Yankees captain. A-Rod could talk forever and never gain that level of respect, even though he has regained his importance as a Yankees run-producer. He’s lied too often to too many, and knows it.
“It’s good when we start kind of getting rid of the old, like me,” he said, “and start introducing some of these great new talents.”
He was speaking specifically of Stanton, who is nearly 500 homers behind Rodriguez but working on a fresh new kind of awesome.
Rodriguez, called by Miami manager Dan Jennings “the most talented player I ever scouted,” doesn’t sparkle like that now but still he burns.
Some day when the Yankees are done with him, that lingering heat, even if it’s just a low-grade A-Rod fever, could be useful to the Marlins.

[Strange but true, American football briefly was an Olympic sport]

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Miami Dolphins]

[A fun look back at the Dolphins’ first training camp in 1966]

 

Strange but true, American football briefly was an Olympic sport

 

If ever the Summer Olympics return to the U.S., there’s no doubt which demonstration sport most Americans would love to see introduced by the host nation.

Football, baby, and I don’t mean the kind you play with your feet.

Think helmets and touchdowns and instant replay instead. Think, too, of the NFL getting behind any effort to market its product to a wider international audience than already has been reached through games in London and Mexico City.

Red Grange grabs the ball after the first kick-off of the Illinois-Michigan game in Oct. 1924, with teammate Wally McIlwain at his side. Grange began a sprint that took him over 95 yards downfield for a touchdown. The game was hardly a minute old before he had finished his trip. (Chicago Tribune historical photo/TNS)
Old-school, helmet-free football of the sort played as a demonstration sport at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games. (Chicago Tribune historical photo/TNS)

Funny thing is, American football has already had its moment on the Olympic stage as a demonstration sport. It happened in Los Angeles in 1932 with a game featuring seniors from some of the top college teams of the day. You know, Yale and Harvard and Princeton from the East. Cal and Stanford and USC from the West.

The game was played at L.A.’s Memorial Coliseum, where on different days the gymnastics competition also took place under a blazing sun and where equestrian events were staged, too.

A headline-grabbing shootout would have been great for the promotion of the game, of course, but there wasn’t a whole lot of passing in those days. The West team won 7-6 and here’s how the official 1932 L.A. Games publication described its impact on the Olympic movement.

“The foreign athletes and press representatives were interested in the game but bewildered by its complexity. The consensus of foreign opinion was that American football is a hard, bruising physical combat with a little too much emphasis on complicated technique.

“Most of the visitors commented chiefly on the great amount of time outs and the numerous substitutions.”

Too complicated, huh? Depends on who’s asking.

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Miami Dolphins]

[Amar’e Stoudemire is on my list of greatest stars from state of Florida]

[Here’s a fun look back at Dolphins’ first training camp in 1966]

In those same 1932 Olympics, a Swedish dressage rider was knocked down from a silver-medal finish to last place because officials determined he was illegally encouraging his horse by making clicking noises. According to David Wallechinsky’s amazingly comprehensive “Complete Book of the Summer Olympics,” a Jury of Appeal refused to accept the rider’s explanation that the noises were made by a creaking saddle.

On second thought, maybe we ought to keep our version of football out of the Olympics. Might ruin it.

AP’s all-time Top 100 may favor Buckeyes, but FSU is on the fastest climb

Hey, I thought we weren’t supposed to worry so much about the Associated Press college football poll anymore. Now the AP has come out with its all-time Top 25 based entirely on the organization’s data and everyone’s getting bent out of shape?

Miami fans are howling that five national titles ought to be worth more than No. 13 on the all-time list.

FILE - In this Jan. 3, 2003,  file photo, Ohio State coach Jim Tressel holds up the championship trophy after Ohio State beat Miami 31-24 in two overtimes in the Fiesta Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The Associated Press has been ranking the best teams in college football for the last 80 seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)
TEMPE, Ariz. – Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel holds up the championship trophy after Ohio State beat Miami 31-24 in two overtimes in the Fiesta Bowl to win the 2002 national championship. The Associated Press has been ranking the best teams in college football for the last 80 seasons. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, file)

The Florida Gators come in at No. 10, second only to Alabama among SEC schools, and that has everybody else in the conference upset.

Florida State is No. 9 and what Seminoles fans want to know is how Texas, a proud program stuck in a terrible slump, could be ranked above them.

All of this is beautiful to me. It’s the reason the AP list always has mattered in August, when there are no games to play and passionate college football nuts can’t wait to win something, anything, even an imaginary list built on all kinds of arbitrary factors.

What’s needed here is an understanding of exactly what this all-time Top 100 is supposed to be. The AP isn’t saying that Ohio State, No. 1 in this poll, is the best program in history.

It’s not saying that the Buckeyes’ five AP national championships are more important than Miami’s five, or that Notre Dame’s greatness in the 1940s was more significant than FSU’s in the 1990s.

This thing is an amalgamation of everything that has come before, with AP staffers doing an exhaustive search of every poll since the poll began in 1936. From that points were awarded for how many times a program was included in the Top 25 through the years, how many times it rose to No. 1 in a weekly poll and how many times it was awarded an AP national title.

Consistency is rewarded most of all. Being a name brand for longer than other programs brings consistency in this setting.

Regional bias in the earliest years of the poll makes a big difference, too. And if anyone’s looking to debate which polls matter and which don’t, forget it. This AP Top 100 recognizes national champions recognized by the AP alone, and not all those ancient other ones that you’ve never heard of which always show up on the resumes of Alabama and Notre Dame and other bluebloods.

Put it all together and it’s ridiculously impressive that FSU could find a spot in the all-time AP Top Ten.

[The Olympic gold medal sprinter who played for the Miami Dolphins]

[Amar’e Stoudemire belongs on my list of all-time greats from state of Florida]

[Here’s a fun look back at Dolphins’ first training camp at Boca Raton in 1966]

The Seminoles didn’t even field a football team until 1954. That means 18 years of AP polls had already gone by with no chance of representation for FSU but tons of recognition for Ohio State and Oklahoma and Southern Cal and Nebraska and similar monster programs.

FSU didn’t appear in an AP poll until 1964. Since then Bobby Bowden and Jimbo Fisher have combined to push the Seminoles to the No. 1 position in 72 weekly AP polls. That’s only two times fewer than Alabama, which has been at this thing from the start.

Penn State, meanwhile, has been No. 1 in 19 weekly polls and has just two AP national titles, which doesn’t compare too well with Miami’s 67 times at No. 1 plus five national titles.

Still, the Nittany Lions come in at No. 12, one spot above the Hurricanes, because they’ve always been there. That’s what the numbers say, with Penn State appearing in 53.4 percent of all AP polls throughout history and Miami appearing in 41.5 percent.

Bottom line, don’t let this thing eat your lunch. It’s something to talk about, or shout about, with the certainty that no one will ever be completely satisifed, even all-time top dog Ohio State, which has Urban Meyer but still can’t seem to push Jim Harbaugh and Michigan out of the headlines.

Here’s a reason to crow. The AP Top 100 verifies that FSU, Miami and Florida have established themselves as elite programs and that they’ve done so the hard way, by winning a lot of games in a short time.

The Hurricanes would be higher if they hadn’t lost their momentum in recent years. On top of that, it won’t matter what any all-time poll says if Miami gets great in real time. That’s what brings in the recruits and makes the stadium rock and gets people eager to see the rankings the drive the industry these days.

That would be the College Football Playoff committee rankings. A topic for another day, much later in the season, long after this provocative and entertaining AP Top 100 has been pushed down the list of rage-worthy college fan debates.

 

The Olympic gold medalist who played for the Miami Dolphins

With the Rio Games about to open and NFL training camps on full go, it’s time to ask if any player on the Miami Dolphins has ever competed in the Olympics?

Well, technically, the answer is yes, and it’s based on the determination that, technically, Jimmy Hines was ever a football player in the first place.

hinesHines won the gold medal in the 100-meter run at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. Then he won gold again as a member of the U.S. 4X100 relay team. Spectacular sprint speed like that cannot be ignored, which led the Dolphins to take Hines in the sixth round of the 1968 combined NFL/AFL draft.

The franchise, in its third year of operation, was looking to promote its product at the time. That wasn’t so simple after opening seasons of 3-11 and 4-10. A curiosity like Hines was worth a shot if he sold a few tickets, or so thought Dolphins owner Joe Robbie and his player personnel man, Joe Thomas.

Also, Bob Hayes had the entire pro football industry thinking about the possibility of transforming track stars into wide receivers. Bullet Bob won the 100 at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and went on to a Hall of Fame career with the Dallas Cowboys. He previously was a halfback on a state championship team in Jacksonville and got a football scholarship to Florida A&M so he wasn’t starting from scratch.

Hines was, and being in the spotlight with the Dolphins probably didn’t help his development.

The team assigned him No. 99 and sent him out to run pass routes for quarterbacks Bob Griese and Rick Norton. It must not have gone all that well based on the fact that Hines quickly gained the locker-room nickname of “Oops.”

He spent the 1968 season on Miami’s practice squad and played a little for coach George Wilson and the Dolphins in 1969 before moving on to a brief appearance with the Kansas City Chiefs and then out of the league for good.

There’s no need making fun of him, any more than there is making light of Herschel Walker for failing to medal as a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic bobsled team. Every sport has its own particular skill set and they need not be interchangeable, no matter how amazing the athletes involved.

Here is the full list of plays involving Hines on Miami’s 3-10-1 team from 1969.

In Game 6, a loss at Kansas City’s old Municipal Stadium, he caught one pass from Griese for 1 yard.

In Game 7, a home win over Buffalo in the Orange Bowl, he returned a punt for 22 yards. That apparently was his one and only shot at taking the kick return job from another speedy rookie named Mercury Morris.

In Game 10, Hines had his finest day as an NFL receiver, hooking up with Norton on a 22-yard catch. The wind chill was 17 degrees in Buffalo that day, however, and the Dolphins lost 28-3, so there probably wasn’t much of a celebration.

Finally, in Game 11, Hines got his only NFL carry, a 7-yard rush in a home loss to Houston. Can’t find it in the records but it almost certainly was a reverse that didn’t develop into much.

We’ll never know what Don Shula would have made of Jimmy Hines. He came on as Miami’s coach in 1970 and never worked with the Olympic hero.

Shula did have some fun in later years, however, with Mark Duper, who finished seventh in the 200-meter run at the 1980 U.S. Olympic Trials and reached the semifinals of the 100. Duper was added to the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2003, three years after Dan Marino, the quarterback who made the best use of all that blazing speed.

Hey, there were 17 rounds in the NFL/AFL draft the year that Miami took a flyer on Hines. There just wasn’t that much to lose.

Even now, if Usain Bolt showed any interest in trying football at the age of 29, it figures that some NFL team would give him a look.

 

Not sure about Hall of Fame but Amar’e Stoudemire belongs on my list of greatest hoop stars from the state of Florida

 

Amar’e Stoudemire has retired after one season with the Miami Heat and now some people are wondering if he belongs in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. I’m not quite sure I can get there.

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 25: Amar'e Stoudemire #5 of the Miami Heat gets off a pass between Pau Gasol #16 and Tony Snell #20 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 25, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL – Amar’e Stoudemire, recently retired from the Miami Heat,  gets off a pass between Pau Gasol #16 and Tony Snell #20 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on January 25, 2016. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

The guy was a dominant big man with the Phoenix Suns right out of high school and played 14 years in the NBA. He gets the celebrity boost, too, of playing with the New York Knicks late in his career. Overall, an average of 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game over such a long period is worthy of respect.

If somebody wants to argue Amar’e for the Hall then, I won’t fight too much. Already he’s one of the best players ever to come out of Florida and that ought to be worth a few bonus points.

Who are the other all-time greats from our state? Here’s my list, and undoubtedly some obvious name is being left off due to my stupidity alone. I’ll trust you to chime in and fill in the blanks, or at least volunteer to switch my order around.

  1. Artis Gilmore – From the panhandle town of Chipley, he made five ABA all-star teams and six more in the NBA, and that was after pushing Jacksonville to the NCAA title game. A Naismith Hall of Famer.
  2. David Robinson – Born in Key West, I can’t put him at No. 1 because he was part of a Navy family and actually spent his teenage years in Virginia. A 10-time NBA all-star and founder of the Spurs’ dynasty. A Naismith Hall of Famer.
  3. Mitch Richmond – He’s from Boyd Anderson High School in Lauderdale Lakes and sometimes gets overlooked but the Naismith voters put him in the Hall in 2014 so that’s the ultimate confirmation. Averaged 21.5 points and 3.5 assists and had his jersey retired by Sacramento Kings.
  4. Amar’e Stoudemire – He’s from Lake Wales but bounced all over Central Florida playing for various schools. Finished up at Cypress Creek High in Orlando. A physical force who didn’t play organized basketball until the age of 14 and jumped right to NBA from high school.
  5. Vince Carter – Eight times an NBA all-star, he led Daytona Beach Mainland to a state title, took North Carolina to a couple of Final Fours and amazed at every level with his acrobatic skills. Was an NBA Slam-Dunk Contest winner.
  6. Tracy McGrady – Born in Bartow and went to high school in Auburndale for every year but his last, when he transferred to a school in North Carolina. Seven times an NBA all-star and twice the league scoring champion.
  7. Otis Birdsong – From Winter Haven High School, he made four NBA all-star teams and was among the nation’s leading scorers at the University of Houston. Averaged 18 points per game as a pro and was drafted second overall in 1977 by the Kansas City Kings.
  8. Eddie Jones – From Ely High School in Pompano Beach, he played five-plus seasons for the Miami Heat and shot 38 percent for them from three-point range. Played 81 postseason games for five different teams, including the Lakers early in his career. A college star at Temple.
  9. Otis Thorpe – From Boynton Beach, he played at Lake Worth High School. Worked on raw offensive skills until the NBA’s Kings made him a first-round draft pick out of Providence. An NBA all-star in 1992, he won one title with the Rockets and averaged 14 points and 8.2 rebounds in 18 seasons.
  10. Darryl Dawkins – ‘Chocolate Thunder’ was his nickname and shattering backboards with savage dunks was his trademark. Right out of high school in Orlando he pushed and shoved the NBA’s big men and inspired some of them to lift more weights.

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I’ll throw in a few more names that could have made the top 10, recognizing that there’s some Palm Beach County bias on my part.

Derek Harper (West Palm Beach), Vernon Maxwell (Gainesville), Howard Porter (Sarasota), Chandler Parsons (Winter Park) and Udonis Haslem (Miami).

Seems like there ought to be more, but we don’t to dilute the criteria too much.

What do you think?