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Vacant Defensive Coordinator Spot

by Mau Montanez

The Miami Dolphins 2009 season came to a disappointing end with a loss at home against Pittsburgh. Since that Sunday, all I'm hearing is how awful a season this was, plagued with mediocre play and injuries. Yes, there are more than enough reasons to throw your Dolphins cap out the window and move on to the basketball season, or maybe even look forward to spring training. However, if you are like me, you know this thing is just getting started. After all, the off season is the most important part of the year for a team in "rebuilding mode.”

So let’s get a head start on the rest of the league and take a quick glance at this organization's needs going into the 2010 offseason. Don't share this with anybody though – you never know if the next Patriots "assistant" might be lurking around.

Let’s talk defense. More specifically, the defensive coordinator spot.

As I am sure you all know by now, Paul Pasqualoni, Miami's former Defensive Coordinator, was fired on Monday. Although this move wasn’t a surprise, one has to wonder if the team's defensive incompetence completely fell on Paul's shoulders more than it did on the extremely young and limited talent the team lined up on the field every Sunday. Let's not forget that they had to start two rookie cornerbacks alongside an awful free safety and a strong safety whose specialty was stopping the run. If you ask me, this was a recipe for disaster. Add to that a non impact inside linebacker like Channing Crowder, a subpar player at best in Akin Ayodele and the loss of starting nose tackle Jason Ferguson when the season was still very young and it’s hard not to see that coach Pasqualoni was asked to do chicken salad out of ... Yeah. To his credit, though, he did build a pretty tough "bend, don’t break" defense in ’08 that helped the Dolphins reach the playoffs.

It still doesn't cease to surprise me that Bill Parcells got rid of one of "his guys" only one year after such a successful campaign though. Goodbye, Paul. Your effort during the two years you spent with the Dolphins was extremely appreciated.

So what are the Trifecta's options at defensive coordinator you might ask? The way I see it, there are two "big name" potential candidates for the job: Romeo Crennel and Al Groh. Mike Zimmer, prevously believed to be a strong candidate for the job, is officially out of the race, given that he just signed a three-year deal with the Bengals on Tuesday. Crennel is the latest Bellichick disciple to hit the unemployment line following a disappointing tenure with the Cleveland Browns. However, he is still regarded as a defensive mastermind by front office people in the NFL and is seen by fans like this year's Mike Nolan: a fired head coach who went back to being a coordinator and had tremendous success with a limited depth chart.

I believe Crennel is a strong candidate for the job, not only because of his past success in our division, but because he was seen "hanging" around Bill Parcells golf cart back in August during training camp. Yes, "making the tires scream" would be a more accurate statement if you'd like, so I'm throwing it out there. I do have to say, though, that deep in my heart I think this scenario is a bit unlikely since Romeo is also being linked to Kansas City, where former colleagues Scott Pioli and Charlie Weiss have reunited. The only chances I see for the Fins to land him are Bill Parcell's reputation and Crennel not wanting to go to that hellhole known as Arrowhead Stadium. Plus, I’m not going to lie, it might be pretty enticing for the former Browns employee to get to coach a man that just last off season, lived out a scene from Grand Theft Auto "Vice City" in Miami Beach: Randy Starks.

The other option – much more plausible, one might think – is Al Groh. Al who? Al Groh. Let me fill you in real quick.

Al Groh is a former colleague of The Godfather (Parcells.) He coached under him for more than ten years dating back to Parcells' tenure with the Giants, Jets and Patriots. During this time, Al occupied the position of assistant, defensive coordinator and was appointed by Bill himself to be his successor as head coach with the Jets, which led to a 9-7 record with Groh at the helm.

He then parted ways with Parcells and spent nine seasons as the head coach for the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Groh led UV to four straight winning seasons and three bowl victories. He was named ACC Coach of the year in 2002 and again in 2007. Groh, too, is currently unemployed. However, he is already in negotiations with Georgia Tech. A cynic like me would like to think that the Pasqualoni move came out of the blue precisely because Bill Parcells is going to try to snatch Mr. Groh from Georgia Tech's claws. If he were successful, I would absolutely love this move by the front office for two reasons: First, Al Groh is a mastermind in his own right regarding the 3-4 defense, and what better time for him to join the Dolphins than when they are getting ready to bring in a huge nose tackle and a pass rush specialist. Second, and perhaps most importantly, Al Groh is the ultimate Parcell's guy. I've been saying this for a couple of weeks now: Bill Parcells is doing a wonderful job building this franchise from scratch through free agency and the draft. However, we are reaching a point where we need him to get more involved in coaching and convert the Dolphins’ defense into a Parcells defense. Realistically speaking, we all know this is not going to happen because he won't get involved or interfere with coaching. Therefore, what better way to get the full "Parcells experience" than by bringing in his most trusted confidant to take care of the job.

We’ll see how this evolves in the next couple of days. However, while I am sure most Dolphins fans – and absolutely every single all-you-can-eat buffet in the Kansas City city limits – is hoping Crennel comes to South Beach, I don't see it happening. No problem, though. I am confident Al Groh is the right man for the job.

Quick Hits

- Jeff Ireland needs to either trade or cut Joey Porter as soon as possible. Joey's character is a distraction and bad example for the youngsters on our team. Never mind the fact his production has dramatically declined. He is just taking snaps away from Cameron Wake. Joey is the past; Wake could be the future.

- Keep an eye on a couple of Chargers players set to become unrestricted free agents after the season ends (if there’s a new CBA of course.) We could really use someone like Vincent Jackson, Darren Sproles or Shawn Merriman.

- Are the Jets really making a run at the Super Bowl? I'm not sure. All I know is that when you have the league’s best defense, you can go toe-to-toe with any team in the NFL.

- What is your take on Brandon Marshall? Should the Dolphins make a move for him? It would have to be via trade, so you are looking at a first-round pick and possibly a third or fourth-round selection. And would you be willing to bring a troublemaker to this team? Is it worth it? Am I going to stop with the rhetorical questions?

- Off-topic Alert! Mark McGwire finally came clean about his steroids use earlier in the week.

If you are going to come clean, then truly come clean. Don't say you used steroids because of injuries and then spit the company line about God-given talent and "great genes.” He is at an age where you either move on and make things right or get stuck in the past, unable to let go.

Mark, steroids or not, you were great. Now it's time to be great off the field.

Swing away like you always did: all out.