The Dolphins' decision to hire Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator could be a fruitful move for the organization.
Nolan runs the 3-4 defense the Dolphins favor, and he has a history of success as a coordinator, following stints with the New York Giants (1993-1996), Washington (1997-99), the New York Jets (2000) and the Baltimore Ravens (2002-2004). Nolan then spent four seasons as the head coach in San Francisco.
Last year, new Denver coach Josh McDaniels hired Nolan to retool a Broncos defense that ranked 28th in 2008. In the first seven games of the 2009 season, Nolan's defense gave up a league low 66 points on the way to an unbeaten start.
Though they floundered down the stretch, the Broncos still finished with the seventh-ranked unit in the NFL.
Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil flourished under Nolan, setting a career high with 17 sacks, which led the NFL in 2009. Coincidentally, Dumervil is a free agent this offseason, and is said to be interested in coming to Miami and reuniting with his old coach.
That Nolan left Denver is a bit puzzling after all the good he did there, but reportedly he and McDaniels began to differ on defensive philosophy towards the end of the season, which is why the Broncos allowed him to talk to other teams.
Nolan's schemes are aggressive, which should be a good fit for Miami.
But unlike the other stops he's made on his NFL journey, there are no Ray Lewises or Champ Baileys in Miami.
Let's see what the draft and free agency unearth for Nolan, who needs a variety of upgrades before he can work any magic here.
McClain slotted for Miami
Several pre-draft prognosticators are predicting that Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain will be selected by the Dolphins with the 12th overall pick in June.
McClain, the 2009 Butkus Award winner for outstanding collegiate linebacker, would be a fine addition to a team that struggled with its linebacker play last season.
McClain was also the SEC Defensive Player of the year after finishing with 101 tackles (12.5 for loss), four sacks, 14 quarterback pressures and two interceptions.
According to Draft Board Insider, McClain is the top linebacker available in the draft, is a strong, physical player who can excel in coverage. He's more suited to be a MIKE linebacker, which means he can play on the inside next to Channing Crowder.
After last weeks oh-fer (thanks, San Diego), I'm going to try and avoid bucking the trends this week. If the NFC Championship were in Minnesota, I'd like the Vikings, though the fact it's in a dome this year doesn't hurt.
But I think the long-suffering Saints fans, who are witnessing their first NFC title game today, will help propel the Saints (along with Drew Brees and Darren Sharper) to victory. Also, Brett Favre struggles on the road, and I anticipate he'll throw at least a couple of passes to the Saints, as he usually does in big road games. Saints 27, Vikings 24.
As for the AFC Championship Game, the Jets have played good football over the past month, but I'm still not sold on them being good enough to beat the Colts after the competition they played. The Chargers beat themselves last week with dumb penalties, horrendous kicking and poor decisions by Norv Turner (what a surprise). Peyton Manning is too good to lose at home in a game this big, and he will book a return trip to Miami (where he won his only previous Super Bowl). Colts 23, Jets 14.