Time is running out on all of the professional and sideline prognosticators itching to score 100 percent on their roster predictions for all 32 NFL teams.
As I type this entry the Miami Dolphins are less than 10 hours away from taking on the New Orleans Saints a few blocks away from my hotel room tonight at the Superdome in the preseason finale for both teams. Theirs is one of 12 games on the docket tonight, with three more scheduled tomorrow, and then by 4 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday the final 53-man rosters have to be submitted to the league, which means these games are the last chance for a number of players on the bubble to keep their jobs.
It's always interesting this time of the year to scan the rosters of the different teams and see who is on the bubble because it tells you a lot about where that particular franchise is in its quest to win a Super Bowl. For instance, there are certain to be a fair share of unrecognizable names on the Detroit Lions' list coming off of an 0-16 season as they are simply trying to the right ship and position themselves for respectability over the next 2-3 years. On the flip side, the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers return virtually everyone from last year's squad and head coach Mike Tomlin faces some tough decisions between promising rookies and talented veterans like cornerback Keiwan Ratliffe. He has to weigh future potential with immediate contributory skills.
The Miami Dolphins are an interesting case study as they are just two seasons removed from going 1-15 and clearing out the majority of the coaching staff, front office and roster from that campaign. Bill Parcells has a good track record for turning around moribund franchises, but even he couldn't have predicted last year's remarkable turnaround -- the greatest single-season turnaround in NFL history for a 1-15 team as Miami went 11-5 and won the AFC East.
Parcells, GM Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano set out prior to last season with a plan to build the team for the long-term with the idea of competing for a playoff spot and shot at the Super Bowl in 2-3 years. They have kept that vision through the draft by targeting specific positions and players they feel can develop quickly, but the fact that Sparano was able to release the likes of veteran cornerback Eric Green a free agent signee in the offseason, and wide receiver Ernest Wilford without blinking an eye tells you just how much closer he and his staff and the front office believe the Dolphins are to achieving their goal. In fact, Miami had its roster down to 66 -- nine below the league mandated 75 for the first roster cut -- four days before the September 1st deadline.
Sparano will use tonight's game to finalize in his mind who will be the 13 players he will either have to bid farewell to, place on the practice squad, or in the case of injured outside linebacker Matt Roth, put on the Active/Physically-Unable-To-Perform list. When it comes to determining his starters, Sparano already has figured that out for 20 of the 22 positions on offense and defense, leaving just one wide receiver spot and one cornerback spot up for grabs.
So let the predictions begin -- and very likely end after tonight.
As for my quick hits for today before I head back out for some authentic New Orleans food:
1. Wherever WR Brandon Marshall ends up playing, his teammates, coaches and the fans of that team will find out just what happens when a young man with top-flight physical skills and ability allows his ego to hold not only him but those around him back to the detriment of the franchise.
2. I can't believe it took me just two posts to break my own promise that I would not be making another Brett Favre reference until he either pulls his hamstring or melts down against the Packers when the Vikings play them. Won't happen again.
3. Since this is a 24-7 society we live in and I just came across this bit of league news, who would have thought another offensive coordinator would receive a visit from "The Turk" before the players? Bucs offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski was fired this morning just days after Chan Gailey suffered the same fate in Kansas City. The other common thread here is that their cannings came at the hands of first-year head coaches -- Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay and Todd Haley with the Chiefs. Combine those moves with Josh McDaniels in Denver letting franchise QB Jay Cutler leave for Chicago and either these first-year guys have lost control of their egos or they know a heck of a lot more than most first-year coaches.
Until next time -- stay thirst my friends.