I was having a conversation the other day with my lifelong friend and extremely knowledgeable football observer, Patrick Grooms – who also doubles as the Godfather to my oldest child, Erica – when the subject of the Miami Dolphins came up.
Grooms, who just so happens to bleed Miami aqua and orange – like myself – agreed with my assessment that Miami head coach, Nick Saban, did as fine a job as any head coach in the NFL last season.
Barring the incredible performances of Lovie Smith, Marvin Lewis and Tony Dungy, I firmy believe that Saban’s performance – in his first season as a professional head coach, mind you – was worthy of the NFL Coach Of The Year award.
I realize that Saban came to the Dolphins with nearly impeccable credentials and has been touted by many as being one of the best coaches in all of football, either college or professional, but to lead Miami to a 9-7 record while turning over a roster that had been beset by underachievers, while simultaneously implementing his own system and younger players, was an incredible feat.
Going into the 2005 season, I thought that if Saban could coax six wins out of the ‘Fins, then he would have had a successful season in the highly competitive AFC. Obviously, Saban surpassed my minimal expectations and now seems poised to take the Dolphins on to even bigger and better things in 2006.
By all accounts, Saban, whom I have yet to meet, is a smart guy who realizes the importance of surrounding himself with veteran coaches who have both, experience and intelligence.
Having said that, Saban recently hired former Buffalo Bills head coach, Mike Mularkey to replace former offensive coordinator Scott Linehan – who left to take the St. Louis Rams’ head coaching position – and more recently, Saban acquired the services of former Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans head coach Dom Capers to take over as defensive coordinator.
Saban has also expressed interest in signing the talented but enigmatic, Terrell Owens and is targeting other available free agents who may be able to help the Dolphins take their team to even greater heights in 2006.
Saban’s 2005 draft would have to be considered a success as well. Every selection made the team and many made significant contributions. Saban also reversed Miami’s recent trend of collapsing once December rolls around. Saban guided the Dolphins to a 6-0 finish after staring at a 3-7 record at one point.
The strong finish, combined with the prospects for signing new free agents and the upcoming draft have Dolphin fans all over the country excited about the possibilities for the 2006 season.
Should Miami land a legitimate starting quarterback ( Can you say, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers?) the Fish could find themselves right back in the postseason in 2006.
Whatever the case may be, Saban has already proven that he is more than capable of winning in the National Football League.
After several years of failures and flameouts, the forecast in South Beach is as bright as it’s been since the days of Don Shula. Whether Saban can duplicate Shula’s success remains to be seen, but the future looks promising for sure.