Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Emergence and Success of Sports Teams in South Florida

Prior to 1966, the people in Miami did not know what it was like to have a professional sports team in their city. The only sports they knew came from the University of Miami, which back then was not the powerhouse it would become in the 1980s and 1990s. 
Sports may not be the focal point of South Beach, since there are plenty of other things to do than attend a sporting event. However, if a city wants to be considered as important, sports have to come into the picture. Miami certainly doesn't need sports to attract visitors, but it definitely helps.
The University of Miami football team played its inaugural season in 1926. However, it wasn't until Howard Schnellenberger became coach in 1979 that the university's football program took off. With future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly already in the roster, Schnellenberger set out to recruit local high school talent that would take Miami to new heights.
While the university was trying to build a championship caliber team, the Miami Dolphins emerged in 1966 as Miami's second football franchise after the MiamiSeahawks were able to stay alive for only one season.
The Dolphins struggled their first four seasons under head coach George Wilson, going 15-39-2. Like the University of Miami with Howard Schnellenberger, it wasn't until Don Shula took the reins in 1970 that the Dolphins became a household name. 
The Dolphins became one of the most successful NFL teams in the 1970s, becoming the first team to advance to the Super Bowl three straight years in 1971, 1972 and 1973. In the 1971 Super Bowl, Miami was outplayed by a more established Dallas Cowboys team led by Tom Landry and Roger Staubach. 
Just six years after its inaugural season, the Dolphins did what no other NFL team has ever been able to do: complete a perfect season. The 1972 Dolphins finished 17-0 after defeating the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl VII.
They followed the historic season by defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl VIII. Miami had its first taste of sport success, as the Dolphins had become a household name and a staple franchise. 
Miami would have to wait until 1983 to taste a championship again, when the Miami Hurricanes defeated the Nebraska Cornhuskers to win the national championship.
They would lose Schellenberger to the USFL at the end of the season, but were able to stay atop the college football world with the hiring of Jimmie Johnson. The Miami Hurricanes had now become the talk of the town and had surpassed the Dolphins as Miami's premier sports team.
The Hurricanes would win their second national championship in 1987, one year before Miami inaugurated its first ever professional basketball team.
The Hurricane teams in the 80s were considered by many to be dirty and a bad influence for the college game. They embarrassed opponents and became known as college footballs biggest trash talkers. They became public enemy No. 1.
However, this mentality led the Hurricanes to three national championships in a five-year period, proving they can back up whatever they say.
As the Hurricanes enjoyed national prominence and the Dolphins were still a top team in the NFL, with future Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino at the helm, Miami would experience the emergence of their very own NBA franchise in 1988. With the NBA enjoying its golden years with the emergence of Michael Jordan, Miami needed a franchise to help build its national image.
The Miami Heat (this name thankfully beat out the Miami Vice) emerged along with the Charlotte Hornets as expansion teams in the 1988-89 season.
Finishing with a 15-67 record in its first year, the Heat had a long climb to the top in order to compete in the Miami market, which included national powerhouse Miami Hurricanes and top NFL team in the Miami Dolphins. They reached the top in 2006, when they were led by Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O'Neal to a title over the Dallas Mavericks.
As the Hurricanes kept winning championships, the Dolphins kept being an exemplary franchise and the Heat began to find some stability, South Florida would find itself as the home of two new franchises.
The Florida Panthers joined the NHL in 1993 when Wayne Huizenga was awarded an NHL franchise. Who said there was no ice skating in South Florida? The Panthers had more success than Miami's previous expansion team, the Miami Heat, as they reached the Stanley Cup Finals in just their third season.
It has since lacked any type of success and consistency. In the 2011-12 NHL season, the Panthers won the Southeast Division, reaching the playoffs for the first time in ten years.
Along with the Panthers in 1993, Miami also sported another expansion team, this time in the MLB. The Florida Marlins joined the MLB as a member of the National League. Like the Panthers, the Marlins also enjoyed early success, reaching the World Series in 1997 and defeating the Cleveland Indians to win their first championship.
After going threw a few years of mediocrity, the Marlins once again reached the top of the mountain when they beat the New York Yankees in the 2003 World Series with one of the best teams the Marlins have ever assembled. 
As Miami now had a team in every major American sport, it had become one of the premier cities in the United States. Today, Miami sports have become a part of the culture.
Their most historic franchise, the Dolphins, has been going through a tough stretch, but other teams have stepped up and kept Miami as one of the top sports cities in the country.
During the last few years, Miami has given us an NBA finals appearance and a potential appearance again this year. Led by the Big Three, the Miami Heat have become the most scrutinized NBA team in NBA history.
They have now taken basketball to a new standard for South Floridians. They will have an opportunity to contest for an NBA title during the next few years and will undoubtedly give their fans a lot to cheer about. They've come a long way since their inaugural season in 1988.
The Marlins, like the Heat, have assembled a team that will give them an opportunity to compete for a World Series.
Even though they weren't as highly publicized as the Big Three for the Heat, the new crop of Marlins players will surely bring a lot of highs to a struggling fan base. Along with the new players, the Marlins will have a new stadium, which they hope will encourage more fans to support the team.
The Florida Panthers won the Southeast Division this year but were unable to overcome the always tough New Jersey Devils in the playoffs. Even though they weren't able to advance, this was the first time in 10 years the Panthers have made the playoffs, giving fans a glimpse of hope for the future.
As for the football teams, the Miami Hurricanes and Miami Dolphins are now in rebuilding mode as they try to once again reach the top. They both look to be heading in the right way, and it won't be long before they reach the level they once had, which made Miami such a proud football city. 
Miami has not only had the luxury of having great sports teams, but they've had the luxury of also having some of the best players in their respective sports.
Football has seen the likes of Bob Griese, Larry Csonka, Mercury Morris, Dan Marino, Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, the Marks Brothers and Junior Seau. Basketball has seen the likes of Dwyane Wade, Glenn Rice, Rony Seikaly, Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'neal, Lebron James, Chris Bosh and Tim Hardaway.
In baseball, Miami has had plenty of big names. We have seen Gary Sheffield, Edgar Renteria, Livan Hernandez and Moises Alou.
The 2003 World Series team may be one of the best teams assembled in recent years. It included Ivan Rodriguez, Derek Lee, Luis Castillo, Alex Gonzales, Mike Lowell, Miguel Cabrera, Juan Pierre and Juan Encarnacion. The starting rotation consisted of Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Brad Penny, Dontrelle Willis and Carl Pavano.
On the other hand, the Miami Hurricanes may have had one of the most talented teams in college football history in 2001. Thirteen of the players became first-round selections, and 21 total members of the championship team players were drafted.
They have also had the likes of Michel Irvin, Andre Johnson, Clinton Portis, Jonathan Vilma, Sean Taylor, Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Reggie Wayne, Santana Moss, Bryant McKinnie, Jim Otto, Warren Sapp, Devin Hester and many more.
The 'U' ranks fourth in national championships won, in addition to boasting two Heisman Trophy winners and six inductees to the College Football Hall of Fame. They also hold the record for most first-round selections in a single draft and the most consecutive drafts with at least one first-round selection.
They also hold the record for most consecutive weeks that a former Hurricane has scored a touchdown in the NFL at 149 weeks. Also, as of 2011, the Hurricanes had 42 active players in the NFL, the most by any university in the nation.  
Miami is a relatively new sport city compared to New York, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles, but it has already proven that it can compete with any of them. They may not have the history or the number of championships, but in the short time Miami has had sports teams, they have given their fans a lot to be proud of.
They have a championship in every sport except hockey, and with the teams the Heat and the Marlins have assembled, it may not take a while to give them another one.
It's been six years since a Miami sports team held a championship trophy, but don't expect it to be too long for them raise another one. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Miami Dolphins Will Potentially Have One of the Deepest Backfields

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 24: Reggie Bush #22 of the Miami Dolphins  during the first quarter against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Winslow Townson/Getty Images)Winslow Townson/Getty Images
Not too long ago, the Miami Dolphins boasted a backfield that included former first round picks Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. They were considered to be one of the best running back duos not only in the AFC, but in the NFL.
The Dolphins lost both runners in free agency when Williams signed with theBaltimore Ravens and Brown signed with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Dolphins let both of them go at the right time as we have seen one back retire and the other struggle to get carries.
With the memory of Williams and Brown carrying the team in the rear view mirror, Miami anticipates having a similar impact with their new crop of running backs. 
They had a breakout year from Reggie Bush, who ran for over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career since being drafted second overall in the 2006 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints, ironically, the same team that drafted Ricky Williams. 
Miami is also hoping to receive a bigger contribution from sophomore Daniel Thomas, who showed glimpses last year, but fell short of expectations. He isn't as good in open spaces as Bush is, but can pound the ball inside and help in the red zone.
The Dolphins will also look for contributions in the red zone from Jerome Messam, who comes to Miami after a stellar career in the Canadian Football League. Messam projects more as a fullback, which Miami has lacked since Lousaka Polite left. Miami has already had success with a former stud from the Canadian Football League in Cameron Wake. If they can get lucky once again, Messam will greatly impact the effectiveness of this new offense.
Joining these three running backs is former University of Miami standout Lamar Miller. Miller was projected as a first round pick in the most recent NFL Draft, but managed to fall to the fourth round because of health issues and lack of experience. Considered by many to be the steal of the draft, Miller has phenomenal downfield speed which, when paired with Reggie Bush's speed, will drive offenses crazy. Miller will probably find himself as the third running back on the depth chart in his rookie season, but Joe Philbin will definitely find a place for him.
Lost in all the running back shuffle is Steve Slaton. Slaton will struggle to earn a roster spot and might be released. He was rarely used last year and barring any event in which Slaton blows away Miami's coaches this offseason, will not be used this year with the addition of Miller.
Miami's wide receiver corps don't look elite on paper and the quarterbacks right now are solid, but not elite. To help the offense blossom, the Dolphins will need as much as they can get out of the running back group, who will ultimately be helping Ryan Tannehill develop. They will be running behind an offensive line that looks improved and can ultimately lead the Dolphins to a more successful season than last year.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Miami Dolphins Unveil New Nike Uniforms

When the NFL switched its official apparel contract from Reebok to Nike, fans naturally began to wonder what changes Nike would make to their teams' uniform.
Dolphins fans were being pitched ideas like this which would give the team a completely new and modern look. Even though the orange helmet doesn't seem to fit here, it wouldn't be too bad of a change.
We also saw ideas like this one. I'm a big fan of this design, but I just don't know where the dark blue comes from. This would be a great addition to the Dolphins wardrobe to maybe wear once a year, like the orange uniforms.
There were even designs that would make them look like a high school team. These are just plain bad. There's no flow to them and the logo looks weird.
We also saw designs that blended the old school with the new school in these uniforms. These were probably my favorite combination. The all white uniform does an excellent job of mixing the two concepts, and the gray looks like it would also be used about once a year, like the orange uniforms.
Given these possible designs, I expected a lot of changes to the uniform but was surprised when I saw the uniforms unveiled. I do like the the design, but there's no change that really stands out. The area around the neck has a new design that I think gives it a nice look. 
Nike will also implement their new gloves with the logo on the inside. Hopefully Dolphins' receivers will be able to put them to good use this season.
Overall I was content with the new design. They kept the old look, which I think is still current enough, and gave it some more modern details without changing much.

2012 NFL Draft: 3 Possible Quarterback Options for the Miami Dolphins

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Most Dolphins fans expected their team to go out and sign a quarterback during free agency. There was the possibility of signing Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn, but the Dolphins came up short. 
They will now switch gears and focus on the quarterback position through the draft. Joe Philbin has said that he will build this team through the draft and what better way to start than addressing the most important position on the team.
This class is not one of the strongest at the position and aside from Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, there's not much to drool about.
However, the Dolphins do need a franchise quarterback and they need one sooner rather than later. With Matt Moore projected as the starter as of right now, the fan base is increasingly growing impatient.
There's no quarterback outside the top two that jumps out, but Miami does have some choices with the potential of becoming something special.
Let's look at some options the Dolphins have at the quarterback position.

Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
Some may say that he's a reach at No. 8. Others may say that given time to develop, Tannehill will prove to be a value pick. Whatever it is, if the Dolphins want to draft him, they will have to pull the trigger in the first round.                                                            The Dolphins are desperate for a franchise quarterback and he may turn out to be just that. He's not ready to start yet, but sitting out for a year or two will give him all the experience needed to prove he's capable of leading a team.                  Aside from his throwing ability, Tannehill also has the ability to run when the pocket collapses. He can avoid rushers and gain yards if there is nothing downfield. He has good footwork and a quick release that is vital for the west coast offense.
He also has great arm strength and can make any throw he's asked to make. If he can improve his accuracy, he has the makings of a quarterback the Dolphins can finally count on for years to come.
Projection: Top 20 
Brandon Weeden, Oklahoma St.
Brandon Weeden would probably sneak into the first round if it weren't for his age. He also fits the mold to play quarterback for a west coast offense. He has a quick release and good arm strength. 
He will most likely be available when the Dolphins are on the clock in the second round. If they decide to go with a position other than quarterback in the first round, they should take a hard look at Weeden.
His throws tend to get away from him at times, but he has plenty of room for improvement. He probably won't have to sit out two years or even all of his first year.
He is more NFL-ready than Tannehill and any other quarterback ranked below him.
The Dolphins might be hesitant to take a 28-year-old quarterback since they don't want to be looking for another one in less than 10 years. Youth is what Joe Philbin has in mind and Weeden doesn't fit the bill.
Projection: Middle to late second round

Kirk Cousins, Michigan St.
Kirk Cousins is one of the safer quarterbacks in this draft. He may not wow you with his physical skills or with throws rarely seen in a college quarterback, but he will make all the safe throws to help the team win the game. 
Cousins tends to lock into his receivers and at times fails to go through his progressions. He doesn't have great arm strength or accuracy (except for his Hail Mary against Wisconsin).
However, what he does bring is his leadership. He will be the hardest working player on the team and will command the respect of the locker room by how hard he works and plays.
He doesn't have the game-changing ability that Tannehill or Weeden have, but he will work his butt off to help the team win.
Projection: Late second to early third round