With all of this talk in the media about the Dolphins being a contender in the AFC, I thought it would be appropriate to disperse where the pressure, that comes with these expectations, lies throughout the organization. This will be part one of a three part series, that will evaluate the offense, defense, and coaching staff.
Today we start with the coaching staff, and discuss how much pressure head coach Tony Sparano, offensive coordinator Dan Henning, and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have on their shoulders heading into the 2010 season. Below each coach and brief description is a pressure meter that manifest itself in a 1 to 10 bar, with one obviously being no pressure, and ten being on the hot seat.
Tony Sparano: When expectations for a football team rise, the person that is the center of attention, and vulnerable to the most criticism is usually the head coach. Nowadays, it seems as though football coaches, both at the collegiate and pro levels, are strictly only on one-year contracts.
Because in reality, one bad season is all it takes for an entire fan base to call for the coaches head. And on many occasions, those fans typically get what they want. You would like to think the established coaches are the exception to this rule, but seeing how Denver and Tampa Bay rid themselves of two Super Bowl winning head coaches last year, in Mike Shanahan and Jon Gruden, it's easy to see why no one is truly safe.
After leading Miami to the AFC East title in 08', it would have probably taken a one or two win catastrophe in 09' for Sparano to lose his job. Now though, with many expecting the Dolphins to at least be in the playoff discussion come December, Sparano could quickly find himself on the hotseat with only five wins or less.
The circumstances behind such a dismal season would likely determine his fate. But because many still consider this to be Bill Parcells team, Sparano may get a pass in the media and with the fans.
Dan Henning: Some wanted Henning out of town at the beginning of the offseason, after some questionable playcalling from time to time last year. The Dolphins retained him however, and gave him a shiny new toy to play with, when they traded for Brandon Marshall.
Henning can now open up the offense with a down-field threat like Marshall for defenses to scheme around. There is some debate about how much they should open things up though, as the Dolphins are still built to be a run-first team. Whatever Henning plans to do, it better work, because this offense is too talented to not be a top ten unit in 2010.
If they do struggle, it could have more to do with Chad Henne not being able to take that next step as a quarterback than Henning's playcalling, but nonetheless he will likely be looking for work next offseason if this offense doesn't become the dynamic, high-scoring unit many envision them being.
Mike Nolan: Nolan takes over a defense that finished 22nd overall a year ago, but likely must improve drastically overnight in order for the Dolphins to become a Super Bowl contender. Much has been made of Nolan's transformation of a Broncos' defense that rounded out the 08' season 29th in the league in total defense, into the 7th overall unit we saw last season. Can he do the same in Miami?
His track record indicates he can, but with so many uncertainties all over the field, it would be hard to put too much of the blame on Nolan if things don't pan out. After all, it was this front office that assembled the current roster, not Nolan. But nonetheless, the fans will expect a similar turnaround for the Dolphins, even though I think you would be hard pressed to find a better man for the job than Nolan, even if his new defense has it's fair share of struggles in year one.
So what are your thoughts? What kind of year would it take to put Sparano on the hotseat? And how well does the offense and defense need to perform for the coordinators to stay put?