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Omar Kelly: Dolphins can’t afford for winning ways to mask glaring issues

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Omar Kelly: Dolphins can’t afford for winning ways to mask glaring issues

Let’s play the “what if game” for one minute with the hopes that it might provide some clarity on the 2021 Miami Dolphins season, and the lessons we should be taking from it.

If the resurgent Dolphins had received the calls and bounces they didn’t get during their seven-game losing streak, and it had resulted in three more wins, would our assessment of the team, coaches, front office and roster be different?

If Will Fuller had gotten a pass interference call in the end zone, and Miami scored at the 1-yard line, turning an overtime loss to the Las Vegas Raiders into an overtime win, would you view this team the same?

If Urban Meyer hadn’t outsmarted Miami’s entire coaching staff, putting the Jacksonville Jaguars in position to kick the game-winning field goal instead of forcing overtime, and Miami somehow managed to pull off a win, would you view these coaches more favorably?

If Kyle Pitts hadn’t put on a superhero cape and delivered two big receptions in the game-winning drive that propelled the Falcons to a 30-28 win, the Dolphins might be sitting atop the AFC — right next to the 8-4 New England Patriots, the team Miami beat in the opener. Albeit saddled with a horrendous offensive line, a lackluster run game that averages just 3.4 yards per carry (second worst in NFL), an injury-prone receiving unit and an inconsistent defense.

If the Dolphins were on a playoff trajectory and in the AFC East hunt heading into Sunday’s game against the New York Giants (4-7) instead of being 5-7, would it mean we can overlook this team’s glaring issues?

That is why I’d argue this season’s struggles was a blessing in disguise because we needed to see the issues for this regime to build a title contending team.

The Dolphins needed the humbling that the seven-game losing streak provided because it identified their deficiencies — then tested and reinforced the core principles that coach Brian Flores and his staff have been preaching for three seasons.

Flaws were exposed instead of them being masked by wins, which will eventually create change and upgrades that could produce a better team down the line.

At least that’s the hope.

That’s usually what hasn’t happened with this franchise every time they get to this point.

Patience is important when building a dynasty, but it’s not as important as being able to properly assess the roster and the franchise’s strengths and weaknesses in order to create solutions.

This season should provide everyone in a position of power — Flores and general manager Chris Grier — a clear picture of what needs to be done. Owner Steve Ross should put everyone on notice because a repeat of what happened this offseason and during the season should cost people their jobs.

Consider this a recalibration.

View 2021 as an opportunity to reassess your standing, program, and most importantly, your process.

This team had similar issues last year, and some actually carried over from the year before, considering the offensive line and the lack of a running game has been an issue every year of Flores’ tenure. Yet many were raving about how promising the franchise was after its 10-6 finish in 2020.

Then very little got fixed, despite a few moves to address the perceived issues, and some areas became more problematic because of decisions made.

No matter how this season turns out, the Dolphins need to examine why the signing of oft-injured Will Fuller was a disaster, analyze how they thought the purging of offensive lineman Ereck Flowers made sense, and discuss if viewing the tailback position as an afterthought is a wise approach.

And Flores must examine whether his offensive staff is good enough to product a top-10 offense.

This season shouldn’t not be swept under the rug, no matter how it ends.

The season’s final month is important for continued development and problem solving. But this upcoming offseason is about survival.

That’s why the mistakes made in 2021 can’t be ignored.

And they better not be repeated.

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CU Buffs can’t get it done at crunch time against No. 16 USC

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CU Buffs can’t get it done at crunch time against No. 16 USC

The streak is over.

Unable to consistently solve the USC defense throughout the contest while missing several key free throws down the stretch, the 16th-ranked Trojans were able to hold off the Colorado Buffaloes on Thursday, handing the Buffs a 61-58 defeat at the CU Events Center.

The loss ended CU’s seven-game winning streak against USC.

CU finished with a .314 shooting percentage against a Trojans defense that entered the game ranked second in the Pac-12 Conference in defensive field goal percentage. USC also out-rebounded the Buffs 47-32.

Jabari Walker scored a team-high 13 points, but the last of his five turnovers ended CU’s last-gasp possession in the waning seconds with USC leading by three. Evan Battey and Tristan da Silva added 10 points apiece for the Buffs.

CU played without senior guard Elijah Parquet, who has been battling a lower leg injury.

 

No. 16 Southern Cal 61, Colorado 58

SOUTHERN CAL (14-2, 5-2)

Goodwin 6-17 2-5 14, Mobley 5-13 2-2 13, Anderson 2-5 0-0 5, Ellis 4-7 3-3 11, Peterson 1-7 0-0 2, Agbonkpolo 3-5 5-7 11, Morgan 0-3 0-0 0, White 1-2 0-0 3, Dixon-Waters 1-3 0-0 2, Johnson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-62 12-17 61.

COLORADO (12-5, 4-3)

Battey 3-10 4-6 10, Walker 3-9 5-6 13, da Silva 3-8 2-4 10, Barthelemy 3-11 3-3 9, Clifford 2-5 0-0 5, Simpson 1-4 4-4 7, O’Brien 1-1 0-0 3, Lovering 0-3 0-0 0, Hammond 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 16-51 19-25 58.

Halftime — 25-25. 3-point goals — Southern Cal 3-12 (Anderson 1-1, White 1-2, Mobley 1-4, Agbonkpolo 0-1, Dixon-Waters 0-1, Ellis 0-1, Peterson 0-2), Colorado 7-15 (Walker 2-3, da Silva 2-3, O’Brien 1-1, Clifford 1-2, Simpson 1-2, Battey 0-1, Barthelemy 0-3). Rebounds — Southern Cal 47 (Goodwin 18), Colorado 32 (Battey, Walker 8). Assists — Southern Cal 8 (Mobley 3), Colorado 10 (Battey 3). Total fouls — Southern Cal 21, Colorado 18.

 

 

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The Chicago Bears interviewed Reggie McKenzie for their GM vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Miami Dolphins senior personnel executive.

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The Chicago Bears interviewed Reggie McKenzie for their GM vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Miami Dolphins senior personnel executive.

The Chicago Bears have reached out to at least 15 general manager candidates and 10 coaching candidates for interviews. As they go through the interview process, we’re looking at each of the prospective hires.

Reggie McKenzie interviewed for the GM opening on Thursday, the team announced.

Reggie McKenzie

Title: Miami Dolphins senior personnel executive

Age: 58

Experience

Before joining the Dolphins in 2019, McKenzie spent seven seasons as the Oakland Raiders general manager. He was named the Sporting News and PFWA executive of the year in 2016 after a 12-4 playoff season that included seven players making the Pro Bowl.

That was the Raiders’ only winning season in his seven as his teams went 40-72.

Among the players he drafted were Khalil Mack, Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Latavius Murray.

Before joining the Raiders, McKenzie spent 18 years with the Green Bay Packers as a pro personnel assistant, the director of pro personnel and the director of football operations. The Packers won two Super Bowls in that span.

You should know

McKenzie was an NFL linebacker who played 60 games over five seasons with the Raiders and San Francisco 49ers from 1985-92. He played in college at Tennessee.

Chicago connection

In 2014, McKenzie drafted current Bears outside linebacker Khalil Mack fifth overall.

In 2018, after coach Jon Gruden was hired and negotiations for an extension soured between the Raiders and Mack, the team traded Mack, a second-round pick and a conditional fifth-round pick in 2020 to the Bears. The Raiders received two first-round picks, a third-round pick and a sixth-round pick over the next two seasons. The Bears then gave Mack a six-year extension.

Mack was named a Pro Bowler each of his next three seasons with the Bears but missed 10 games this year with injury.

What has been said

Before firing McKenzie in December 2018, Raiders owner Mark Davis spoke to ESPN about the Raiders’ roster issues.

“It’s been all part of an evolution, but I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer to Jon (Gurden), as well, that the talent is just not here at this time,” Davis said. “The drafts did not help supplement what we were doing in the free-agent market. If you look at our roster now, it’s a bunch of free-agent, one-year guys that are mercenaries. And they’re great guys, and they’re Raiders. Once a Raider, always a Raider … but we just don’t have the overall talent of a 22-man roster.”

Before the Raiders hired McKenzie in 2012, former Packers executive Ron Wolf told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: “Reggie’s a tremendous evaluator. He can tell you who can play and who can’t play. That’s what it’s all about. Some can write reports but can’t tell you who can play. Whatever that is, he has that. He has a feel.”

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The Chicago Bears interviewed Byron Leftwich for their coaching vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator.

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The Chicago Bears interviewed Byron Leftwich for their coaching vacancy. Here’s what to know about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator.

The Chicago Bears have reached out to at least 15 general manager and 10 coaching candidates for interviews. As they go through the process, we’re looking at each of the prospective hires.

Byron Leftwich interviewed for the coach opening Thursday, the team announced.

Byron Leftwich

Title: Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator

Age: 42.

Experience

Leftwich has been the Bucs offensive coordinator under coach Bruce Arians for three seasons, including during the 2020 run to the Super Bowl LV victory in Tom Brady’s first season in Tampa, Fla..

In Leftwich’s first season with the Bucs calling plays in 2019, he directed the top-ranked passing offense in yards per game as Jameis Winston threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. The Bucs passing offense the last two seasons with Brady has ranked second and first in the NFL, respectively.

Leftwich started his career with Arians and the Arizona Cardinals as an intern in 2016 before he became the quarterbacks coach in 2017 and offensive coordinator in 2018.

You should know

Leftwich started 50 games and played in 60 over nine seasons as a quarterback with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons and Bucs. He threw for 10,532 yards 58 touchdown passes, 42 interceptions and 78.9 passer rating in his career. He finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting in his senior season at Marshall.

Chicago connection

As a player, Leftwich played only one game against the Bears — a 22-3 Jaguars victory in 2004. Leftwich threw for 242 yards, two touchdowns and an interception to Nathan Vasher.

What’s been said

Arians was upset Leftwich didn’t get a head coaching interview last year at this time.

“He’s everything everybody is supposedly looking for — a quarterback, a playcaller and he’s African-American, so I mean, I don’t know what else you’re looking for,” Arians said before the Super Bowl. “He’s a great leader.

“I was very, very pissed that Byron didn’t at least get an interview this year for the job that he has done. I get way too much credit, and so does Tom Brady, for the job Byron has done.”

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