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Nick Saban abandoning the Dolphins changed college football for good

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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

On January 3rd, 2007, Nick Saban made a decision that not only altered the Dolphins short term future, but more importantly, his decision to go back to college and powerhouse Alabama probably changed that game forever.

First, when Saban agreed to leave another SEC high profile program in LSU, and come to South Florida, it was largely believed he would be an NFL coach for good. After all he had been the defensive coordinator for some guy named Bill Belichick, when they were both in Cleveland in the 1990’s. And with Belichick’s ultra success in New England in the early 2000’s, it only seemed natural that Saban would follow the same path to big success.

Saban, was lured by then owner Wayne Huizenga, and the fact that especially on defense, with veteran star players like Jason Taylor and Zack Thomas, it would be natural transition to make the Fins a Super Bowl contender, again.

In fairness, after early struggles, he did win his last six games to go 9-7 in his first season in Miami just missing the AFC Wildcard. It was his second year where the Dolphins struggled from the outset, were obviously going to miss the playoffs at 4-5 games below .500 heading into December ,and the coaching carousel in college was simultaneously heating up.

That’s when Saban decided to ask Huizenga to “walk” on his NFL contract, leave the Dolphins and go back to college. It was well known in the South Florida and SEC media that Saban’s wife Terry was not pleased with life in Miami and the differences of the NFL vs. essentially being “King and Queen” of an SEC small southern town. Don’t ever underestimate that fact in Saban’s thinking.

However, the biggest factor was Alabama, THE Alabama, the Alabama that was floundering for the better part of a decade, and had fired Mike Shula that December. And when the Tide turned their sights on Saban, everything fell into place for both.

You now know that since that December of 2006, and Saban’s hiring the next month, Bama has been “championship relevant” headed to the final two weeks of the season and their bowl (or now playoff game) in nine of his 11 years. Let that sink in for a second.

He is THE standard in college coaching now, in terms of recruiting, preparation, execution and results and with Monday night’s thrilling 26-23 OT win over Georgia, that’s five National Championships in nine seasons.

No one can argue the success. No one can argue that they are dynasty in Tuscaloosa, because of what Nick Saban has built and sustained. Look at all of his “disciples,” who continue to get head coaching jobs (including Georgia’s Kirby Smart from Monday). Everyone wants of piece of what Saban and Alabama have.

And certainly, no one can argue, that Saban’s decision to give up on the Dolphins and the NFL changed the game of college football for good.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins moving eventually to new facility near Hard Rock Stadium?

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not as earth shattering as a huge free agent signing or hosting a playoff game, but the fact that the Dolphins are close to moving locations from their current training complex in Davie to a more convenient one next to Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens is a big deal.

The Miami Herald had the  details on Saturday:

From the Herald’s item, there is definitely some competitive interest in luring the Dolphins away:

Miami Gardens might defray the cost of security in and around Hard Rock Stadium to help seal the deal, and Miami-Dade County could amend the existing stadium renovation agreement that pays the Dolphins a bonus for hosting major events.

“Twenty-five years ago, the Dolphins moved their football headquarters from North Dade to Davie, and I’ve wanted them back ever since,” Miami Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan said. “When I heard Mr. Ross was considering a new $50 million practice facility in Broward, I knew we had to have a conversation about bringing this massive private investment to Miami-Dade. To me, it’s a perfect fit for our community and will bring a lot of economic activity to Miami-Dade.”

Added Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert: “From Top Golf to the Super Bowl, Miami Gardens has become a destination for world-class entertainment, and venues that attract visitors on a consistent basis are a critical component of economic development. Between the Miami Open and Miami Dolphins training camp, we can generate $100 million-plus in privately funded construction, hundreds of good-paying jobs, a significant boost to our tax base and new opportunities for residents to live, work and play. It would be great to bring the Miami Dolphins training facility back home to the 305.”

So, clearly there’s some “wooing” going on, and if Fins owner Stephen Ross is going to privately fund the new facility to the tune of at least $50 and maybe as high as, $75 million, then there is ample reason to try to lure them. Ross has already put over $500 million of his own money into a three year renovation of Hard Rock Stadium.

The Dolphins training adjacent to the stadium where they play or in the same complex area, is not uncommon. In the cases of Florida’s other two NFL teams: the Jaguars train adjacent to TIAA Bank Field, and the Bucs complex is across the street from Raymond James Stadium.

And, there are other examples of the Bengals, the Texans, and the Patriots who train either next to or in the same complex as where they play on Sundays.

The reality is that the new facility will not be ready for at least another two seasons, no matter where it’s located. Still, the convenience and new design will also be an asset for the Dolphins to attract players, too.

Now it’s up to the franchise to decide where and how soon, they want to build.

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Miami Dolphins

DeMarco Murray retired or still in play for teams like Dolphins and Jaguars?

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Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

On Friday afternoon, former Pro Bowl RB DeMarco Murray made an announcement on ESPN that he is “retiring” from the NFL. We put it in quotes, because we are skeptical that the 30 year old Murray is actually “retiring.”

Rather, he may have been using his opportunity as a guest analyst on the “NFL Live” show the last two days to essentially, create some buzz and perhaps an opportunity to sign on with a team later this month or as preseason gets underway.

First, here was Murray, who played for the Titans the last two seasons, making his decision, for now:

Now, one of the teams that Murray had serious talks with was the Dolphins. However, that was back in March and eventually, Miami chose not to sign him. Instead, they inked veteran and Miami native, Frank Gore.

Back to Murray, he also took a visit with the Lions, and after the NFL suspended Saints RB Mark Ingram for four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, New Orleans contacted him.

However, the seven year veteran Murray refused to work out with a group of prospective running backs and the Saints.New Orleans elected to sign former Browns running back Terrance West.

An obvious “red flag” that has hindered Murray is his lack of 2017 production. Murray’s 659 yards in 15 games were the fewest of his career and his 3.6 average matched his career worst (his dreadful 2015 one year in Philly).

The other is that Murray may have “priced himself out” of an opportunity. He has been paid on average over $7 million the last three seasons with the Eagles and then, 2016-17 with the Titans. The Eagles originally gave him a five year $40 million dollar deal with a $5 million signing bonus in 2015.
The Titans traded for Murray the next off season and re-worked that deal giving him $12.5 million as a signing bonus to help their cap situation.

Now, despite what he announced, Murray could still have value to a team. In the Dolphins case, not only did the they sign Gore, but they drafted running back Kalen Ballage in April. So, unless Gore is injured, Murray is not as needed.

Meanwhile, the Jaguars have second year power back Leonard Fournette, who will be the primary ball carrier, but they let veteran Chris Ivory go and he signed with the Bills. Jacksonville also has backup T.J. Yeldon, who filled in well for a couple of games with Fournette either injured or on a one game suspension.

Still, Murray could be a veteran that helps the Jaguars, if they want and he would agree to a lesser deal than what he’s been making.

And there are obviously more teams that may have an injury during camp or preseason that could call Murray, too.

Then, we’ll find out if his “retiring” in early July is for real.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins announced six new members to “Walk of Fame” Tuesday

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

While Dolphins fans will be most concerned with training camp and the short term future (2018 season), Tuesday was a brief time to get nostalgic with some former Fins greats.

That’s because the team announced six new players into their re-furbished “Walk of Fame” at Hard Rock Stadium to be honored at the December 2nd home game with the Bills.

Hall of Famer defensive end Jason Taylor, former Pro Bowl safety and member of the undefeated 1972 Superbowl champs Dick Anderson, the dynamic wide receiving “Marks Brothers” of the 1980’s Mark Duper (shown above) and Mark Clayton, multi-time Pro Bowl linebacker John Offerdahl, and little heralded left tackle of the 1980’s John Giesler make up the 2018 class.

Here’s more from the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel at Tuesday afternoon’s announcement:

And, Mike Persak reported on reactions and comments from Duper and Offerdahl Tuesday:

“We don’t realize how much the Dolphins really is involved in the community in South Florida,” Duper said. “… And it’s a great feeling just knowing you’re a part of that — knowing you’re a part of the Miami Dolphins organization.”

Duper caught 59 touchdowns (including 32 in a four year period from 1983-86) and had four 1,000 yard receiving seasons.

“I get pumped. I do,” Offerdahl said. “Obviously, I’m like 30 pounds heavier and a lot of gray hair, but I get pumped up when anything to do with the Dolphins, and I’m associated with it. And to be honored by the Miami Dolphins and the community and just to realize as I age and my kids get older, that I had such great times back in the ’80s playing the great game of football, meeting people that changed the life of not only me, but South Florida and literally the nation.”

Offerdahl went to five straight Pro Bowls from 1986-90.

Taylor, perhaps the most dominant Miami pass rusher ever (131 sacks as a Dolphin), received Pro Football’s ultimate honor by going into the Hall of Fame last summer. He was not in attendance for Tuesday’s announcement. Neither was Mark Clayton. Anderson was there beaming from ear to ear.

As for Giesler, who was the primary blind-side blocking left tackle for the early years of Dan Marino’s career, he has had multiple knee and back surgeries and was unable to travel to South Florida in person for the announcement. He did however, appear via video conferencing Tuesday and expressed gratitude for being remembered.

Because of stadium renovations over the last three years, these are the first additions to the “Walk of Fame” since 2014.

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