Now we get to the team most people think will challenge the Patriots for AFC East supremacy: the Miami Dolphins. First let me say that I think Saban is an excellent coach. He took over the wasteland left by Dave Wannstedt
and won nine games during his first season after beginning the year 3-7. A lot of New England fans like to point to the Dolphins weak schedule late in the year but the same thing can be said about the Patriots. The bottom line is the Dolphins were a much-improved team as the season went on last year and Saban deserves a lot of credit for the effort Miami showed on the field every week.
Having said that, I still think the Dolphins are a year away from really pushing the Patriots in the AFC East. Sure, they went out and signed Daunte Culpepper
and while that looks good on paper, I see two major problems with the signing.
First Ă˘â‚¬â€ś and I donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t care what anyone says Ă˘â‚¬â€ś Culpepper isnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t going to play during the first month of the season. That means the Dolphins will have to face their difficult early season schedule with Joey Harrington
behind center. Have fun with that.
The other thing that bothers me about the Culpepper signing is I believe the team really wanted Drew Brees
instead and ended up settling for Culpepper. ThereĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s no question the former Vikings quarterback is talented but itĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s hard to just discard his less than impressive career numbers when heĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s not playing with Randy Moss
. Culpepper is a definite upgrade over Gus Frerotte
and he makes the Dolphins offense more dangerous but unfortunately for Miami fans, I donĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t think theyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ll get to see the full extent of his impact until 2007.
Saban is doing a good job of rebuilding the Dolphins but much like Bill Parcells
in Dallas, I think his first season was a bit of a fluke just because he was able to outcoach some people. Look for Miami to possibly take a step back this year before they really challenge New England next season. Make no mistake about it, the Dolphins are going to be a thorn in the Patriots side, it just wonĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t be this year.