Parcells fires Mueller, to meet with Cameron Tuesday
DAVIE, Fla. -- Shoes and other equipment filled 4-foot-high bins in the Miami Dolphins' locker room Monday, signaling the start of the offseason.
Another sign: upheaval in the offices upstairs.
Fish Out Of Water
The Dolphins and passing were synonymous for Dan Marino's 17 seasons. He averaged 3,609 yards, 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions per season on his way to the Hall of Fame. The QBs since he retired in 1999 don't compare.
The Dolphins' latest shake-up began before noon when new boss Bill Parcells fired general manager Randy Mueller and two other members of the player personnel staff.Wasting little time in identifying candidates to fill the top job in the Dolphins' organization, Parcells on Monday interviewed New York Jets director of college scouting Joey Clinkscales for the position of general manager, reports ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli. Clinkscales, 43, is the first candidate to interview for the job in a process that could be a very short one. Jeff Ireland, vice president of college and pro scouting for the Dallas Cowboys, was the front-runner to replace Mueller and confirmed he was flying Tuesday to South Florida for an interview. The Dolphins moved quickly to gain permission from Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones to interview Ireland for the key position. Ireland, 38, worked with Parcells in Dallas and some league observers felt Jones might attempt to retain him until after the draft. Ireland is in the final year of his contract, a deal that expires in early June, and it's expected that he will accept the Miami post. A veteran of 13 seasons in the Jets' organization, Clinkscales provides Parcells a solid alternative candidate in the unlikely event Ireland decides not to make a move. Parcells has great respect for Clinkscales' ability to evaluate players and feels that he is well qualified to be a general manager in the league. Clinkscales was a standout wide receiver at the University of Tennessee and a ninth-round choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1987 draft. He played two seasons in the league, with the Steelers (1987-88) and the Bucs (1988), and subsequently moved into the personnel end of the game as a part-time scout in Pittsburgh, 1989-93. He joined the Jets as an area scout, moved up to national scout and is in his second season as the team's director of college scouting.
Still undetermined was the future of coach Cam Cameron, who went 1-15 in his first year as an NFL head coach. He awaited a fateful meeting with Parcells.
"There's going to be an opportunity in the next few days to sit down and talk with Bill," Cameron said. "We'll treat it as an exchange between two guys who want to see the Miami Dolphins be successful, and what it's going to take to do that."
Sweeping changes are anticipated from Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl champion coach who began work last week as executive vice president of football operations. He started by firing Mueller, assistant director of player personnel Mike Baugh and college scouting coordinator Rick Thompson.
The departures came less than a year after owner Wayne Huizenga gave Mueller and Cameron responsibility for rebuilding the Dolphins.
"Any time you have a relationship with somebody you care about, it's tough," Cameron said. "But we all know this is a tough business, and we've been through a tough year."
Only an overtime win against Baltimore two weeks ago prevented the Dolphins from becoming the NFL's first 0-16 team. Instead they're the eighth team to finish 1-15.
A rich franchise legacy that includes Don Shula, Dan Marino and the perfect season was forever tarnished by a season that made the Dolphins a national laughingstock. They lost to two quarterbacks who had been busts in Miami, Daunte Culpepper and A.J. Feeley. They lost twice to the woeful New York Jets. They also lost twice to New England, and even once in England.
The season was the sorry culmination of a long, slow decline. Three coaching changes since 2004 have failed to reverse the slide, and the Dolphins will sit out the playoffs for the sixth consecutive year, extending a franchise record.
"Are there certain things you would like to see changed? Absolutely," said defensive end Jason Taylor, Miami's lone Pro Bowl player. "I think any player in that locker room would say the same thing. There are certain things that do need to change that aren't set up for us to succeed. It's not an indictment or a knock against anybody, but it is what it is."
As a post-mortem, Cameron held a team meeting Monday that ended with a five-minute speech to the players by Parcells.
"I think he just wanted to introduce himself and give them a feel for some things to think about going into the offseason," Cameron said.
"My first impression of him is he's a guy who means business," cornerback Will Allen said. "You've got to respect him. If anybody can get this thing turned around, he can definitely help us."
Parcells didn't talk to reporters, and the firings of Mueller and his two aides were announced in a two-paragraph news release. It was unclear whether Ireland, if hired, would take over before the April draft.
Mueller was general manager for three seasons but in charge of personnel decisions only since coach Nick Saban left a year ago. He received mixed reviews for his moves in 2007, which included the acquisition of free-agent linebacker Joey Porter and the selection of receiver Ted Ginn Jr. and quarterback John Beck in the draft.
In the wake of Mueller's firing, Cameron expressed optimism about returning for a second season.
"I'm accountable to the situation we're in," Cameron said. "If we're not sitting here in this situation, none of this happens. If we win games, none of this happens. I'm charged with that, and I accept the responsibility.
"However, it is a great opportunity with Bill Parcells coming here. You know how much respect I do have for him. The fact he's here with the Miami Dolphins I see as a positive."
As the losses mounted this season, Cameron's relationship with Taylor and other veterans became strained. He had an argument last week with nose tackle Keith Traylor about a confrontation involving Traylor and two teammates on the flight home from a game Dec. 23. Traylor was not at Sunday's season finale against Cincinnati.
But following a 38-25 loss to the Bengals, several players said they hope Cameron returns in 2008.
"God willing," running back Jesse Chatman said. "Coach Cameron is better than people think he is. He needs a chance to show what a good coach he is."
The transformation of the Dolphins into the NFL's worst team resulted from a decade of poor personnel decisions, and a wave of injuries compounded Cameron's problems. Still, from draft day until the final game, he made plenty of decisions that invited second-guessing.
The new coach drew boos at a team draft party defending the choice of Ginn in the first round. And as recently as Sunday, he declined to challenge a 70-yard touchdown pass by the Bengals, even though TV replays showed the receiver stepping out of bounds at the 4-yard line.
Whoever coaches the Dolphins in 2008, there's the foundation for a turnaround. Five rookies played substantial roles on offense this season, and Miami will have the top pick and two second-round choices in the April draft.
Still, a revamping of the roster is inevitable once Parcells completes his upstairs shake-up. Porter is among those who hope to be back next season.
"I've seen the worst of the worst, so I've got to be here when it gets good," Porter said. "They bring Parcells in, and everybody knows he's a great football mind who knows talent. It has to be a good thing."Information from ESPN.com senior writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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