Dolphins' Green feels rejuvenated, optimistic
Cam Cameron and Trent Green have waited a long time to work together as head coach and starting QB. And both are expecting big things, writes Len Pasquarelli.
DAVIE, Fla. -- For quarterback Trent Green, it seems appropriate that the Miami Dolphins' training facility is located on the grounds of Nova University, since the trade that brought the 13-year veteran here represents a new and exciting opportunity even at this late juncture of his playing career.
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There is nothing new, though, about the high regard in which Miami first-year coach Cam Cameron holds Green, which explains why Cameron pushed so hard to acquire the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback, and remained steadfast in his pursuit of Green through a nearly three-month soap opera in which Kansas City officials tediously dragged out the trade negotiations.
Most people peg Cameron's fondness for Green to the two years the men worked together in Washington (1995 and 1996). Back then, Cameron was the Redskins' quarterbacks coach and Green a promising but unproven passer who had already been released by the San Diego Chargers, played a season in the CFL and had yet to take his first snap in an NFL regular-season game.
But the genesis of the relationship actually goes back to Oct. 19, 1991, when Green was a junior at Indiana University and Cameron -- himself an IU grad who had also played quarterback there, for Lee Corso -- was coaching the quarterbacks and wide receivers at the University of Michigan. In front of a crowd of 106,097 in The Big House that day, Green and his badly outmanned Hoosiers teammates led the fourth-ranked Wolverines for much of the contest before succumbing, 24-16. The manner in which Green moved Indiana up and down the field, and even more so the obvious leadership qualities he exuded, stuck with Cameron.
They made, in fact, an indelible impression.
"Watching from the sidelines that day, I thought, 'There's really something to this guy,'" Cameron recalled between Monday practice sessions. "And it went beyond throwing the football or running the offense. He competed. And he raised the level of the guys around him. You make mental notes about players like that and you keep an eye on them. When we had a chance to bring him to Washington, to sign him there, I was all for it. He was a guy with whom I really wanted the opportunity to work."
But with a Redskins depth chart that included first-round draft pick Heath Shuler and Gus Frerotte in 1995-96, Green got very little work. For two straight seasons, he was listed as the No. 3 or "emergency" quarterback. It wasn't until 1997, after Cameron had departed to become head coach at Indiana, that Green made his first cameo appearance, throwing one pass that season.
Green, 37, figures to throw a few more than that in 2007.
He and Cameron represent the latest coach-quarterback tandem trying to recapture the kind of success that Hall of Fame members Don Shula and Dan Marino brought to the franchise. And while Cameron has yet to officially anoint Green as the starter, and insists there is still competition for the job, the veteran will in all likelihood become the 11th different Dolphins starter since Marino retired following the 1999 season.
If loyal Miami fans have waited a long time for a replacement of this caliber, Green can certainly commiserate, given the ordeal he experienced in getting to the team. Apprised by Kansas City general manager Carl Peterson in February that the Chiefs wanted to go in a different direction at quarterback, Green endured frustrating months of Kansas City stubbornness and inertia in trade negotiations before a trade was mercifully consummated and he finally was able to reconnect with Cameron.
"It was a miserable time, really, and it really wore on me," said Green, long regarded as one of the NFL's classiest players. "But in the end, it all worked out, and this a good time now. It's an offense I know, but the language isn't quite the same, so there's the challenge to learn that. And no matter how long you've been around, you're always trying to fit in when you go to a new place. But there's a newness to it and, at this point of my career, that's a pretty exciting thing. During those months where things were dragging, there were some doubts, but it's all come together. It's a good fit."
The challenge now will be for Green and Cameron to fit together the pieces of an offense that has not added many new personnel to a unit that statistically ranked 20th in the league in 2006, but which sorely needs some upgrading. The line clearly is a work in progress. Third-year tailback Ronnie Brown needs to become more of a centerpiece-type player. Veteran wide receivers Chris Chambers and Marty Booker have to overcome some inconsistencies and the Dolphins have to identify a No. 3 guy to go with them.
Finally landing Green, though, and for the palatable price of just a fifth-round draft pick, provides Cameron the keystone piece to the jigsaw puzzle.
"He's definitely a leader," said Chambers, a talented six-year veteran whose production plummeted precipitously in 2006 after a career year in 2005, but who should benefit from having Green on board. "He knows the offense and he knows how to win. He's had some big seasons and, except for the [head] injury last year, he probably would have had another good year. So, yeah, you look to a guy like that to make a difference. I'm not sure people realize how good he has been."
Over the past six seasons, Green ranks fourth in the league in completions (1,720) and in passing yards (21,459) and fifth in wins (48) among quarterback. His 87.5 career efficiency rating is the ninth best in NFL history.
The head trauma Green suffered in the 2006 season opener, when he scrambled out of the pocket and was hit by Cincinnati defensive end Robert Geathers, cost him eight games and, perhaps, ultimately, his job with the Chiefs. But there are no residual effects; Green has passed all the neurological tests and is girded to be a 16-game starter again.
If he can put up the kind of passing numbers he did during most of his Kansas City tenure, the Dolphins figure to get two or three more seasons from Green. That would allow them to groom Green's likely successor, second-round pick John Beck, who has thrown the ball well in the early stages of camp. After years in which it appeared the Dolphins' organization had done little long-term planning at the quarterback position, it now seems there is a blueprint of sorts in place. After years of waiting to work together as coach and starting quarterback, Cameron and Green feel they're in a good place, too.
"It's where I wanted to be, with a coach I wanted to be with, and you don't always get that," Green said. "Now it's up to us to make it work."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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