Sports

Ex-NFL executives bash Dolphins. And ESPN commentator raises eyebrows with COVID comments


The Dolphins’ poor start and dubious personnel moves are drawing sharp criticism from national TV analysts and veteran NFL evaluators.

ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky, the former NFL quarterback who was enthusiastic about the Dolphins entering the season, is now fed up.

“Someone has to tell me what the Miami Dolphins’ plan/identity is on offense,” he bemoaned.

“Who is calling the plays? There is absolutely no rhyme or reason to the things they do. It looks like they are guessing plays out of a hat and just calling anything to see if it may work?!”

CBS’ Jay Feely, who called last Sunday’s game, criticized Miami’s offensive staff for not maximizing tight end Mike Gesicki and wide receiver DeVante Parker. Feely also wondered why the Dolphins don’t go to more of a hurry-up offense and blasted the Dolphins’ offensive coaches for being “not creative and not aggressive.”

Feely said: “You have the potential to be an explosive offense and you’re not utilizing them.”

He also noted that one reason the Dolphins are struggling to stop the run is that “75 to 80 percent of the time they’re in nickel or dime and they dare you to run the ball.”

Former Browns general manager and longtime NFL executive Mike Lombardi told WQAM’s Joe Rose this week that “when you have co-coordinators [on offense], it doesn’t work. It’s been proven it doesn’t work. You need one guy who’s going to call plays and set up the game plan based on the personnel.”

Asked how a general manager can survive with having multiple first-round flops, Lombardi said: “I don’t know how he does it. Chris [Grier] is a really good guy. He has had a lot of picks and hasn’t repaired the offensive line. I don’t know how you survive that. Unless someone else is making the picks, unless Stephen Ross really fell in love in Tua.”

(We’re told that Ross strongly supported the selection of Tagovailoa in the draft but did not order Grier to pick him.)

But, Lombardi said, if anyone evaluated Justin Herbert (40 TDs, 13 picks in with the Chargers) and Tagovailoa (12 TDs, 6 picks), “there is no chance you would watch both of these players work out and pick Tua. One is bigger, stronger, faster, with a bigger arm. It makes no sense at all. But it is the power of the media. When you begin with the end in mind [drafting Tagovailoa] and violate the first rule of scouting, which is not beginning with the end of mind,.. that’s what they did.

“I don’t understand how it can happen. It’s the power of bias, the power of media, the power of the PR machine, the power of the Leigh Steinberg machine. There was a complete bias that was set up in this. Leigh Steinberg [who is one of Tagovailoa’s agents] is the greatest marketer of all time. He can spin a story and people buy it. You have people still buying it at the worldwide leader [ESPN]. I was reading something the other day that Tua is still going to be great. It’s unbelievable. You took a player who has been injury prone his whole career.

“Tua can throw crossers, flats and curls. But if he has to do anything more than that, he can’t. Is Tua going to be a top 15 quarterback in the league? If the answer is no, you need a [new] quarterback. Herbert is in the top five” already.

Meanwhile, NFL Network analyst Marc Ross — who spent 16 years in scouting and evaluation for the Eagles and Giants — told WQAM’s Rose recently: “The way things are looking right now,… this is going to be an under-.500 team. If I’m Chris Grier and I’m trying to save my job, I would want to get Deshaun Watson…

“It’s glaring the offensive line is not ready. They may not be talented enough… Some players just can’t get better [and you conclude] this guy just can’t play…. If [Tagovailoa] can’t get away from people, he struggles. [Miami’s defensive success last season] was more scheme and effort; who are the impact players besides the two corners? I just don’t see that.

“It’s scary times. You don’t have the quarterback, the offensive line struggles, they don’t have impact players on defense. They did it the right way to set it up [with lots of draft picks]. Problem is, when you get those picks, you have to deliver… They haven’t.”

Incidentally, Jim Nantz and Tony Romo — CBS’ lead announcing team — call the Dolphins-Tampa Bay game on Sunday. On Sunday, a greater percent of Miami-Fort Lauderdale viewers watched Tampa Bay-New England (11.7 percent) than Dolphins-Colts (11 percent).

THIS AND THAT

ESPN/ABC is yet again tinkering with its NBA pregame cast, a seemingly annual tradition. This year’s group for ABC games and the playoffs: Mike Greenberg (replaces Maria Taylor, who’s now with NBC), Jalen Rose (who inexplicably survives every cast change), Stephen A. Smith, Michael Wilbon and occasionally, Magic Johnson.

“SportsCenter” anchor Michael Eaves will host Wednesday nights with Richard Jefferson, Chiney Ogwumike and Kendrick Perkins.

Good to see Bob Costas back doing live sports television since his parting with NBC two years ago, beyond some baseball play-by-play for MLB Network.

With TBS’ NL Championship series conflicting with TNT’s first week of NBA regular-season cablecasts, Costas — who now hosts a monthly Friday night HBO talk show — will be TBS’ NLCS on-site host, while Ernie Johnson handles NBA hosting, as usual.

Johnson hosts TBS’ two NL Division Series starting Friday.

The Red Sox-Yankees wild card game was the most-watched MLB game on ESPN since 1998.

ESPN’s Sage Steele has been off the air after reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 and making several eyebrow-raising comments during former Bears and ex-Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler’s podcast.

Steele said Disney’s requirement that most employees get vaccinated against COVID is “sick” and “scary” and said she didn’t want to get a shot but did anyway.

Steele also called it “fascinating” that President Obama identified himself as Black on the U.S. census “considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found but his white mom and grandma raised him.”

And Steele also left jaws dropped when she said female sports journalists bear some responsibility for preventing harassment in a male-dominated industry.

“When you dress like that, I’m not saying you deserve the gross comments, but you know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on, too,” she said.

In a statement, the network said: “At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great. That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies. We are having direct conversations with Sage and those conversations will remain private.”

Steele said: “I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologize. We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and it’s more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully.”

TNT has not decided and thus won’t announce who will replace the retired Marv Albert as the voice of a conference finals and the NBA All-Star Game.

TNT could split those assignments between two people. All of the internal options — Kevin Harlan, Ian Eagle and Brian Anderson — are strong and qualified candidates. Reggie Miller, Stan Van Gundy and Grant Hill will be the primary game analysts.

Except for the first two weeks of the season, TNT wisely won’t air Thursday night NBA games opposite Thursday night NFL in November and December. TNT’s Thursday NBA package will air Tuesday nights during football season.

ESPN commentator Bomani Jones — who has been appearing on Costas’ new HBO show — will get his own weekly late-night HBO program beginning in 2022. He will remain with ESPN for at least the next few months, potentially beyond.

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