For Tuna, Miami is One Last Shot at Glory

By Leonard Shapiro
Special to
Tuesday, January 1, 2008; 1:45 AM

So, Bill Parcells has come to South Florida to be large and in charge of the Miami Dolphins, a franchise in total disarray that hasn't made the playoffs in six years, and hasn't been to a Super Bowl since the 1984 season.

Parcells made a grand entrance at Dolphins team headquarters last Thursday, showing up to watch practice, have a few preliminary conversations with front office types and offer up 25 minutes of mush in a news conference with local media.

Judging from his reluctance to meet with the Dallas media during the offseason of his most recent coaching stint, from 2003 to 2006, that meet and greet could be his last until the NFL draft in April. Then again, he'd almost certainly have to show up and answer pesky questions if he decides to fire his current coach, Cam Cameron (a virtual certainty), after letting general manager Randy Mueller go on Monday.

In some quarters Parcells is being hailed as the latest savior of a proud franchise. He's going to be well paid -- there's no such thing as Costco Tuna in the NFL -- at roughly $3 million a year over the four-year contract given him by desperate owner Wayne Huizenga, who happens to be the main enabler/culprit in the Dolphins continuing woes.

Huizenga has made one lousy decision after another, an amazing track record for a billionaire who earned his first fortune in waste disposal (as in collecting garbage) and several more peddling video rentals and used cars.

But he was also sold a bill of goods by a seemingly disinterested Jimmy Johnson, who often seemed more eager to go fishing in the Florida Keys than he did in coaching the team. When Johnson decided he'd had enough, he convinced Huizenga to keep his defensive coordinator, Dave Wannstedt, as head coach while Johnson retired to a sweet studio gig with Fox. Then Huizenga waited two years too long before he figured out that Wannstedt, a lovely guy, just wasn't head coaching material at the NFL level.

Of course, Huizenga was on hand for a similarly ballyhooed news conference when he convinced Saban to leave LSU and become another savior. That dreadful decision exploded when Saban slithered back to college football after the 2006 season, realizing that rebuilding this team was going to take far longer than his ego could stand.

Now here comes Parcells, a year after leaving the Cowboys sidelines to allegedly retire to a new home in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., partially subsidized by a studio job at ESPN, where he rarely offered any great insight into much of anything.

Parcells even looked bored on the air, and at his opening news conference last week at Dolphins headquarters, he admitted that the only thing that really interested him was being back in the NFL maelstrom, preferably in a job that will allow plenty of leisure time if he wants it, but also will make him the team's lone "Decider."

If there's disagreement on a potential acquisition, Parcells -- and only Parcells -- will have the final say. He'll pick the next head coach, the next general manager, the starting quarterback and everyone on both sides of the ball. And when you consider his recent track record in Dallas, that may not be all bad for frustrated fans of the 'Fins.

Consider that 16 of 22 current Cowboys starters arrived during Parcells' four-year run, and 36 of 53 players on their roster are products of his regime. He's the guy who elevated budding superstar Tony Romo to be the starting quarterback, while throwing one of his loyal veterans, Drew Bledsoe, under the bus.

The Dolphins have been so bad for so long, solving all their problems will be no easy task. And you have to wonder if Parcells, now 66, will have the energy to stay the course and get it done. At every stop along the way, he's always said he's in it for the long haul, because that's what you're supposed to say. But since he left the Giants after eight years as head coach, he spent only three years in New England, three with the Jets and four years with the Cowboys before moving on.

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