Miami is hot

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Feb 22, 2006

By Cold, Hard Football Facts senior writer John Dudley
No destination in the United States is synonymous with sun quite like Miami. It is where young people flock to get golden tans and where old people retire to spend their golden years. It is skin and sin, sightseeing and shuffleboard, surf and sand. Miami was also the setting of the defining television drama of the 80s, soon to be made popular again by the forthcoming movie version.
In the same way that Miami Vice is staging a comeback, so too is the locale itself in terms of prominence on Planet Pigskin. The NFL appears to be revolving around Miami these days, much as it did in the past, and the city's gridiron outlook has never been brighter. For the blissfully unaware, including all of those hot bodies in the hotspots on South Beach, allow us to spray you down with the cool mist of Cold, Hard Football Facts.
Dolphins coach Nick Saban (pictured here) has burst onto the scene like a ray of sunshine. In the college ranks, he earned a reputation as a no-nonsense taskmaster who gets results. He had built winning programs during five-year stints at LSU, where he won the BCS national championship in 2003, and Michigan State. Prior to that, he had served as Bill Belichick's defensive coordinator in Cleveland from 1991-94. Miami fans were understandably thrilled to land such a coveted coaching commodity, especially given the relative lack of success experienced under Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt.
Taking over a team that had gone 4-12 in 2004, Saban had his work cut out for him. But his players responded right away, shocking the Broncos 34-10 in the opener. After some early growing pains had them sitting at 3-7, the Dolphins then reeled off six straight wins to close the season.
Miami's 28-26 victory over New England in the finale was Saban's 100th as a head coach. Remarkably, he has never posted a losing record in the 12 seasons that he has guided a college or pro team. Here is a year-by-year look:
Winning Pct.
Michigan State
Michigan State
Michigan State
Michigan State
Michigan State
One of Saban's challenges in his inaugural campaign with the Dolphins was how best to use Ricky Williams. The troubled running back had deserted the team the previous year and couldn't play in 2005 until after serving a four-game suspension for substance abuse. Knowing the uncertainty surrounding Williams, Miami had used the second overall pick in the draft to select Ronnie Brown, in hopes that he would be the feature back.
As the season went on, though, Saban had the luxury of rotating his two ballcarriers. Williams responded with some very productive games down the stretch, thereby drawing the interest of other teams. Now, of course, Williams has failed a fourth drug test, and pending an appeal, he will miss all of the 2006 season. Whatever trade value he had is virtually gone.
Fortunately for Saban, winning nine games in his first season has done wonders for Miami's perception around the league. The Dolphins are seen as a team on the rise, and several big names have been rumored to be possibly joining them.
According to published reports, some of the Pro Bowlers who might be headed to Miami are:
Drew Brees
The quarterback may become a free agent if he and the Chargers can't agree to terms. Under that scenario, the Dolphins would aggressively pursue Brees, whose 3,576 passing yards this season were a career high.
Daunte Culpepper
The Vikings are shopping their franchise QB, seemingly content to move forward with Brad Johnson at the position. The Dolphins have already engaged in preliminary trade negotiations for Culpepper, who threw for 4,717 yards and 39 touchdowns in 2004.
Edgerrin James
The running back, who played at the University of Miami and still lives in South Florida, doesn't expect to be back with the Colts. In light of the Williams situation, the Dolphins could consider James, the NFL's all-time leader in yards per game with 125.7.
Ty Law
Although he shared the league lead in interceptions with 10, the cornerback has been released by the Jets because of financial reasons. The Dolphins are among the teams said to be interested in Law, who has eight career touchdowns on interception returns.
Terrell Owens
The malcontent wide receiver will either be traded or released by the Eagles before bonuses are due him in March. The Dolphins are one possible suitor for Owens, whose 101 receiving TDs are fourth-most in league history.
It isn't merely a coincidence that the Dolphins have been linked to nearly every marquee player who is available. Success breeds success, and Miami has become a place where people want to go...and not just for the nightlife.
On the business side, however, the Dolphins don't have a lot of room under the salary cap. Cutting players, such as quarterback Gus Frerotte and linebacker Junior Seau, may be necessary in order to make room for high-priced free agents.
All of the current heat surrounding Miami is actually reminiscent of days gone by, when the city was seemingly the center of the football universe. For the first 10 years of the Super Bowl, Miami figured prominently in seven of them. The Orange Bowl hosted the title game four times (II, III, V and X), and the Dolphins played in three more (VI, VII, VIII).
Coming full circle, the NFL has already announced that Dolphins Stadium will be the site for two of the four upcoming Super Bowls, including XLI next season. Although Saban would never admit it, he surely is aware that he has a chance to make history. His team could become the first to play the Super Bowl at home.
To get there, players just need to keep following his Miami advice.

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