Early last month, I wrote an opinion column for Phins.com wondering if defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was on the hot seat.
Turns out my suspicions were correct.
The Dolphins said very little on the matter, save a very brief statement from head coach Tony Sparano.
"I want to thank Paul for his services to the team, and I want to wish him the best.''
But it doesn't take a detailed explanation from Sparano to understand why this move had to happen.
Sparano holds his people accountable for their work. That goes for players AND coaches. And Pasqualoni just didn't do a very good job this year.
The bottom line numbers tell us that the defense was ranked 22nd overall and 25th in points allowed per game (24.4). The tragedy here is that it didn't have to go down this way.
I believe the real reason why Pasqualoni was fired was that he didn't properly utilize his personnel. The result of this stubbornness resulted in lost games and clashes with Sparano that no doubt damaged their relationship.
1) For a good deal of the season, Pasqualoni insisted on leaving his corners, two of which were raw rookies, in man coverage against some of the best receivers in the league. This made even less sense when veteran Will Allen was lost for the season. Predictably, the results were disastrous as the Dolphins were near the bottom of the league in 20+ yard passes allowed.
2) When NT Jason Ferguson was lost for the season, the Dolphins lost the ability to play a credible 3-4 defense on a consistent basis. Ferg's back-up, Paul Soliai, had his best year but it was clear that he wasn't ready to meet the challenge of being a full time nose. Pasqualoni failed to recognize and sufficiently adjust to this; as a result the run defense, ranked in the Top 5 before Ferg's injury, plummeted to the middle of the pack. Almost from the moment Ferguson was lost, it was clear that the defense would be better off in a 4-3 set, a much better use of the strengths of the players he had to work with. I explain this thinking in further detail in my 12/1 column referenced above.
It would have been fascinating to listen in on the conversations that went down between Sparano and Pasqualoni. Given Sparano’s direct style of communication, and the fact that the defense probably cost the team at least a half a dozen wins, one can imagine the tone of their discussions.
Yesterday, Sparano got the last word.