Thursday, January 26, 2006

No team finished the regular season as hot as the Miami Dolphins, who just missed the playoffs at 9-7 after winning their final six games in their first season under coach Nick Saban.

Now Saban is intrigued by the idea of adding Pro Bowl wideout Terrell Owens, whose tenure in Philadelphia ended with a suspension for conduct detrimental to the team, to an offensive mix that includes running backs Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams and Pro Bowl receiver Chris Chambers.

“The competency and chemistry you can create … are the situations we would consider relative to Terrell Owens,” Saban said. “We’re interested in anybody that would make our team better. Guys that have been proven playmakers are people we would be interested in.”

Miami tight end Randy McMichael wasn’t so enthusiastic.

“I don’t need a guy like T.O. in the locker room,” McMichael said. “I don’t need a virus like that. The guy destroyed two locker rooms [in Philadelphia and San Francisco] already and it’s only a matter of time before it happens again. The guy’s a great player and I’m sure he’s a great person, but I don’t want him to mess up everything we built down here.”

Chambers also is worried about the loss of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who left to become St. Louis’ coach.

“Having to start a new offense over, we probably wouldn’t fare well,” said Chambers, who has worked for five coordinators in his five seasons in Miami. “It will slow us up like it has in the past.”

Chambers had a so-so start in 2005 before becoming more comfortable with Linehan’s scheme and catching 43 passes for 620 yards and six touchdowns in the final six games to earn his first Pro Bowl berth.

“I learn by practicing and going through a lot of mistakes throughout the year and making adjustments,” Chambers said. “It takes a while to really learn the offense. I felt I was getting the offense down.”

Chambers’ new coordinator is former Buffalo coach Mike Mularkey, who stunned the Bills by resigning in the wake of the front office shakeup that ousted Tom Donahoe, the general manager who hired him in 2004. Mularkey had three years to go on his contract but walked away without a dime because he quit rather than negotiate a settlement.

Mularkey’s offense was a lowly 28th (29th in passing) in 2005.

Hiya mate — Eric Mangini, the 35-year-old new coach of the New York Jets, began his career on the sideline in Australia. Mangini was planning to be an investment banker after attending Division III Wesleyan (Conn.) University, but he took a sojourn Down Under while still in school to coach a semipro team.

“Just on a whim I was interested in it and it changed my life,” said Mangini, whose first NFL job was as a 23-year-old ballboy for fellow Wesleyan grad Bill Belichick in Cleveland in 1995 before he was soon hired as a staff assistant. “I found out that I loved football.”

In Australia, Mangini also discovered punter Ben Graham, who just completed his first season with the Jets.

Small school, big time — Wesleyan isn’t the only off-the-radar college to produce multiple NFL head coaches. Joe Gibbs, John Fox and Herman Edwards are all San Diego State products. And new coaches Brad Childress (Minnesota) and Sean Payton (New Orleans) are alums of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois as is Denver’s Mike Shanahan.

(Woe)kland — They’ve endured three straight losing seasons for the first time since before Al Davis joined the franchise in 1963. And now the Raiders can’t find anyone to coach them.

Tampa Bay assistant Rod Marinelli took the Detroit job and Fresno State’s Pat Hill and Louisville’s Bobby Petrino opted to stay at their schools. Former Raiders coach Art Shell preferred to continue working for the NFL. Unless Davis can persuade Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt to come west, the only known remaining candidates are Raiders quarterbacks coach John Shoop and San Diego receivers coach James Lofton, whose interview likely was conducted in order to satisfy the “Rooney Rule” requirement.

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