It's a new beginning according to the Dolphins' publicity campaign, but will
it be the same old ending?
Optimism abounds even around a 1-15 team with about 47 new faces, and for the first time in 11 years a defense that doesn't contain Pro Bowl stars Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas, who are in Washington and Dallas, respectively.
Although vice president of football operations Bill Parcells is running the show, the Dolphins will not snap their franchise-long six-year playoff drought unless rookie coach Tony Sparano selects the right quarterback amongst the unproven trio in camp -- rookie Chad Henne, second-year man John Beck, who flopped in his five games last season with just one touchdown pass, and journeyman Josh McCown, who is 12-19 in career starts for mediocre teams in Arizona and Oakland.
Henne knew a holdout would be damaging to his chances to prove his mettle, so he signed a four-year deal worth approximately $3.5 million between the first and second practices of the first day of training camp.
Sparano said it will be a fair fight and each quarterback will be given equal snaps with the first and second teams over the next 20 practices.
"I don't have a crystal ball in front of me," Sparano said. "Obviously, someone is going to be the starter for us and we're going to take a look at this thing as it goes on.
"We're going to put them in critical situations and as we get them out here in critical situations, we'll watch them and see how they respond and try to make practice harder than the games."
Sparano has been involved in three-way quarterback battles before, albeit as an offensive line coach under Parcells at Dallas in 2005. However, as is his trend, Parcells opted for the veteran Drew Bledsoe over a raw, undrafted Tony Romo and baseball convert Drew Henson. Romo didn't get his starting shot until the sixth game of the 2006 season. So, if McCown can stay away from chainsaws and other sharp objects, he could be under center in the season opener against the Jets.
"Obviously, someone is going to be the starter for us and we're going to take a look at this thing as it goes on," said Sparano, who is hopeful of naming his starter before the third preseason game against the Chiefs.
Henne has been here before when as a pure freshman he beat out an older Matt Gutierrez (now a backup with the Patriots) at Michigan.
"I won that job and started and went on from there," Henne said.
There is more hope for Henne's chances. Although Parcells leans toward veteran quarterbacks such as Vinny Testaverde, Neil O'Donnell, Phil Simms, Ray Lucas and Jeff Hostetler, he did start Bledsoe as a rookie in 1993 after selecting him No. 1 overall for the Patriots.
Beck, the only one of three quarterbacks not hand-picked by the new regime, said that Parcells has been giving him tips over a couple of breakfasts.
"I stuck around this offseason to try to prove to them I could be out there, that I belong here. They kept me and now I've got a shot to be the guy," Beck said.
McCown outlasted Daunte Culpepper and rookie JaMarcus Russell to start the
majority (nine) of the games last season in Oakland.
"They are going to put the guy out there that they best feel like is going to give us a chance to win," McCown said. "I'm going to do everything I can to make myself the guy, as I know Chad and John would."