This is the latest in a series of nine Radar entries over the next five weeks detailing trends in the AFC East, downward tendencies each division team wants to correct for the coming season and upward strides that each team wants to continue into 2009:
One of the things the Miami Dolphins did incredibly well in "moving the hyphen" from 2007 to 2008 (1-15 to 11-5) was in not turning the ball over.
The 'Fins' 13 giveaways (along with the Giants' 13) beat out the 1990 Giants' total of 14 turnovers for fewest by a team since the merger. First-year head coach Tony Sparano didn't have to go far if he needed input on how important that would be for Miami's playoff team last season — just down the hallway to executive vice president Bill Parcells' office — Parcells was the head coach of those Super Bowl-winning '90 Giants.
But Sparano doesn't need the input. He had developed a hatred for the turnover before he became a head coach.
"I've been on the other end of that deal. It's not a fun end to be on," he said last December as the Dolphins were making their playoff push. "I've lost a lot of football games via turnovers. I don't want to be in that situation. I've lost a playoff game in one of those situations. It's a way to lose and what we're trying to do here is we're trying to educate our players on ways to win."
In light of that philosophy, he was asked what happens when he sees a football on the ground in practice.
"When the ball comes out in practice, my immediate reaction is to find the reason why the ball game out and the person and confront the person and let them know my displeasure in the ball coming out," he said. "It's not OK for the ball to be out, it's really not. That's my reaction. It's probably funny to watch, I would think."
Chad Pennington, who signed with the Dolphins in August after the Jets let him go in favor of Brett Favre, has also had the same appreciation as his coach for not giving the ball away to the opponents. Pennington's turnover drive rate (the percentage of drives that ended with an interception or lost fumble, by the QB or anyone else) was 7.0 percent.
That was not only the best rate by any NFL quarterback last season but was also the best of Chad's nine-year career and the third-best by any qualifying QB in the last 10 seasons. Here are the six quarterbacks with the best regular-season turnover drive percentages from 1999-2008 (minimum 100 drives):
|Ray Lucas, NYJ
|Mark Brunell, JAX
|Chad Pennington, MIA
|Philip Rivers, SD
|Eli Manning, NYG
|Tom Brady, NE