Step away from your smart phone, stay off the internet and away from your fantasy football stats for two seconds and answer this: Who is the Miami Dolphins’ leading receiver? It’s not a trick question. It’s not a running back or tight end leading the Dolphins in catches through nine games.
Years ago, the name of the Dolphins top receiver would have rolled off the tongue of any card-carrying Bills fan. Miami had Mark Clayton, Mark Duper, Chris Chambers and Marty Booker. Brandon Marshall is gone. Davone Bess is considered their best wideout, but he’s not leading them in receptions or yards.
Try Brian Hartline.
This is nothing against Hartline, who already is having a career year with 49 receptions for 751 yards, but he’s not considered a top threat. The former fourth-round pick from Ohio State had less than 45 catches and fewer than 620 yards in each of his first three seasons before clicking with rookie Ryan Tannehill this season.
Hartline is tied for 13th with Kansas City’s Dwayne Bowe and just behind Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald in the NFL. He’s 10th in yards, ahead of the likes of Philly’s DeSean Jackson, New Orleans’ Marques Colston, Carolina’s Steve Smith, Houston’s Andre Johnson and Dallas’ Dez Bryant.
Which one of these is not like the others?
Hartline, who definitely has a place waiting for him in Canton. He was born there and raised in the shadows of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He’s also one guy the Bills must stop if they’re going to beat the Dolphins on Thursday night in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“I like to say that we don’t have enough time as a coaching staff to screw it up,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said Tuesday during a conference call. “Hopefully, we’ll keep it simple and get a good, solid plan and our guys will play well up there.”
The 6-foot-2, 199-pound Hartline seems an ideal fit in a strange season for the Dolphins, who with a rookie quarterback in Tannehill and a rookie coach in Philbin are in second place in the AFC East with a 4-5 record. Hartline is productive without having overwhelming size or speed. Defensive end Cameron Wake is an undersized (6-3, 258) pass rusher with 8½ sacks in nine games. Two years ago, he had 14 sacks.
But they have, as Philbin said, kept it simple.
Miami split its first two games, lost two straight, won its next three and dropped its last two. The Dolphins lost twice in overtime and another game by a field goal before getting blown out Sunday at home by Tennessee. Overall, not bad considering they faced modest expectations before the season.
“Until you kinda go through the wars, as they like to say, with your team, you’re never really certain what you have,” Philbin said. “You might know about the talent and this guy weighs this much and runs the forty in that speed. But until you go out and see how they compete on a weekly basis, it’s hard to make accurate projections.”
Dodgers eyeing Hamilton?
The Dodgers could have an inside track on signing Josh Hamilton, if only because their Magic Johnson-led ownership has made it clear that money is no object. Hamilton is looking for a long-term deal that would pay him around $30 million per season.
Texas already has said it would not offer Hamilton, who batted .285 with 43 homers and 128 RBIs and a former MVP, a contract longer than three years. The Rangers are among several teams that turned their attention to Justin Upton. The Diamondbacks outfielder has three years and $38 million left on his contract.
Upton, 25, batted .280 with 17 homers and 67 RBIs last season, production that failed to match his salary and led to the D-backs thinking about shopping him. He averaged 24 homers and 81 RBIs the previous three seasons. His age and salary structure is enough for many teams. Texas has strong trade bait in shortstop Elvis Andrus.
As NASCAR turns…
Old-school hockey fans cringe at the idea that people watch games only for the fights, but really that’s what interests me most about NASCAR.
Racing officials in recent years have blamed everything from the economy to Jimmie Johnson’s dominance for decreases in ticket sales and television ratings. The sport is much more entertaining when it has soap-opera style storylines.
Jeff Gordon was fined $100,000 for taking Clint Bowyer into the wall last week, which led to a fight between their crews. Gordon should view the fine as an investment. Now he’s back in the national spotlight, he’ll make more money in merchandise sales.
Remember that the next time you see a pickup truck with a 24 sticker on rear windshield.
Holmgren to Big D?
Jerry Jones has publicly supported Jason Garrett, but look for the Cowboys owner to fire his coach if they miss the playoffs. And don’t be surprised if Jones ignores Sean Payton and Jon Gruden and turns to Mike Holmgren.
Holmgren, who is counting the days until he leaves Cleveland, fueled speculation recently by praising the Cowboys for their talent and saying he would be interested if — IF — Garrett was fired. Jones could hardly contain himself on the radio Tuesday while discussing Holmgren, with whom he served on the NFL Competition Committee.
“I can’t tell you, on an individual basis, how much I respect him,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas-Fort Worth. “He’s everything you would want as far as a coach is concerned. I appreciate the compliment when he was talking about how he was impressed with our talent and the fact that we could work together. That is just the case. But the bottom line is it’s all about Jason with me.”
For now, of course.
The Cowboys (4-5), currently out of the playoffs in the NFC, shouldn’t be counted out just yet. The Steelers are their only remaining opponent that currently has a winning record. If the Cowboys fail to reach the postseason, Garrett is a goner.
Housley’s wife a winner
Former Sabres defenseman Phil Housley’s wife soon will add yet another title to her long list: Senator Housley. Karin Housley landed a seat in the Minnesota state senate on Election Day last week with a convincing victory over Julie Bunn.
“The whole state went the way of Obama,” she said on Twitter last week, “but I squeaked thru.”
Karin Housley founded a small but successful real-estate company and had her own radio show in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area when she decided to get involved in politics. The Republican graduated with a degree in communications from University at Buffalo in 1988 while Phil played for the Sabres.
Karin has since written a book about finance, started an investment group for women called “Chicks Laying Nest Eggs” and appeared on the “Rosie O’Donnell Show.” She also was a television news producer in New York before returning to St. Paul. She had her own column in a weekly newspaper and recently had her own radio show.
Oh, and she raised four kids.
Phil played 1,495 games over 21 seasons in the NHL after jumping directly from high school in 1982 to the NHL. Big deal. These days, he’s not even the most valuable Housley.
Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams, upon his return from a nine-game suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs and his second alcohol-related driving conviction: “You do the crime, you got to do the time.”
41 — Years since an NBA coach was fired in the first five games of a season, as Mike Brown was by the Lakers. The Buffalo Braves fired Dolph Schayes after an opening night loss in 1971.
0 — Games coached by Walt Weiss, above the high school level, before the Rockies named him their manager.
1,014 — Yards rushing this season, along with 2,780 yards passing, for Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who led the Aggies over No. 1 Alabama.
• Huntingdon College, a Division III school in Alabama, fired golf coach Matt Mahanic last week for a profanity-laced tirade that would have made Ozzie Guillen blush. The rant happened about a month ago before going viral last week. It’s worth an internet search. Remember earmuffs and keep in mind that it was Division III golf.
• The Junior Sabres entered the week ranked 11th among all teams in Canadian Junior A leagues. It’s the first time the Junior Sabres cracked the top 20 in their history. Coach Michael Peca has all the qualities, and the right connections, to climb the ladder. If he makes a full commitment, he’ll be behind an NHL bench sooner than later.
• Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville apologized to grad assistant coach Kevin Oliver after pulling off his headset and flipping off his hat in a sideline meltdown against Kansas. “Some have reported that I slapped or hit,” Tuberville said. “You’re dead wrong. I did not do that.” OK, so Tuberville bullied him but didn’t strike him. Got it.