New regimes changing the culture in Miami, Atlanta

Ronnie BrownTwo of the worst teams in the NFL last year resided in Miami and Atlanta. So following the 2007 season, the two franchises decided to start fresh with new front office personal, new head coaches and a lot of new faces on their respective rosters.

The Dolphins hired Bill Parcells to run the football operations and former Cowboys’ assistant Tony Sparano to replace Cam Cameron as head coach. The Falcons tabbed former Patriots’ director of college scouting Thomas Dimitroff as GM and ex-Jaguars’ defensive coordinator Mike Smith as head coach.

Few pundits figured that with all of the changes that were made, that the Dolphins and Falcons would compete right away. But that’s exactly what’s happening.

After beating the Patriots two weeks ago, the Dolphins pulled off another big upset on Sunday, knocking off the Chargers 17-10 in Miami. The team once again used the “Wildcat” formation with Ronnie Brown taking direct snaps and gashing San Diego for 125 yards and a touchdown. Chad Pennington (one of those new roster faces) was also solid, completing 22 of 29 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.

Matt RyanMeanwhile, the Falcons and rookie QB Matt Ryan (one of the many new faces on the Falcons’ overhauled roster) waltz into Green Bay, mounted a 17-7 lead and eventually hung on for a 27-24 win. It was Ryan’s first win on the road as a starter, and the team’s third victory of the season. Not bad for a team that many prognosticators predicted would only have one or two wins total in 2008.

One thing that both of these teams lacked in prior years was toughness and neither franchise was very physical. But Sparano and Smith have changed that in just a short period of time and it’s amazing how much of a difference a year can make. Especially in Atlanta’s case, which was left in complete disarray following Michael Vick’s arrest and Bobby Petrino’s spinelessness.

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