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JJ ready to pitch playbook

December 9, 1996

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) _ A grim Jimmy Johnson declared the Miami Dolphins’ season down the drain Monday, and he contemplated offseason changes that will begin with the team’s complicated playbook.

Johnson wants to throw it out.

``Our style of offense requires experienced, veteran people, and that day is gone,″ Miami’s first-year coach said. ``The salary cap forces every team to play young players. With free agency, you’re going to have movement every year, and it’s difficult to have a complicated scheme and new players.″

Stung by three consecutive losses, including a 17-7 defeat Sunday against the New York Giants, Johnson said he’ll pare the playbook he inherited from Don Shula. The game plan will be simpler Monday night against the Buffalo Bills.

Johnson and his staff will rewrite the playbook this offseason.

``It’s more than our people can handle,″ he said. ``We’re going to cut back and try to be more efficient.″

The offense is the primary culprit in a skid that has left the Dolphins (6-8) lagging in the playoff race. They could be mathematically eliminated even before they take the field against Buffalo (9-5).

``Everything we’ve worked for has really been down the drain,″ Johnson said. ``I was too optimistic this year. I wanted everything to fall into place, and it didn’t.″

Tight end Troy Drayton, one of Miami’s many newcomers, said Johnson has the team on the right track.

``You see what the guy put together in Dallas, and that gives you reason for optimism,″ Drayton said. ``But everybody expects miracles. The bottom line is that it will take time. It’s a growing process, and people have to understand that.″

Johnson’s rebuilding effort has been stymied by an offense that has scored just one touchdown in each of the past four games. For the first time since 1988, the Dolphins have been held below 10 points in consecutive games. They’ve gone 17 quarters without a rushing touchdown. In the past two weeks, Dan Marino has five interceptions and two touchdown passes.

``It’s a lack of consistency in pretty much everything we’re doing,″ Marino said. ``You have to score more than seven points a game, and we’re not doing that.″

Johnson said the Dolphins rely too heavily on changing plays at the line of scrimmage, which hampers the aggressiveness of offensive linemen because they’re unsure of blocking assignments. Other recent problems _ penalties and interceptions _ may also stem from the complexity of the playbook.

Johnson said his heavily revamped defense has played well enough for Miami to win.

``Where we’ve had the least amount of change is on the offensive side,″ he said. ``That’s where most of the experience is, and that’s where we’re having most of the trouble.″

While Johnson acknowledged that some veterans are uneasy because they’re unlikely to return next year, he plans few personnel changes in the final two weeks of the season.

Two straight poor performances by Marino have raised questions about his future, but the 35-year-old quarterback will start against Buffalo and remains firmly in Johnson’s plans for next season.

``He’ll be executing whatever offense we come up with,″ Johnson said.

Even though the last two games are essentially meaningless for Miami, Johnson hopes to win them anyway.

``I don’t want to finish the season with the feeling I have right now,″ he said.