Turnaround alters Dolfans outlook on Porter

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Joey Porter had to extract his wife from the angry mob.

That's how bad things got for the Miami Dolphins in 2007.

Porter was their big-ticket offseason acquisition and certainly wasn't performing up to his contract, which included $20 million in guarantees.

As the Dolphins slogged through a 1-15 season, Porter failed to record a sack in 11 games. He had zero sacks through the first six.

Amid the discontent in Dolphin Stadium each week were his wife, Christy, and their four children.

"My wife didn't take to people yelling at her," Porter said. " 'Who's this Joey Porter guy? We gave him all this money and he got one tackle today. Get him outta there!'

"Next year I had to put her in a box because she said she wasn't coming back to the games. My kids were there with my jersey on, [fans were] talking about their dad."

The Porters had a much better experience in 2008. Dad led the AFC with 17.5 sacks, and the Dolphins went to the playoffs as division champs.

Porter and quarterback Chad Pennington were honored Friday morning as co-winners of the team's Dan Marino MVP Award at a ceremony at Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant on South Beach.

When he pulled his truck into Dolphin Stadium last year, he was greeted with honks and waves from tailgating fans.

"I feel like I'm at home again, playing football and being accepted by South Florida," Porter said. "I'm just happy to be here."

Porter felt as miserable as the fans in 2007. He was miscast in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' scheme and finished with a measly 5.5 sacks.

As a 3-4 outside linebacker with the Pittsburgh Steelers before joining the Dolphins, Porter thrived on the matchups. He could beat a left tackle, but also was put in position to overpower and outmaneuver helpless tight ends and fullbacks.

That didn't happen when he got to Miami.

"I was almost used as a defensive end because we played nickel so much," Porter said. "I had my hand on the ground before the snap.

"I never would make no excuses about it. I [got] beat up in the media because that year I was the big defensive acquisition to the team. They expected a lot out of me, and then you don't come out there and perform, 1-15, five sacks. They're like 'What happened to this guy. He fell off.' I got beat up by the media, but I was mad about it and came back and was put in a position to go out there and show South Florida how I can really play football.

"I just wanted to show you guys I do know how to play football. I didn't come all the way to Florida and forget how to play football. I was just happy to do that."

Bill Parcells came aboard late in 2007 and eventually cleaned house. He fired general manager Randy Mueller and hired Jeff Ireland. He axed head coach Cam Cameron and replaced him with Tony Sparano.

Capers was out. New defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni made it a priority to maximize Porter's abilities.

"It was refreshing to play football again," Porter said. "That 1-15 was one of those years that makes you doubt yourself. I know I doubted myself, had one of the worst years I ever had, coming back the next year, wondering what's going to happen.

"Coach put me in position to make plays. I tried to seize the moment and make the plays when I had the chance."