Dolphins change coach, but need to change their way of thinking
The Miami Dolphins are making changes this offseason and there will be many more before the 2019 season kicks off. The Dolphins have fired Adam Gase and demoted/re-assigned Mike Tannenbaum and are currently interviewing candidates for their vacant Head Coach position. While the Head Coach position is a critical one, as it sets the tone for the rest of the organization, I think the Dolphins need to reevaluate their team-building philosophy.
Owner Steven Ross has said that the Dolphins are going to do things differently. They aren’t going to try to win and make the playoffs in 2019. They are going to re-build this team the right way, by breaking everything down and building it back up. There won’t be band-aids or mix and match player acquisitions to try to squeak into the playoffs next year. Instead, I believe the Dolphins will turn towards the draft, maybe trade off some veterans, and build a young core of players for the future.
The questions are; What types of players should the Dolphins target? What style of football should the Dolphins play? Well, quarterback is an obvious need. They need to find one or this rebuild will be short-lived and followed by another one. But I’m talking more about the style, since the players needed will be a product of the style. To determine the type of style the Dolphins should adopt, you have a to take a lot of things into account:
- How can the Dolphins take advantage of playing in South Florida? The Dolphins need to build a team that takes advantage of the hot, humid South Florida climate (and a stadium built to melt opponents). Yes, they were 6-2 this season, mostly because Ryan Tannehill is very good in home games (and terrible on the road).
- How can the Dolphins improve on their recent TERRIBLE road record. The Dolphins went 1-7 this year on the road. Not only that, but the Dolphins seem to get blown out when they are on the road. Their current style of play is not conducive to winning on the road (see: bad QB play and atrocious defense).
- How can the Dolphins develop a young, franchise quarterback? The key to winning the NFL is to have a franchise quarterback that can win you games. It’s that simple. The Dolphins don’t have one right now, but I believe their commitment in the next 1-2 years will be to find one.
- How can the Dolphins build their new foundation around the quality players they already have? For as bad as things seem, the Dolphins do have some young, promising talent on the team. They will field a team in 2019, despite the gloomy outlook. The best way to accelerate the rebuild will be to play a style of football that takes advantages of the good young players the Dolphins currently have.
The Solution: In my opinion, I think the Dolphins need to become a ground and pound team (apologies for the Rex Ryan reference). While the NFL is now a predominantly a passing league, with young offensive ‘geniuses’ getting head coaching jobs all around the league, there are some examples that a solid running team can succeed. Look at the Ravens, look at the Cowboys, look at the Seahawks. They’re all in the playoffs and they all like to run the football….. a lot!
The Dolphins have 2 young running backs that they can feature in Drake and Ballage. Drake was woefully underutilized in 2018 after a breakout 2nd half of 2017. That fault lies solely with Adam Gase, as far as I’m concerned. If the Dolphins can be a dominant running team, it will wear down opponents at home in the heat, will transfer on the road, will keep the ball out of opposing high-power offenses’ hands, and will give their defense plenty of rest. Oh, and a solid running game will do wonders for the young QB to be named later.
Second, the Dolphins need build a defense that gets them into the Top 10 again. A strong defense and running game is a good recipe for success and the Dolphins have some of the pieces to do that. I think a switch to the 3-4 would be a start. But with young talent like McMillan, Baker, Howard, Fitzpatrick, Taylor, and Godchaux, some of the pieces are already here. This is why I think the Dolphins are looking at defensive-minded coaches (Flores, Fangio, etc.).
I think the Dolphins should focus on the trenches this offseason. Build upon James and Tunsil on the offensive line and beef up the front 7 on defense that was gashed by opposing running games all season in 2018. Given what looks like a weak QB draft coming up, the Dolphins should focus on the O-line and front 7. Reinforce those units and get as much draft ammo as possible heading into the 2020 draft when a number of high-quality quarterbacks will be available.
The Dolphins will probably be bad in 2019. They expect it. We should too. The timing for having a bad season and getting the corresponding high draft pick is ideal considering the QB talent in the 2020 draft. I’m not saying to #TankForTua , but I think the Dolphins have strategically picked a good time to rebuild. The question is, what style of play will the Dolphins choose to embrace moving forward? We’ll be able to tell a lot by the person they select as their next head coach.
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