Sure the Dolphins lost last week to the Bills 19-0. The loss put the Dolphins one game away from elimination with having to win this week versus their rival Jets and get help from other AFC teams (Ravens loss OR Chargers win). When the Dolphins have scored offensive touchdowns, the Dolphins get the blame no matter the situation and the blame undoubtedly lands on Mike Sherman. All over Twitter, Mike Sherman gets the blame. He gets the blame when things go wrong or when things are going well.
This season has produced the most Sherman bashing that has ever happened in Mike Sherman’s two season stint with the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins have decorated themselves with a number of play-callers in the past from Chan Gailey to Norv Turner, to Cam Cameron (as a head coach), to now Mike Sherman. Sure we can understand why Sherman was brought in, and most of the reasoning could just be fodder for another day.
However, let’s look at the facts. The facts are that the Dolphins offense has improved from a year ago. Whether you look at Ryan Tannehill’s numbers 12 TDs last season to 23 TDs this season or 8 wins versus 7 a year ago and quite possibly a 9th win upcoming on Sunday versus the New York Jets; Sherman’s responsibility falls on the play-calling and executing the game plan in practice and to have it translate to games.
Sherman’s play call of 325 rushes on offense is lower than last season (438), but this season he doesn’t have a feature back as he did last season with Reggie Bush. Instead he has a fast running back in Lamar Miller who can’t pass block and tends to bounce his runs outside, and a slow mudder of a running back in Daniel Thomas who’s best game of his career came in the snow and mud in Pittsburgh. The fact that Miller and Thomas have had outstanding games only one or two times this season is a testament to the running back depth/position lacking talent. The mere fact that the best blocker, Charles Clay has had to take over pass block duties that remove him from pass catching duties shows the lack of talent and depth at the running back position. By default, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller were awarded the starting running back role at several points this season and have performed inconsistently. Never mind the lack of carries, because that’s something that Sherman can’t exactly predict since football is situational and the situation, penalties, long third downs, haven’t always called for running the ball when a first down is needed. 3rd and 15 isn't going to be a run when the offense badly needs a first down in order to extend a drive.
Next, Sherman has Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. First, Mike Wallace already in Pittsburgh proved he could do two things well, crossing routes and run the 9-route (a fly route). That’s it. Wallace had every chance this season to make plays. He’s dropped several passes in coverage and does not hesitate to let the passes over his head in traffic become tipped or intercepted. Wallace does one or two things well for Miami: become the decoy and give way to more catches for Brian Hartline and Charles Clay. Wallace, while it can be argued has shown in spurts that he can get on a roll catching four or five 10 yard passes in a row, isn’t the deep threat that Miami believed him to be. If one looks at the film of hall of fame receivers such as Jerry Rice or Chris Carter, both never went deep. It wasn’t their strong suit. Both played in a west coast offense with the 49ers and Vikings respectively. The 49ers offense didn’t feature a deep threat, nor did they run consistently. The 49ers won 5 Super Bowls in the 80s and 90s combined. Is Mike Sherman at fault for what Mike Wallace cannot and will not develop in his game? On the other hand, Brian Hartline is that John Taylor of a possession receiver who can, one on one create a mismatch with his good hands and willingness to catch the football in traffic. Hartline has developed and exceeded the one touchdown scored last season with four touchdowns this year and is close to 1,000 yards for the second consecutive year.
Lastly, the debate rages on about Mike Sherman’s development of quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill has put up good numbers this season. His best numbers (TDs, come from plays in the red zone). For a quarterback, you want to have the best numbers in the red zone. Just turn on the NFL network when they show Tom Brady. Brady owns the red zone and has much of his career. To his credit, Tannehill is not a pure passer (struggles with pocket presence and touch), but proves his worth with his athleticism, grit, and leadership. Based on Pro Football Focus, overall, Ryan Tannehill is a top 10 quarterback overall (8th with a 16.7 grade).
Is Mike Sherman responsible for Tannehill developing into a pocket passer that much of the NFL implores their quarterbacks to be? Is Sherman responsible for not running Ryan Tannehill more only to see him go down with an ACL tear like RGIII did last season or how Mike Vick has in his career by going through a progression and then running with wreck-less abandon? Sure, Tannehill could run for yardage when needed, but dialing up the zone read with this team that is not prepared to block down field might not be wise and at times, Tannehill keeping the ball might work once or twice, but we aren’t talking about a collegiate or high school defense the Dolphins face weekly. We’re talking about the NFL where players are stronger and faster and quarterbacks are fair game and can be lit up by hard hits as runners.
Bottom line, Mike Sherman shares in the blame just as much as the players do based on their inability to be something they are not. The Dolphins lack talent up and down the roster, but have compensated for that talent by playing their hearts out offensively and defensively.
Should the Dolphins beat the Jets on Sunday, one thing is for sure, fans will be quick to lob the credit toward the Dolphins players and not the scheme nor game plan devised for this weekend’s matchup. For Mike Sherman, winning could be the best thing in order to give him a third year to help take this offfense to the next level.