joe philbin

Onwards to the offseason

After a disappointing end to this Miami Dolphins season, the sense of frustration amongst this fan base is palpable. A 5th straight non-winning year, a collapse against two average/mediocre teams with a playoff berth on the line, statistical stagnation on offense as compared to last year, and a team that lacked energy when it mattered most. The list goes on and on; the frustration is more than warranted.

Reports over the last several days have been mixed regarding the future of the front office and the coaching staff. The local and national media have quoted Stephen Ross as being very disappointed and wanting to reflect and examine all facets of the team before possibly making some changes. There have been suggestions, at one point or another, that Jeff Ireland, Joe Philbin, Mike Sherman, and the assistant coaches are likely safe or not safe; speculation is in the air.

While we wait to hear what happens in Miami, keep in mind that this franchise is far from unique in its front office and coaching failures. Rob Chudzinski lost his job in Cleveland after a 1 year gig, Mike Shanahan is out in Washington in a front office/coaching/player dynamic that makes Miami look like kid’s stuff, and Leslie Frazier was fired from Minnesota as well.

With many seeking firings out of anger and disappointment, it is important to remember that the fundamental goal for any team is to build a consistent winner that will compete for championships. Any change should be made with this long-term goal in mind.

Some Issues

Talent acquisition, whether it be from free agency or the draft, has continued to plague the Miami Dolphins. Mike Wallace and his $60 million contract made big splash headlines, but many have appropriately questioned his fit in this offensive scheme. Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbe underwhelmed; through 15 games (updated numbers pending), Wheeler was ranked by PFF as the worst rated 4-3 OLB in the entire league.  The offensive line, whether due to fighting amongst themselves – some might even say “bullying” – or from a pure talent perspective (Martin wasn’t really lighting things up before his departure), was a unit in disarray in 2013. A rookie class, which included a trade up to draft Dion Jordan as the 3rd pick overall, featured minimal to no playing time and a middling performance by the one full-time starter in kicker Caleb Sturgis. Stay tuned for a deeper look at Miami’s draft performance coming soon.

 

Offensive woes when looked at virtually any category were impossible to ignore. Just take a look at this:

NFL.com

Yds/game

Pass Yds/game

Rush Yds/game

Pts/game

Rushing TD

Passing TD

1st downs/game

2012

311.5 (27th)

198.9 (26th)

112.6 (17th)

18.0 (27th)

15   (11th)

13 (30th)

18.0        (26th)

2013

312.9 (27th)

222.9 (20th)

90.0 (26th)

19.8 (26th)

8 (27th)

24 (15th)

17.4        (29th)

 

It is difficult to see much of an improvement in this comparison. While the passing offense had a slight increase in yardage and touchdowns, this was offset by a decrement in the run game. The yards per game astoundingly changed by only 1.4 with a bottom of the barrel league rank at 27th.

Beyond the numbers, the last two games especially showed a striking lack of creativity by the coaching staff. Facing the Buffalo Bills and the New York Jets, with a playoff berth at stake, the Dolphins scored one touchdown in the last 8 quarters of play.

 

Unity and Continuity

This once proud franchise has now gone five straight years without a winning season. In a league almost designed and legislated to allow for more offense dominated play, it has produced an offense with mediocre numbers and painful to watch lack of execution. In short, it has produced a bad product.

Since 2000, the Miami Dolphins has gone through 7 head coaches. It also saw the near-Messianic arrival of Bill Parcells followed by his quick departure upon Wayne Huizenga’s selling of the team. We’ve seen Jeff Ireland stick around since 2008; a time that featured Tony Sparano, a publicly failed attempt at hiring Jim Harbaugh, followed by a Sparano extension, followed by a Sparano firing and Philbin hiring.

NFL teams, like most organizations, must function as a unified system to succeed. Every great franchise has demonstrated an ability of owner, manager, and coach to work in unison. Any change in the GM and/or coaching staff with the Miami Dolphins should strive for unity. Unity is essential in the philosophy towards offensive and defensive philosophy, talent acquisition, and towards the daily management of the team.

Lastly, Stephen Ross, perhaps to a fault, has noted his belief in the importance of continuity. Continuity for continuity’s sake is meaningless. However, when the development of a young quarterback and the time it takes to develop and install an offensive or defensive system are considered, continuity certainly has its merits. The key is to balance the need for change, unity, and continuity and somehow still build a winner.

Let’s see what happens, should be interesting. 

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