The Miami Dolphins are going to be a “West Coast” team. Gone will be the methodical ball control offense and presumably the low scoring that is associated with it. Stephen Ross said last season that the Dolphins needed to be more exciting. Needed to give the fans something to cheer about. They failed.
That failure led to an almost unilateral change across the coaching board. Gone was Sparano along with his fist pumping field goal excitement. With the arrival of Joe Philbin, the Dolphins are going through an identity change and a concept change as well. Sparano coached team first and Philbin adheres to that same line of thinking, but where Sparano failed to win over his players by showing examples of success, Philbin has the Green Bay Packers to rely on as proof the concept works.
While both men share similar back-grounds, both were extensively offensive line coaches, they both took a different approach to the kind of player that should be on the line. Sparano preferred the big prototype of lineman while Philbin tends to look for athletic lineman. Sparano needed his players to hold blocks while the play materialized, Philbin needs only to have the defense slowed down. It’s more important to be able to pull and pull quickly than it is to count to five and release your block.
This system is designed around pace. Speed. Get in, drive it down the field and get off. Repeat. It showcases downfield throws with mismatched coverage and utilizes the entire playing field. In the former Dolphins offense, the first look would be to the number 1 WR, the checkdowns rolled around from there. In this offense, the first look could be a TE, a RB, the slot WR, the number 2 WR, or the number 1. It’s designed to keep the offense moving down the field at a quick pace that keeps the defense off balance.
It’s hard to imagine the Dolphins with an offense that is fast paced. For some Dolphins fans, they have never seen one. Dave Wannstedt ran a ball control offense. Nick Saban carried that over with his arrival and Cam Cameron never came up with a concept at all. Sparano of course carried on that run first philosophy. You have to go all the way back to the days of Dan Marino to see an open air offense.
It’s easy to say that this offense is a pass happy offense but in reality it is not. The running game is as important as the wide-recievers out on routes. If you look to Green Bay, they relied on their running game as much as their passing game. The difference is how they used it when compared to the way Miami has used it for over a decade.
In Green Bay, the passing game and the running game compliment each other. It is never a ground and pound attack and it’s never a full throttle pass happy offense like the Patriots run. The entire idea is to use the best combination of the two to keep the defense guessing. When you are able to split your wide-receivers and drive a TE up the seam and then throw the RB into the created space for a good reception, it opens up that same formation to quick hit run options. The same can be said when you can successfully run up the middle in a closed formatin with a leading fullback and play action to a fly route for a long game.
In Miami, there hasn’t been the threat of a passing attack so teams were able to stack the line. They will not be able to do that now and keep the Dolphins off balance. In fact, the key to making this offens “real” is their ability to move the ball using both the ground and the air.
It’s hard to say how long the Dolphins will need to get acclimated to this new system. Some might argue that the personnel is not quite there yet to lead the team out of the basement. Some will point to the fact that new systems take awhile to fully implement. Joe Philbin will go through several ups and downs in his first season and some will likely remind us of Tony Sparano’s first season.
In a few years, Dolphins fans may very well be bristling at the mention of their offense. The media may finally go from haters to praisers and we may actually hear the Dolphins name being mentioned as contenders again. A lot of this is going to be predicated on two things. The job that Jeff Ireland does at finding and adding talent and how Joe Philbin progresses as an NFL head coach.
The system we know works. If executed correctly. The Dolphins have been mired in the same old boring run first pass when you can type offense, Joe Philbin is hoping to change that with a new system that should bring more excitement and hopefully more old fight song plays than in years past. Regardless of the outcome, for now, this change is long overdue.