Dolphins’ Dan Campbell is tough but is he smart?


The Miami Dolphins played the “tough” card to perfection against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans but Dan Campbell didn’t bring the intelligence to the table when he coached against New England. With the Dolphins sitting in the 7th spot in the AFC, which is really the 8th spot because the Colts are leading their division, Campbell has to rely more on the intellectual side of football than the physical.

When Campbell became the interim head coach he preached culture change and physicality. The team embraced that. They had fun. They played hard and the Titans believed they played a little too hard. That’s what a good motivating coach can do for you. There is however a but. There is always a but. In the case of Dan Campbell, it’s the cerebral part of the game that needs to start showing through.

During last Thursday nights game we got a chance to see what the Dolphins would do if they were the ones getting smashed in the mouth. The offense sputtered, abandonded the run, and couldn’t complete passes longer than 20 yards. The Patriots stacked five to ten yards off the line and forced the Dolphins to beat them with their short game. The Dolphins failed and failed to make any in-game or half-time adjustments. In other words, they didn’t play smart.

This week the Dolphins travel to Buffalo and they are quite familiar with the team. They will have more than four days to prepare but are these young coaches prepared to play a sideline to sideline chess match? It’s a question that deserves an answer and one we will find out over the next two weeks.

Campbell can’t rely on the physical play of his team to win. He needs to motivate them but also needs to install a game plan that is flexible and deliberate at the same time. The Dolphins need to exploit the weaknesses of the Buffalo Bills not just try and match them in a fist fight. Rex Ryan is not Bill Belichick but Ryan has a better grasp on game planning than we have seen from Campbell.

I understand that Campbell has only lost one game but he was in no position to change the game in his first two wins. Those games were so far out of reach early that it became more or less a time consuming team playing not to give up enough points to allow the other team back into the game. Campbell has been in one game as a head coach where scheme changes needed to be made and the team didn’t do it.

Campbell is not alone in this as he relies heavily on Bill Lazor and Lou Anarumo. I spoke with Campbell following the team Titans game and asked him how he would change the styles of his coaches now that Philbin was gone. He didn’t seem to care too much for the question implying I was throwing Philbin under the bus but he also didn’t really answer the question either. It was a simple question that I expected to be answered with something along the line of changing the way the coaches attack the other team.

What Campbell said then, you can watch that press conference here, is that shortly after the Jets game before he knew the changes were being made to the coaching staff, that he wrote a list of things he thought needed to be changed and the he felt the team wasn’t aggressive enough. The Dolphins have become more aggressive over the last three weeks.

How quickly Campbell can grow into a smart head coach and really learn the in’s and out’s of that job will go a long way to the success of this team in 2015 and Campbell retaining his job in 2016. I really like Campbell, or at the very least the idea of Campbell. I love his passion and his energy and the way he attacks the angles of motivation but I want to see smart coaching. I want to see that when the game is on the line, he knows where to move the rook and knight to put the other team in check mate.

Dan Campbell is a smart guy and I hope he picks up the nuances of coaching smart quickly. Coaching smart quickly. Guess it’s a lot better than “failing forward fast”.