While there seems to be a mixture of panic and complicity for the Miami Dolphins and their fans during their bye week, it’s probably not quite time for either. The Dolphins showed enough resolve where they don’t need to panic and start from scratch, but at the same time, the “same old same old” will not get the job done either. Instead, they need a little bit of both — as spelled out here in five steps — to ensure upcoming success.
1. Better play-calling
We’ll stop short of asking for Offensive Coordinator Mike Sherman’s resignation because his offensive can indeed be effective. But he has to start — immediately — calling better plays. In the New Orleans game when the Dolphins faced a first-and-an-inch, he called for a sweep to Daniel Thomas, who promptly got stuffed to the surprise of absolutely no one except Sherman himself. Rushing is Miami’s weakness to begin with. Rushing side to side inside plowing ahead for an inch makes it worse. Compounding this flawed play was the fact that Sherman utilized the worst of his running backs in second-round bust Thomas. Why?
Skip ahead to the Baltimore game. On the first play of the game, Miami gained nine yards. A great start to an opening drive and surely they’ll get one more yard to keep the drive going, right? Especially that crucial opening drive? Nope. Sherman made two questionable calls … again … and Miami couldn’t muster a yard. These are examples of where Miami had a total of three plays to gain a combined 37 inches, and they failed.
Later in the Baltimore game on the final drive, Miami completed a miracle bomb on a 4th-and-10 play. This got the ball into Ravens territory, in field goal range. With over a minute left and the Ravens confused and exhausted and with the wrong defense on the field, Mike Sherman went for the jugular, right? No. No. Instead he called for a spike play, which essentially gave the Ravens a free rest period. It gave the Dolphins one fewer play to work with. Sherman killed the Miami momentum. And it cost them the game.
Coaches have lost their jobs for such ineptness. (Just like Sherman lost his two previous jobs, including being fired from Green Bay after an atrocious 4-12 season as their head coach).
Is there a pitchout in the playbook? A bootleg? A flea-flicker? An end around? A fake anything (fake handoff, a pump fake….any fake at all would be effective). After watching every single play this year, we have seen none of that.
2. Better overall coaching
Sticking with the third-and-an-inch play against the Saints, Thomas did not gain an inch, and the Dolphins were faced with fourth-and-one well inside Saints territory. Coach Joe Philbin opted for a field goal. Against New Orleans. In the Superdome. We’re not sure who Philbin thought he was facing, but you cannot and will not beat the Saints with field goals. He should have gone for it on the fourth down.
3. More accountability
General Manager Jeff Ireland won some premature praise this season, and team owner Stephen Ross even foisted Ireland upon fans further by giving him an extension. But this is a guy who refused to pay Jake Long, and now Miami has the worst offensive line in the league. He refused to pay Reggie Bush, and now Miami is among the worst rushing teams in the league. He let Joe Philbin hire whoever he wanted, and now the Dolphins are stuck with Philbin’s friend Mike Sherman. Even worse, Sherman went out and hired his own son-in-law to be the Dolphins’ QB coach. Excellent teams can get away with a shaky GM and a nepotistic coaching staff. Borderline teams cannot. Ownership can no longer give upper management free reign with no accountability. Why would you extend the contract of a man who has accomplished absolutely nothing? Mr. Ross needs to put someone on the spot.
4. Better offensive line play
Mike Sherman apparently thinks his team has a strong offensive line. Everyone else knows the truth. It is unrealistic and unproductive to have faith in the five starters. That’s simply a sad-but-true fact. The bye week is the perfect time to shake things up. The line is already giving up the most sacks in the league and can’t help their running backs gain an inch on important rushes. Mixing in a new player or a sub cannot possibly hurt. Miami needs to make fans forget Jake Long, not miss him terribly.
5. Stay the course
Yes, this sounds a little out of place in an article that critiques certain components of the Dolphins, but the team is in decent shape and does not need to make sweeping changes…just some adjustments. None of the options we call for above need to be made at once or drastically. The Dolphins can ease in some new plays. Ease in a fresh offensive lineman. Ross and Ireland can meet in private without berating anyone in public. Miami lost to a tough Saints team in the Superdome and lost to the World Champions at home, hurt by some suspect penalties. Things would be different if the losses were to Jacksonville and Oakland. This is not the time to panic. It’s merely time to adjust and to get things corrected. Really get them corrected and not the Joe Philbin “We’ll get it corrected” mantra he’s been saying about the sacks for the past six weeks. If the proper adjustments are made, the Dolphins will be a dangerous team.