With the head coaching saga behind us and Tony Sparano returning for another season - or three - the Miami Dolphins will now turn their attention to filling the current vacancies on their coaching staff, particularly on the offensive side of things.
Dan Henning is out as the team's offensive coordinator. This was confirmed on Saturday. Today we learned that quarterback coach David Lee will not return as he heads to Ole Miss to be their offensive coordinator, leaving two critical spots that Tony Sparano must fill on his coaching staff. And there probably couldn't be any more pressure on Sparano to find the right guys - particularly the offensive coordinator - to help jump start what was a stagnant Dolphins offense (and that's putting it nicely).
Under Dan Henning, Miami's offense has regressed each year since the unit finished 12th in total offense back in 2008 - the regime's first season here. The offense fell to 17th in 2009 and finished 21st in total offense this past season. The Dolphins averaged only 17.1 points per game this past season as well - the third lowest total in the entire league.
Speaking on the team-run radio program, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross stressed the importance of dramatically improving the offense.
"I’ve told Tony that, to me, I want an aggressive, creative (offense), not playing just to keep it close," said Ross. "A little bit more unpredictable, and opening it up. That’s what I think South Florida wants, and that’s what this climate demands."
"This isn’t the north, where you want to just take it 4 yards and a cloud of dust," Ross added. "I think I look for a different brand. Seeing the Dolphins, how fans want to see them, how we win, we’re going downfield, the days of Dan Marino, the days we all want to go back to."
From what I've read various places, though, it seems like a number of Dolphin fans don't feel that a Tony Sparano team will ever be aggressive. That idea, though, is not based on fact.
The fact is Sparano called plays for a top five offense back in 2006 when he was in Dallas as the offensive line coach and assistant head coach. That year, the Cowboys averaged 360 yards per game (5th in league) and 26.6 points per game (4th in league). And wouldn't you know that the bulk of the offensive production that season for Sparano came through the air. The Cowboys were the 5th ranked passing offense in the NFL. And their average of 8 yards per pass attempt was tops in the entire league.
The idea that Sparano's teams will always have conservative, run-first offenses is simply not true. The thing is, of course, Sparano needs to have the pieces in place to open up the offense. And an aggressive offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach are the first pieces to Miami's offensive puzzle that have to fall into place.
So who might that right piece be for the open offensive coordinator spot? I couldn't tell you. What I can tell you is that the Dolphins plan on interviewing Chargers TE coach Rob Chudzinski, who previously was the offensive coordinator for the Browns in 2007 and 2008 as well as the University of Miami's OC from '01 to '03. In his first season as Cleveland's offensive coordinator, the Browns had a top ten offense that featured a vertical passing attack led by Derek Anderson and his 3700 yard, 29 touchdown season. But that unit took a serious step back in 2008, leading to Chudzinski's departure from the Browns.
The Dolphins will also likely interview Cowboys TE coach John Garrett for their offensive coordinator position. Garrett is the brother of newly named Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. He has the "pedigree" to be a good head coach and is as bright as they come (a Princeton graduate). He's familiar with Tony Sparano as well as Anthony Fasano, who he worked closely with in 2007.
But my personal favorite to be the next offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins - though there are no reports he's even been contacted or considered by the Dolphins - is former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach. Leach is known for his aggressive, creative offensive mind - exactly what this team needs. Leach's offenses have broken a number of NCAA records in the past. And he's turned quarterbacks like Tim Couch, Josh Heupel, and Graham Harrell into prolific college quarterbacks.
Why not give Leach a shot in the pros now?
Maybe I'm crazy, I'll admit that. But the bottom line here is that the Dolphins need to improve on offense. They need to get creative. They need to be aggressive and attack down the field. And it'll be the job of Miami's next offensive coordinator to make it happen.