For the first time in months, Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano met with the media in a formal Q&A session yesterday at the NFL league meetings. A number of topics were touched on. But I found talk about the new offensive scheme - and whether or not it's really different - the most interesting part of the discussion.
Even though former offensive coordinator Dan Henning and new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll are branches off of the same coaching tree, their offensive systems are different - or so Sparano claims.
"No, it’s not really similar," said Sparano yesterday. But that doesn't mean his primary offensive philosophy will change heading into 2011. Running the football is in Tony's blood - and a change at offensive coordinator will not change that.
"We're going to continue to run the football because that's my nature," added Sparano. "That might not be popular with everybody but that's what I like to do. So we're going to continue to run the football. It might look a little different the way we go about doing it."
I like a man who sticks to his guns. After all, if Sparano is going to go down, he's going to go down being true to himself and his beliefs. It is his job on the line - not ours. And though many fans want the Dolphins to become more of a passing team, that's just not Sparano's style.
This isn't to say that the offense won't open up some. I highlighted back in January that Daboll is a more aggressive play-caller and is willing to spread the field far more often than Henning used to. For example, Daboll chose to go four wide on 41% of his called pass plays while Henning only went with four or more receivers on 20% of his pass plays. Right there, that should tell us something.
"When it comes time to open some things up, I think we'll be able to do some more things and challenge them," said Sparano yesterday. "I think we're going to be a little more vertical. Brian is a really aggressive guy by nature. And I'm excited with Brian and some of the parts that we have."
Addressing the running back position
Sparano made it clear that he intends to keep the Dolphins a run-first team. That's hard to do, though, when you don't have any running backs - at least, any with significant experience or significant upside. And Omar Kelly does a superb job of digesting everything Sparano said - or didn't say - and attempting to come to some kind of conclusion.
In a nut shell, Kelly concludes that Sparano would prefer to go the free agent route and sign at least one of the better veteran backs and then complement the vet with a younger back from the draft. One thing we know for sure is that Tony fully intends to have at least a two-back rotation - as he has had since coming to Miami in 2008.
"I don’t think that there’s many coaches in this room right now that will tell you they just want one back," said Sparano. "I don’t think that’s going to happen, even with the teams that have the great backs. Last year, and my first couple of years we had two really good runners. You need them. It’s too hard of a position, too physical a position."
Notice that Tony uses the term "had" when referring to the two running backs - Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams - he's coached here since coming to South Florida. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I'm beginning to think it's rather likely that neither will be back in Miami in 2011.
With that said, look for the Dolphins to potentially double up on running backs in the draft - especially if free agency is delayed until after the NFL Draft in late April.