There have been alot of chicken or the egg arguments around with the GM or Head Coach as who is responsible for this disaster. My opinion is the Coaching was more at stake, but the GM has also been at best average. I have plenty of free time, since we will not be playing in the playoffs, so I will do a series on each position and how we rank (as unbiased as I can be) compared to the AFC. My feeling is if we are in the top 6 on average then the blame lays on Philbin, if not then it rests at the feet of Jeff Ireland.
As we look back we can see (and remember this is subjective to what I saw) that Miami was in the top 6 teams in the AFC in 4 of the 7 positions and ranked outside in the other 3.
You can read more about the QB ranking in the fanpost I did a week or so ago, but here is a quick summary. Tannehill was ranked (by me and according to our poll by the majority of guys on this site) ahead of every QB in the AFC except for the following: Payton Manning, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck, Phillip Rivers and Big Ben. The great news for Phin fans is that 2 of those guys are nearing the end and 2 are past their prime with only Andrew Luck the same age as Tannehill. While Ireland may have failed in a few areas, I feel he finally succeeded in picking a QB in Miami that brings us the chance to compete within the AFC. Advantage Ireland over Philbin in this position.
The running back position I had us 15 of 16 (only because Cleveland traded away their #1 back). I am one that believes a good RB is a must in the NFL. You don’t need to have an Adrian Peterson type back, but you need a guy that can make people miss or run over them. Miami has neither in their backs. While Miller may be a decent (at best) #2 back, if I am GM I get 2 new backs this year and actually think of drafting one. While the Oline gets hammered by fans/media, our backs were equally if not more so the problem in this offense. Ireland definitely failed in this department as all 3 backs we had were his draft choices and they just aren’t NFL backs.
The wide receiver position was the most discussed on this blog. I ranked Miami 5 or 6 in the AFC. Although several people wanted them at 8 (reasonable) and others said 3 or 4. I think the general thought was somewhere around 6-7. Most people pointed out that what we seem to be lacking is a “big” target and that Ireland didn’t find one of those for us. I would argue he found 2 (they just both got hurt) in Dustin Keller and Brandon Gibson. When both of those went out we were hurt more than most people think on offense. While I am not against drafting/signing/trading for a WR, it is very low on my priority list. The TE spot was saved by Charles Clay, but I’d think we need a Dustin Keller type player to pair with him and the new GM won’t be so patient with Michael Egnew. While I’d like to hammer Ireland for the ridiculous amount of money spent here, I think he did what was needed for our offense and give him the edge in this department. It will be interesting to see what a new GM does (to me this spot would not have been touched under Ireland for several years). I want a quick summary so I’ll close this quickly (we didn’t even bring up the Mike Wallace experience).
The offensive line was truly…offensive. It was a disaster before the bullygate and still is. We are a team that can truly say we need 4 new Olineman this year and even have some fans wanting to draft OL in the first 2-3 rounds. While we may argue about how to solve the problem, everyone agrees we have a terrible line right now. Ireland should have seen this coming. When every fan knows about how bad our Oline is before the season and GM/Coaches do nothing it drives me insane. Ignoring the obvious is crazy and Ireland did just that this season. While I also feel the coaching didn’t help this group, they still were not very good.
Defensive line is a bright spot for our team. And even if we lose Solai or Starks we should still be an elite DL. I had us come in at #2 in the AFC (behind Buffalo). The good thing is (if we can re-sign Solai or Starks) that this group should still be dominate for years to come with several younger players. The only concern I had was the fact that we seemed unable to generate a pass rush late in the season, although I think that was due to the fact that we had been on the field most of the game and were worn down against Buffalo and the Jets. Ireland put us in position to be dominate on defense with the talent he gave us on the DL.
Linebackers…ugh. This was the big whiff of Ireland. Bigger than Pat White and others in the draft, because these guys had to start and are still on the books through at least next year. Bigger because he got rid of 2 guys that were better than the ones we brought in. Before we fear all doom and gloom, I do think Ellerbe and Misi are talented guys that can get better in the right scheme (and Misi was actually pretty good). This group lacked coaching and scheme, but more importantly they lacked talent that we had in the spot the year before. Ironically, Ireland missed big on several draft choices (Pat White, Daniel Thomas and several others), but it was his free agent LB’s that I think cost us a playoff birth and thus him his job. I ranked this group at 16 in the AFC (or dead last).
Defensive backs was another tough choice. If your rank our DB’s with a healthy Patterson talent wise alone, I think we are top 2-3. Without him, I think we are still top 6-7. We have a shut down corner, a former pro-bowl safety (who looked bad this year, but I think much was scheme) and a solid FS. This group has some talent (although I also think they are the best coached group on our team) and was good enough to win most games. Ireland took a chance on Grimes and (other than drafting Tannehill and passing on Matt Flynn) it was probably his best move as GM. Advantage Ireland.
If you are keeping score that is Ireland 4, Philbin 3. Now one key ingredient we have not looked at is heart/leadership. I am a high school football coach and have seen several of my “best” teams struggle because they didn’t have this and have had some of my favorite years watching guys that were less talented than their opponents win because they had it. When I watched Miami play I like to look for guys that have heart first, then I look at leadership skills. Here is my observations:
As much as Incognito was a turd, he was our leader on the offensive line like it or not. He played with a ton of heart and made those around him do the same. While Pouncy has heart and effort, I’m not sure he is a guy that will inspire his linemates to keep up with him. Mckinnie (a guy who doesn’t belong in an NFL starting lineup) was the unquestioned leader on the line despite being brought in late in the year and that is not a good sign at all.
In the skill spots our leader is…. I don’t know. I think all the guys play hard (although Wallace takes some plays off, he seemed to get better later in the year) and Tannehill is a tough kid for getting crushed and never complaining. You need a leader in that huddle and that will be Tannehill’s downfall if he doesn’t get it going. They guys are waiting for him to take the reins and next year will be his year to do it.
On defense the heart was evident in the following players: Misi, Wake, Odrick, Solai, Jordan, Grimes, Jones, Clemons, Carroll, Patterson, Ellerbe and Wheeler. We have guys giving great effort on defense. Now as to who the leader is, I am not sure and that is not a good thing. I love Wake and others, but it looked to me like Clemons was the leader most of time and he is a free agent coming up. This is a good group and I think a guy like Ellerbe could become the guy in the future (better up his play if he wants to), but we are looking for a voice on defense.
Bottom line in my opinion is that we had the talent to compete in the AFC. It made me sick to see San Diego advance to where I thought we should have been. So it comes to down to either coaching or leadership on the team. While I admire Coach Philbin as a man and a coach, he seems to need some guys around him that can motivate. This OC hire will have a lot more power than most people think as I feel he must not only be a great X and O guy, but also a motivator and innovator. That is why I’d like a guy like Kubiak, but that is just my opinion.
What I am very excited about this offseason is a new GM and seeing if he agreed with our thoughts as to who had talent and where we are devoid of it. Not just in the obvious areas (upgrade OL and re-sign Grimes), but will he tamper with the WR’s on the team, will he make a move at the LBs? It will be an exciting offseason this year and I think with just a few simple moves and some more growth (remember we are one of the youngest teams in the NFL) we can be a playoff caliber team.