This is a little late but I wanna give my take on this team. We as Dolphins fans have once again had our hearts broken. When I call the Miami Dolphins the Dallas Cowboys of the AFC East, I am referring to the fact that whatever the expectations are for the team, they find a way to come up short in the most spectacular way possible. I quote Stephen A. Smith, only because it seems to fit us so well. "They're an accident waiting to happen." Or in this case, the accident that HAPPENED.
We were expected to fight with the Patriots for the AFC East crown, we fell short there. We were then expected to be the favorites for the Wild Card, we blew that too. We were supposed to beat Buffalo easy, we laid an egg. Finally we were supposed to send Geno Smith and the Jets packing like we did earlier in the year...and we came up short.
Where do we place the blame? Who do we look at as the cause of our failures? Is it Ryan Tannehill? The Offensive line? Joe Philbin? Mike Sherman? Jeff Ireland? A strange combination of everything? We could go on and on and on. I'll talk about all of these things, but I hope to try and end on a somewhat positive note. First thing I'll talk about is the aspect I blame more than anything else. The coaching staff.
Seriously...does the man have any other expression than that same blank stare he seems to always have? I've recently been blasting Philbin a lot, accusing him of being too Vulcan-like in the sense that he never shows any sort of emotion on or off the field. Maybe that's unfair, I don't think it is.
What may be a bit of a low blow however is comparing him to his predecessor Tony Sparano...admittedly I myself am guilty of doing the exact same thing, but it isn't baseless when said. One thing that Tony Sparano did well, if the only thing, was motivate his troops. We can make fun of his fist-pumping antics all we like, the fact remains that his team wanted to succeed for him, they liked him and they wanted him to do well.
Philbin on the other hand has given the impression that being the coach is nothing but a business. Show up for work, do your job, and get out. Maybe I'm wrong about that, but the fact that he doesn't seem to have any passion about what he does lends to the idea that he doesn't really want to be here. He is stubborn as a mule and believes he's always right even when he knows in his heart of hearts that he's wrong, which is evidenced by his apparent unwillingness to fix the obvious problem we have at Offensive Coordinator, which is the next thing I'll address.
Chris Perkins of the Sun-Sentinel recently wrote an article stating that the problem with the Dolphins offense is in fact that players, not Mike Sherman. He stated that Sherman's hands were tied due to the lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball. He blamed the Offensive Line. Fine, I'll buy that. Everything else is where it begins to get a little sketchy.
He stated that Brian Hartline and Charles Clay were good, Mike Wallace was decent, and Ryan Tannehill was decent at best. That depends on what you're looking at, and who you pin blame on. Sherman's playcalling was inexcusable, whoever told Ryan Tannehill to stand in the pocket like a statue and take hits rather than take off and run ala Geno Smith or Cam Newton (how much did mobile QBs kill us this year?) needs to get his head examined. We begged Sherman to call certain plays, and maybe the argument could've been made that with the personnel at our disposal it wouldn't have worked...well we'll never know will we? Since he didn't try. If Tannehill is ruined, I can easily blame it on the coaches who were instructing him.
Speaking of Ryan Tannehill, like it or not folks, he is a dangerous weapon and I believe he can be a Franchise QB...if he's allowed to use all of his skills. We don't have enough fingers and toes to count how many times we were yelling at the TV, begging Ryan Tannehill to take off and run instead of standing pat in the pocket and letting the pass-rush eat him alive. He was a Wide Receiver in college, he has good speed, and let's not forget that 48 yard scamper he had using the read-option against the Pittsburgh Steelers...in the snow!
But no, according to Mike Sherman, he wanted Tannehill to be recognized as a pocket-passer, not as a runner...um...runners are dangerous Mike Sherman. If you're worried about him getting hurt, then you're nuts...how many times have I said that now? Whatever. The point is, Tannehill got sacked 58 times...he got hit and knocked down in the wrong direction more times than any QB in Dolphins history, my thinking is this: if he's going to get hit anyway, shouldn't he get hit going FORWARD?
Not everything Ryan Tannehill does is necessarily good though, we as fans have all fallen victim to Tannehill's apparent inability to throw the deep ball to our top Free Agent acquisition Mike Wallace...and yet...you have to wonder something. Is it really as simple as Tannehill just can't throw the deep ball and that's that?
Something that needs to be taken into consideration is this: Tannehill was able to connect with Hartline, Matthews, and Clay...and he probably did it to Gibson at least once although I can't remember when, but something about Mike Wallace just seems to be throwing Tannehill for a loop. I would give that connection one more year before we call it a bust. I remember one person here making a comment that I thought was hysterical...have Dan Marino take Tannehill and Wallace into the practice bubble, lock themselves in there and don't come out until they've figured it out. That's the mentality the Dolphins need to have this upcoming offseason with those two.
Tannehill has poise, he usually doesn't let himself get rattled after failures (excluding the last two games where the whole dang team seemed to give up), he has an arm believe it or not, and he's usually very accurate. His biggest problems are his timing with the deep throw, his getting his passes batted down at the line of scrimmage, and he's been coached NOT to use his legs even though he clearly could be one of the better running QBs in the NFL. If those problems get fixed, we WILL have a potent passing game.
But Ryan's gonna need some help, and after what we saw this year...I'm torn. Both Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller showed flashes of what they could be, but they also showed a lot of what they couldn't be. I watched as opposing teams handed the ball off to their runningback, and they would proceed to literally run over our defense. Bouncing off would-be tacklers like they were nothing and always seeming to be able to get that extra inch. We did not have that capability.
I watched Lamar Miller get knocked down after one hit way too many times...at one point I saw a defensive linemen literally grab Miller by the waist and pull him down to the ground, "C'mere boy, where do ya think you're going?" Lamar Miller is a lot like Reggie Bush, like it or not. He's got great speed, but he won't break many tackles for you. I would venture to say that if we had retained Reggie, he would've done no better than Miller or Thomas.
Here is why. What did we see this year? The same exact things we saw in the Reggie Bush years. No creativity, no usage as a screen receiver, no slot usage...so he was a pure run-out-of-the-backfield runningback, just liked we used Reggie Bush. I can understand why we would be upset, I am too, for different reasons than talent however. Reggie is succeeding in Detroit...but look at why.
In 2011 and 2012, Reggie caught 43 and 35 passes respectively for 296 and 292 yards...what has Reggie done as a receiver this year? Playing only 14 games, he caught 54 passes for 506 yards...mind you, his rushing stats didn't change much. Why is he dangerous now? Because he was used as a creative weapon, not a one-dimensional rusher. If Miller had been used that way, we wouldn't be clamoring for Reggie Bush. Here's looking at you Sherman...AGAIN.
As for Daniel Thomas, he hasn't proven to be the bruiser he was supposed to be. He too has easily gotten tackled by defenders. He wasn't man-handled like Miller was, but Thomas didn't fare much better. He seemed to suddenly mean business in that Pittsburgh game, but then he went back to his mediocre self...and as much as it pains me to say it, he probably did enough in the FO's eyes to earn one last chance here in Miami...again.
Thomas is not a good rusher, he gets hurt too easily, and he doesn't look like he's getting any better. Would he look better with a better O-line? Maybe. But he won't look good enough. If we're looking for runners in Free Agency, I am looking to add LeGarrette Blount from the New England Patriots, who absolutely dominated that Buffalo Bills team we laid an egg against, 24 attempts for 189 yards and 2 TDs with 7.9 yards per carry? I'm convinced, Blount is just what the doctor ordered.
As for our WR core...where to begin? I guess I'll start with Mike Wallace. He did more than it looked like he did this year, and I've conceded to that. Wallace drew the double-coverage in the secondary and kept the defenses honest with his speed and potential to suddenly break free on a big play. The only problem is...he did a lot of bad stuff too. He dropped passes that were right on his hands, and he didn't fight with defenders for jump-balls, instead allowing them to either knock it away or pick it off. To be fair, Wallace isn't the biggest guy out there like a Brandon Marshall or a Calvin Johnson, and he did get better about catching the ball when it was thrown to him as the season progressed. But as I mentioned above, if the full Mike Wallace impact is to be felt here in Miami, he and Tannehill are going to have to figure out a way to make that deep-ball work.
As for Brian Hartline, he did what he always does. He was Tannehill's go-to receiver and answered the call when it was made. He's got velcro hands and is a master at staying in-bounds near the sidelines...save for that one awful game in Buffalo where it looked like his hands were repelling footballs instead of attracting them...if anyone has an explanation I'd be glad to hear it, but I'm pretty sure that game was an aberration and nothing more. Hartline will be back next year despite his injury and he'll be ready to go for his 3rd consecutive 1,000 yard receiving year.
Then there's Brandon Gibson who was also hurt earlier in the year. He was turning out to be a very viable slot-man that made the loss of Davone Bess (who ironically enough is struggling a bit in Cleveland) more bearable to us as spectators. He made the efforts, he was able to catch touchdowns and he helped Tannehill keep the defenses honest down the middle. Who knows what we could've done with him still in? Not that it matters now. Next year however...
I won't bother with a picture of our reserves, but we know they've managed to step up and make somewhat of an impact in the absence of Gibson. Rishard Matthews is making a strong case to be the #4 receiver next season, and I'm sure he and Armon Binns will be battling it out for a roster spot. Marlon Moore came in and once again proved himself to be a special teams stud and a serviceable emergency WR who knows the offense and was able to get the job done. Depth wise, we're ok in the WR corps, the only failure there was on the playcalling and the uncreative formations...
Ahem...at any rate...Tight Ends?
We signed Dustin Keller to be a threat as a receiving Tight End, and he proceeded to tear just about everything in his leg thanks to a low blow (literally if not figuratively) by DJ Swearinger of the Houston Texans. Personally, I would like to see Keller get another chance with us, but that's not the point of this post.
Charles Clay stepped up big time in Keller's absence and made a case to be one of the top 15 TEs in the NFL, maybe even top 10. He's one of the huge bright spots of a season filled with drama and heartache. After two seasons of playing behind Anthony Fasano, Clay took the opportunity thrown his way and truly earned his spot as an NFL TE. All that's left for him to learn is block, and maybe run as a Fullback, and he'll be a weapon to be gameplanned for if he isn't already (and according to Bill Belicheck, he is). Now all that's left is to find a TE who can be the Hernandez to Clay's "Gronk". Whether we re-sign Keller or bring in someone else, or one of our young guys whether it be Egnew, Sims, or Miller, the future appears bright as far as Tight Ends go.
Now with all that being said...there's only one thing on the offensive side of the ball left to talk about...
Unfortunately yes, this post wouldn't be complete without a...quick chat about the biggest on-the-field failure on our offense. Our so-called O-line.
I could spend this whole next segment talking about the Martin-Incognito scandal, but I'd get Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Instead, I'll just talk about the line as a whole......they sucked. Mike Pouncey was the only player who was any good, although the argument could be made that the line was somewhat stabilized by the arrival of Bryant McKinnie who took over Martin's spot at LT...oh wait, Martin flipped out one week after that right? He got demoted and snapped...make of that what you will, that's not what I'm here for.
We spent money to bring in Tyson Clabo at RT, and that was an unforeseen mistake. We all thought that Clabo would come in and stabilize the right side of the line, and instead he couldn't handle the zone blocking scheme and ultimately got benched. But once Martin snapped, Clabo was thrust back into the starting lineup and he improved enough to at least save his chances at getting another contract offer from another team.
We've been looking to replace John Jerry forever...but somehow he always makes it into the lineup. He's average, nothing more to say on him. The fact that we can't find someone better, is a problem.
Pouncey is a Pro Bowl Center who had a down year, he'll bounce back, but he needs help.
Incognito was a good guard, but thanks to the scandal, he's likely gone. There was one bright spot that came out of that though. Sam Brenner is showing potential to be a starting Guard which helps us out in next season's draft. I believe in Brenner, I think he can get the job done, I think LG is close to being set.
Jonathan Martin is also gone, he's a non-issue at this point. The wild-card is Bryant McKinnie. Since he showed up, the line appeared to be drastically improved despite the losses of several starters on the line, which means his intelligence on the line and his skills as a Tackle are formidable despite his age. I would bring him back, and work on the right side of the line.
We have our issues on offense, most of which is in front of Tannehill and in Tannehill's ear. If we can take care of those two issues, we will have the potent offense we all thought we could have. Ryan Tannehill has the potential to be a STUD in this league, he needs help though. Even Tom Brady, arguably the best QB in the NFL, has had a fortress of an O-line for years.
Lamar Miller is a good back, he is like Reggie Bush, he just needs to learn what Reggie learned, and be used like Reggie's being used. All we need is a true bruising back, A LeGarrette Blount or possibly a Peyton Hillis could be the key if Mike Gillislee doesn't pan out right away.
Wide Receivers are good, but luxuries are always appreciated by fans. If at all possible, try to convince Anquan Boldin to come into Miami, even as an older WR, he fights for the ball at all times, something we lack in our corps.
Tight End is set with Clay, if we bring in Keller, we'll have a dynamic duo that would make offenses sweat like Gronk and Hernandez used to.
O-Line is the only HUGE issue on offense, and luckily with the other pieces in place, we can focus almost solely on improving that line. I think next year we'll finally be ready to truly unleash.
The only thing standing in our way? An Offensive Coordinator who the NFL has passed by. It's time to call it quits Mike Sherman, your old school ways no longer work in today's NFL.