The Miami Dolphins 2 weeks ago were 8-6 and in the driver's seat for an AFC playoff spot, in control of their own destiny with two sub-0.500 teams standing in their path.
Today, the Miami Dolphins are 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Teams win and lose games, so an 0-2 skid to finish the year implies failures by numerous people.
The defense, for example, made a number of mistakes the past two weeks against less-than-stellar quarterbacks, allowing 19 points against the Buffalo Bills and 20 points against the New York Jets. However, the defense has largely escaped blame because of how terribly the offense has performed the past two weeks. The offense scored 0 points against the Buffalo Bills, and they had 10 drives end with a punt, and 2 drives end with interceptions (both thrown by Matt Moore). It's safe to assume that had the offense sustained at least a couple of drives against a Bills defense that finished the year ranked only 20th in points allowed per game (far from elite), the defense wouldn't have been on the field the entire game and would have allowed fewer points.
Likewise, the Dolphins offense scored just 7 points against the New York Jets defense, which finished the year just 19th in points allowed per game, and the Dolphins had 5 drives end in punts, 3 drives end in interceptions, and 1 drive end with a failed fourth down conversion. Again, safe to assume that if the Dolphins offense had managed to accomplish more than just 1 scoring drive, the defense would have allowed fewer than 20 points. While the defense could use work, the Dolphins defense finished the year 8th in the NFL in points allowed per game, allowing just 0.7 more points per game than the heralded Arizona Cardinals defense. By contrast, the Dolphins offense has finished the year ranked 27th in average yards per game and 26th in average points per game (bottom-6 in both categories), so it's clear which side of the ball desperately needs more improvement.
Immediately after the loss to the Jets, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald reported that several Dolphins players believed offensive coordinator Mike Sherman "will and should be gone." Today, NFL.com has published a report by Ian Rapoport claiming that quarterback Ryan Tannehill has told people close to him that he's lost faith in offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
This report, if true, has a number of implications:
1. Ryan Tannehill has known Mike Sherman since college, when Sherman was Tannehill's head coach at Texas A&M. Tannehill is much closer to Sherman than any other Dolphins player, so if Sherman has lost the confidence of Tannehill, then this indirectly supports Beasley's report of player dissatisfaction with Sherman. If Tannehill thinks Sherman is outmatched, then it's not difficult to imagine other players feeling the same way.
2. This would potentially explain why I believe I saw Ryan Tannehill audible more frequently last game than he had in prior weeks. Some QBs like Peyton Manning run no-huddle offensive systems in which the QB is in charge of signaling the playcall with audibles before most plays. However, the Dolphins became a huddle-heavy team this year after being among the most frequent users of the no-huddle offense in the NFL last year. That philosophy change explains why Tannehill had audibled less frequently this season compared to last season. A quarterback who receives playcalls with teammates in the huddle has less time to spend at the line of scrimmage with everybody (including the defense) lined up before the playclock runs out. That gives a QB less time to audible to certain plays based on what he sees. I haven't rewatched the game against the Jets yet, but at the time, I thought Tannehill was noticeably changing playcalls more frequently, which could be a sign that he had grown frustrated with Sherman's playcalls.
3. This report puts more pressure on head coach Joe Philbin to fire Sherman, as he risks losing the locker room if he fails to do so.
The case for keeping Mike Sherman is that Tannehill (while still a work in progress) showed definite improvement, and based on their pre-season depth chart, the Dolphins offense had to cope with season-ending injuries/suspensions/mental breakdowns of their starting TE Dustin Keller, #3 WR Brandon Gibson, #4 WR Armon Binns, starting LT Jonathan Martin, and starting LG Richie Incognito. A still-developing sophomore quarterback and the loss of key players at WR, TE, and OL limited the offensive coordinator's ability to lead a successful offense.
The case for firing Mike Sherman is that all teams have to deal with injuries, Sherman sabotaged the offense with questionable playcalls at times (abandoning the run when it's working, failing to incorporate basic plays like screens and draws into the offense until late in the season), and the Dolphins offense finished bottom-6 in the NFL in total offense and points per game. When the offense finishes barely ahead of teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, it's frankly hard to do worse with a new offensive coordinator. Last but not least, players apparently have lost faith in the coach, which doesn't bode well for Sherman's ability to lead them in the future.
Joe Philbin was asked if Sherman would be back next year, and Philbin refused to answer the question directly, simply saying that Sherman is an "excellent football coach." So what would you do?
And if you choose to fire Sherman, who would you want to replace him given the other coaches possibly available? We'll have a better sense of all the options in a couple of weeks, but for now, names floating around as available include Gary Kubiak, Rob Chudzkinski, Kyle Shanahan, etc.
Hat tip: <a href="http://www.sbnation.com/users/cnog4" target="new">cnog4</a>