After a disastrous game against the New York Jets where the Dolphins passed the ball 58 times and only ran the ball 12 times, interim head coach Dan Campbell made the decision to fire offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. There was much tension throughout the course of the season with Lazor, but that seemed to cool off when the Dolphins put in dominating performances against the Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans. However, over the past few weeks, Lazor has continuously abandoned the run game and the whispers that were out there before came back, but this time they were much louder than ever before.
After Campbell reviewed everything on the flight home from New Jersey on Sunday and then after sleeping on it for a few hours, he made the decision to move on and give this offense new life with quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor.
"First of all, I made this decision. I looked at everything last night on the plane ride home," Campbell said on Monday. "I did not sleep. I said I didn't sleep, I got a couple of hours of sleep, but I woke up this morning and wanted to make sure that I was making the best decision that I could. I looked at everything and I feel like offensively, we've been anemic for five weeks now. I feel like we've tried to do a number of different things and it just didn't work out."
Some are concerned that Taylor has never called a game in his life and that is rightfully so. Don't tell Taylor that, though, as he believes he is just as prepared as anyone else.
"I've called a thousand games in my head, I can promise you that. Now that doesn't translate to being on the sidelines and calling a game but I am absolutely prepared. This is, as a player you dream about playing in the Super Bowl, as a coach you daydream about calling the Super Bowl. There is no substitute for experience, there is no doubt about that, but I have all the confidence with the staff around me - I have unbelievable guys on offense that are there to help me. However many there are, I believe in every single one of those guys. This is just about me, this is about the players executing, it's about all of us assistant coaches being on the same page putting together the game plan. The words will be coming out of my mouth on Sunday, but it will be a cumulative effort I promise you that."
As Taylor noted, he won't be alone. He will have the advice and guidance of Al Saunders, who joined the staff when Campbell was promoted to interim head coach. He will also continue have the advice and guidance of Ken O'Keefe, who has been around the game for years. Besides those two coaches, he will also have help from Ryan Tannehill, who now has a much bigger role in terms of the game plan and how the actual game plays out.
Previously, Tannehill and the other quarterbacks on the roster had very limited input in the game plan. While Tannehill would suggest things during the game, Lazor didn't always follow through on it.
One of the biggest changes is the fact that Tannehill will have a bit more freedom with audible at the line of scrimmage. This was a contentious discussion over the past several weeks as media and fans alike clamored for Tannehill to have the ability to change plays after scanning the defense. Under Lazor, Tannehill was only allowed to check into a run/pass play, but those plays were given to him in the huddle. Therefore, the formations remained the same and the only thing that would change was whether it would be a run or a pass.
"I'm just excited about being part of the game plan," Tannehill said, per James Walker of ESPN.com. "Working with the coaches Monday and [Tuesday], just being a part of the game-plan process and having my thoughts heard and kind of putting our heads together to create some of the things we want to do, it's been fun so far."
However, for those expecting Tannehill to become the next Peyton Manning or Tom Brady when it comes time to changing plays, you are going to have to wait a bit longer as Campbell said that they aren't going to be doing it on a consistent basis.
"There's things that we're going to be able to do, that we are going to do," Campbell said in a press conference earlier this week. "We're not going to live in that world, but we have a few plays where Ryan's going to have the luxury to get us to the best option available."
Additionally, for those expecting the offense to look completely different, that's not going to happen either. One reason is that it impossible to change an entire offensive scheme and system with just five weeks remaining. Another reason is that the players the Dolphins currently have are built for this system, for better or worse. While the Dolphins will run the ball much more than they did under Lazor, they still want to see the same type of progressions and concepts, such as Tannehill staying in the pocket and not looking to run with the ball more often.
"We've always done it, you'd rather - if you have a drop back, you'd want to see him, let's say it's a five step drop, hit his fifth step and rip the ball, let go and if it's not there throw it to your check down," Campbell said. "I don't want to see him run. Now, if we're on third down and they're playing cover two man and it's not there and the void is open in the middle then absolutely, but a lot of people don't play us in cover two man because they know Ryan can run. I'm not looking for him to bail out; I'm looking for him to get back there, plant, throw. It's either completion, incompletion or a check down that's what we're looking for."
This one is easy to debate as things tend to happen when the quarterback takes off with the ball. Historically speaking, though, the teams that win are the teams that have quarterbacks that stand in the pocket and deliver the football. It's always good to see Tannehill making plays happen with his legs, but if it becomes too much of a common occurrence, it's not good for the offense as a whole. With a quarterback running constantly, it opens up injury concerns and also can bring on fatigue as the game heads into the second half of play.
That worry about injuries and fatigue is also a reason why the Dolphins haven't always employed an up-tempo attack on offense. If the offense sputters on three downs throughout the game, it means the defense doesn't have a good amount of time to rest and catch their breath. Like a quarterback running throughout the game, this can open up injury concerns.
That's why even with Lazor gone, the Dolphins still won't make the up-tempo offense a staple in their weekly attack.
"I think there is a time and place for it," Campbell said. "To me, we've got to find a way and I don't know if I'm going to answer your question by saying this, but to me we have to find a way to become more of a physical offense, more of a physical presence and, however, we establish that, that's what I'm looking for. To me, I don't think we scare anybody in the AFC East and that bothers me. We need to find a way, even if it is two yards and a cloud of dust, if it brings a little thump, a little attitude I think it may be worth it."
Ultimately, in the end, this move was about making Tannehill comfortable and giving him all the tools necessary to become a successful quarterback and prove over the last five weeks of the season that he has been hindered by Lazor. He is the quarterback of the team and one that should have complete command of the offense that he is expected to run on game day.
"He's got ownership in it as well," Campbell said. "I think it's like anything else. If you have an idea and you're willing to step up on a table for it, you're going to do everything it takes to make it work. ... I'm a big believer that your quarterback should have influence on what he likes and what he doesn't like in the game plan."
This column was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter! Follow @FinsInsider