The Miami Dolphins new coaching staff was deliberate in their early statements about the state of the team. Head coach Adam Gase, hired to be a "guru" to quarterback Ryan Tannehill, pointed out that he had not had time to study Tannehill's game before the coach was introduced at his initial press conference. After a few weeks of tape study, the coaching staff seems a little more open to talking about Tannehill, and what they will be looking for from him.
The team introduced new offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen on Thursday, and he opened up about what he has seen from Tannehill in game film, and during a brief breakfast.
"I really enjoyed watching him," Christensen said. "I haven't seen him a bunch. I visited with him and his wife when I came in for the interview, and I had a great breakfast with them and as much you can do in an hour there. I've been extremely impressed with him. He's been extremely productive and he's played some awfully long stretches of good football. He seems like a guy that has all of the things that you're looking for. A guy who wants to be good, who has it in perspective and [I'm] really looking forward to seeing him on the field a little bit."
Christensen went on to explain that the relationship between an offensive coordinator and quarterback is critical, because quarterback is the loneliest position on the field. "From every level of coaching that I've ever been at and especially this level, I think that's a lonely position," Christensen explained. "That's a lonely position in this league. It's lonely in the locker room, it's lonely on the street, it's hard to find friends and it's just a unique position. I've always felt like the number one job that I have is to be an ally, to be a safe place where a guy can talk and communicate and have a relationship where you can bounce things off and generate ideas. I've always thought the quarterback position is unique that way and I've always approached it that way."
What will the new offense look like under Christensen and Gase, who will retain the offensive play calling as a head coach? According to Christensen, the goal would be to have a no-huddle, up-tempo type of offense, similar to what the Indianapolis Colts, where Christensen was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. "I really enjoyed those years in Indy when we were aggressive," Christensen explained. "We were no huddle and the players had fun. That's a big thing, that the players enjoy the system. It's hard to keep players interested and it keeps getting harder and harder to keep players interested. I think the no-huddle and this style of play where you're mixing it up and you have the ability to...I think Chicago last year led the league in time of possession...but you're also taking shots and there's kind of new stuff and you're keeping them stimulated. I would say this is the way I like to play. We did it for an awful lot of years in Indy and it's kind of fun. There is always something new. There are always new codes, there are always new concepts and it's a wide open, you spread them out, and you still can pop some runs in there, etc. But I do, I like this style of play."
Christensen did not talk just about Tannehill. He also mentioned the connection he has with Gase, "It's kind of a fun challenge for me and also just to support a young coach who's getting his first crack at the head job. I believe in what he believes in, I believe in how he treats people. I believe in his philosophy and it was a chance for me to come in kind of as a seasoned guy, an old guy and be a part of that."
The two coaches first met when Manning moved from the Colts to the Denver Broncos, and from Christensen to Gase, who was the quarterbacks coach and later offensive coordinator for Denver. "Peyton left Indy and went to Denver and Adam was the quarterback coach, so we had multiple conversations just offensively and drill work and dealing with Peyton," Christensen explained. "We kind of started a professional relationship that way that kind of turned into a friendship and kind of kept going in both areas. We just talked a lot of football and enjoyed the more you're around Peyton and his uniqueness. The Manning stories were certainly fun to sit at the combine and share and exchange. He is really a sharp young guy who's fun to talk ball with. His mind is always going and I really enjoy that. And I'm looking forward to more of that here."
"They have some playmakers and there is some youth," Christensen said of the offense as a whole. "It's a young team and it seems to me it's a hungry culture. They want to win. I look at it they've kind of been a .500 bunch and we've got to go find a way to win two, three more games and get up to that 10 or 11 and get ourselves in the playoffs and anything can happen. I think it's going to be a great challenge, but there are some good young players, which is always fun. We'll have to fill in some gaps and just keep developing and I think we can get there."
Miami's offense struggled throughout the year, in part because of a lack of commitment to the running game from former offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. The offensive line struggled all season to open running lanes and to pass block, despite a Pro Bowl left tackle in Branden Albert and a Pro Bowl center in Mike Pouncey. Tannehill has been sacked more in his four seasons than any other quarterback in the league, but he has not missed a game over that span. The Dolphins have talent, including wide receivers Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, running backs Lamar Miller (if he is re-signed) and Jay Ajayi, along with Tannehill, Pouncey, and Albert. It will be up to Christensen to now find a way to turn those individual talents into a high powered offense.