Cam Cameron couldn’t do it. Neither could Tony Sparano. Joe Philbin? Nope. Adam Gase? Swing and a miss. The Miami Dolphins, in keeping with the league’s focus on offense the past few years, had hired head coaches with an offensive pedigree four straight times, but not one of them could win a playoff game. In fact, of the head coaches who have led the Dolphins to victory in the postseason, every single one of them, Shula, Johnson and Wannstedt, came from a defensive background.
But, as bad as our team’s management has been the past few years, it wouldn’t have mattered who was coaching, or what their background was, you say? Well, we can agree on that much, which brings us to my next point. From the list of bad GM’s and front office personnel the Dolphins have had, Dennis Hickey somehow gets lost in all the vitriol directed at the Mike Tannenbaum’s and Jeff Ireland’s of the world. The Dolphins used to be known for setting NFL records like their 17-0 season in 1972 or Dan Marino’s record setting season in 1984. What the Dolphins are known for these days is having almost completely ignored their defense in the early rounds of the draft in 2014-16, during which they spent an NFL record number of draft picks on the wide receiver position. Hickey was the GM for two of those years. Thank goodness the dreadful ‘DODO’ years (Dolphins only draft offense) are behind us. #BlameTannehill? Hardly. #IgnoreTheDefense would be more like it.
Thankfully, Miami has landed several defensive studs the past few drafts, and has finally hired a guy who apparently believes that defense should be a mainstay, rather than an afterthought, of any successful team. Indeed, whether we’re talking about football, baseball, basketball or hockey, a great defense will shut down a great offense almost every time, particularly in the postseason. In the past fifty years, whenever the team with the number one defense has advanced to the Super Bowl, it has lost only twice, the most recent time four years ago, when the Seattle Seahawks foolishly threw a pass from the one yard line, when they could have simply run the ball in for winning touchdown.
What makes all of this even more puzzling is that it would seem to be much easier to put together a dominating defense than an offense that scores 35-40 points a game, since building a great defense doesn’t lean heavily on any one player. As I’m reminded here on a daily basis when I read through the comments on the various articles, “the quarterback is the most important position on the team”. That may be true, but it will never be more important to score points than it is to stop the other team from scoring them. And of course, with every coach, general manager, position coach and presumably the members of their extended families out looking for franchise quarterbacks 365 days a year, it’s about time the Dolphins tried something different than the approach they’ve employed the past few seasons.
Enter Brian Flores, whose defense held the vaunted Los Angeles Rams offense to just three points in last month’s Super Bowl. I think his stated preference for multiple defensive fronts, alignments and coverages is exciting, and virtually assures that the Dolphins’ first round pick will a defensive player most of the time, which I believe it should be almost every year. In the first round of the draft, a team should generally be looking to take either the best defender available who fits their scheme, the best offensive lineman or a quarterback, period. The single worst thing a team can do in round one is to take a wide receiver. Would you pay eight hundred thousand for a house when could get a similar place for about half that? That, in essence, is what you’re doing when you select a wide receiver in round one, which is why the New England Patriots have never drafted a wideout in the first round under Bill Belichick. They did trade the 32nd pick in round one for Brandin Cooks a few years ago, but an established player who has produced at the NFL level is not the same thing as an unproven commodity from the college ranks.
In just a few more days, the new league year will begin, and this promises to be an exciting one for Dolphin fans. Let’s all enjoy the ride, wherever it takes us. Have a great week, everybody.