That looked familiar. I feel like we talked about this. Establish a running game, take more chances deeper down the field earlier in the game, and put our players in the best position to succeed. You know, basics. Alas, it doesn’t seem like Brian Flores’ coaching staff are big Phinsider readers. Maybe I’ll send them a subscription for Christmas.
The coaches are having a meltdown
I’ll try not to write an entire article’s worth of content in this section, but it’s by far the most obvious weakness we’re suffering from right now. Note that I didn’t say the only weakness, just the most obvious. Last year’s disciplined group of fighters is quickly becoming a heavily penalized group of we-seem-weirdly-okay-with-losing-ers. I didn’t notice a lot of guys trying to light a fire under their teammates throughout the bewildering loss to the previously winless Colts. I don’t know if the coaches are overthinking, underthinking, or maybe not thinking at all, but for two weeks in a row we’ve called a borderline useless gameplan on offense until we’re so up against it that we had no choice but to push the ball downfield. What do you know? Throwing deep to our deep play threats can work. Naysayers will argue that the Colts slackened their defense because it was ‘garbage time’, but the contested catches being made were still against tight man coverage, meaning there’s no reason whatsoever they couldn’t have worked just as well in the first quarter. Or second. Hell, I’d even take the third. The offensive line gave Brissett a respectable pocket often enough to look beyond the nearest underneath player (they surrendered three sacks, but looked at least on par with their performance at Las Vegas). The coaches are either too scared to make mistakes, which you think 1.5 years of Fitz at QB would have gotten them over, or our players can’t run any plays over five yards. Except it can’t be the latter because I’ve seen them do it. This isn’t a case of such an extreme lack of talent that the staff has no choice but to play three-inches-and-a-cloud-of-sadness football. Most of the same personnel was here last season, particularly in the pass caching department. They’re capable of moving the ball through the air. It’s happened two weeks in a row this very season, but both times far too late in the game. Throw it to Parker deep. Throw it to Gesicki deep. Throw it to Waddle deep. Design rub routes like every other team in existence. Challenge the defense, push them back, and then start leaning on the run game. Give Myles Gaskin the ball. He had two touches this week. That’s criminally stupid. The offense is anemic, so instead of being too turtley for the Turtle Club, we need to be more aggressive with playcalling in all aspects. Throw downfield on offense, pressure the opposing QB on defense, and take the chances you’re given to score points. Speaking of which:
Jason Sanders is being wasted
There’s not much to say on this. Three times in three weeks (maybe more, I’ve lost the will to count) we’ve opted to not let Sanders try a ~55 yard field goal. This despite him probably being our best weapon. Last year Sanders was 36/39, including 8/9 from 50+ with a long of 56. So when he has an opportunity to help a depressing offense be 3 points less depressing, let’s trot him on the field, pretend to kick, take a delay of game, and punt. WHAT IS HAPPENING. Have our opponents snuck a mind flayer into Hard Rock Stadium? Because...
Decision making across the entire organization is baffling
From top to bottom, it’s starting to feel like the Dolphins are winning a good ol’ fashioned slobberknocker against common sense. Here’s an abbreviated (I know) list of decisions that have been or are currently being made that spit in the face of reason:
- Run the ball more than 20 times in either of the last two games? Ridiculous. That means we’d have to give Myles Gaskin more than two (2!) carries.
- Throw the ball more than 5 yards downfield before we’re losing by at least two scores? What do we look like, a mid tier or better high school team?
- Send Jerome Baker, last year’s sack leader at linebacker, toward the quarterback? Please, he’s busy floating around aimlessly in coverage.
- Use deep threat Jaylen Waddle anywhere beyond the line of scrimmage? No thanks. We traded up to take him 6th overall so we could get him the world record for lowest YPC.
- Try anyone else at punt returner knowing that Jakeem Grant is as likely to fumble as he is to bring it back for a big gain? It’s not like we’ve got a seems-to-be-total-bust Noah Igbinoghene who’s practiced returns before sitting inactive on game days.
- Move Liam Eichenberg to LT so Austin Jackson can stop missing blocks and killing drives with penalties? We prefer to let Jackson struggle and never get a breather to try to reset his career. Plus, guys need to be MulTiPLe instead of, you know, good.
- Extend our top pass rusher (Emmanuel Ogbah) and top tight end (Mike Gesicki) before they hit free agency? Our philosophy is to reward our most motivated and top performing players with nothing. Continuity, leadership, and production are for winning teams.
- Stop leaking rumors about chasing other teams’ quarterbacks while ours is on IR? Please, that would show support for our draft pick. We like to see our players in a constant state of flux and mentally anguished over their future at all times.
This kind of decision making sends the message to your players that the coaches have a plan that they’re sticking to, common sense, analytics, individual effort, results, and desires be damned. That might work when you’ve got a few Superbowls under your belt, but not in your third year of head coaching ever. I’m afraid we might end up in a world with players who’ve long stopped believing in the coaches and simply start playing for a paycheck before jumping at the first opportunity to catch a ride out of town. Flores looked to have instilled a positive culture and he needs to do everything he can to get it back.
Deshaun Watson might become more than talk
I really don’t want to wade into this, but reality is leaving me little choice. Stephen Ross is 81 and wants a Superbowl, so after this week’s debacle, no amount of swinging for the fences will surprise me. I’ll summarize my thoughts (hopefully briefly) by looking at the situation from three angles:
The legal side: No one but the people directly involved know anything from the legal perspective yet. Innocent until proven guilty is still the rule and nothing has been proven to this point. That being said, I personally find it incredibly unlikely that more than twenty accusers all amount to nothing. On that likelihood alone, I’d be very wary about how I approached bringing Watson onto my team if I were a GM.
The NFL discipline side: Similar to the legal side, no one knows anything for certain here either. The difference between the legal side and the NFL discipline side, however, is that the NFL isn’t a judicial operation; it’s Roger Goodell fadoodling around doing whatever the hell he wants. There’s a very real possibility that Watson would be placed on the Commissioner’s Exempt list if he were traded to a new team and attempted to play. Again, it’s a risk I would hedge against if I were a GM.
The football side: This angle is the clearest. Watson is a better quarterback than either Brissett or Tua. There’s certainly the possibility that Tua blossoms and leaves him in the dust, but we won’t know until Tua gets to play more. As of this moment, there’s no arguing against it: from a purely on-field football perspective, Watson is an upgrade. Is he a significant upgrade when factoring in our porous line and putrid playcalling? It’s hard to say until he tries to play with those obstacles in front of him. Is he a significant enough upgrade to take on the risks associated with signing him? I wouldn’t consider anything to do with him unless the details of the deal included offset language around his potential to be investigated and/or disciplined by both the NFL and real law enforcement. I would hope our front office would take the same risk conscious approach, but based on how they’ve been acting lately (read: the last few decades), I fear we’re going to watch many early round picks fly away to Houston in exchange for a quarterback who doesn’t see the field this year (or absolute nightmare case, ever again). I know Ross likes his splash signings, but this one would need to come with a really beefy poncho.
We’re going to get smacked by the Bucs
Did you all know Tom Brady played in New England this weekend? It’s crazy, because it totally snuck up on me. You’d think someone would have mentioned it sometime before kickoff. Besides that (and I had to look this up to verify it, so I’m sure it’s true), did you know he used to play for the Patriots? I couldn’t believe it either. Just magnificent television all around.
The Bucs are better than us by a lot. We aren’t showing much of anything at the moment. Tua’s back the week after Tampa Bay and Brissett knows it. I expect a frankly unwatchable game this week. I know that’s more pessimistic than others might be and it’s certainly more pessimistic than I like to be, but if the Dolphins want me to start believing in them again, there’s a pretty simple solution: be better.
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