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Mike McDaniel dissects one of Miami’s greatest weaknesses

Why can’t the team get anything going on third and short?

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Miami Dolphins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins lead the league with an average of 8.3 yards per pass attempt. Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle is first in the league with an average of 18 yards per reception and Tyreek Hill holds a league-best 3.47 yards per route run.

Raheem Mostert averages 5.8 yards per carry since December began and the team added fullback Alec Ingold. adding another layer to the offense. With all this said the question still remains — why do the Miami Dolphins struggle in short-yardage situations?

“Last in the league,” coach Mike McDaniel said when talking about third down plays with three or fewer yards to go. “So here’s the thing. You’re trying – 100 percent of the play calls, 100 percent of the game plans; I really, really want them to work so the reason why I know that we’re last in short yardage is because I live it. You attribute it to a lot of different things. You’re trying to problem-solve. That’s the way I look at everything, but the bottom line is you have to keep chopping wood to figure it out because that’s your job. I think at the end of the day, there’s a lot of quick fixes.

“I’ll just say that the one thing – and so I have a ton of regrets about play calls that they didn’t work, but really what I hold myself accountable for and I feel 100 percent convicted in is that were those calls made for the right reasons at the time with the information? If you’re doing it because you’re afraid of the result, if you’re doing it because people are annoyed that you’re maybe – okay, we’ve passed the ball a lot on third-and-1 and they haven’t worked, so it’s probably pretty annoying as a fan. “

The Dolphins control their own fate with a record of 8-6 and rank ninth in the league with an average of 24.6 points per game. While quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is having a career year. third and short has baffled Miami for most of the season.

“I think it’s annoying when we don’t get first downs, ‘ McDaniel said. “But at the same time – and I learn from every single one of them – but in the moment I think it’s incredibly important as your position as a head coach to have integrity in your decisions. Shame on me if I’m doing something because it’s the easy way out, but I fully know every time that we put a play in, I make a play call; I know exactly what it is. Guess what? There’s always a risk, but I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to do it, so I have to do it the right way, which I can honestly say for the whole season, all those failed third-and-1s that I thought I was doing the thing that was best for our team at the time, which means I was wrong a lot. But I know that I did so with all information that I could possibly get, as much preparation. Those are the things I really worry about and then I try to fix the problem.

“I take that super serious and I’m not going to put it on players and I know that it needs to get better for us to win football games in big-time moments. Does that mean that on the next third-and-1 that it’s going to be a run play? If that deep down, I know this to be the best chance for us to get the first down with the decision, and that’s the only reason I’ll do whatever. I have a hard time putting it on anybody else but really the play calls for that ranking. We have, I think, third-and-7 to third-and-9, we might be first. That makes no sense. So clearly we have people that can make plays and you don’t have to worry about whether or not I critically assess each and every play call without a doubt, and I know run or pass, the idea is that the team needs us to stay on the field and so we need to do a better job collectively and it starts with me.”

Despite the frustrating scenario, it’s hard not to enjoy McDaniel’s thorough response featuring the decision-making process. The offense will again be put to the test this Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, who rank No. 12 in the league with an opponent third-down conversion rate of 38.04 percent.

Kickoff between the Packers and Dolphins is slated for 1 p.m. on Christmas Day at Hard Rock Stadium.