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The Miami Dolphins benefited from a pass-first mindset on first down

First-year coach Mike McDaniel and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa formed the perfect partnership.

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Miami Dolphins went 27 straight years without a top-10 offense — Mike McDaniel needed just one season to snap that skid.

Despite missing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for more than four games, the Dolphins finished sixth in the league with an average of 364.5 yards per game. Trading for Tyreek Hill from the Kansas City Chiefs helps, but so does Jaylen Waddle leading the league in yards per catch. In fact, the Dolphins were one of the best teams at avoiding three-and-outs.

“You wouldn’t believe the calls and texts... from players that he had connected with over the years, former players at his former teams. Agents calling us just about the relationships that he’s built over the years and how respectful he was in terms of guiding those players through adversity and things like that,” Chris Grier said when the franchise signed McDaniel last February. “It was a clear choice. I mean you guys have heard everything about Mike – his intelligence, his passion, his work ethic.

“The people who have met him in this building over the last 48 hours have all talked about the energy level and how he is.”

Tagovailoa and Miami’s offense turned the corner due to McDaniel’s forward-thinking playcalling. The Dolphins ranked fifth in terms of passing the ball on first down at 64.80 percent of the time, trailing just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (70.27 percent), Kansas City (66.32 percent), Los Angeles Chargers (66.22 percent), and New York Jets (64.97 percent).

While the Dolphins were eighth last season by passing the ball on first down 63.38 percent of the time, Tagovailoa ranked No. 24 in the league with an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. However, with McDaniel, that number ballooned to a league-leading 8.9 yards per passing attempt.

Keep in mind that this was McDaniel’s first season calling plays in the NFL. With a year under his belt, it’s hard to imagine that he doesn’t raise the offense’s ceiling in year two.