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Five Things I Think I Think About the Miami Dolphins - Super Wildcard Weekend

cheerless (adj) - causing or marked by an atmosphere lacking in cheer; bleak

SPORTS-FBN-DOLPHINS-OFFSEASON-MI Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Nothing like turning off a playoff game with 6:22 left.

The positive effect being that not only was I now available to do other things, but so was Dolphins’ coach Mike McDaniel, who had stopped paying attention right around the Fins’ first offensive drive of the third quarter.

This serendipity allowed for us to finally get together for a long sought after sit down interview.

EgregiousPhilbin: Coach McDaniel, it’s great to finally have a chance for our schedules to sync up and be able to chat.

Mike McDaniel: For sure. I’ve been trying all season to set this up, but you’re a hard guy to get a hold of.

EP: Sorry about that. I just have so much going on between August and January. It’s a rough stretch of the year.

MM: No worries. I’m a huge fan of everything you do, so it’s exciting to finally be here.

EP: Thanks, Mike. You know what they say: it takes a village.

The hint of a purplish tentacle quickly slurmed its way back into the right leg of Coach McDaniel’s clam diggers. I ignored it.

MM: Well, let’s get right down to it. This is probably my only chance, so I’m looking for your advice. You saw the game on Saturday?

‘The Game’ Michael was referring to was the Dolphins vs. Chiefs Wildcard playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 13th. It took place in near record cold and was, as the kids say, a cradle of filth.

EP: I did.

He shifted uncomfortably on his inflatable chair.

MM: And I assume you did not approve?

EP: I did not.

A rueful tear formed in the corner of his left eye.

EP: There, there.

I gingerly patted the top of his straw porkpie hat.

EP: It wasn’t all bad. I mean, the defense managed to keep the defending Superbowl champs and State Farm’s favorite son from scoring a red zone touchdown four times. That’s something. Especially when you consider that they were missing six starters due to injury and Eli Apple was still out there, just being out there like it’s no big deal that he’s still out there.

His eyes were downcast, but I pressed on.

EP: It wasn’t all good either, but I’m sure you know that.

He grumbled incoherently under his breath and kicked a small pebble into the stream.

EP: It still doesn’t seem like anyone has ever suggested to the players that they might want to tackle properly. I think that’d go a long way. And I realize that Vic was effectively forced to send more blitzes than usual since his pass rushers were dudes watching from home five days earlier and that left the middle vulnerable as long as The MVB didn’t panic. But even still, it would have been nice to cover Travis Kelce a little.

Mike let out a squeak and pointed to the Taylor Swift ‘Eras Tour’ shirt corraling his concave chest.

EP: Yes. She would have caught those passes too.

MM: But what about the interior of the defensive line? They did a good job.

EP: Sure, buddy. Except for that brain dead roughing the passer penalty on Christian Wilkins. It’s true, the rule is weak, but the rule is the rule. I say, if you’re going to get the penalty anyway, make it count. Or, you know, just don’t get the penalty.

MM: There was an uncalled hold on that play!

EP: Valid point. And Miami’s defense also got away with some blatant pass interference earlier, so it’s not that much to hang your hat on. Nonetheless, I think the defense did as well as could be expected, given the circumstances. 26 points is a lot, but being down more than half your players is a lot too. I give them credit for gutting it out.

MM: Thanks. That means a lot coming from someone of your unimpeachable prowess.

I looked at him, my Han Solo costume gleaming in the soft light.

EP: I understand.

We stared at one another for a full 32 seconds.

EP: But we need to talk about the offense.

The color drained from his face.

MM: But. But I control the offense.

EP: Yeah. Yeah you do.

He shuffled uneasily on his Heelys.

MM: Well, what about the offense?

EP: Allow me to answer that question with a question: what’s the best way to gain a single yard in the NFL?

McDaniel leapt to his feet, screeching to the sky in a flash.

MM: A SCREEN P—

EP: It’s not a screen pass.

I’d never seen a look of such utter confusion. It was as if one could see his brain matter physically contorting, trying to calculate an impossibility of such magnitude.

He opened his mouth to let a handful of marbles fall to the dirt.

EP: You start one yard away, stay one yard away, and then go one yard forward. That means no sideways passing, no shotgun formation, no pistol into a toss. No starting at one yard and then restarting at eight yards after the snap.

He was starting to short circuit, so I inserted another two quarters in his front pocket.

EP: Watch any other team. Like, good teams. Watch them line up and hand it off or, even more likely, let their quarterback just kind of fall forward. Or, if you really want to feel stupid, watch the Tush Push. In every instance, they have a simple, practically surefire way to pick up short yardage. You need to install that in Miami’s offense.

I snuffed out the last vestiges of flames that had been smoldering in his ears.

MM: If we do something simple, then the defense won’t be confused.

EP: They aren’t confused anyway. They have tape after the first couple of games. You need to be able to convert basic down and distance with simple plays. Plus, having simpler calls might avoid wasting at least one timeout every single game because the play call doesn’t get in on time. Maybe pepper some slants in there every once in awhile? You know, just easy concepts that let your players play without mentally melting down.

Mikey doodled in the dust with a stick, refusing to make eye contact.

MM: I know... Razzle dazzle’s just so cool... Have you seen our timing routes?

EP: I have. And so has everyone else in the world. The offense needs a backup plan. When it can run at full tilt, it’s incredible. But when it gets disrupted, even the tiniest little bit, be that from a defense on its game, injuries to key players, or just some downright frigid weather, there has to be something to fall back on. Forging ahead with the same non-functional operation, pretending that it isn’t being erased, is a fool’s errand. And it gets your ass beat really badly.

McD threw his stick with a start, sending it flying all the way to the other side of his feet.

MM: What’s it even matter? Nobody likes us! Everyone else gets special treatment. The Bills and Steelers got their game moved, but we had to play in the Arctic. The Chiefs had their players in ads nearly every commercial break. The broadcast did segments on Money Mahomes and Steve Spagnuolo’s Electric defense, but nothing on the Fins. Patrick the Frog’s helmet shattered and he didn’t even have to sit out a play! For Dan’s sake, they had a segment on Josh Allen DURING A DOLPHINS/CHIEFS GAME!

He was panting now, damp all over. Like a lemur who’d been spritzed with a spray bottle, like a bunch.

EP: You’re not wrong Mick. The league has its favorites and Miami isn’t one of them. But the best way to become one is to win. They love winners because winners make money. And they love money, more than life itself. The only way to change their minds is to change your outcome.

You have a chance here. You can adapt your system to not be so narrow. You can add some young talent at positions of need who can actually see the field after being taken in the second and third rounds of the draft. You can hire a training staff or EMT crew or witch doctor that can prevent the bulk of your players from being too hurt to play. You can be the change you want to see in the world, Mike.

MM: Are you sure? You really think so?

EP: Of course. You can do all of that. And you can get a punter who isn’t awful at punting too, just whenever the other stuff is done.

McDaniel took off his tortoise shell glasses and wiped away the tears with his chainmail sleeve. Returning them to his eyes, he looked back at me and smiled.

MM: I love you.

I began my slow descent into the carbonite chamber.

EP: I know.

What a terrible end to the year, huh? Guess there’s always next season. Unless time is an illusion and we all get sucked back into the mainframe before then. In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night!