Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores

Miami Dolphins: Team goes backwards with coaching youth movement

The Miami Dolphins are bucking the trend with coaching hires.

The Miami Dolphins have hired two coaches in the past month who are on the older side of things. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is 68, while Steve Marshall, the new offensive line coach, is 63.

I have no problems with either of the hires, aside from the fact that age is an issue for me.

The Miami Dolphins have hired experience

Gailey has a ton of experience. Gailey began his coaching career at Florida State in 1974. He was a graduate assistant back then. Landing his first head coaching gig in 1983 for Troy State, he held the position for two seasons before moving on to Denver. Since then, he has gone through the football ranks rather rapidly, taking on different positions in the process. Most recently, he was the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets in the 2015-16 season.

Marshall has experience in the National Football League as well. He was an assistant offensive line coach from the time the Houston Texans were an expansion team until 2006. In 2006 , Marshall joined the Cleveland Browns. Since then, he has held different positions throughout the National Football League. Most recently, he was the offensive line coach for the New York Jets in 2017. There is a Jets theme to the staff.

Again, there is no doubt they have experience. However, the league is trending in a younger direction when it comes to coaches. That’s what makes me a little bit skeptical about these moves.

Recent coaching hires have gone the younger direction

Take a look at the Carolina Panthers, for example. They hired 30-year-old offensive coordinator Joe Brady for the same position. Brady’s ascent to the position was rapid. He began as a linebackers coach for William and Mary in 2013. He rose through the ranks of football, most recently as the passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach of LSU. He is credited with a ton of offensive success for the Tigers, and his presence helped this year as the Tigers won the National Championship.

From Sean McVay to Josh McDaniels, to even Brian Flores, the league is trending in a younger direction. From analytics to the fact that the NFL is becoming a passing league, the game has changed even since Marshall and Gailey last coached three years ago. Somebody younger might have been a better fit for Miami. I know a huge deal is made about the youth infusion and these young, “Wizkid” coaches. I believe there is something to that, however.

Nevertheless, we’ll have to see how these two do. I hope they do well. In this day and age of younger coaches, I believe that the Dolphins should hire younger coaches to keep up with the times. Even still, we must throw our support behind the coaches.

Dolphins Chris Grier

Fresh Perspective: Potential new cap rules mean Dolphins should spend heavily

Several months ago, I wrote up a massive offseason plan based on both free agency and the 2020 NFL draft. The Miami Dolphins would have gotten star free agents, stud prospects, and a franchise quarterback in it. Not only that, I was about to redo that plan to reflect the confirmed draft positions. However, some new information has caused me to rethink the position I was preparing to take.

Evidently, there’s a real possibility that due to the expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), there will be no cap carryover from 2020 into 2021. This information comes from Jason Fitzgerald at overthecap.com, whose specialty is explaining cap space.

In layman’s terms, any cap space that isn’t used in the current year can normally be rolled over into the next season to use then. That would give the Dolphins more room to spend on new players and extend homegrown talent. But if there will no longer be cap rollover, then where is the incentive to not spend up to the cap?

What it means for Dolphins

As it stands, according to overthecap.com, the Miami Dolphins have nearly $100 million in cap space available for 2020. Obviously, the ideal scenario is that things will continue as if nothing changed and allow teams to continue carrying over cap. But there’s no guarantee that will happen. Fitzgerald suggests that the best thing teams can do now is to put voids and buyback options into player contracts for this upcoming season.

But there’s a problem. No amount of buyback options or voids will be enough for the Dolphins to get to the point where they’ve used up all that would-be wasted cap space. How much money can realistically be spent? Using the plan I created, free agency would still leave approximately $25 million in cap space that would otherwise be wasted. So what are the solutions?

1. Spend More

On top of what was mentioned in the old offseason plan, Miami will need a stud running back. Derrick Henry may leave Tennessee and look for a huge contract after becoming the league’s leading rusher. The Dolphins could pay him and finally have the star they’ve been missing since the days of Ricky Williams in his prime. That makes things even easier, by the way, for whoever is anointed the team’s franchise quarterback.

Also, it might not be a bad idea for Miami to basically buy an elite offensive line altogether. Brandon Scherff, Anthony Castanzo, and perhaps sign Jack Conklin to be the right tackle. Jesse Davis is solid as depth, but he’s not an ideal NFL starter. So, make him depth again. A line of Castanzo, Deiter, Tyler Biadasz (Deiter’s old center from Wisconsin), Scherff and Conklin would be a solid team.

Sign both Yannick Ngakoue and maybe Kyle Van Noy or Arik Armstead to contracts. That would shore up the defensive end spots instantly. By the time the draft class is signed, the Dolphins should be right at the brink of their salary cap. Not to mention, the roster’s talent level will be so elevated by that point, the playoffs should not only be a goal, but an expectation.

True, it feels like a return to what hasn’t worked in the past. However, the reasoning behind it is completely different.

2. Front-Loaded Contracts

This other option would allow the Dolphins to save up cap space for the future while still using it up for 2020. With whatever contracts are signed this offseason, give a huge chunk of the money in the first year. It’s a simple idea, and has been utilized by teams for years. Just, in this case, make it a bit more top-heavy than usual.

It’s hard to imagine there will be any player out there who will turn down $20 million dollars in the first year of a new contract. Sure, the other years will be significantly lower, but instant gratification is a powerful temptation. It also comes with the added benefit of insurance. If a player doesn’t pan out the way they’re expected to, a much lower cap hit the next year means moving on from them should be much easier.

No doubt, it’s a gamble. But playing games with the salary cap isn’t as easy as it looks. It would be a waste to let that money go unspent if it’s going to just disappear.

Now, for all we know, news will come out later that the cap will be rolled over after all. Nothing is set in stone as of yet. But if push comes to shove, and a massive chunk of cash is about to be flushed down the toilet? Miami needs to be ready to seize the moment. Spend big on star players, or front-load deals for one year so the cap will be prepared for 2021.

Teams that are prepared win championships. Teams that get caught looking? Not so much.

Luis Sung has covered the Miami Dolphins for numerous outlets such as Dolphins Wire for six years. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung

Tua Tagovailoa announces that he will enter the NFL Draft.

Pressure Point: Tua presents difficult draft dilemma for Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa, the quarterback of Dolfans fantasies for much of the past year, may well be there for the taking when the Dolphins make their pick at No. 5 in the 2020 NFL draft.

The Dolphins may be wise to take a pass.

What, after the incessant #tankfortua talk and all the offers of selling souls for a chance to select the talented Alabama quarterback?

It’s not only the serious hip injury that required surgery in November that makes Tua a risky pick.

There was the high (right) ankle sprain that prompted a surgical procedure in October. That was the bookend to the same injury and surgery on his left ankle in December 2018.

The latter came on the heels of a sprained knee followed by a quad injury earlier in the 2018 season.

All of which must be of major concern to any NFL team considering investing a top-10 pick on Tagovailoa.

Tua bandwagon an easy ride

It is easy for fans and media to say unequivocally, ‘hell yeah, Tua or bust!’

It can’t be an emotional decision for the Dolphins in the early stages of trying to lay the foundation to break from a long pattern of losing.

A landmark offseason for Miami was assured when Tagovailoa confirmed Monday that he is foregoing his final season at Alabama.

It prompted the immediate assumptions that: 1) Miami is the likely destination for Tagovailoa; 2) The Heavin’ Hawaiian will be the same player that made him the likely first overall pick before he dislocated his right hip Nov. 16 against Mississippi State.

Neither can be verified at this point. But the Dolphins will have a chance at Tua if they want him.

There is no question about the talent or the character. Elite on both counts. Tagovailoa is the model for what any team would want to build around.

The hip injury (dislocated right hip and posterior wall fracture) was the game changer, though. It is a rare football injury and there is little basis to predict how a player will come back from it.

As Tua said Monday, “I don’t think any of the doctors can tell the foreseeable future.”

That sets up a dilemma that is so Dolphins.

Pitfalls from the past

Imagine the fallout if they shy away from Tua and he goes on to a long and spectacular career. Much like they did with Drew Brees amid concerns about his shoulder in favor of Daunte Culpepper, who lasted all of four games with Miami.

At the same time, they can’t afford to follow the path of the Redskins, who bet the farm on Robert Griffin III and got burned when a seemingly transformative QB began to break down after one superlative season.

Sure, Tua is a different type of quarterback than RG3. But the accumulation of lower-body injuries in college raises durability issues that can’t be overlooked.

Finding a franchise quarterback isn’t just about evaluating talent. It’s about projecting longevity.

It’s not just about whether Tua can get back to a semblance of the special player he was. It’s about, can he last?

Different options for Miami

When he spoke in early December about his recovery, Tagovailoa acknowledged, “I don’t think I’d be the same again because there’s, like metal in here, you know? I lose some rotation inward, so I won’t be able to twist as much inward and whatnot.”

No team can be sure prior to the draft what they’d be getting if they pick Tua. The stakes become even higher for the Dolphins if it becomes necessary to trade up from the No. 5 spot to get him.

They do have three first-round picks, and 14 overall in 2020.

They also have a lengthy shopping list of needs to reach respectability — offensive line help, pass rushers and run stoppers, secondary and a primary running back, to name a few.

Fortunately, they don’t have to make the call on Tua right now. More medical information will be available on Tagovailoa’s progress before the draft in late April which could provide a clearer basis for a decision.

Flores-Grier tough to figure

Meanwhile, it would be fascinating to eavesdrop on the discussions taking place among the Dolphins braintrust between now and then.

It may not be at all along the lines of what is being posited on social media or major media sites.

What has become apparent through the first year of the Brian Flores-Chris Grier leadership tandem is it is unpredictable. The abrupt dismissal of offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea and hiring of Chan Gailey out of retirement is only one example.

It is possible they have a totally different read and plan on the quarterback solution. Maybe they have their eye on someone other than Tagovailoa.

Maybe their emphasis is on building other parts of the team first and adding a quarterback later, relying on a veteran stopgap such as Ryan Fitzpatrick in the meantime.

Whatever they decide on Tua, it will be a significant turning point in the ultimate success or failure of this Dolphins regime and its rebuilding plan.

Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns

Houtz Special: Tua Tagovailoa, No Matter What

Alabama QB Tua Tagovialoa has officially declared for the 2020 NFL Draft and the Dolphins should draft him-NO MATTER WHAT.

Listen to the latest episode of 3 Yards Per Carry HERE

Now that Tua Tagovialoa has officially declared for the 2020 NFL draft, we can all start fighting over whether or not he’s worthy of a top-5 draft pick. Truth is, if Tagovailoa is cleared medically, there will be several teams interested in trading up for his services. Which not only means the Dolphins will have to draft him at #5, it means Miami could very well have to trade up to guarantee their chance at the Alabama QB.

So, what should the Dolphins do with an important decision looming?

My answer:

I repeat, TUA TAGOVAILOA NO MATTER WHAT.

For twenty years, the Dolphins have been searching for their next Dan Marino. And no, there won’t ever be a QB in the history of the world quite like him. But drafting prospects like Ryan Tannehill proved to be a failure. John Beck, Chad Henne, and Pat White were too. Signing Daunte Culpepper didn’t work out and neither did trading for A.J Feeley. The cold hard truth is that Miami has been incapable of finding its next great signal-caller for nearly two decades.

So again, Tua Tagovailoa, no matter what.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to be worried about. For starters, good things don’t happen to the Dolphins. Next, there’s a possibility that Tagovailoa could never be the same again. But I’d much rather Chris Grier take a risk on greatness than sit idle as this franchise has done in the past. IF, Tua is the quarterback this team has truly coveted since the beginning of the year. IF, he’s the QB that this front office-assembled with some of the top GMs in all of football-believe is the guy, then you do whatever it takes to make it happen.

I can’t pretend to predict what a trade might cost. After all, in 2012 the Redskins gave up 3 first-round draft picks and a second, to move up four spots to draft RG3. And according to Jimmy Johnson’s prehistoric trade chart, Miami would only have to give up the #39th-overall pick in 2020. I hate to the bearer of bad news, but it is going to cost a whole lot more than a second-round draft pick.

But what if Tagovailoa isn’t their guy? What if the team prefers Jordan Love, Justin Herbert, or one of the immensely talented QBs in the 2021 class? Personally, I couldn’t fault Miami, if they truly felt that strongly about one of those prospects. However, for a guy that has watched all of these QBs play. For a guy, that thinks he knows what the Dolphins covet in a franchise QB. I think Tua Tagovailoa is their guy.

All-Twenty Tua

In the end, one of the 32 NFL teams will take a risk on Tagovailoa. Whichever team does, will be getting a player that completed 474/684, 7,442 yards, 87 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions over his collegiate career. A player that has proven time and time again to be everything a franchise is looking for in a QB. Prior to the injury, Tagovailoa appeared to be the frontrunner for the Heisman and the best QB in college football. He may not have won the Heisman, but I still believe he is the best QB in the country. And for a team in dire need of a franchise QB, you do whatever it takes to get your guy, no matter what!

This article was written by Josh Houtz (@Houtz) and he thinks the Dolphins should complete the Tank for Tua. Photo Credit Matt Smith @TheYea

 

The pressure is on Chris Grier to rebuild the Miami Dolphins through the draft.

Jake’s Take: Time for Miami to complete the process and draft Tua Tagovailoa

When the Dolphins defeated the Colts on Nov. 10, plenty were concerned that the process was off the tracks.

It was rumored that Miami had its sights on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa before the 2019 season.

Plenty changed throughout the season, except Miami’s focus on Tagovailoa. Joe Burrow became the focus of the 2020 draft class. The Dolphins fell to the fifth pick of the draft. Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending injury.

However, Miami seemed unfazed. In fact, Miami’s front office was on the sideline of Alabama’s bowl game.

Tagovailoa was rumored to return to school, but those rumors were squashed on Monday and the process was back on track.

Another positive was that his hip was looking like it should heal.

The question has changed. Instead of asking if Tua will declare, will a team leapfrog Miami to draft Tua?

Despite having Matthew Stafford, the Lions could pick him at four. Washington, at 3-13, could take Tua at three even after drafting a quarterback in the first round of last year’s draft. New Washington head coach Ron Rivera may decide that Dwayne Haskins isn’t the guy and want to move on.

On the other hand, the Giants don’t seem to be willing to move on from Daniel Jones after one season.

The Dolphins have the power to dictate the draft with six picks in the top 100 of the draft. 

A team may try to use Miami’s war chest of picks against them. However, the Dolphins should have no problem absorbing the hit of the jump of two-to-three picks.

It is important to keep in mind that the Dolphins have three first-round picks, two second-round picks and a third-round pick.

That is more than enough ammunition to add four-to-five starters even while trading up. The Dolphins wanted to rebuild the franchise. It looks like they found their head coach in Brian Flores. They recently hired Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator to implement a spread offense. 

With a culture in place, 2020 could be the year that the Miami Dolphins turn the page on years of mediocracy.

Miami has the cap space, the war chest of draft capital and will now have the chance to acquire the quarterback of the future.

50 Things that were relevant the last time Chan Gailey coached the Dolphins

Earlier this week, the Miami Dolphins announced the hiring of 67-year-old Chan Gailey as the team’s new offensive coordinator.

Chan Gailey is so old, he invented the spread offense. 

No really, I think he did.

Truth is, the last time Chan Gailey roamed the Dolphins sideline, the team played in back to back playoff games. And although a lot has changed between now and then, this team is still in dire need of a spark offensively. So, after cutting ties with long-time friend Chad O’Shea, Brian Flores immediately turned his attention to a guy that has a ton of familiarity with Ryan Fitzpatrick. And made a signing that would completely shock Dolphins Twitter. The signing of 67-year-old Chan Gailey.

Now, not to discredit the successful career Gailey had, but many hoped for a young up-and-coming offensive coordinator. That is not who he is. Perhaps, this signing shows that Miami hopes to use a ton of 3-4 WR sets–much as he did with Buffalo and New York alongside FitzMagic. One thing it does show, however, is that Miami plans to give Fitzpatrick an encore in 2020. He will have a chance to help groom the future QB, in addition to Gailey.

We will dive into what this means for Miami’s offense later in the offseason. But for now, to ring in the New Year, let’s take a look at 50 things that were relevant the last time Gailey was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator.

Top 10’s in 2000

Top 10 Movies (IMDB)

  1. Gladiator
  2. Almost Famous
  3. Memento
  4. Requiem for a Dream
  5. American Psycho
  6. Snatch
  7. Cast Away
  8. Charlie’s Angels
  9. X-Men
  10. Malena

Top 10 Selling Albums ( Entertainment)

  1. N Sync – No Strings Attached
  2. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
  3. Britney Spears – Oops…I did it Again
  4. Creed – Human Clay
  5. Santana – Supernatural
  6. The Beatles – 1
  7. Nelly – Country Grammar
  8. Backstreet Boys – Black and Blue
  9. Dr. Dre – Dr. Dre 2001
  10. Destiny’s Child – The Writings on the Wall

Top 10 songs (Billboard)

  1. Breathe – Faith Hill
  2. Smooth — Santana featuring Rob Thomas
  3. Say My Name – Destiny’s Child
  4. I wanna know – Joe
  5. Everything you Want – Vertical Horizon
  6. Maria Maria – Santana featuring The Product G&B
  7. Bent – Matchbox20
  8. Amazed- Lonestar
  9. I knew I loved you – Savage Garden
  10. He wasn’t man enough – Toni Braxton

Top 10 video games of 2000 (My List)

  1. Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
  2. Perfect Dark
  3. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
  4. Final Fantasy 9
  5. WWF No Mercy
  6. Pokemon Yellow
  7. Metal Gear Solid
  8. Diablo 2
  9. Jet Set Radio
  10. Phantasy Star Online

Other

  1. Y2K
  2. Y2J
  3. NBA 2K
  4. NFL 2K
  5. Harry Potter
  6. MTV Cribs
  7. The Real Slim Shady
  8. AOL Instant Messenger
  9. Nickelback
  10. MySpace

The Gailey signing will significantly impact how the Dolphins approach the draft and free agency–primarily at the running back position. Heck, maybe it’s a bigger need than QB? One thing we do know is this change in offensive philosophy will impact the type of players Miami has an interest in–primarily at the running back position. The last time Gailey was with the Dolphins, the team went 11-5 and won the AFC East, in addition to a Wildcard game vs Indianapolis. The following season in 2001, Miami went 11-5 and played in the Wildcard game. Unfortunately, the team lost to the Baltimore Ravens 20-3.

I’m no mathematician, but the Dolphins have only been to the playoffs twice since Gailey departed South Florida. Couple that with his experience and familiarity with Fitzpatrick, and maybe there’s a lot more to love about the Gailey signing then we originally anticipated. One thing we do know is Miami’s offense ranked 27th under O’ Shea. Not good enough.

“Save us Chan Gailey, you’re our only hope.”

This article was written by Josh Houtz (@Houtz) #InChanGaileyWeTrust

Kenyan Drake

Chan Gailey to the Dolphins: A New Look at Running Backs

It was a week ago when I revealed a conversation I had with somebody familiar with the Miami Dolphins’ front office thinking.

In that conversation, I got around to asking about the running back room and was surprised with what was revealed.  The Dolphins believe Ohio State back J.K. Dobbins to be the “best of the RB group.”  This was odd to me in some respects, because Dobbins is a more instinctive runner, and not the north-south type runner better suited to run Chad O’Shea’s designed runs.

Then Chad O’Shea got fired.  Strange.  Then all the whispers started as to why he got let go, and it became much more understandable.  Then 67-year old Chan Gailey got hired to fill the offensive coordinator position, and things began to clear up.

This was/is a 180 degree philosophy change on how to approach the run game.

So what do these changes to the run game entail?  You have to go back to Chan Gailey’s history to see what his run calls look like, and something is immediately clear.  The man loves Lead ISO runs.  In short, Lead ISO was a way for spread concept teams to gain a bit of that “power” look from more conventional run offenses.  They almost always entail a double team at the point of attack, with the “ISO” part being an emphasis on isolating an opposing LB with a lead block.  The run is either called to the right side of the center (the 2 hole) or the right side of the guard (the 4 hole), or to the left, conversely, the 1 and 3 hole.

This is a change from what the New England Patriots, and what the Miami Dolphins did for this one year.  Miami had a designed run game, built around counters, use of wham blocks, straight lead runs, and “power” run concepts.  This type of run offense is quickly becoming a NFL dinosaur.  What they are switching too now, in theory simplifies the run game, but puts a larger emphasis on the running back position, and a runner with good instincts to find the correct cuts on each play to find the proper run lane, especially to the back side, which lead ISO plays tend to produce.

 

Having said that, which players fit the bill the best?

 

The Free Agents

 

  1. Melvin Gordon

Adept at pressing the hole, and sliding past the double team to find the cutback lane is his specialty.  His work at Wisconsin was as impressive as any on lead Iso runs.

  1. Derrick Henry

The consummate one cut runner, but figures to be really expensive, while Melvin Gordon has a more “affordable look” to him.

  1. Kenyan Drake

Speed.  Drake has shown one cut ability, especially in his great run of 2017 toward season’s end, and his time in Arizona this year.  But has that ship sailed?

Draft Prospects

 

  1. J.K. Dobbins (Ohio State)

Dobbins has been in this type of offense his whole college career, and has a knack for finding the correct cut back lane a remarkable amount of time.

  1. Travis Etienne (Clemson)

Classic home run hitter, who finds the cut back and goes.  The distance.  Etienne in many respects is a do-over on Kenyan Drake, although Etienne is a much more accomplished (in college) and cheap option than Drake.

  1. Jonathan Taylor (Wisconsin)

It’s everywhere in his film.  See JT press the hole.  See JT quickly change direction and find the crease.  See JT find 8 yards where there was probably 3 playside.

 

Alfredo Arteaga (@Alf_Arteaga) is one-third of the trio of the hosts of the Three Yards Per Carry (@3YardsPerCarry) podcast.

 

 

Dolphins coach Brian Flores says will be in for a long season in 2019 with young, inexperienced Dolphins team.

Jake’s Take: A New Year should bring new perspective surrounding the Miami Dolphins

Rebellions are built on hope.

The Miami Dolphins escaped New England with a 27-24 victory on Sunday. More importantly — they have the Death Star plans.

We’ve been here before. The empire is crumbling – the blueprints are in place. This wasn’t supposed to happen. The Dolphins were on track to be the NFL’s worse team.

However, they started winning.

“I mean, every win, and any win is a big one to me,” coach Brian Flores said after Sunday’s win. “[The Patriots are a] very good football team. Great coaches, great players. This is a tough environment. It’s hard to win on the road in this league. So, our guys played hard, they competed for 60 minutes. It took all 60 minutes. And I’m proud of that group, I am proud of that group.”

Flores accomplished what no Dolphins coach has done since 2008 — win in New England.

Not only did the the Dolphins win a game New England, but the Patriots prepared for the game like the playoffs had already begun. Not only were the Dolphins 16-point underdogs, but the Patriots entered the game with a 61-0 record at home against AFC teams with a losing record.

DeVante Parker and Eric Rowe signed one-year prove it deals. Rowe established himself as a physical safety after struggling at cornerback for roughly half the season. Not only did he shut down top-tier tight ends like Zach Ertiz, but he returned to Massachusetts with a present for the Patriots faithful — a pick-six of Tom Brady.

Parker was left-for-dead after four subpar seasons in which he didn’t play a full season and had a total of nine career touchdowns. Coach Flores shipped out plenty of players who didn’t fit his vision. He was focused on players who were team oriented and worked on their craft each and every day. Despite rumors of Parker not fitting the model, coach Flores brought Parker back to Miami.

1,202 yards and nine touchdowns later, Parker has leaped into the conversation as one of the league’s best receivers. The Parker “games” that were once flashes in the plans turned into a consistent showing from the receiver. He finished with 13 games with at least 50 yards or more. Parker’s coming out party came on Dec. 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. He showcased his ability to not only be a consistent receiver for whomever Miami’s signal caller may be moving forward, but to flat out take over a game with the two-touchdown and 159-yard performance.

We’ve been here before. The Dolphins finished the season on a good note — why should we believe the Dolphins are headed in the right direction?

Optimism has been just that surrounding the Miami Dolphins in past years, but the growth the roster, especially Parker and Rowe, shows that the hope and potential surrounding this team can manifest itself into a franchise that can take down the Patriots as the class of the AFC East.

I understand what you’re thinking. It was one season. It is crazy to even discuss a 5-11 team upending the empire that has controlled the AFC for two decades. Of course, it is up to Chris Grier and the Dolphins organization to continue to get better and continue to make the right moves. However, Sunday’s victory in New England provided the Dolphins with the best-ammunition possible — hope.

With a new decade comes new possibilities. The Dolphins are locked and loaded with the opportunity to make every and any move they want to this off season.

With a new year and a new decade, its time to view the Miami Dolphins with a fresh perspective.

Miami’s way is the “right” way

With the season over there is nothing holding back the waves of mock drafts that will come crushing through timelines, web searches and your daily programming.

The Ravens are entering the postseason as the NFL’s best team. The last pick of the first round in 2019 is leading the way.

Patrick Mahomes, the league’s reigning MVP, is a member of the Kansas City Chiefs because the franchise moved up in the draft to take him.

Russell Wilson, the cornerstone of the Seattle Seahawks and Super Bowl champion, was drafted in the third round of NFL draft. That Brady guy I mentioned earlier — sixth round.

The San Francisco 49ers traded a second round pick for a quarterback with two career starts. After finishing the regular season with a 7-1 record on the road and a 13-3 record overall, San Fran and Jimmy Garoppolo are playoff bound.

There is one thing each of these quarterbacks have in common. The front office and coaching staff have built strong football teams around the quarterback. The Dolphins, based on the 2019 season, are working to put together the best football team possible. So whether they draft a rookie, trade for a vet, or even ride with some Fitzmagic, it is important to let the team establish itself in 2020 before rushing to judgement.

It isn’t how you get your quarterback, it’s building a successful offense around the signal caller — whomever that may be.

Don’t fall in love with a specific player or pick

The Dolphins have actually had some success in the early rounds of the draft lately.

Miami’s worst pick since 2014 is Charles Harris. The Dolphins took Harris because they were desperate for a pass rusher. Players like Tre’Davious White and T.J. Watt, who fit Miami’s current needs quite well went shortly after. The Dolphins are need to build a roster. Grier and Flores witnessed more than 75 players suit up on game day in the search of depth and part-time starters.

Injuries happen — all the time. It is nearly impossible to fill all of Miami’s holes. Under Adam Gase the Dolphins focused on rostering a “starter” at every position. Not only did some of these players under perform, but season’s spiraled out of control after losing a few starters. With 11 starters on each side of the ball, it is nearly impossible to have a “solid” starter at every position.

Don’t panic if Miami avoids a “need,” because there are plenty. This staff has proven its ability to succeed with undrafted free agents and will likely have to showcase that skill again in 2020.

Instead of forcing a need, players like Nik Needham, Vince Biegel  and Sam Eguavoen can showcase their ability to become contributing members of the franchise without siphoning the team’s salary cap and draft capital.

Enjoy the ride

Fans spent most of Sunday’s win over New England upset about Miami’s lowering draft pick. Not only did the Dolphins celebrate the team’s biggest win in recent years, but Miami remained in the fifth spot of the 2020 draft.

The results are out until the games are played. The Dolphins picked an unconventional route in 2019 by not tanking, but moving plenty of players who were cornerstones of the franchise. Brian Flores is looking like the right guy to lead the Miami Dolphins after his first season at head coach. Of course, so did Joe Philbin and Adam Gase.

Despite the “no days off” mentality, a kid named Ferris offered some great advice on his day off.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while you could miss it.”

The Dolphins are in the middle of the process and there is plenty of work to do. However, if you don’t enjoy the highlights, even if its a win over the quarterback-less Colts, you’ll miss out on some remarkable games. Potentially some of the biggest upsets of all time.

 

 

A new decade is upon us, but hopefully the no-quit Dolphins aren’t changing too much.

Here is to 2020.

Dolphins will have the 5th pick in 2020 NFL Draft

According to Tankathon.com, the Miami Dolphins now hold the 5th-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Will they draft Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa?

The 2019 season is finally over. And for a season where the Dolphins started out 0-7, it sure was fun to watch this team progress over the last several weeks. But now, we must turn our attention to the 2020 offseason and most importantly, the 2020 NFL Draft.

Now that the week 17 slate of games are official, we now know exactly where the Dolphins will be drafting in 2020.

According to Tankathon.com, the Miami Dolphins will have the 5th pick in the 2020 NFL draft. Sure, this isn’t as sexy as the projected top-3 pick they had a few weeks ago. But to achieve five wins with this roster–and go out with a last-minute victory over the New England Patriots– feels great. Not to mention, Miami is projected to have 15 draft picks, so there’s no telling what Chris Grier is willing to do to assure he gets the players he and his staff covet.

In the latest Tankathon three-round mock draft, the Dolphins do what every fan hopes they do this coming April.

First Round

Truth is, no one knows whether or not Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa is going to return to college. After all, he’s been cryptic over the last few days on social media and a lot of experts and analysts believe he could go back to college and enter the draft in 2021. I have no #sauces, so I can’t speak on the hypothetical. But IF Tagovailoa decides to declare this season, there’s a team in the top-5 that will likely do whatever it takes to assure he’s wearing a Dolphins’ uniform for the foreseeable future.

With the fifth-pick in the 2020 NFL draft, the Miami Dolphins select–Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

Tua is believed to be the QB the Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross have coveted for several years. And no one can argue that his elite skill-set would fit perfectly in Chad O’Shea’s offense. Obviously, his health plays a huge factor in this decision. But IF there’s the potential that Tagovailoa will ever be 75% of the QB he once was, Miami should do WHATEVER it takes to make sure he’s their guy in round one.

With the second of their three first-round picks, the Dolphins draft Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson. The Dolphins don’t have an immediate need at WR, but Higgins is one of the most talented WRs in this year’s class. And adding a player with his skill-set to Miami’s already loaded receiver corps, would spell trouble for all 31 NFL teams.

Lastly, the Dolphins select Jedrick Willis, OT, Alabama with the 25th-overall pick. I’m not sure whether or not he will be available this late in round one, but Willis is one of-if not-the best OT in this year’s draft. He’s already very familiar with protecting Tagovailoa’s blindside and would be a much need addition to Miami’s putrid offensive line.

Second Round

In round two, the Dolphins get two immediate contributors, at two important areas of need.

First, with the 39th pick in the 2020 NFL draft, Miami selects Bryan Hall, CB, Virginia. Yes, the Dolphins secondary has played pretty well despite their ‘next man up’ mentality, but the secondary could definitely use help, especially for a team that loves to play man defense. Hall’s senior season was cut short due to a leg injury, but the talented CB would be a valued asset in Flores’ defense.

Later in round two, the Dolphins fill their much-needed void at RB selecting Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson. Anyone that watched the Fiesta Bowl could see how explosive Etienne was as both a runner and pass-catcher vs one of the top defenses in the country. Etienne is currently my RB1 and his skill-set would be a breath of fresh air, for an offense that was led by 37-year old Ryan Fitzpatrick as the team’s leading rusher.

Third Round

Lastly, with the 70th-overall pick, the Dolphins continue to add talent to their offensive line selecting Nick Harris, C, Washington. Adding Harris to an offensive line that already drafted Jedrick Willis and will likely spend valuable resources in free agency is extremely smart. And if Miami wants to build a sustainable winner, solidifying the trenches is the first step in a long, tumultuous process.

 

This will change many more times between now and April 23, 2020. With that said, how do you feel with Tankathon’s latest mock draft?

Josh Houtz (@houtz) is a die-hard fan of the Miami Dolphins #Tankovailoa

 

 

The Miami Hurricanes Are At DEFCON 1

It’s been an arduous season for the Canes. It started with 2 losses, then an “easy” 5-game home stand that featured 2 losses and a close win against Central Michigan, followed by a brief resurgence mid-year, and then a complete and inexplicable collapse over a final 3-game stretch that included losses to FIU, Duke, and Louisiana Tech.

Perhaps it is a sign of the times that not only was there no reaction from the Athletic Department as The New Miami quickly devolved into a disaster, including an embarrassing loss to FIU, but that no reaction was expected. This is the new normal. No loss too shocking. We keep saying we’ve reached “Rock Bottom” but in reality, there is no bottom for this program, because it is a program devoid of standards.

Sure enough, after the failure against Louisiana Tech, Blake James released a non-statement:

Putting the substance aside, there is something shocking here that is not evident until you look back a year:

Nothing represents the apathy of this administration more than this. Copying and pasting a “well, that sucked” message from last year and “changing it up a little” is pathetic. I’m sure they want to win, but they appear to be more concerned with controlling the narrative and saying what they think they should say to show they care, then with actually making hard decisions and holding people accountable. That it mirrored last year’s statement shows a complete lack of seriousness.

Manny Diaz was hired precisely because his hiring would not result in a complete overhaul since the team was “close.” That entire rationale turned out to be dead wrong. Diaz was not ready to be the head coach at Miami, he made a million mistakes, and instead of taking the program from “almost there, but needs offensive help” to “there,” he took it to “needs a complete rebuild.” He lost to GT, FIU, Duke, and Louisiana Tech.

Now, maybe the school overestimated the health of the program. Maybe it wasn’t a few offensive tweaks away. But that’s irrelevant now. The bottom line is the job that Diaz was hired to do either (1) never existed or (2) doesn’t exist now because he destroyed it.

To pretend like this was even within the realm of their wildest nightmares when they hired Diaz is disingenuous. There is no way they hire Diaz if they could go back a year knowing what they know now. Diaz is now tasked with a job that he was not hired to do, a complete rebuild of the program.

The Culture and the Standard

One of the ironies of this season as it devolved into failure was Diaz commenting on the culture of the program. Who allowed a WR that quit on his team last year to come back, only to have to suspend him again? Who rode in a yacht? Who crashed another coach’s clinic? Who said 7-5 is unacceptable and then started making excuses for losses? Who invented the Turnover Chain and Touchdown Rings? This is Manny Diaz’s culture, and his complete lack of self-awareness about his central role in creating the culture he now decries is galling.

But the Athletic Department shares the most culpability for the current state of affairs. As much as we were all happy to hear that Dan Enos was going to be coaching his last game in the Independence Bowl, who in the hell leaked that a few hours before kickoff?

Likewise, who is feeding crap to Barry Jackson trashing players, talking about who needs to be shoved out of the program and how they need grad transfers to fix the program? Even if it is true, that stuff should actually be part of the “full assessment” and done behind closed doors. Using the media as a proxy to get messages out to pretend they care, often to the detriment of players, while the paid professionals have little to no accountability must stop. You cannot run a program where the second something goes wrong, everyone goes leaking to the press, publicly assigning blame to scapegoats.

The truth is that this is a program that has been resting on the accomplishments of those that built this program decades ago, trying to do just enough to not get screamed at by fans, with little regard for the standard which they purport to try to “get back” to.

But the only way “back” is to actually accept their culpability in how we arrived here. The standard is no longer about winning championships, because Blake James changed the standard.

  • He can tweet about “#BuildingChampions” but there are no championships.
  • He can say that 6 wins fell below expectations but Al Golden went 6-7 in Year 4 and was back for Year 5.
  • In fact, in 3 out of Al Golden’s 4 full years as head coach, he won 7 or fewer games.

The second James accepted all of that, there was a new “standard.” He lowered our standards, and lowered them to the point that he actually has a canned “we just stunk in a bowl game after winning fewer games than expected” press release. That is the definition of the standard.

So when Blake James talks about the standard, I frankly have no idea what the bleep he is talking about because he has been a senior member of the Athletic Department for almost a decade, including AD for most of that time, and it’s pretty clear that this year’s performance is perfectly acceptable to him since he has accepted it from multiple coaches. 

A Path Forward

So, do we give up? As negative as I’ve been, the answer is no.

Should Diaz have been stolen back from Temple as a first time head coach? Should he retain his job now? Irrelevant, because those decisions have already been made.

The question we’re now faced with is whether Diaz can change. And in this, we have no evidence that he cannot, which means there is reason for hope. 

Blake James was not wrong in stating that there needs to be a “full assessment” of the football program. But what does that look like? Diaz needs to account for everything that happened from the second he accepted the job to the second the Louisiana Tech game ended. Work through what worked, what didn’t, why it didn’t work, and most importantly, what he is going to do differently.

A lot of this will be hard on Diaz, in particular as he looks at his own missteps, some of which were quite public and extremely embarrassing in hindsight. He chose to coach at the University of Miami not because it is easy, but because it is hard. 

It’s time for him to do the hard work of creating the culture and standard that the hashtags pretend to care about.

Yes, assistant coaches will change, but everything Diaz does sets the tone for the program. When he came in and fired the entire offensive staff, he sent a message that the offense was the only problem. That’s fine for a defensive coordinator, it’s not fine for a head coach. His hiring of Enos was a classic first time head coaching mistake where he brought someone in that thought he was smarter than everyone else on the staff and should be the head coach himself (see Shannon-Whipple for previous examples).

You win and lose as a team and everyone has to be under no illusion of who is in charge, and that’s Manny Diaz. So, as he assembles his 2.0 staff, a lot of attention needs to be paid to chemistry across the offense and defense. How does the collective staff work together? Are they marching to the beat of the same drum? Does every coach understand his responsibilities and that Manny is calling the shots? And under no circumstances does anyone, ever, publicly criticize a player. If the staff is cohesive, if they actually like working together, the program becomes a much more enjoyable place to be, and the players have a better chance of success.

These lessons were paid for in embarrassing losses, but if they were learned, and if they are grown from, Manny Diaz can steer this ship back on track. He has the opportunity in front of him. But he must demand perfection from himself, from those around him, from those working from him, and ultimately, from his boss. Reset the standard, learn from this year’s false start, and move forward from there. Anything else will ultimately result in failure.

If you asked me a year ago if Gino DiMare would have the Canes as a Top 5, National Championship contender, I would have said no. Maybe Diaz can surprise us. I choose to believe that Diaz can accomplish this not because he has shown he can, but because, possibly in my own naivety, I still believe in the ability of anyone, in particular someone new to a role, to change and to grow from mistakes. The speed and nature of that growth will ultimately determine whether this year was a series of rookie mistakes on the way to ultimate greatness or a series of red flags that ultimately lead to failure.