With Tony Sparano now under contract through the 2013 season and the player personnel phase of the offseason still being several weeks away, the most pressing need in Dolphin land nowadays is the hunt for an offensive coordinator. Because the Dolphins are young and promising on the defensive side of the ball, expect this to be the first of many posts focused squarely on improving the Dolphins’ anemic offense.
A new coordinator calling the shots certainly doesn’t guarantee that the offense will even come close to turning the corner, but any change will be embraced as refreshing after the Dan Henning debacle we were all forced to witness this season. Sure, it’s hard to point the finger exclusively at Henning, especially considering some of the dumbfounding decisions Chad Henne made in his second season as the starter and the fact that the front office blew up the interior offensive line from a year ago, which in turn forced Henning to abandon a non-existent running game more often than not.
So a new face up in the booth certainly isn’t going to upgrade the Dolphins’ offense to respectability overnight. After all, great players are usually the ones who tend to make offensive coordinators look like geniuses. Something the Dolphins have very few of on the offensive side of the football.
Fans were quick to praise Dan Henning when the Chad Pennington led Dolphins took the AFC East in 2008. Did Henning have a fine season calling the shots? Sure he did. But it wouldn’t have happened without the stability Pennington brought to the position week in and week out. Having said all of that, I’m as ecstatic as the next guy that Dan Henning walked away following the disastrous year that is still fresh in all of our minds.
The fact of the matter is, while Pennington made Henning look smart in 08’, he was also the perfect fit for the style of offense Henning likes to run. A ball-control, low-risk style of play was just what those 08’ Dolphins needed and it fit Pennington’s mistake-free way’s like a glove. When you play that style of football, though, your margin for error isn’t much.
The Dolphins weren’t a very talented team back when Henning first took over and that style of play was the ideal fit because it kept them in most games. They would compete with playoff caliber tams but also come right down to the wire with some of the league’s bottom feeders. That’s great when all the bounces go your way. But in 2010, when it seemed like the Dolphins just couldn’t get a break, that small margin for error ultimately doomed their season.
Now, Stephen Ross is calling for an offensive coordinator who is going to come in with an aggressive mindset. Not a guy who is going to play not to lose, but a guy who wants to score early and often. A lot easier said than done for a Dolphins’ offense without a franchise quarterback, a decent interior offensive line, or a promising young running back. But the first step in righting the ship is finding a play-caller, so that’s where we begin.
A clear favorite hasn’t emerged from the pack yet, but some interesting candidates have surfaced here in the last week. Two sexy names that have been thrown out there are Josh McDaniels and Mike Leach. But those are mostly just fans saying names that are atop their wish list.
In a perfect world, I would love for the Dolphins to bring in Josh McDaniels. The guy was a terrible head coach because he exercised too much power in player personnel, but let’s be honest here, there may not be a better quarterback molder in all of football. But with the bridges that have already been burned with Mike Nolan, who was the Broncos defensive coordinator in 09’, and Brandon Marshall, who was obviously traded away from Denver last offseason, that scenario just isn’t realistic.
Leach on the other hand was an innovator in the college ranks, but who knows if he’s capable of calling the shots for a pro style offense. And he certainly wouldn’t have a quarterback that is capable of running even a mild form of pass happy system he employed at Texas Tech.
The more realistic candidates that the Dolphins have reportedly had talks with are former Browns coach Chris Palmer, former Browns offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, Cowboys tight ends coach John Garrett, and Chargers tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski. While all have the potential to improve the Dolphins’ offense because there really isn’t anywhere to go but up, none have the type of jaw dropping credentials Stephen Ross will likely be satisfied with.
With the Sun-Sentinel reporting earlier today that former Vikings’ head coach Brad Childress will interview for the opening in the next couple days, though, the Dolphins may have their big name that will not only reassure the fan base but bring the most qualified available offensive coordinator to Miami. Childress may possess the most impressive resume, but if he were to call the shots for the Dolphins’ offense, a major shift in offensive philosophy would follow.
Childress has run the West Coast offense in the past, something the Dolphins don’t necessarily have the personnel for right now. However, the Dolphins switching to the West Coast offense would make likely soon to be free agent Donovan McNabb a possible suitor to end this franchise’s quarterback woes. Another thing to consider, though, is that the Dolphins probably wouldn’t have sufficient time to make such a drastic switch in offensive mindset because a new collective bargaining agreement still isn’t in place and OTA’s and minicamps won’t happen until it is.
But like I’ve been saying all along, finding the right man for the job at offensive coordinator would only solve a small portion of the Dolphins’ issues. Finding a franchise quarterback should be priority number one. And if the Dolphins are unable to do that this offseason, finding a consistent stop gap solution veteran will have to suffice until they do. Otherwise, this offense won’t be good enough to help these Dolphins rise from the depths of mediocrity next season.