By: Chip Turner
This is the third of a three-part series on moves the Dolphins need to make to get to the point that they can play for a championship.
For Part I, go here: https://www.phinmaniacs.com/articles/the-road-to-the-top-how-do-the-dolphins-get-there-from-here-part-i-offense.
For Part II, go here: https://www.phinmaniacs.com/articles/the-road-to-the-top-how-do-the-dolphins-get-there-from-here-part-ii-defense.
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly: Brian Flores is one of the best young head coaches in the NFL. He finished third in the 2020 NFL Coach of the Year voting, and it’s difficult to argue that anyone did more with less than Flores.
This isn’t to suggest Kevin Stefanski didn’t deserve the honor; he won in a landslide. Yet, remember that he walked into a locker room that had the #1 overall picks from 2017 and 2018 (Myles Garrett and Baker Mayfield), and boasted what was arguably the league’s best OL in 2020. By comparison, Miami was stripped down to spare parts and cast-offs in 2019.
Flores has brought a no-nonsense yet fair atmosphere to the Dolphins. He seems genuine, open and direct, and tends to make difficult decisions seem easy.
Additionally, he doesn’t seem to care much about what people outside of the immediate persons involved think about his decisions. Bench Fitzpatrick? Okay. He thought it was the best thing for the team at the time to help them win. Bench Tua when he’s no longer the best option for the team to win? Sure, bring Fitzpatrick back in and bench the rookie. Analysts, pundits, and everyone else said, “You just can’t DO this.”
Brian Flores didn’t seem to care about what others said, and the Dolphins won 10 games. Keep in mind, the last time Miami won more games than that in a season, George W. Bush was President. And then this past offseason, he bucked tradition again. He named Co-Offensive Coordinators instead of a single decision-maker. Apparently, nobody outside the Dolphins facility has any idea how that’s going to work.
And I’m pretty sure Brian Flores doesn’t care what people say about that, either.
2021 Outlook: Barring a Gase-esque relationship meltdown with the organization, I don’t see Flores going anywhere soon.
So Chan Gailey is out, and George Godsey and Eric Studesville are in as co-offensive coordinators. What does this mean?
I’m of the opinion it means that while Chan Gailey’s scheme was the basis for what Flores wanted, the play selection and game planning was not. Godsey and Studesville have experience in the system, and will likely add more dynamic elements to it. It has yet to be seen who will do the play calling.
In other interesting developments:
2021 Outlook: Miami is clearly looking for more from their young offense. With these changes, Brian Flores has reinforced something he’s been doing since he was hired as Head Coach: If something is clearly not working, he will try something else. Additionally, the Dolphins organization appears to be doing its utmost to put Tua Tagovailoa in a position to succeed. The organizational stance that they have faith in him isn’t just lip service.
The Dolphins defense took a huge leap in 2020, and the coaching staff was one of the main reasons why. With zero blitzes, multiple fronts, amoeba defensive looks, the Dolphins defensive scheme was one of the more entertaining parts of the 2020 season.
As a result, the defensive coaching staff didn’t change much. Defensive Line Coach Marion Hobby and the team parted ways, and Hobby took the same position with the Bengals. His replacement has not been named, but the expectation is that there will be an internal promotion to serve as the new D-Line coach.
2021 Outlook: I don’t believe there will be much of a change to the defensive coaching staff; with some additions through Free Agency/Draft, the 2021 defense could be even better.
The easiest analysis on the Miami Dolphins for 2020 was their kicker, Jason Sanders. He was an All-Pro, the best kicker in the league, and earned a long-term contract extension. Is Justin Tucker the best kicker in NFL history? Yes, he is. Was Sanders better in 2020? Yes, he was. Let’s put it this way: At his current career rate, Jason Sanders will qualify one of the most accurate kickers in the history of the NFL by the middle of this fall (once he hits 100 attempts).
Punter Matt Haack did well to pin opponents inside their own 20; he was among league leaders at that statistic. However, his net yardage wasn’t anything special. He’s a Free Agent in 2021.
2021 Outlook: Jason Sanders was just given an extension, and Haack’s future with the teams is unclear. As the Miami Dolphins add depth and athleticism, ST coordinator Danny Crossman will have improved tools to use on kick and punt coverage. He should return for the 2021 season.