The New "Holy Trinity" in Miami

RiverdoG just posted that he felt the Dolphins would hold on to Jake Long based on the opinion of a players poll. Please take a moment to read DoG’s post otherwise he might come after me with a hatchet! While, I agree Jake is a great player, I have my own theory Dolphinshout readers may enjoy that says Jake could be on another team next year. Please forgive my inability to write short blogs…

Taking time to analyze the difference in philosophy between Joe Philbin and Tony Sparano will give Dolphin fans an idea on the shape of the roster in the future. Several names may surprisingly end up signing elsewhere and others could demand higher value in Philbin’s system.

The Parcells / Sparano offensive system was schematically ancient and the ideology that made it work was the reason for their downfall. Great news for Jet fans! Parcells had a term called, “The Holy Trinity,” it was the three players most needed to build an NFL franchise, Quarterback, Left Tackle and Left Cornerback. We can make the example of how the game has changed, by analyzing these three key positions and how they relate to the Dolphins during the Parcells / Sparano era.

They thought the QB was the essential piece of the trinity, but they did not give it the proper attention from their very first draft. By passing on Matt Ryan, they missed the vertex of the triangle and tried to work backward from the base. Because Jake Long is one of those base ingredients, that first draft was not a failure in their minds. Indeed, they had selected perhaps the best player in the draft at a position in the holy trinity, but it was the principles of the trinity that fooled them into believing it was the right choice.

Their scheme breaks down because they believed in an antiquated attack featuring the left tackle as the fulcrum of a power offense. The top four scoring teams in the NFL last season, the Packers, the Saints, the Patriots and the Lions, featured only one former first-round pick at left tackle, Jeff Backus of the Lions. It gets worse, only once in the past 11 seasons has the starting left tackle for the Super Bowl champion been a first-round pick. Finally, of the 11 offensive tackles taken with top-10 draft picks from 2004 to 2011, none has won a Super Bowl.

The Dolphins drafted Jake Long and passed on Matt Ryan, but compounded the problem by not recognizing the importance of the QB in the modern offense. Chad Henne, never considered a great collegiate passer, was better known as a field general in a power offense, perfect for the Parcells/Sparano scheme, but an NFL relic. When Chad Pennington fell in the Dolphin’s lap, the oft-injured signal caller allowed them to think they could groom an NFL QB from an average college passer.

Drafting Pat White showed the depth of their illusion. Enthralled with visions of Wildcat grandeur, they realized Henne was not the right leader for an offense featuring the formation. The weakness they surmised was that Ronnie Brown was not capable of throwing accurately enough to be a passing threat and Henne would never be the runner Brown was. Pat White showed incredible promise at both. Consider these numbers and how they relate to the Wildcat; White finished his career with 6,051 yards and 56 touchdowns passing and 4,480 yards and 47 touchdowns rushing - a total of 10,531 yards and 103 touchdowns over his college career. White, finished his NCAA career sixth in victories and is the only college QB in history to win 4 consecutive bowl games.

The diminutive White did not pass the eye test, he did not meet all the criteria of a Parcells QB, but he was a winner and he could run as well as pass. White looked like the perfect addition as the triggerman for the Wildcat. There is no need to delve into the reasons for the failure of the Wildcat, suffice to say, NFL defenses caught up to it and White proved ineffective in a pro offense.

Not many folks outside NFL film rooms and scouting circles had ever heard of the term, “quick release” prior to the emergence of Dan Marino in Miami. The West Coast type offense was maturing at the same time and together they represent the turning point in the evolution of the NFL. Unfortunately, this turning point was missed by Parcells and mitigated the importance on the Holy Trinity. When the onus switched from giving the QB time to find a receiver to getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible, it changed the way teams rushed the passer.

The switch, evident in teams like the Giants and the Patriots, no longer put a premium on outside LBs or even DEs taking a circuitous speed rush around offensive tackles. Releasing the ball in less than three seconds negates the outside speed rush. This means the power rush, taking the most direct route to the QB is much more effective against the quick release offense. These factors diminish the importance of the offensive tackle position and mean the center and the guards are the primary QB protectors in the west coast offense.

Quick! Name any of the players in the Giants defensive backfield? Quick! Name any of the players on the Giants defensive line? A couple DBs come to mind, but most fans can easily name at least three of the Giants DL and none of them are outside speed rushers. Is it any wonder the Giants have beaten the Patriots both times they met in the Super Bowl? The Giants run a 4-3 defense, they use athletic power rushers taking the most direct route to Tom Brady. Once Brady’s timing is thrown off, his game suffers.

This means that Jake Long does not command the salary he is likely to ask in the new Dolphin offense and is probably the reason the Dolphins have not yet re-signed him. Martin was not drafted to take over the right tackle position, he was drafted to replace Jake Long with a player more suited to his salary slot among the Dolphin personnel. Unless Long reduces his salary demands, he will likely be a free agent next year.

In the second Parcells / Sparano draft, the Dolphins used two of the top three picks on cornerbacks. In light of the holy trinity, those picks make a lot more sense. In 4-3 defense using direct route pass rushing, the DBs, while always important, do not demand the value of an athletic power rusher. The Dolphins again fell victim to thinking in the past and placed more importance on the CB position instead of the power rusher. Sean Smith is in a contract year and there has been little talk of re-signing him. If Smith reaches his potential, he may not sign with the Dolphins because the LCB no longer holds the value it demanded in the holy trinity.

The Miami defensive linemen coming up for free agency include Randy Starks, Tony McDaniel, Ryan Baker and Isaako Aaitui, of these names only Starks has a chance of being re-signed. These players do not fit the profile of an athletic power rusher; they are mainly run stuffers and will not fit in a 4-3 defense. Paul Soliai is a mountain of a man and can wreak havoc in the middle of a defense, that is why he was signed.

The question for Dolphinshout readers is, what constitutes the “Holy Trinity” for the new Dolphin regime? Which positions in the new scheme have more value than in the Parcells’ regime? Obviously, I have given this some thought and have some of my own ideas, there are a lot of hints in this article, but we at Dolphinshout would like your opinion. In following RiverdoG's post, will Jake Long be a Dolphin after this season?