It’s black Monday, a day when NFL coaches and personnel people are unceremoniously shown the door. After an agonizing loss to the Jets, the disappointment in Miami is at an all-time high. It was not the worst season in Dolphin history, but after teasing of something special, the team faltered badly when in position for a playoff run. The poetic justice of this sad ending is the harsh reality that the Miami Dolphins are not a playoff team. Getting there would have tricked the fans and owner into believing greatness was around the corner.
The blueprint to stopping the Dolphin offense was perfected in Buffalo a week earlier, but has plagued Miami all season. Ryan Tannehill is unable to complete deep passes even when the receiver is wide open. Mike Wallace alluded to 15 TDs left on the field, “There are so many touchdowns me and him missed,” Wallace said. Tannehill is also wildly inconsistent on sideline throws, even simple out routes. By defending the rest of the field, Buffalo played to Tannehill’s weakness. The Jets simply followed the blueprint.
The ploy was so effective, the Dolphin offense scored only one touchdown in its final 25 possessions. The Dolphins crossed midfield once in last week's 19-0 loss at Buffalo and deepest penetration in the second half was to the Jets' 33-yard line in the season finale. The Jets were not taking a great chance leaving Wallace in man coverage and playing soft on the corners, the Miami offense averaged less than 20 points per game anyway. When an embattled make-shift offensive line is expected to open holes and pass protect against an 8-man front unconcerned about wide receivers running wide open deep, it's a recipe for disaster.
Coaches and personnel folks are on the chopping block but the players and particularly the man behind center bear the responsibility for another lost season. "The ball was in our court and we didn't take advantage of our opportunity," Tannehill said. "We didn't finish strong, plain and simple. We didn't finish the way we wanted to, obviously none of us saw this coming." Buffalo saw it coming, the Jets saw it coming.
They saw a QB unable to complete a long pass and so they gave it to him. They loaded up everywhere else, placed the ball in Ryan Tannehill’s hands and said, “Beat us.” Show us you are the man we should fear when the game and the season are on the line, Tannehill was not equal to the challenge. Ryan has an oblivious streak, "We didn't play well these last two games. It was nothing that you could feel or sense in practice. I felt like we had great practices both of the last two weeks. We just came out and didn't play well on Sundays."
The NFL is a quarterback league, Bill Belichick was fired in Cleveland and became a genius when Tom Brady dropped in his lap. The Dolphin coaches have not seen that kind of luck since 1983 and the coaching carousel has revolved since Dan Marino retired. It makes little sense to fire coaches when the QB by his own admission, “just came out and didn't play well on Sundays." Perhaps the personnel man who picked the QB should bear the brunt in the blame game. Perhaps the offensive coordinator should be fired for not teaching the QB how to throw a deep pass.
It doesn’t matter which of these men takes the rap as the ceremonial guinea pig for the players on the field. The fact is, Mike Sherman designed play after play this season that found Mike Wallace running wide open behind the defense. If the ball found Wallace half those 15 times, it would account for 8 more TDs this season. Jeff Ireland’s free agent acquisition would not look so mediocre if he had put up 13 TDs. On a team that lost 4 games by margins of 4 points or less, those 8 TDs cost Joe Philbin a playoff appearance and perhaps his job. Even the OL coach should be safe when considering how much better the running game could be with 8 more deep TDs keeping safeties honest.
It all comes back to the same fact since Marino retired, find a QB or the carousel continues round and round… It makes Boss Ross’s job a little more simplistic. Decide to continue grooming Ryan Tannehill and hope he somehow overcomes his deep passing inaccuracy or make a scapegoat of someone else.
From the 30 thousand foot level, Ross should tell his GM to draft a QB and make a competition of it. Otherwise, when the Dolphins are 8-8 next year with Tannehill, a new coach or GM won’t matter.
The wheels on the bus will continue going, round and round…