The mentality Bill Lazor brings from Philadelphia is what head coach Joe Philbin hopes will make the Miami Dolphin offense blossom.
Nepotism runs deep in NFL circles where a constant churning of coaches and coordinators turns the scolded dog coach of today into a coordinator somewhere else tomorrow. In the eyes of coaches that spend a lifetime watching film, there simply is not much difference from one scheme to the next in the National Football League.
It is easy to understand why rookie coach Joe Philbin turned to the good old boy network and hired Mike Sherman to run his offense. As a former professional and collegiate head coach, Sherman had experience on many levels. Even though he failed in both Green Bay and Texas A&M, the decision to hire him as a coordinator was not a bad one. Why enter the treacherous waters of the NFL alone when your mentor is available and willing to help navigate.
The problem is the NFL has two distinct sides, one at practice and one on game-day. The practice side is where knowledge gained from years of experience teaches and nurtures. Practice repetition enables learning and is vital as the game compounds in intricacy over years of development from grade school to the pros. Practice methodology slows down the process of learning and instills fundamentals.
Game-day affords no such luxury. The heat of the game is a quick twitch affair where decisions must come at lightning speed. Any glitch in processing, like forgetting the running game or forcing the passing game is quickly detected by defensive coaches who instantly exploit the tendency.
When the offense sputters fans are left exasperated, screaming for the quarterback to pick up the pace or check down, but many times the hesitation does not come from the field. It is high up in the coaches’ box where fumbling and bumbling occurs unknown to fans cheering in the stadium or glued to the TV at home.
Philbin knew… His headset told a story fans will never know and the reality must have troubled him deeply.
His mentor was no longer up to speed with game-day.
The presumption Boss Ross made the decision to retire Mike Sherman because Philbin was incapable of firing his mentor is incorrect. From the outside, it is only possible to speculate what goes on inside Dolphin headquarters, yet the hiring of Bill Lazor hints at Joe Philbin’s thought process.
Philbin is a film junky. A film junky who was connected to the headset on game-day. The stammering in his ears matched the stammering on film and he knew what he must do. It’s a cruel world when staying on a career path means ending the career of someone close to you. Sherman made it easier on Philbin because he knew he had lost a step. The film does not lie and Sherman could not hide from the tape.
Philbin made an interesting move when he chose Bill Lazor as his offensive coordinator. He broke from the path of least resistance and did not hire a retread.
Hiring a veteran NFL coach is the easiest thing for a film junky to do, why? It’s on film, Philbin has data on film telling him what to expect from every veteran coach. There is no film on Lazor, no comfort zone of what to expect, only the gut hunch that this coach has something special setting him apart from all those that have failed before him.
The pace of the game is what was nagging Philbin... Sputtering and stuttering is not attacking. Hesitation is a symptom of reaction not pro-action and by hesitating, the flow of the game was dictated to Miami.
It’s not passing or running or an even split that makes one offense better than the next, those differences come from the best use of available talent and match-ups. A good offense attacks and dictates the flow by using every means available in rapid succession.
Chip Kelly is not utilizing some crazy scheme. As previously noted, there is not much variation between schemes in the NFL. Chip Kelly is simply attacking. An up-tempo force dictating game speed, keeping the defense in reactive mode is the distinctive quality of a great offense. Joe Philbin knows this, he’s a film junky, and not one interview with Philbin goes by without the word "film" mentioned several times.
Lazor was not signed to copy Kelly’s offense; he was signed to copy Kelly’s approach to offense. Joe Philbin recognized what he heard in the headphones and what he saw on tape, an offense constantly falling behind the tempo of the defense. He knows what he wants and it shows in the way the Dolphins practice in rapid-fire two-groups-at-once sessions, but his OC and consequently his QB could not keep up on game-day.
It’s hard to determine even after two seasons whether Ryan Tannehill is actually any good or not. The image of him waiting for plays while confusion reigned in the coaches’ box was clear when watching most Miami games. The extenuating circumstances brought about by Jonathan Martin only helped to hide the reality and is the perfect excuse for accepting sluggish play. Philbin could have successfully parleyed a justification for his friend and mentor using the bully excuse, but in the end, he chose to let him go.
His mentor was no longer up to speed with game-day.
Like many people, coaches often misplace personal loyalty with the realities of being a professional. There must be a distinct line between work and personal life because blurring that line leads to decisions that are not in the best interest of either. Nepotism in the form of a constantly revolving coaching procession stems from living to work, instead of working to live.
The easiest thing for Joe Philbin to do would have been to bring in a member of his coaching fraternity.
He didn't because he understood that tempo on game-day is the key to great offenses and the best coaches he knows are still employed. That restriction turned him toward a younger coach raised on the high speed mantra. While the offense is still a reflection of greatness or ineptitude at the quarterback position, at least that observation will no longer be obstructed by stutters and stammers in the coaches’ box.
Mike Sherman was a good man and an excellent coach unfortunately, he was no longer up to speed with game-day.
Welcome to Miami Bill Lazor! No worries about how many running plays or how many passing plays, those stats are for talking heads. Being offensive is about attacking weaknesses in rapid succession.
The tape won't lie about a Miami dolphin team attacking on offense. It will reflect quite clearly in the win column. The question is...
Is Bill Lazor up to speed with game-day?