Schad: Dolphins' next head coach needs sound play-calling, quarterback plan

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When the Dolphins hired Adam Gase, they went for the up-and-coming offensive play-caller who said he could win with Ryan Tannehill.

Gase's offense wasn't good and he couldn't win with Tannehill.

When the Dolphins hired Brian Flores, their focus was on a leader of men. They had already decided to move on from Tannehill.

And while the body of work for Flores' defenses was good, Miami's offenses weren't.

It is true that subpar communication and collaboration were key factors in owner Stephen Ross' surprising decision to fire Flores this week. But so too must have been Ross' perception of Miami's offenses under Flores.

They were not exciting. And they were not productive. It was often embarrassing.

Was there any reason to believe it would get better?

Over the past three seasons, Miami's offense ranked 31st, 24th and 23rd in total offense. It's nearly impossible to even make the playoffs with that level of production.

Under Gase, Miami's offense was not any better, ranking 29th, 25th, 30th. Imagine how painful this must be for Dolphins' executive Dan Marino to watch?

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Well, oftentimes Marino has been watching right alongside Ross.

Miami's next hire must solve an offensive play-calling problem. And he must have a good answer when asked what he thinks of Tua Tagovailoa.

In an ideal circumstance, the hire made by general manager Chris Grier, with the blessing of Ross and CEO Tom Garfinkel, would have head coaching experience.

Reasons for offensive priority

But the feeling here is that solving Miami's offensive woes should take precedence over that. Most teams hire a coach perceived as an excellent offensive mind with the notion that it's harder for a defensive head coach hire to land such a mind as a coordinator hire.

That is why Miami is interviewing offensive coordinators like Kellen Moore, Brian Daboll and Mike McDaniel. Moore's Cowboys are 1st in the NFL in points per game, Daboll's Bills are 3rd and McDaniel's 49ers are 13th.

FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photo, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, left, encourages quarterback Josh Allen as he warms up before an NFL football game Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Allen and Daboll are overseeing an offensive renaissance in Buffalo in which the suddenly pass-happy Bills are among the NFL's most explosive teams three weeks into the season. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 20, 2019, file photo, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, left, encourages quarterback Josh Allen as he warms up before an NFL football game Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in Orchard Park, N.Y. Allen and Daboll are overseeing an offensive renaissance in Buffalo in which the suddenly pass-happy Bills are among the NFL's most explosive teams three weeks into the season. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

Moore and Daboll call plays, which would instantly provide Miami credibility in that area after less-than-stellar results with Gase, Chad O'Shea, Chan Gailey and George Godsey-Eric Studesville-Charlie Frye.

How Flores handled the 2021 offensive staff set-up and his lack of communication and transparency about the arrangement was disastrous for the team — and him.

Any prospective coach will be well-served to have better communication with Grier, his assistants, his players (especially his quarterback), and, yes, the media.

As for Tua, it would be interesting to hear what each of the prospective candidates says when asked about what they see and what they think of his future.

On Saturday, ESPN and the NFL Network simultaneously reported that Miami has an organizational belief in Tagovailoa and is now far less likely to pursue Watson.

This makes sense, and any candidate would know that Grier selected Tua with the fifth overall pick just two years ago, with the blessing of Ross. So, yes, the answer should include at least some version of: "I think we can win games with Tua."

Everyone knows 2022 would be Tua's last chance. If he flops under a new staff, Miami will be using their two first-round picks in 2023 to land yet another quarterback.

Miami Dolphins Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1), is help of the ground by Miami Dolphins offensive guard Jesse Davis (77), after being sacked by Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Daryl Williams (75) during first quarter action of their NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens. Tagovailoa did not return to action.
Miami Dolphins Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1), is help of the ground by Miami Dolphins offensive guard Jesse Davis (77), after being sacked by Buffalo Bills offensive tackle Daryl Williams (75) during first quarter action of their NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens. Tagovailoa did not return to action.

The Dolphins took Tannehill's thoughts and what was best for his future into serious consideration when they selected Gase, a so-called "quarterback whisperer."

Would Miami would heavily involve Tagovailoa in this interview process? The decision on which coach to hire should under no circumstances be made exclusively based on what's best for Tua. But make no mistake, it will be heavily considered.

Moore, ironically, is the last left-handed quarterback to start in the NFL before Tua. And Daboll was actually once Tua's offensive coordinator at Alabama.

The Dolphins cannot, and likely will not, hire a coach who they think can fix the offense, while totally overlooking that coaches' leadership traits. Unfortunately, Gase was entirely too focused on offensive play-calling and it seemed to affect his overall effectiveness as a head coach. This hire must still command a room and garner respect throughout a locker room.

It is not outrageous to think Miami could hire a defensive-minded coach such as Dan Quinn, provided he had an outstanding offensive coordinator hire on Line 2. Would McDaniel, who has worked with Quinn before, come to Miami as play-caller?

Dolphins' offense boring, putrid

Miami needs to get the offense right.

Over the past 21 seasons, the Dolphins have ranked in the Top 15 in the league in scoring offense just five times: 2020 (15th, Chan Gailey), 2014 (11th, Bill Lazor), 2009 (15th, Dan Henning) and 2002 (12th, Norv Turner) and 2001 (8th, Chan Gailey).

Maybe Chan Gailey wasn't so bad after all!

What is obvious in today's NFL, is that a team without a good offense has no chance to do damage in the playoffs. It turns out a team without an elite passer of the football is unlikely to even make the playoffs.

Consider the 14 quarterbacks who will appear in the playoffs beginning this Saturday: Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Patrick Mahomes, Derek Carr, Joe Burrow, Dak Prescott, Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Jimmy Garoppolo, Mac Jones, Kyler Murray, Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Tannehill and Jalen Hurts.

Here's where those quarterbacks rank among NFL passing yards leaders: 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21. Put another way, 13 of the top 16 quarterbacks in passing yards this season lead their team to the playoffs.

Tua ranked 27th.

It's true he missed four games with injury.

Well, Tua ranked 29th in passing yards per game, 19th in passer rating and 23rd in passing touchdowns.

Not yet elite. Though it's only 21 starts.

When asked at the end of the season what he thought Miami's offensive identify for this season was, Tagovailoa said: "We want to be able to establish the run to set up a lot of our (play) actions."

It is true no Dolphins quarterback will rack up passing yards until Miami's offensive line improves. And it is true no Dolphins quarterback has a chance until Miami's running game improves and a few durable weapons are added to the receivers' room.

But Miami must become a better passing team, which includes more explosive plays. This year, the Dolphins were tied for 28th in offensive yards per play and 31st in passing yards per completion.

Bang-your-head-against-a-wall stuff.

The next Dolphins head coach should either be an effective offensive play-caller himself or have an incredibly well-thought-out plan about what he envisions the identity of Miami's offense will be and who calls the plays.

For at least two decades, in almost all seasons, the identity of Miami's offense has been — bad. And often boring, too.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Dolphins coaching search calls for fix to offensive game plan

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