While the Dolphins players are off resting and relaxing, many questions have been posed about what steps the Dolphins offense will need to take to put more points on the scoreboard and win more games.
First, last season, when the Dolphins hired Mike Sherman to be the offensive coordinator, news of the hiring sparked much optimism amongst Dolphins fans. After all, Sherman worked as the head coach for Brett Favre and a dynamic passing offense, worked in Houston with Kubiak with newly acquired Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson, and finally had a great rapport with Ryan Tannehill at Texas A&M. Heck, Tannehill was probably the Dolphins choice because of Mike Sherman, being his former coach at Texas A&M.
However, how did the Dolphins offense improve when after one year of having an offense that ranked 27th in points, 27th in yards, and 26th in pass yards per game. As a result, many Dolfans were calling for Sherman’s head and wanted to move on to another re-tread offensive coordinator in Norv Turner. Many Dolfans uttered the name Dan Henning several times on twitter and wanted the Dolphins to do more than just ground and pound right into the opposing defenses, at least the Dolphins could find solace in their run game at 17th averaging 112.6 yards per game.
The reality of the Dolphins offense is there were no offensive weapons to begin with (after making the Brandon Marshall trade) and calling plays became more of an adventure for Mike Sherman with the lack of pass catching and a running tight end, a lack of blocking upfront to spring Reggie Bush, and a lack of execution by third and fourth receivers who dropped, fumbled, or couldn’t out run sailing passes to help rookie QB Ryan Tannehill. The personnel moves in the offseason did not mesh well with the offense that Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman were accustomed to running.
After looking at the season as a whole, Sherman’s best and worst job of play calling could be wrapped up into one game: Week 4 versus the Arizona Cardinals. This is the game where the Dolphins played well enough to win and poorly enough to lose. It was a tale of two halves. After a very counter-productive first quarter by both the Cardinals and Dolphins, the Dolphins got on the board with a field goal. Later after a 95 yard drive and a Jorvorskie Lane plunge into the end zone, the Dolphins made it 10-0. This drive included 2 passes, one a 57 yard pass and another, a 19 yard pass in order to overcome a 14 yard loss on a sack. This drive proved most impressive at the time by rookie QB Ryan Tannehill. It was the quickest drive for a touchdown in that only 3:49 elapsed off the clock. An eight play drive and a touchdown was music to the ears of all Dolfans watching.
However, the second half, riding a 13-0 lead was a completely different story. The offense seemed to go into a shell. First the Dolphins opening drive of the 3rd quarter led to a missed field goal after a 2:17 drive on a play call sequence of a pass for 6 yards, a run by Reggie Bush for 1 yard, a pass to Hartline for 30 yards, and run for negative yardage on 1st down and then a couple of incomplete passes to Davone Bess. The field goal resulted in a miss by Carpenter with Dolfans clamoring for better play calls and more #Fireland talk. What was most un-nerving about this drive was the fact that the Dolphins had the Cardinals on the ropes. Their defense was on the ropes and a 20-0 lead in the 3rd quarter would have been close to smooth sailing to victory for Miami.
The next offensive drive brought about some puzzling play calls: starting at the Miami 16, on first down, Tannehill passed to Bess for 16 yards. Then instead of maybe getting the receivers out wide and throwing the ball into the flat or even a screen pass with a furious pass rush by Arizona, the Dolphins chose run and Bush lost -5 yards. Already in a game where Reggie Bush was hobbled by a knee strain, they ran him on first down, right at the defense. By the time he bounced outside, the Cardinals had the edge and drove him back. This was frustrating to say the least. Even more frustrating was the next play call: pass to Bess that was almost an interception: 3 yards, then even after a huge pass interference call that was drawn by Brian Hartline, the Dolphins punted on this drive. Total time of the drive was 3:05 and no points. Lead 13-7.
Fast forward to the end of the 4th quarter and leading 13-7, Sherman calls Fake FB toss to Reggie Bush and Sam Acho happily meets him for a 9 yard loss. Still leading at the end of 3 quarters 13-7, this element of trickery fooled every Dolfan, but not the Cardinals defense that pursued Bush with a fury. On the next play, a pass on third down leading to another 9 yard loss and a blown drive with a chance to take some momentum into the third quarter.