The NFL’s Newest Innovation Provides A Sad Realization For the Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins, just two years ago, beat the Seahawks in a game where the Dolphins were more physical than Seattle at the line of scrimmage — something teams weren’t able to do much in 2013. The Dolphins held the Seahawks’ moose of a running back, Marshawn Lynch, to only 2.4 yards per carry and the entire Seahawks’ offense, which leans heavily on the running game, to only 96 yards on 27 attempts.
Miami also ran the ball down the throat of the Seahawks’ daunting defense, rushing for 189 yards on 27 attempts, nearly doubling the Seahawks’ rushing total. Miami also scored two touchdowns on the ground in that game, something that happened only eight times in Seattle’s Super Bowl season.
The Dolphins owned a dominating front seven which clogged running lanes annually from 2008-2012. The Dolphins were in the top half of rushing defense nearly every year in this time frame.
The Dolphins’ running game failed to accumulate at least 1,800-yards rushing in a season only once (2010) in the five-year window from 2008-2012. The Dolphins were a top five rushing offense in 2009, running for 2,231 yards.
The Dolphins traded for 6-foot-4, 230-pound Brandon Marshall in 2010 to add a receiver to a team whose biggest flaw had been a lack of play-makers and to add to the physical team that management had been building.
The Dolphins’ most lacking area was then quarterback. After Chad Penningon‘s shoulder turned to paper, Chad Henne was proven to be another fraud in a long line of prematurely crowned “Marino Curse” breakers. It leaves people wondering: Would Ryan Tannehill, the most recent QB to be named as the franchise’s savior, have been able to lead those teams to something great, similar to what Russell Wilson has done in Seattle?
The Dolphins had two press cornerbacks in Vontae Davis and Sean Smith, a model nearly identical to the Seahawks’ current blueprint. The defensive line, which featured now-Seahawk defensive lineman Tony McDaniel, was full of run-stuffing men like Paul Soliai and skilled pass rushers (Joey Porter, Jason Taylor and Cam Wake). The Dolphins had a bone-crushing safety in Yeremiah Bell who delivered hits that only the most feared safeties, like Seattle’s Kam Chancellor, could dish out.
The Dolphins had the model which will now try to be copied by teams across the NFL. The team abandoned the physical style when Tony Sparano was fired during the 2011 season and fell into the hypnosis that the finesse Green Bay Packers had placed upon the league when the Packers were putting up electrifying numbers through the air.
The Dolphins hired Green Bay OC Joe Philbin as their head coach and the transition to a finesse team had begun. The team’s most vocal, physical and skilled players were all banished between the beginning of the 2012 season and the end of 2013. Reggie Bush, Marshall, Karlos Dansby, Kevin Burnett, Davis and Smith were all leaders who were traded, cut or not re-signed in this time period.
This may explain the lack of leadership during the bullying scandal, but I digress.
Philbin’s newly softened team was pushed around nearly the entire 2013 season, especially on the offensive side of the ball. The Dolphins allowed 58 sacks in 2013, a new franchise record, and ran for only 1,440 years to rank 26th in the NFL.
The Dolphins became a throw-first football team, the opposite of what they were from 2008-2012. While they finally got the quarterback play that would have gotten them into the playoffs, other areas of the team (which were once strengths) let the Dolphins down and kept them out of the playoffs for yet another year.
The Dolphins always seem to be one step behind the curve — two steps forward and three steps back.
The Dolphins switched from physical to finesse when finesse was popular. Now, the brute style of football of simply beating the man across from you has been re-popularized by the Seahawks.
The Dolphins have invested too much into this project to pull the plug and attempt a switch back to a smash-mouth football team. The best option is to complete what is being built and re-popularize the finesse style of football.
With that being said, the question is still lingering in my head. Would Tannehill have led those Dolphins teams that were built on running the ball and defense to greatness?
Danny Williams is an NFL for Rant Sports, follow him on Twitter @DannyWeeumzNFL