Bill Lazor has worked for some of football’s most respected offensive minds — Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs, Mike Holmgren, and most recently, Chip Kelly.
Now as Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator, Lazor plans to use a little bit of everything he has picked up along the way.
But as for the actual system Lazor plans to run in Miami?
“The clearest way to say it is this will be the Miami Dolphins’ offense,” Lazor said Wednesday, hours after accepting head coach Joe Philbin’s job offer. “The No. 1 factor in how we do it and specifically how it looks is going to be the ability of the players we have.”
So no talk on this day of pass-run ratio, zone-blocking schemes or the West Coast offense.
Lazor, who was previously the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, was even hesitant to evaluate his new quarterback, Ryan Tannehill, aside from saying he’s “really excited to work with him” and he sees “a lot of ability.”
If he can have the same kind of success with Tannehill that he had with another young quarterback — Nick Foles — Lazor will cement himself as one of the league’s true rising stars. Foles, taken 80 picks after Tannehill in the 2012 Draft, was the NFL’s most efficient passer last year, leading Philadelphia to the playoffs.
“Bill is an accomplished coach and will be a great addition to our coaching staff,” Philbin said in a statement. “Bill has been instrumental in helping players reach their full potential, as players and people, at both the college and professional level. He also has a proven track record of success working with a wide variety of offenses. I want to welcome Bill and his family to the Dolphins family.”
The hire was a bit of a surprise, as Lazor had reportedly decided to follow new Lions coach Jim Caldwell to Detroit. Somewhere along the way, those plans apparently changed.
Lazor wouldn’t either confirm or deny the report, saying only that he wasn’t concerned with “outside distractions.”
Though many argued in the last two weeks that the Dolphins’ situation — instability in the front office and a coach on the hot seat — was unattractive to top candidates, Lazor has a different take.
Lazor said “the No. 1 reason” he took the job was Philbin’s character and commitment to winning, that he was “extremely excited” when offered the job and that “my future and [Philbin’s] future are together. I’m in it with him.”
He has work to do. Lazor inherits an offense that ranked in the bottom third in both points and total yards a year ago.
But he has orchestrated turnarounds before.
Before serving as a position coach in Philadelphia, Lazor called plays at the University of Virginia from 2010 through 2012. He was one of Mike London’s first hires after taking over the program, and came highly recommended. Reeves and Holmgren were among those to put in a good word.
Lazor made those references look good. After taking over an offense that ranked last in the ACC, the Cavaliers vaulted to third in Lazor’s first season, averaging more than 400 yards per game.
“He’s very detailed oriented, meticulous in putting his plan together,” London told The Miami Herald. “He’s very visual. Very knowledgable of quarterback play.”
Lazor ran a pro-style offense while at Virginia, but clearly is comfortable in the spread, used by Kelly in Philadelphia. London is just as curious as anyone about how the Dolphins’ offense will look.
The Eagles’ success was due in large part to their balance; Philadelphia had nearly a 50-50 run-pass split. Their offense ranked second in yards (417.3) and fourth in points (27.6). The Dolphins, meanwhile, struggled to score despite throwing the ball 65 percent of the time.
But most importantly, Lazor, a native of Scranton, Pa., understands quarterback play, London said. He was a three-year starter at quarterback at Cornell, earning All-League honors. He has also been an assistant with the Falcons, Redskins and Seahawks.
The Dolphins announced no other changes to their coaching staff Wednesday, and Fox Sports reported that Philbin wants to keep the rest of his assistants in place. That apparently includes offensive line coach Jim Turner, whose unit allowed a franchise-record 58 sacks this year and lost two starters in the bullying scandal.
Lazor said Philbin controls the structure of the offensive coach staff, but added: “These are good coaches on the staff. They have great reputations. I’m excited to get to know them.”
As for why he got into coaching, Lazor responded: “I’m a competitor. I compete. This is what I’ve done. I’ve always enjoyed football.”
Lazor added: “I’m excited to being part of a winner, and in my opinion I think a strong nucleus is in place to help build a winning team.”
GM SEARCH UPDATE
The organization still has one major job opening to fill: general manager. On that front, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross completed his interview with Lions senior personnel executive Brian Xanders on Wednesday.
Xanders was GM of the Denver Broncos from 2009-2012, acquiring many of the players that will appear in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game.
He’s the sixth candidate to interview for the job, joining Omar Khan (Steelers), Brian Gaine (Dolphins), Jason Licht (Cardinals), Ray Farmer (Browns) and Lake Dawson (Titans). Eagles executive Tom Gable is no longer a candidate.