Lou Anarumo and Zac Taylor walked to the podium inside the Dolphins media room on Thursday, neither coach having any idea if this was the last time in their lives that they will hold news conferences as coordinators (or in Taylor’s case, de facto coordinator) of an NFL defense and offense.
If they hold those positions again after Sunday, it likely will be elsewhere.
Both men had a chance to impress Dolphins management as in-season replacements, hand-picked by interim coach Dan Campbell.
And though players shoulder much of the blame for the 5-10 record, the Dolphins statistically displayed little or no improvement on either side of the ball after changing coordinators.
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The Dolphins allowed 25.2 points per game under Kevin Coyle through four games. They have relinquished 25.3 per game in 11 games with Anarumo as coordinator.
Offensively, the Dolphins generally have regressed, at least statistically, since Bill Lazor was replaced by Taylor, who doesn’t have the coordinator title but calls the plays.
The Dolphins averaged 20.4 points per game under Lazor, ranking in the bottom third of the league. They’re averaged 16.2 in four games under Taylor.
“Nothing is the way we want it or we wouldn’t be sitting where we’re at, [but] I can’t say I regret those moves,” Campbell said of his coordinator decisions. “Lou has done a hell of a job. Statistically, it’s not good enough. [But] schematically, I don’t regret that.
“Zac — what I’m pleased is he’s committed to the run game. I feel like he’s trying … to run it more the way I think we should play the game. It protects our offensive line, helps the quarterback with the play-action pass.”
Days after he was named interim coach, Campbell promoted Anarumo to replace Coyle, even though he had been a defensive coordinator only once before, with the U.S. Merchant Marines from 1992 to 1994.
Anarumo made subtle changes, including simplifying the defense and moving Ndamukong Suh around more.
But the Dolphins’ rush defense remained among the worst in the league (opponents are averaging 130 yards per game on the ground against Miami, which ranks 30th) and the pass defense is allowing a 98.8 opponent passer rating, which is 25th.
So how could a defense add Suh and be statistically worse in run defense?
“You can’t be 30 out of 35 [plays],” Anarumo said. “You have to be 35 out of 35. That has been our Achilles’ heel this year. You stop them for 30 plays and three of them get out for big runs. That’s my fault. I haven’t done a good enough job to get them to eliminate those long runs.”
Offensively, Lazor was fired partly because Campbell wanted to run the ball more. The Dolphins have averaged 23 rushing attempts per game under Taylor, compared with 19.8 under Lazor.
But the Dolphins have scored only seven touchdowns in four games under Taylor, who had never called plays before.
So is there anything the two replacement coordinators would have done differently?
Taylor indicated he regretted not getting the ball to Jarvis Landry more in the first three quarters against Indianapolis.
Anarumo said he wouldn’t have done anything differently with player usage because “we played kind of the hand the way it was dealt.”
As for strategy, “there are certain things I certainly could have done better.”
The Dolphins named receiver Jarvis Landry and safety Reshad Jones as co-winners of the Dan Marino MVP award, as decided by team officials (not players) and reporters that cover the team.
In the only award determined by players, center Mike Pouncey was named winner of the Don Shula Leadership Award.
▪ Pouncey (foot) and Jelani Jenkins (ankle) missed practice. Campbell said there’s only a “slight” chance either will play Sunday against New England. Right tackle Ja’Wuan James, who has missed eight games with a toe injury, practiced Thursday, but Campbell said he wasn’t sure if James will play Sunday.
▪ Besides AFC East teams, Miami will play at home in 2016 against Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Arizona, San Francisco and Tennessee, and will play on the road against Baltimore, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Seattle and San Diego.