Greg Cote: Miami Dolphins’ Bill Lazor majoring in Ryan Tannehill development

01/16/2014 12:01 AM

01/16/2014 8:36 PM

Let’s get the important stuff out of the way first with Bill Lazor, the Miami Dolphins’ new coach in charge of scoring enough points to make the playoffs for a blessed change.

That name of his.

Miami’s offense will henceforth be referred to as the “Lazor Gun” and it is unavoidable, you can’t do anything about it, so get used to it. Matters not that his name isn’t spelled laser or how he pronounces it. When your new offensive coordinator is Lazor, you run the Lazor Gun. Best we can hope is that additional puns do not include all scores being referred to as “Lazor pointers,” completed long passes as “Lazor beams,” and efficient drives through an opponent defense as “Lazor surgery” – all flying under the inevitable headline, “Lazor Lights Up Offense.”

OK, now that we have all that out of our system, let’s tackle the minor matters.

Is this a smart hire?

And: Why this guy?

It is an interesting, promising hire – that we can say now, with some certainty, as we wait for results to judge the addition as smart or not.

And while we wait, much more anxiously, for the club to hire a new general manager. (More on that later).

For now Dolfans should like that Lazor, the Philadelphia Eagles’ quarterbacks coach this past season, is young(ish) at 41, and fresh from having helped turn Nick Foles from a backup into the NFL’s highest-rated passer.

This does not feel like Miami is recycling somebody out of the Old Boys Network, like the hiring of former and failed OC Mike Sherman did. This feels more like Miami has identified somebody on the ascent whom it believes can be the next big thing. That’s forward thinking. Maybe Lazor wasn’t Miami’s first choice (it seems Green Bay’s Ben McAdoo, who chose the Giants, was), but that doesn’t mean Lazor, whom the Lions also sought, won’t prove as good or better.

I also like that the Dolphins are handing the keys to their offense to a former quarterback and career-long QBs specialist. That makes this hire a lot about Ryan Tannehill – as it should be.

Lazor majored in human development at Cornell.

Bill has a new major now:

Tannehill development.

Head coach Joe Philbin will continue to have much to say about the offense Miami runs, its philosophy and style. But Lazor is the guy who needs to make sure that offense perfectly suits Tannehill, and vice-versa. That Miami runs an attack and draws from a playbook that allows Tannehill to flourish as he begins his crucial third pro year.

Miami needs Tannehill to grow to Pro Bowl-caliber or close to it, not maybe someday, but in 2014. Lazor must find an offense, a vessel, that allows Tannehill to be dynamic and efficient and all shades in between.

Yes, Lazor is inexperienced as an offensive coordinator. He has not previously held the title in the NFL and has at a major level only at the University of Virginia in 2010-12, before joining the Eagles last season.

That doesn’t bother me.

His coaching tree has impressive branches. He has worked under Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs, Mike Holmgren and Chip Kelly. He is versed in the West Coast offense and its quick-hit passing. He was a part of Kelly’s very-successful uber-up-tempo attack in Philadelphia. He called plays at Virginia, inheriting an offense that ranked last in the Atlantic Coast Conference and seeing it ranked third his first season there.

All of that, and what he did with Foles, suggests a man ready to be a coordinator at the top level – or ready for his chance, at least.

Lazor has pieces to work with. Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline both had around 1,000 yards receiving last season. Tight end Charles Clay was a hugely pleasant surprise with room to grow. Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas can be an efficient combo platter for a ground game.

An improved Tannehill and a better offensive line are essential, but enough elements are in place that Miami underachieved last season averaging only 19.8 points per game, including that late two-game fizzle that cost a playoff spot. It’s what got Sherman fired. It’s why Lazor has his shot.

Miami’s goal should be an offense capable of scoring 400 points a season (25 a game). You can win with that. Here is how many times Miami has scored 400 points since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978: Three, 1984-86. Dan Marino’s peak.

It should not take a Hall of Fame QB in his absolute prime to generate such production. Eleven teams (more than one in three) topped 400 points this season; nine made the playoffs.

We’ll see if Lazor can jump-start that kind of output.

For now just say the hiring of an offensive coordinator offers hope in a way the search for a GM to replace Jeff Ireland does not.

I can’t see how Miami will attract a top-tier candidate; three men it sought already have declined interviews. The Dolphins’ new GM will inherit a head coach (and now an offensive coordinator) he didn’t hire and doesn’t have the power to fire, and will step into a management structure that cedes much of a GM’s typical authority to owner Stephen Ross and to Philbin.

Eagles vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble is a guy Miami should redouble efforts to lure as new GM – especially now that Lazor, with whom he’s worked, is aboard. Gamble is well respected, but it would take Ross opening his wallet and ceding some authority to get him. That seems doubtful.

So the Dolphins have one major hire down now and one to go.

The new offensive coordinator might have much to prove. But that hiring is a good deal more reassuring than the pulsing uncertainty in a GM search that seems without rudder.

About Greg Cote

Greg Cote


Greg Cote has been a Miami Herald sports columnist since 1995 and also writes the Random Evidence blog and NFL predictions along with his notorious sidekick the Upset Bird. He has covered Hurricanes football (1984-88), the Dolphins (1990-91) and major events including Super Bowls, NBA Finals, World Series, Stanley Cup, Olympics and World Cup.

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