Dolphins offensive coordinator Bill Lazor is here largely because Joe Philbin wanted him to be.
Now Philbin is gone — and Lazor could soon be too, unless the issues that doomed the first four weeks of the season don’t quickly get fixed.
Dan Campbell, Philbin’s replacement as coach, acknowledged the obvious Wednesday.
“We know we’re all in the same boat together,” Campbell said of his coaching staff. “We need to win.”
Yet that cold calculus doesn’t erase the emotional side of a coaching change.
Lazor went through one before, when the Atlanta Falcons fired Dan Reeves in 2003. But never one so early in the season and with expectations so high.
“My first reaction was a sense of disappointment in that I let him down and that we hadn’t performed as a team well enough,” Lazor said of Philbin’s firing. “Disappointed. I respect him. I appreciate the opportunity that I had to work for him and I just kind of look at it as wishing I had done things better so it would have changed.”
He has a chance to do things better. Twelve more games — at least.
But the challenges are great.
The Dolphins rank last in third-down conversions (26.9 percent), 31st in scoring (16.3 points per game), 31st in rushing (69.3 yards per game) and 28th in passer rating (77.1).
Up next: A Tennessee Titans defense that leads the league in passing (166.5 yards allowed per game), ranks third in yards allowed (283.5) and is third-best on third downs (31.3 percent).
Priority No. 1: Miami must get more production on the ground.
Lazor was the latest to acknowledge that Wednesday. The Dolphins are one of just two teams yet to score a rushing touchdown (the Jaguars are the other).
Lazor, who ordered nine consecutive passing plays in one goal-to-go situation against the Jets, agreed that his unit needs “to get [to the goal line] more and run it more, definitely.”
But it’s not like the Dolphins cannot be productive on the ground; they’re 10th in the league in yards per attempt (4.3). They simply don’t run it enough.
“We’re going to have inside run,” Lazor said. “We’re going to have outside run. We’ve been far more productive as a shotgun run team than we have as an under-center run team, but we do both.”
Other takeaways from Lazor’s first media availability since last week’s coaching change:
▪ He pushed back against the narrative that Ryan Tannehill is not allowed to audible at the line of scrimmage, as multiple outlets have reported.
Lazor’s answer: “Ryan does as much in decision making as any quarterback I’ve coached, and he can. He’s very intelligent. I’ve been in systems where the quarterback’s at the line making a lot of calls and it’s easy to turn on certain TV right now and see certain quarterbacks gesturing dummies, yelling all this stuff. I’ve been in systems where we did not audible at all.
“In the Jet game, Ryan changed the play by words. Some people would call that an audible, by hand signal. He had plays where a run was called and without having to change anything, he decided to throw the ball. So if people don’t think he makes those decisions, then we’ve done a heck of a job with our disguises.”
▪ Wide receiver DeVante Parker continues to improve after missing the better part of three months because of foot surgery.
“When he walks on the grass, there is a total aura about him and a confidence,” Lazor said. “… I expect he’ll get more. I really do. I don’t see anything that he can’t do.”
▪ Lazor’s ties with new senior offensive assistant Al Saunders stretch back to their days together on the Redskins’ staff.
“It’s a great opportunity to have someone who I know, who I trust, who speaks the same language that we do, who understands the concepts that we run,” Lazor said. “He could really walk in the door and hit the ground running.”