After the latest of the Miami Dolphins five consecutive losses, I wrote a column saying the team had to rethink a lot of things this coming offseason, including the roster, the team's overall philosophy for putting a team together, and the staff of assistants.
And although the mighty Miami Herald still buys ink by the barrel, the space on its pages often limits how far I can go in explaining what I mean because space is limited. Here on the Internet, however, space is infinite.
And so I’m going use this venue to give examples that led me to say the things I did in my column. We’ll do that in the few posts over the next couple of days.
This one will examine coaching.
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Let me just say this off the bat: Many of you have written to me asking me to rip head coach Adam Gase. Obviously, I have not done that to any degree. The reason for that is I don’t judge a head coach by 11 games. I don’t think a team should turn its back on someone in his second year after he took the team to the playoffs his first year.
I see, as everyone else does, that Gase has not done as good a job this season as last. I think he would say the same thing.
But to suggest he’s totally at fault for the 4-7 record the Dolphins are suffering is unfair.
Having said that, coaching has been on my mind.
And there are areas Gase has given over to assistants that simply are failing right now.
I’m looking at the defense first here.
The Miami defense, relatively unscathed by injury this year compared to other units, has allowed at least 26 points in six consecutive games. So it’s no coincidence the Dolphins are yielding an average of 26.3 points per game this season.
That’s tied with the Cleveland Browns for 30th worst in the NFL.
Only the Indianapolis Colts, who give up 27.3 points per game, are worse.
That’s also 3 points more per game than Miami allowed last year.
And my problem with the coaching relative to that is, obviously, first-year defensive coordinator Matt Burke is the guy in charge of the entire defense. It’s his baby.
It’s his whiny, colicky, soiled baby.
Gase gives Burke relative freedom over the unit to manage as he sees fit.
And it’s not looking too well-managed right now.
My problem is that I see things happen over and over that do not get corrected.
Take Sunday’s game for example: I saw Phillip Dorsett running wide open across the middle of the Miami secondary. Tom Brady saw it, too, so he connected with Dorsett for a 39-yard gain.
The play led to the Patriots first touchdown because it moved them from the Miami 46 yard line to the Miami 7.
And why did this happen?
Because cornerback Cordrea Tankersley, who was covering Dorsett, dropped his coverage as the receiver ran across the field. And no one else picked up Dorsett until Reshad Jones made the tackle. And that’s because apparently the Dolphins were in man coverage across the field but Tankersley seemed to be playing zone.
So Tankersley left his man all alone to go cover air.
Fine, so this is one breakdown. It’s bad.
When young Cordrea Tankersley comes to the sideline, tell him he made a significant mistake and help him to understand, like right now, that the call you made requires him to pick up man assignment. Show him the play on your tablet. Look for the understanding nod that he gets it.
Because in the second quarter we have a similar problem happen
This time, Tankersley, apparently assigned to zone against Brandin Cooks, drops the coverage again but the safety who is on a deep receiver doesn’t trust the rookie to get deep enough and cover that receiver. So the safety doesn’t take Cooks as the receiver arcs across the field even as Tankersley comes over. That means both Tankersley and T.J. McDonald are on one receiver and Cooks is left unchecked.
Not surprisingly, Brady finds Cooks and the two connect on a 37-yard completion.
And the galling thing is this didn’t happen because the Patriots are so awesome or because Tom Brady can thread a needle with his passing. It happened because the Dolphins didn’t have a young player ready to carry out his assignment on one play and then multiple players either didn’t know their assignments or didn’t communicate on another play.
That is on the players, yes, but it’s also on the coaching.
We heard ad nauseam this summer how Burke wanted to cross-train his linebackers. He refused to say what position the linebackers were playing. He didn’t even tell the players.
Eventually we found out that somebody would play in the middle -- be it Mike Hull, Rey Maualuga or Chase Allen -- while Kiko Alonso played weakside outside linebacker and Lawrence Timmons played strongside outside linebacker.
This was interesting because the Dolphins moved Alonso from the middle, where he had a good season in 2016.
All good, except the plan is failing.
Now, I didn’t go to defensive coordinator school. I didn’t take linebacker coaching in college. But I can see from 200 yards away in a press box that Miami’s linebackers are not getting it done.
The Dolphins have a soft spot in the middle of their front seven where a solid middle linebacker is supposed to be -- where Raekwon McMillan is slated to be next season. Except it’s still this season.
So Alonso should have been moved back to the middle as soon as Rey Maualuga, who Burke vouched for, got arrested at 8:30 in the morning at some club and was immediately cut.
At that point, and for the good of the team, I’m putting Alonso in the middle.
(Peanut Gallery: But Mando, that might mess with Kiko’s head a little bit because you’re moving him back and forth. And if you move Kiko inside, who do you replace him with outside?)
Thanks for showing up, dear gallery. Allow me to show you how myopic your vision is.
As to messing with Alonso’s head, the fact is moving him in the first place did that. He loved playing in the middle. He played better in the middle last year than he has this year outside. He told the team, through his agent, he didn’t want to play anywhere but in the middle. So I reject the whole messing with his head thing because the Dolphins already did that to begin with.
Also, I believe Alonso is an adult and if someone, like a coach, explains the pressing need to move him back to the position he loves, the guy will understand.
Beyond that, the Dolphins have been integrating Stephone Anthony into passing downs anyway, putting Lawrence Timmons on the bench.
Forgive me but I believe a LB group of Timmons, Alonso, Anthony has a better chance at competing than Alonso, Chase Allen, and Timmons.
By the way, I don’t want to hear that Timmons is worn out. I don’t want to hear that you’re trying to save him because, you should have read in The Miami Herald, he’s cut this offseason anyway.
So save him for what? The playoffs the Dolphins aren’t going to? The 2018 regular-season Timmons will be spending elsewhere?
More frustration caused by questionable coaching?
So the Patriots, one of the worst teams in the league at sacking the quarterback, collected seven sacks against Miami on Sunday.
On one of those I saw an inside linebacker blitz right up the middle while center Mike Pouncey looked right (never turned his head to the left at all) to help right guard Jesse Davis on a double team block.
And I saw left guard Ted Larsen look left (never turned his head to the right at all) as he helped left tackle Laremy Tunsil on a double team block.
And so the Dolphins double-teamed two defensive linemen while being completely unaware of the linebacker who shot an enormous gap between Pouncey and Larsen to get to the Matt Moore for the easy sack.
Are these guys not coaches to be situationally aware?
Another example: At the beginning of the Dolphins current losing skid, left tackle Laremy Tunsil had a terrible game against Baltimore. And in the post outlining why it was a bad outing, there was video that showed Tunsil and a teammate failing to coordinate in trying to block a stunt by a pair of Ravens pass rushers.
Well, I’m sure the Dolphins coaching staff addressed this issue, right?
If they did, it wasn’t done well enough.
On Sunday, the Patriots had a rookie and a guy they just signed off somebody’s practice squad conduct a picture perfect stunt against Tunsil and Larsen. The tackle engaged Larsen while the end swept around behind him. And rather than Larsen breaking off and picking up the stunt while Tunsil took the defensive tackle, Larsen remained engaged while Tunsil also engaged the tackle.
The defensive end thus had a free run at Matt Moore for another sack.
This isn’t the Patriots having amazing talent. This isn’t them being unstoppable.
This is Dolphins players either not knowing what to do (in similar situations and in multiple games) or not executing what they’ve been taught or both.
I’m going with both.
And if it’s both, I put it on the coaches because you keep putting a player out there that still doesn’t get what you’re teaching so that’s your fault for not teaching well enough; or you’re trusting an unprepared player instead of using someone else which is still your fault.
Now, to be fair, the offensive line coaching this year got a little sideways when Chris Foerster got fired/resigned for snorting cocaine while on the job in the Dolphins facility.
(Can’t believe this season has forced me to write this sentence.)
And there is no doubt Gase will be looking for a new offensive line coach this offseason. Because none of the guys he’s hired so far got the job done right.
And they’re not the only ones.
Follow Armando Salguero on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero