Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It was midnight and I could barely sleep with the bitter taste of the Dolphin’s defeat at the hands of the Colts still festering in my mouth. Good thing I had the first episode of season five of How I Met Your Mother to cheer me up. And then 17 minutes into the episode Megavideo.com said that I used my allotted time and I could watch no longer. So I again was left with the terrible reality of the Dolphin's miserable defeat. How do you thoroughly dominate a team like that and still lose? I say the coaching is clearly to blame.

The catch is that if we win this game, Jaws and John Gruden are sitting up in the booth yammering on about how Tony Sparano and the Dolphins staff crafted one of the finest game plans in the NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE (got to say it like that if your cool) to stop Peyton Manning and the Colts. But the players need all the credit for how the Dolphins played. Our offense dominated the line of scrimmage, the running game flowed and Chad Pennington was picking apart the defense at will. Pennington was 22-33 passing but the stats don’t tell the whole story. Pennington was able to make the key throws to extend drives and keep Peyton and the Colt's offense off the field. So how did we lose then? .

First off, Miami was 15-21 on third downs. Chad Pennington was 9-12 on converting 3rd downs throwing the ball with a completion percentage of 75%. That is unheard of. You can’t do better than that unless Jacory Harris is your quarterback. How can you be that efficient on third down and still lose a football game? Well, I guess the answer would be a combination of the following: giving up big plays, not making big plays and terrible coaching in specialty situations.

Giving up big plays and not making big plays is pretty self explanatory. The Colts scored on an 80 yard play action pass to Dallas Clark and a 48 yard bubble screen to Peirre Garcon. The Dolphins not making the big play can pretty much be summed up by an overall lack of talented skill players. Yes, Ted Ginn could have made that catch at the end but overall we lack the big play threats and the quarterback to make the big plays. But as much as these two factors impacted the end result of the game, they are nowhere near as egregious of errors as the Dolphins coaching mistakes.

The first thing that we did terribly was stall out our own drives. Thank you Dan Henning for trying to impress instead of trying to win the game. There were a number of occasions where we were moving the ball at will on a crappy Colts run defense (without Bob Sanders) and then the coaching staff tried to get too cute turning great drives into long field goal attempts. Let me give an example.

Look at the first drive to start off the third quarter. We spend the entire drive in either our base package or our wildcat package to perfection picking up one first down passing and two first downs running, moving the ball all the way to the 36 yard line of the Colts. Then inexplicably the wildcat or the base package wasn’t working well enough for the Dan Henning and we had to bring in the Pat White package, which is him, Ricky and Ronnie in the shotgun for the triple option. Mind you, the triple option doesn’t work in the NFL and it didn’t work here. We gained zero yards on the play and brought Chad Pennington back in the game with a 2nd and 10 rather than a 2nd down with more manageable yardage. Big shocker was that the drive ended up in a missed 49 yard field goal.

It’s easy to second guess this play now but at the time I was first guessing this play. When you have a defense that isn’t stopping what you do well, why do you have to run something that you haven’t run well one time all season? I’m all for the Pat White package to mix things up when our offense is getting stagnant but this entire game our offense was looking dynamic and our offensive line was dominating. We never needed to mix things up and we shouldn’t have tried.

The other obvious coaching blunders were our third down calls. I said earlier that we were 15-21 on third downs and Pennington was 9-12 throwing, so that means that there were 9 first downs that we didn’t try to pass for. Actually, Pennington was sacked on one of his throws so only eight where we tried to run for. Running the ball on third and short is fine with me but running the ball on 3rd and 6 with 5 minutes left, Peyton Manning on the other sideline and the game on the line could be worse than Lane “I have Mangina” Kiffin running the I-formation and just running the ball when his team was down 23-6 with under ten minutes left in the Gator-Vols game this past Saturday. But seriously, does that call make any sense when your quarterback is almost perfect on third down to that point and the defense has been sucking wind and hasn't stop your offense all game. If we pick up that third down, we can leave Peyton with less time and maybe even try to score a touchdown. Seriously, I don’t even have a working analogy to vent my frustration. Maybe I do but this is a family friendly blog, actually this might be a family only blog, who else even reads this but I digress. But seriously, the prevent offense is something I thought the Dolphins lost at the end of the Dave Wannstedt error… typo I meant to write era … but now all the memories of the Wanstache are flooding back.

I guess the big shocker of this post to this point is that I am almost at 1000 words into my rant and I haven’t even mentioned our two minute whatever you call it. That was not a drill. The definition of a drill according to dictionary.com is “any strict, methodical, repetitive, or mechanical training, instruction, or exercise.” It’s called a drill because it is supposed to have structure and be practiced and be very methodical and not be players running around and coaches looking at each other not having the faintest clue of what is going on. That’s why I am calling it a 2 minute whatever because it was just that terrible. I’m going to write in normal lettering the drive and then put my comments in italics.

Let’s start off with us getting the ball back with 3:13 and two timeouts.

If I’m Tony Sparano and Dan Henning I’m thinking, “How can we pick up a huge chunk of yardage before the 2 minute warning without burning any timeouts? Maybe a screen pass or maybe we’ll use the middle of the field now while we still can. But the last thing we want to do is gain very little yardage while burning clock.”

(3:13) R.Brown left tackle to MIA 19 for 1 yard (D.Freeney).

Great start now let’s look around like we don’t know where we are and burn our 2nd timeout so the play clock doesn’t expire. Sweet, so we just got 1 yard in 40 seconds and cost ourselves a timeout. Hey, at least we’ll have a timeout now to draw up two or three really good plays before the two minute warning. Right????

(2:26) R.Brown right tackle to MIA 24 for 5 yards (E.Foster).

Sweet, we just burned that timeout so that we could run up the middle again. Hurry, let’s try to get another play off… damn no luck I guess we can be content that we just wasted over a minute, 1 timeout and got 6 yards. This has been a great two minute drill so far.

The rest of the drive was pretty by the book 2 minute drill stuff. Pennington did the best he could with the time he had and we came up just short. But here in lies the problem with the 2009 Dolphins up to this point. We aren’t talented enough to be this stupid. If we were the Arizona Cardinals with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldan and their assortment of playmakers on offense we could run inefficient 2 minute drills and call terrible plays and have a chance of winning but we aren’t an explosive big play offense. We are built to take up chunks of yardage at a time and dominate time of possession, not make big plays down field. This limits us in the plays we call and is why we have such a hard time against attacking defenses like the Baltimore Ravens and this is also why we need to run more efficient 2 minute drills. We can’t just bail ourselves out with a big play, we have to play smart.

This is the difference between the 2008 and the 2009 Miami Dolphins to this point. The 2008 Miami Dolphins overachieved because they did everything right and didn’t let mental mistakes cost them games that they should have won. The 2009 Miami Dolphins are nothing but mental mistakes and poor coaching. It will be hard for this team to turn it around because of how well they played last night and how tough of a loss this will be. However, if anyone’s leadership can right this ship it will be behind the ownership group of Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Marc Anthony, Jimmy Buffet, and Gloria Estefan. Come on guys, it is time to show why Miami is so lucky to have you guys as part owners of our team.

Just joking… but in all seriousness, Chad Pennington is a great leader and should be able to right this ship. At least I hope so.