It was not a game the Miami Dolphins were expected to win, as a matter of fact, after the initial 1-3 start of the Dolphins' season, critics and fans wondered how many more games Miami would win if any at all. No team has ever won the Super Bowl after starting the season 1-3, and to further discourage Dolphin fans, no team has ever reached the big game when a coaching change is made during the season. This sobering set of stats do not appear to have affected interim coach Dan Campbell, who coached an excellent game against the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
Playing a physical game and always at the edge has been the sermon preached to the players, media and fans by Campbell. The players responded by playing with reckless abandon on both sides of the ball against the Tennessee Titans.
The aggressive play on defense stood out, as the team successfully went after the Titans' quarterback time and again. The offense ran the ball more times for more yards during the first half alone than they had all season. The run game, QB option and a tricky end around play set up the passing game, which quarterback Ryan Tannehill took full advantage of, giving the Dolphins a convincing win. Now the fans in Miami are joyful and hungry for more of what they saw on Sunday. Could it be that at last Miami fans have the coach they have so long craved for?
The tough talk and intensity level which has characterized the young new head coach is just what the Miami fans wanted. A “real leader,” a “man's man,” and one not afraid to play at the edge is how the average fan sees Campbell, the very antagonist of former coach Joe Philbin and his low key demeanor. What some may have missed amid the walking, talking, display of testosterone Dan Campbell is, may be the fact that beneath it all, Campbell's best coaching characteristic may be his willingness to acknowledge his own vulnerability and shortcomings like lack of experience, fully delegating some important during-game responsibilities to assistants and consultants, rather than overly micro-managing.
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor called a masterful game against the Titans which showcased each contributing player's strength while ably masking team weaknesses. The Lazor cause was aided by the fact the Dolphins got two key offensive players back from injury. The fact Lazor was more involved during the game than he previously had, is an example of how this expectation from delegation approach could be the best quality the interim coach has going for himself and for the team.
Miami's defense was different while the same players remained. Helped by the break from the bye-week, Cameron Wake and Brent Grimes had a chance to recover from their injuries and both enjoyed great performances, but what was refreshing was the significantly less amount of missed tackles, a probable result of Campbell's new more physical approach to team practice.
There is little if anything negative that could be pointed at in Campbell's direction. His coaching debut has galvanized Miami football fans like they have not been in a generation. Talks surrounding the Dolphin's possibility of hiring Sean Payton next year should be abandoned in this writer's opinion, however, there are dark clouds threatening to open up on the and still interim head coach's parade, and that is the fact that Miami has questionable front office figures whose track record read like the average script of countless horror films.