He stoically stands, intensely looking on from the sidelines. He doesn't call the plays, and relies on his assistant Darren Rizzi, for decisions Head Coaches usually make during a game. He is Dan Campbell, the new Interim Head Coach for the Miami Dolphins. Why then all the fan adoration for a provisional Head Coach? Campbell's Dolphins have not only gone 2-0 since he was named Interim Coach, but have scored more points in those two games, than they had during the previous four games combined. The Dolphins now block better, tackle better, and execute better than they have in recent memory and is all due to Campbell's vision of going back to basics in practice, while reducing the complexities of an overloaded playbook. Now, the undefeated New England Patriots stand waiting for a showdown on Thursday night. A battle of muscles, between the AFC East rivals waiting to be fought; a fight of styles and wits, between the old strategist and the new coach, the sidelines guardian of a vision.
Delegating game time responsibilities to his assistant and coordinators may seem like the easy way to coach, but Campbell appears to understand that Offensive Coordinator Bill Lazor's schemes puts his quarterback in the best position to excel. Coach Campbell's vision also included toughening up his players by a tough regimen of contact practices which would limit the time available for X's and O's, and so it was that the playbook became smaller and the players tougher. Now effective blocking has become a praised skill, previously not associated with Miami's dysfunctional line. Now the scheme includes a reinforced offensive line with pulling tight ends, guards on gap blocking assignments, all clearing a path for running back Lamar Miller to establish the run and set up the play action pass for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. A simplified defensive scheme was also in order and that is what newly appointed Defensive Coordinator Lou Anarumo implemented. The result has been two blow out games against the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans with little scoring if any allowed by the stingy defense. New England will not be as easy.
Patriots' coach Bill Belichick has had time to study dissect the new coach's changes with the analytically precise skill of a forensic scientist. Dan Campbell has continued to toughen up his players readying them for the eventual clash on Thursday night in Foxboro. A win for Belichick would keep his Patriots undefeated through 7 games while a win for Campbell would validate his vision and consolidate his chances to return to Miami as the permanent Head Coach. It will all come down to strategy however, and how the teams treat their game against each other. The Dolphins need to establish the run early as they have done, and for Tannehill to be quick enough to pick up the occasional blitz, while defensively stacking the box and trusting its secondary in tight coverage. Miami must blitz Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady as often as possible.
The stage is now set, and the war between the simplicity of basics against the complexities of elaborate strategies. Concepts and philosophies battling for supremacy in northern latitudes under the lights. He will look on from the sidelines with intensity, the guardian of a vision, across from his adversary, the legendary hooded strategist, and in the end, the Miami Dolphins may bask in the glory of the defeat of the unbeaten mighty, or bring down the dreams of many to a more sobering reality.