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The troubles with Miami's running game decisions

I didn't like the Dolphins offensive play-calling in the fourth quarter on Sunday. As I wrote in my column today offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, with approval from coach Joe Philbin, abandoned the running game that had been working quite nicely for three quarters.

Sherman abandoned it when Miami was leading in the game. He did so to the tune of some eye-popping statistics for run-pass ratio. And then there was something that was not in the column that the Dolphins did that made it all the more puzzling:

Not only did Sherman go away from the running game which was working well and is the team's strength but when he did run the football I believe the Dolphins were giving it to the wrong guy.

I told you nearly a month ago how disappointed I've been with Daniel Thomas. Well, so far this season Thomas is the third-best of Miami's primary ballcarriers. The trouble with that is Miami has three primary ballcarriers -- Reggie Bush, Thomas and Lamar Miller.

And yesterday, after Reggie Bush went down with a minor knee injury, Thomas was summoned to take his place. And Thomas promptly fumbled. The fumble, by the way, is troubling because it's the second for Thomas in the regular season.

Two fumbles isn't a lot but when you've only played two games as Thomas has, the one-fumble-per-game average is not good.

Anyway, the fumble caused coaches to turn to Miller. And Miller was good. He was averaging 5.3 yards a carry during the game, including a 22-yard gain.

But then in the fourth quarter, for reasons coach Joe Philbin explained as normal substitution patterns to share the work as well as groupings substitutions, Thomas was back in the game. And Miller wasn't heard from again.

"That," Miller said with a shrug afterward, "is the coach's decision. I can't do anything about that."

True. But it's puzzling why it happened in light of the fact Thomas finished the game averaging 3.6 yards per carry, the lowest average of any of Miami's three ballcarriers.

Look, I get that Miller is a rookie and when you want to throw the ball, you go with the slighly more experienced Thomas as the pass protector. But otherwise, it seems pretty self evident that Miller is the better back.

He gets more production out of every carry on average and he does't fumble while Thomas obviously has.

What am I missing? Oh yeah, nothing. Miller is going to be better than Thomas in the future and, truth is, every statistic shows he's there now.

Obviously, the Miami coaching staff has a different opinion. They leaned more on Thomas on Sunday. Doesn't mean they are correct.


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My wife tweeted to cut Carpenter! :) I do not think he should be cut, but he broke our hearts yesterday.

Hi Qwaig, welcome to Fantasy Island. Mr. Roarke is out banging some of the natives.

We have RB's says:
Marshall played his a## off, had a INT, & didn't allow Holmes to score a TD.

We have RB's, your clueless, Marshall's coverage on Santonio was soft. Why do you think Sparano kept on calling Santonio's number. Open your eyes and know why this guy was available. The rush should be considered poor because the Dolphins did not get to Sanchez enough but there was some pressure. Yes he made a good attempt. The Dolphins are weak at the skill positions. WR's and CB's. Thats why the Jets kept throwing. The DE's could unload because they knew Sanchez was going to pass and pass he did right to Holmes who had the soft coverage. Hey genius, Marshall did not allow Holmes to score a TD because he played off him most of the game.

no paxx rush = db's on rye...

If the Dolphins can play competitive games like these and continue to lose, perhaps finishing 3-13 or 4-12, then proceed to hire Bill Polian as GM- I would suffer this year. Also,remember they have the second round pick from Indy next year; with a proper draft and the current roster of players- they can improve immensely.

hmmmm.? maybe g money. maybe.

This is going to be a long year with our pass defense. They need major upgrades at CB, WR, TE & pass rush. I hope our new GM can come up with those in the draft given that we traded away our #1 WR for a 3rd & V Davis for a 2nd.

I would prefer to get the WR in FA as rookies generally take some time to get going in the NFL at that position.

Mando needs to stop making excuses and put the blame squarely where it belongs:

Ryan Tannehill

For the life of me.....

I can't understand how SOMEBODY complaining about people who complain some how makes your complaining less whiny....

Its ALL complaining....

and its ALL people's opinions....

instead of complaining (whining) about the whiners....why not engage them....and see if they can better explain their reasoning.....


WHRB...you contribute greatly to this blog...


Your complaining about those who don't see the game in the SAME postive light that you may have...makes no sense in my book....

There is no award on this blog for BEST/MOST LOYAL FAN.....

If I see something good during the game...I type it or say it....If I see something I don't like...I type it/say it....

I don't think myself...ot others are being negative...we are being observant....an UNBIASED in the moment...

If the fins dont commit an turn overs there a decent team IMHO.

Greg Cote's article:

"No Simple Explanation For Miami Dolphins' Loss To Jet"

Sums it up best. Playcalling alone did not lose this game. Here's my list: (Not neccessarily in order)

1. Playcalling and excution usually walks hand in hand.

2. Turnovers, 2 very costly, 10pts.

3. 2 missed fg's. Not chip shots but makeable.

4. Dropped balls/inaccuracy by qb/wr(Armstrongt

5. Defensive failure to make the game winning stop

Any of these 5 things could have lead to a diffrent winning outcome on our behalf. Take your pick.

jethater, in order.

@ 1:16...

The FINS can play with ANYBODY....

Philbin just needs to reel in Sherman and the play calling a bit....and I think we are back on the road to 11 wins....

but the COACHES HAVE to take the blame for this one...


I gotta disagree with your last post. WHRB is dead right. Most of these guys complain just for the sake of complaining. It's what they do. I can imagine what it was like in here yesterday because I've been here when a game's been on. Team is up 10-0 and guys STILL aren't happy. That's complaining for the sake of complaining. If they had valid points then great. It get VERY tiring have to explain to guys that just want to complain.

That's why I choose not to come here during games. It's intereting that guys like Mark in Toronto and JS in LA don't come here at those times either. It's not a coincidence.

Kris @1:18pm,

Again not to be argumentative but I put this one on the players yesterday. The INT for a TD by Tannehill was as rookie as it gets and the 2-3 breakdowns in the secondary have become habit. Still with 5 mins left this is a game the team could have and should have won. You can play the coaches. I'll blame the players for lack of execution when it was needed. Good teams win games like yesterday. We're not a good team yet.

52% Comp pct
1 TD
4 Int
58 Rating

67% Comp pct
4 TD
1 Int
103.5 Rating

Russel Wilson:
61% Comp pct
2 Td
1 Int
61 rating

Brandon Weeden
56% Comp pct
3 TD
6 Int
61 rating

2 watt

Couldn't agree more with the #1 priority. Thomas is proof of that - trade up for a guy when better RBs were available.

Odrick hopefully comes around, but we need a DE to pass rush

2 watt,
You forgot TE


I had some time to reflect on this game and even watch a little of it again.

First, this was a total team loss, coaches and players. I will say this, the coaches cost us this game more than the players did.

Let's start with the coaches. The play calling and clock management was horrendous. Not kneeling on the ball at the end of the 2nd quarter that cost Reggie the injury was the first thing. Then after we get the big play to Hartline in OT, we continue to throw even more like a 48 yard FG is a gimme.

This Dolphin team can do one thing and one thing very well and that is run the football. NO Question! How they are not running 3 straight downs with a possible boot leg in there is insane to me. All they needed was 5 yards rushing on 3 downs and that FG would have been made. Very vanilla play calling, no new wrinkles and not much using Tanny's legs.

This play calling falls on Philbin shoulders. He can veto and call. I just didn't get it.

The players. I think it pretty obviously now that the coaches have no faith in these WR's against good corners. (The Jets do have the best tandem in the league I understand). The execution by these WR's is simply horrible. Getting open and dropped passes.

The fact is win or lose, we have a long way to go.

I can't believe I'm gonna say this, but Chad Johnson really screwed this team! I think he had enough left to make a difference in WR's.

Sad to say.

The killer about this game is that if we could have pulled out the win it would have put a dagger in the season for the Jets with their upcoming schedule. Now with Revis out they could also be in trouble.

And I now you and DC want the playcalling reeled in. I'm saying no thanks.

To me it was a refeshing change from Sparano's conservative run the clock down offence. It liked that Tannehill was taking shots down hill. This is where this offence is going in the future. This is the way GB plays football. I don't want to be the Jets. We have the ball, we go for the kill. I'm good with that. We just don't have the personnel to execute right now. But we will.

miller is going to be good, but he is a HUGE liability on pass protection right now. I would assume since they went pass heavy late then that would be the reason Thomas was in the game.

Craig M...

I understand "those guys"...like Dashi has pointed out...they are ONE LINER's that are now easily spotted...and should be ignored...or @ least taken with a grain of salt....

Odin...Dashi....and others have gone thru GRAET LENGTHS to show many on here the pattern...and in some cases the perpertrators....so @ some point the reader has to show some discretion...


I am talking about the post that are well thought out that might have a negative slant..because thats what the poster saw....nothing wrong with that....some may arggue that THOSE are the best fans because they don't stand for status quo....

maybe...maybe not...

I enjoy getting both sides.....

when I FIRST came on here...YOU and me coudn't have been on more oppisite sides of the fence...on almost EVERY ISSUE....

but thru understanding we found a respectful middle ground....I have learned somethings from your perspective,,,and if I had complewtley just turned you off...that would never have been possible....

and today....were still on oppiste sides of most fences....but we disagree in a way that is constructive....to both sides of the argument...


You were good until your last comment. 'Chad Johnson'. REALLY?

Yeah I see a lot of GMs around the league snapping this guy up. No thanks. Not a difference maker any more. Been done for a couple of years now.

Check out Jimmy Bourbon's take on what went wrong yesterday

Craig M..@ 1:25....

we can open up the playbook when Tanne can complete a higher percentage of passes...IMO....

Until then....let's work on winning games FIRST...and Tanne development 2nd....

Thats what I would like to see.....

Craig M,

Is he better than Naanee and Armstrong? YES! The guy seemed to be in shape and had a lot to prove. Naanee and Armstrong have nothing in there careers to show for.


Kris @1:28,

Very good points. And you're right.

But I think WHRBs was talking about the negativity 'for the sake of negativity'. I know what it can be like in here when the game is on. Takes away from the experience. I wasn't in here yesterday during the game (not sure if you were or not).

I have no problem with differing opinions (contrary to what others will say about me). It's what makes this forum work. Wouldn't be any fun if we all sat around and agreed with each other. Complaing for the sake of complaining isn't something I want to be a part of.

I blame alot of this on the defensive play calling. Holmes was beating his man like a drum and the coaches still kept coming with those weak blitzes and leaving the guy 1 on 1...not smart at all. When the Jets scored their touchdown,,,why were they in an all out blitz? When they were driving for the winning field goal, why are they still throwing for the endzone? Why not some short passes? Coaching helped big time in this loss.


Why do you forget Tannehill has the freedom to check-off on "PLAYS" basd on the defensive looks? Only thing Tannehill cant control is the offensive personel grouping(players) on the field. Then he has options on what plays he can check to with certain offensive grouping.

So how does become a Mike Sherman playcalling issue? Tannehill has the freedom to change any play that comes in based on the presnap looks the defense gives him. You guys know this. At least if you have been paying atention you do.


Honestly, he's the SAME as those guys. Chad Johnson does nothing for this team....sorry. He might have 1-2 good games but would disappear for long stretches and continue to be a distraction. He's not worth the hassle, IMO.

many typos when typing from work....spell check is disabled here (on the blog)....to lazy to type in a word doc....besides....my cut and paste has been diabled on this blog any way..........my apologies...


Another thing, I gave this coaching staff a lot of credit shaping the OF around the players we had not just running the GB offence with players we don't. I.E Starting Lane at FB and running the ball in a conventional style.

Yesterday was puzzling to say the least on the play calling.


Good Points YG...

But TANNE would have to have some SUPER-SIZE balls to change a play in the 4th quarter of a game....

Can you imagine comming over to the side-line after an audible that YOU...the rookie QB just called on 3rd down....and the play didn't work....

No thank-you....

Again, Bill Polian for GM. Shhesh - Maybe he can bring Steve Tasker, Shane Conlan, and the Biscuit with him. This guy has been the worst since about 2002.

Most of these guys complain just for the sake of complaining.

Posted by: Craig M | September 24, 2012 at 01:19 PM

Conveniently left yourself out. The same things you rail against, you are the biggest offendor.


Are you able to fit through many doors with that big head of yours?


I'm fine with aggressive play-calling. Just be smart about it. THREE plays to Hartline in the endzone, right side. Same 3 plays. Back-to-back-to-back. 3 and out. Then, OT, you just got a big play, team is in FG position, all you need is a few yards to ensure a safer attempt from your kicker, and that's when you go for the jugular? Not smart IMO.

One thing that really gets me peeved is OCs calling exactly the same play on consecutive downs. I HATED when Henning did it, and still hate it. Even if it's working. Mix it up, get some fluidity to the offense. I thought the WCO was short passes, allowing the receiver to get YAC, mixed with some runs and some "chunk yardage" attempts. I would rather have seen that at that moment in the game.

But you don't have to be a genius to see the best athletes (offensively) we have are in the backfield. Might as well get the most out of them (is my thinking).

and BTW....

I thought play calling was horrible the WHOLE game...not just the 4th quarter....

I dont know what anyuone else saw yesterday, but what I saw was a team still in need of difference maker on both sides of the ball.

We are at least 3-4 difference maker players away from being a really good team. Still, I think we're on the right track, we just have to continue to buil upon what we already have.

You hit the nail on the head:
Tanne has to change the play from a run to a pass.

Is Clay still on the fvucking team? Total regression from his near nonexistence LAST YEAR.


DC Dolfan,

How about a screen pass or swing pass to backs? I just don't get it.

I know a ton of people are down on Thomas for the fumbles, but the guy does run hard and is talented.

There was just know imagination at all yesterday.

Just got off the phone with the PriceMaster; he said:


reality noone cares your a turd.

Posted by: cornturd | September 24, 2012 at 01:01 PM

Even though you are a turd, says so in your name, I still wouldn't trust you to know what a even turd is.

Better luck next time fool.

I'm still wondering how they spent all offseason looking at Naanee, and didn't realize he was a liability until the Season started. Doesn't give me a warm and fuzzy feeling about talent analysis.



I think it was TWO plays to Hartline in the right corner and then I think they went to him down the left side. But I get your point. I actually liked the cals (maybe not the third one). I liked where Tannehill put the ball, where only the receiver could get it. To have given up an INT there would have been inexcusable. He put it up there and said 'Go and get it'.

I will agree with you, I didn't like the play-calling after the big gain to Hartline. I think another 8-10 yards would have made it a more makeable kick. I think they felt too confident in Carpenter and that was the mistake. To me that was being TOo conservative.

Actually I applaud the play calling to try and go after the Jet secondary after Revis went down. Its just that the execution on our end wasnt quite there.

I can certainly understand the coaches thinking to try and attack that area after Revis went down. Guys you have to try. Had it resulted in a long TD pass, right now we would be bragging what brilliant play calling it was.

Put Miller opposite Hartline and keep Clay in to block

Craig M...

Tanne put the ball were NO ONE could get it...lol...

Thanks for pointing this out, I was @ the game yesterday and despite the facts of all our mistakes and not running in the 4qt we did enough to win twice,

Yeah, I hate that Sparano gets to feel good today. Like he got revenge. All content with himself. His offense is horrendous. He has NO run game. Wildcat is tamed. Tebow is a joke as anything but a decoy. That's a team going nowhere fast. The longer Sparano stays there, the worse they get.
Posted by: DC Dolfan

DC this is why it is horrendous that we lost to them when we should have won comfortably.

mando, i think that botched run play where tannehill was handing the ball to the right and miller was on the left had a lot to do with daniel thomas taking over, yes the play calling turned what would have been an easy into a loss and at times it seemed as though they were calling absurdly wrong plays, and why we kept running it when reevis left the game is beyond me. but my concern now is tannehill... the first game was inspiring in that we could hang with the texans, the batted balls were not desirable but exceptable given the circumstances(rookie QB), the second game tannehill showed improovement as it appeared that hartline and our rookie QB had spent all week practicing together, THEN... the jets game, i didn't expect big things playing against their secondary but, tannehill went into his shell and looked like a QB that play only one year in college, he looked scared and threw the ball to the check down with no pressure NUMEROUS times, he also looked as INACURATE as i have ever seen him as passes to hartline in the endzone were not even close. by the end of the game i didn't even care if we got the win as miami looked so incapable against a crappy jets team. this game made me think why even bother trying to win, the quarterback play was awful, tannehill looked like john beck, he needs a lot of work.

I will say...

we were WAY mor physical than the jets....

we bullied the bullies.....

I think you guys are right to an extent with the playcalling, but I think things would have been different had Bush being healthy. I don't think this coaching staff completely trusts either Thomas or Miller at this point and who's to say they are wrong. They're the guys working with them every day in practice and in camp. They know what they can and can't do. Again, for me it was more about the execution and maybe being a bit too conservative late. But not having Bush changed a lot of what they wanted to do.


They know the wr search this offseason wasnt going to net a difference maker. Only looking for a 1yr plug in that isnt a qb killer. So you narrow the list of quality even further.

I believe the longterm plan is to draft a wr high in April. One who'll grow together with Tannehill and create our nexy Marino to Clayton combo.

I dont believe Ireland expected big things from this team this year. The wr decision this past offseason fully illustrates that. Still, he probably hoped Naanee/Armstrong could surprise. Up to now, neither have.

Let's deal with the reality of the situation fellow Dolphin fans. What we witnessed yesterday was a game that should have had a W next to it.

You can blame it on the play calling or blame it o our usually reliable kicker. However, the reality comes roaring through after closer review.

1) Fins still sorely lack playmakers on both sides of the ball
2) In no particular order- No pass rush, no dynamic receivers, and a suspect secondary = no big plays when you need them (kudos to Hartline for one exception while making his SINGLE catch when it mattered)

On top of all that, if Sanchez makes a single pass when the Fins DB's were clearly beat, this could have been a much different game. Unfortunatley, we won't be facing Sanchez every week.

Is this complaining for the sake of complaining? Absolutely not... it's dealing with reality. This team has a long way to go, and it starts with a real GM that can bring in some playmakers. The alternative is to be hopeful for another ten years!

I definitely agreed w/you Mando !! Thomas should be benched for being careless ... Miller should be the starter next week and beyond , I think Miller & Bush should get the majority of the work running the ball.

Craig, your clueless 24-13 prediction with Jets winning was about 25 points off in the wrong direction and shows you have NO ability to evaluate what you see on the field.

The Jets are HORRIBLE, absolutely PATHETIC and have NO offense, at all. Sanchez is HORRENDOUS. We, on the other hand, if our coaches don't get in our way, are decent.

The correct result yesterday, and the correct prediction would have been:

Fins 24
Jets 9

You were exactly backwards.

Everything Mando wrote about today (horrendous coaching and play calling an player substitution) lost the game.

So your prediction was horrible UNLESS you coupled it with the co-prediction that horrible coaching would cause a pick 6 and lost fumble in your own territory (yes that's coaching, because Thomas is a known serial fumbler still suffering from concussion effects), and bombs when you need 8 yards from 1st down in the 4th, plus running Bush at the end of the 2nd half killing his knee, all on the coaches.

The Jets are absolutely *horrible* mainly because they continue to let Sanchez have the job.

We should have won that game 24-9. If you predicted the Jets would score 24 points, that alone was way off.

Jets defense scored their only points because of pick 6 and Thomas fumble in our own territory.

Agree Craig M @ 1:50...

I said as much during the game....they didn't trust FUMBLES MCGEE (Thomas)...to hold on to the ball...

I still think they should have just ran the ball up the gut (after Bush got hurt).....and then punted..run..run..run...PUNT....

The jets had no chance of moving the ball on our D....conservative is boring...but I think in this game...it gets us an UGLY win...

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