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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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After the 1st half...i didn't want to see Tannne throw another pass....

his chance of completing it was so low...I didn't think it mattered...


any chance Thomas can play WR? Seriously why not? He is a QB converted to RB that has great hand skills. He has proven he can catch and make plays. But as a NFL rusher I'm not sure he isn't more than a project. Maybe a few years he might be solid. We need WR help... maybe they need to look at a change and trust in Miller.

Only children prefer a passing game to a great running attack.

A 15 yard or 65 yard run is far more beautiful than the same gains via the air.

Corn, not all words that end in "s" require an apostrophe. That's for showing possession or in a contraction.

I have used only one name today.

Jason Hunter WR Tenn


You keep forgeting the Jets are a formiddable defense. You gotta be really careful when deciding to become one dimensional with them(run only). They will shut you down when they see this.

Part of the problem in the 4th qtr was when we passed 1st or 2nd down, the incompletions forced uis into 3rd and longs, having to pass. Incompletions on 1st-2nd downs can force your offense to become pass heavy too. Because now you're looking at more 3rd and longs(passing situations).

YG, the Cardinals Defense is way better than the Jets so if the Jets D made Tannhehill look like an AFL QB what will the Cardinals D do? LOL


PAY ATTENTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





danny whuerffel you talk to much. zip it

In the 4th qtr, knowing the Dolphins offensive strength is running the ball, the Jets probably gave 8 in the box looks daring the Dolphins to pass.

You guys cant where Rex may have decided to play run heavy with his d daring us to pass? Forsing the run with 8 in the box would have led to 3rd and long passing situations too.

Thomas should be moved to TE.

Cornturd, are you skipping school again?

no, im @ home with your momma. she doing great today

Cornturd, you, like most ignorant idiots today, have not spent nearly enough time in your life READING. Talk less; read more.

If you had spent even a moderate amount of time reading, you'd know that a word does not automatically get an apostrophe just because it ends in "s."

Shut up.

I remember Craig defending Ireland's move to trade three picks to move up and grab Thomas. "Would do it again in a heartbeat" I think he was qouted as saying? Still agree with that statement?

Thomas is, as most of Ireland's first draft was, complete crap. He's servicebable at best, when he's not putting the ball on the carpet. But I'll complain for the sake of complaining like the rest of the real fans on this board.


For the rest of the year Im going to try and with hold critical judgement on our offense. Why? Because we all know its a work in progress since the preseason.

Now next year, Tannehill should get his prized #1 wr early in the draft, he'll also have a full season of nfl experience to boot. Next year I'll begin my critical analysis of this offense form that point forward.

Why judge them now when we all knew coming out of the chute, this offense is a "work in progress"?

Danny Whuerffel - agree with you on the last play of the half. Either drop back and try and get the ball down field or take a knee. This half a**ed run thing leads to nothing

As I stated before, the reason Daniel Thomas was continued to be used instead of Lamar Miller is that Miller can't block anyone while Thomas can. Daniel Thomas is a terrible NFL running back who has no instincts and basically only running style is to run into his own offensive linemen.

The coaching staff deserves 100% of the blame for this loss. (Yes, even more so then the kicker). The decision to run Reggie when in a regular run formation to end the half was BEYOND stupid. Nothing good can come out of that play except a turnover or an injury.

Made the same mistake in the Houston game and Thomas coughed it up. But they don't learn from their mistakes and do the same boneheaded play and get Bush hurt.

Stupid Stupid Stupid!

Oh and he ices a kicker for a short field goal attempt?

Stupid Stupid Stupid!

Cheers to the players for playing their hearts out. I liked Philbin until now. The guy is another Cam Cameron though.

"Different coaching staff, different year, SAME RESULTS."

definitely a work in progress. I think they need to cut dead weight and try out some new talent at WR and TE.

I remember Craig defending Ireland's move to trade three picks to move up and grab Thomas. "Would do it again in a heartbeat" I think he was qouted as saying? Still agree with that statement?

Thomas is, as most of Ireland's first draft was, complete crap. He's servicebable at best, when he's not putting the ball on the carpet. But I'll complain for the sake of complaining like the rest of the real fans on this board.

Posted by: tvegas897 | September 24, 2012 at 02:10 PM

folks with half a brain knew thomas` would be a dud and not worth all the picks`. what does` that say about craig?

dont worry though. he'll still be here even though hes` always` wrong. he find any way he can to justify his stupidity.

ps` i think craig & ireland are havin an affair


I'm '25 points off'? REALLY? You must have did different math than me. Let's deal in reality, 'not 'could have/should have beens'.

And I'm 'clueless'? Thanks man. Means a lot coming from you.

Thanks as always for your contributions to the blog. Btw, YOU SUCKED in the NFL!

In the 2013 draft:

If a dominant defensive skill player is available, I would like to see that guy become the 1st rd pick. We have no player like that on our defense besides Cam Wake.

If this type of dominant player isnt available, go wr with the 1st pick.

I say dominant defensive player over wr, if available, because we still have 2 2nd's and 2 3rd rd picks. Use both 2nd rd picks at wr if neccessary. Because we sorely need to add another dominant high impact defensive player if available.

Btw Danny,

I brought my prediction up not to say how smart I was but rather to point out I think the Dolphins played much better than I expected. I figured the Jets would be too much for the 'Phins and we would struggle. In reality we should have won the game.

I brought it up because some clown was calling me a 'homer' and I was trying to show I picked the Jets to win and the Dolphins to go 4-12 this year. THAT's the kind of Homer I am.

Agreed brother, but where do you start?
I would rate a high motor pass rusher real high right now. Problem is that we really need secondary help as well.
But, I agree, an impact player is what we need... in fact, a few of them :)

You gonna go there clueless? OK

I may have sucked in the NFL but, YOU SUCK IN EVERY DAY LIFE!!!!!

Doesn't matter where the Dolphins pick or which position in which round.

If Ireland is still GM he will screw it up!


Ask yourselves this:

After the offseason turmoil between Ross/Ireland/Sparano could moving up to get D Thomas been a move to "APPEASE" Tony Sparano?

Because after all, D Thomas does seem to be a player tailormade for a "Sparano-styled offense". Think about that for a minute.


You're on a roll today. I gotta admit when you put the childishness and name-calling aside you're certainly capable of making some good points. We may not always see eye to eye but I much prefer this version of YG.

f'n odicks ghey sax dance, but remember who his dc was at psu.
Posted by: 2 watt | September 24, 2012 at 11:46 AM

Tom Bradley was his DC.


Thx, trying to move forward.

If it's about the impact pass rusher or CB, you take the pass riusher almost every time. This league is about getting to the QB. Get the pass rusher and the secondary becomes better. The reverse isn't necessarily true.

I'm happy to see that some of my fellow contributors here "get it" and are not totally clueless.

The main point to consider today is that SANCHEZ IS ABSOLUTELY HORRENDOUS. He's a practice squad QB or backup *at best*. And his performance showed it.

WE WERE THE HOME TEAM AND THE CROWD DID ITS JOB. This was a "must win" *because* the Jets and Sanchez are horrible and literally could not move the ball or come close to scoring a TD. They needed a pick 6 to do that.

Jets should not have scored more than 9 points.

This is not "coulda/woulda/shoulda" like last year when we "should have" been 10-6.

From a microperspective, just looking at this game, we saw it on the field. Sanchez was absolutely horrendous and our coaches gave them that game.

It should not have come down to FGs.

We "should have" won that game about 24-9 or 27-9 simply by:

1. not getting Bush hurt on a stupid play call when we should have been taking a knee or throwing it down the field at the end of the 1st half;

2. using Miller's 6.5 over Thomas' 3.3 + fumble.

3. don't tell me about Miller's pass blocking--he does fine and he doesn't have to pass block when he's RUNNING for his 6.5. Except in the red zone, when he breaks 19 yard TD runs.

4. don't let Tanne throw the pick 6 from his own 6

5. move the ball 8 yards with 3 plays, twice, for 40 yard instead of 48 yard FG attempt (twice)

6. in the MIDDLE OF GAME, throw down field; leads to 30 yard interference calls, as I pointed out 3 weeks ago.

7. but with lead after seeing that Sanchez Mr. 42% 3 INT can do nothing, run the ball with the lead.





Much appreciated. I will do my best to do the same.

I brought it up because some clown was calling me a 'homer' and I was trying to show I picked the Jets to win and the Dolphins to go 4-12 this year. THAT's the kind of Homer I am.
Posted by: Craig M | September 24, 2012 at 02:20 PM

Pickin against your team doesn't make you less of a homer.

The fact is you take the bait on everything ireland does & can't see the truth even if it was a fat lady sitting on your face & wigglin!


Guys I said the fins would be 6 and 10 again, One of those wins was to be against the Cards, Dont like the chances this sunday.


FP, I never thought we'd beat the Cards. But then again, I thought we'd beat the Jets at home. I'll give one if you do!


I just think when some here choose to criticise, thier not fully evaluating all of the factors involved. That forces us to become over simplified in our responses.

We never see the behind the scenes chess match involved. When a thing works we say its genius. When it doesnt we say it was horrible. Many factors play into many outcomes.

A terrible call sometimes nets a very positive outcome. A great call sometimes nets a very negative outcome. It all about consistency of doing the right thing that eventually wins out.

The consistency of doing the wrong thing nets far more negativie than positive in every long run too. When considering the end game of both of these factors, its only in the end game can we make a full and thorough analysis.

Currently, this team's missing several powerful and dynamic pieces. Making them easy targets for unfair ridicule. I want to see what next year brings(more dynamic pieces) before I levy high against them.

For now, my expectations are to only see substantial growth with the pieces already here. Also, whomever the gm is, beit Ireland or anyone else. We need to see more "dynamic pieces" added in the offseason. Beit draft or fa. Preferebly the draft, there we have lots of ammo.

I don't agree with anyone saying we should accept Tannehill's horrendous play because he's a rookie.

Ben Roethlisberger went 13-1 as a rookie.

If you've got it, you've got it.

That wasn't me.

Some azzwipe has impostered my great Heisman winning name.

So Miller can't pass protect right now? So F'n what? The guy has great talent and potential. You can easily see it.

Are these coach not smart enough to use Lamar Miller correctly? He can't pass block? Then use him in a different set up. Have the Miller and Lane/Thomas in there. Have Lane or Thomas block while Miller goes out.

Is that hard? I don't care how they use Miller. JUST F'n USE HIM YOU MORONS!

As I pointed out during the preseason, Sherman/Philbin are not running the WCO. Just because they say it is doesn't make it so. They are not football geniuses like Bill Walsh was. They run the WCO *incorrectly*.

It was a mistake to go to the "impostered" WCO now, 5 years after the rest of the league.

Losers are always 5 years behind.

Running and defense, the way the Giants won in 1986, is making a comeback.

It so happens that we have some good pieces to do that, but Sherman is garbage.

This lost to the horrendous Jets at home was an absolute disaster. It probably will be the thing that keeps us out of the playoffs.

I still think--believe it or not--that we are decent, and with our soft schedule 11-5 was very doable.

This loss could be the difference between 10-6 and 9-7 or 8-8 and 9-7 or 11-5 and 10-6 and keep us out of the playoffs.

Yes, I'm talking playoffs.

This game against the Jets should have been won about 24-9 but the coaches gave it away.

Unlike Blaine Gabbert last season, Tannehill isnt a deer in the headlights. He's a rookie who'll have rookie qb growing pains, complicated by being surround with a bare average receiving corps at best.

All that he can be judged on now is poise, leadership, and decision making. He isnt making a faing grade in any of these areas.

As he's surrounded by more pieces and gains more seasons of nfl experience. Then each passing year we can raise the bar of our expectations and ridicule if he not playing at the level he's expect to.

YoYo is correct. I am beyond tired of reading that Miller can't pass protect.

1. Yes he can; he already does it better than Thomas.

2. So what? Let him run the ball or do as YoYo said.

Thomas is garbage and that 2nd fumble in 4 carries alone should have cause him to not leave the bench the rest of that game.

I sincerely believe that decision alone (among others) would have made the difference.

I literally mean that has Miller been in on every single play that Thomas was in on, same play calls, we'd have won the game in regulation something like 24-9 or 17-9. Miller would have broken a few 12 yard runs for first downs, wouldn't have fumbled, would have led to 3 to 7 more points for us and 6 less for them (no fumble lost early and no overtime FG because there would not have been an overtime).

Miller gets all of Thomas's plays and we win 23 or 27 to 9 or 13.

Just did a rewind.

Haven't looked at the stats but Sanchez was wildly inaccurate yesterday. Thought it was a little surprising....I know he's not a top tier QB but didn't think he was THAT bad. No wonder those New Yawkers hate him. A team with a good QB would have beat the snot out of us.

Watched a 2nd time, I didn't see anything diff from watching in the 400. Sherman's 'momentary lapse of reason' pretty much sealed the deal in the last 30 seconds of regular time. Very Henning-esque.

Miller's really been a pleasant surprise to me. I bashed hell out of the kid prior to the season. Miller will soon make D Thomas obsolete.

What's so good about that? Trade him to Sparano and get the two draft picks back we traded up to get him with. He was a bottom/bottom 2nd rd pick. Or what in the business they call, a glorified 3rd round pick.

D-Thomas can be shopped next year with the emergence of Miller.

What you and apparently a few others must have missed Armando is that Miller completely blew a play call. It was a very crucial drive, we needed the yards.

The play was called for Miller to run to the left behind Incognito and Long. They opened a lane for him between Cogs and Pouncey. Accept when the ball was hiked Miller ran right. Tannehill turned left to hand the ball off and Miller was on the wrong side.

The linemen who were pushed to the left (creating the hole) were running around Long at that point. Tannehill had no choice but to tuck the ball and try to run for a couple of yards.

Not only did we lose 3 yards on a crucial play but our rookie QB was smashed into the ground by two linemen as he had turned into the running back. The proof was all over his face and helmet in the form of dirt.

I agree that Thomas isn't getting it done and Miller WILL be the better option. But he almost got our QB killed and they took him out right after that.

If we can punish Thomas for a fumble Miller can certainly be punished for what he did. And who's to say it wouldn't have happened again. He should not be mixing play calls up like that in the third game of the regular season. And Joe gave you guys the company line to protect Miller from any harsh criticisms. I'm sure they talked about it today in the film room.

D. Thomas = (Sammy Smith - Speed or Vision). Coach needs to unload this guy prior to the trade deadline before he costs us any more games. He's a fumbling machine. Runs too high. He put the ball on the carpet in college...he's doing it in the pro's. This was the knock on him coming out of K-State. Every team in the NFL knew it...but Miami, I guess. And Ireland traded up to get this him? C'mon, Man!!!!!


I saw and remember that play too. Youre right, but still a rookie mistake. I still think Miller has potential to be a high impact keeper.

Jesus! The excuses get tiresome. It's been over a decade of them now. Win or leave. Produce or leave. Jeff Ireland has missed in FA and the draft WAY more than he's hit. Philbin doesn't impress me in the least and I just saw an article the other day about the WCO being dead. Haha. Can't wait for a new GM and coach. One day they've got to get it right.

Personally I would give Ozzie Newsome stake in the team. He's built the Ravens twice over.

On another note, has anyone ever seen a QB elude more chances of getting sacked that Sanchez did yesterday!!

You would of thought he had a horseshoe around his neck.

And that blitz up the middle on the 10 yard line for the touchdown was a brutal play call by our DC!! SUCKS

That was a catch. He put both feet inbounds caught the ball landed on his ass out of bounds. When the Jets player landed on top of him the ball then came out. Bang bang. That fast.

the coaching was good yesterday. I was happy. I didn't agree with Philbin calling a time out. I would have stood near the kickers line of sight and with a ref. And then head faked the time out.

As far as the run game goes. DT does not seem to be in great rythum. But Miller does. Go with the hot hand. But this staff has a plan. They know we will either go to the playoffs or won't. But at the same time they are going to determine what type of players the team has. Who has the guts to win? Right now it isn't Carpenter. Oh, he can kick a 60 yarder when the game doesn't matter. How is he in the dying seconds|?

still think--believe it or not--that we are decent, and with our soft schedule 11-5 was very doable.

This loss could be the difference between 10-6 and 9-7 or 8-8 and 9-7 or 11-5 and 10-6 and keep us out of the playoffs.

Yes, I'm talking playoffs.

This game against the Jets should have been won about 24-9 but the coaches gave it away.

Posted by: Irescum | September 24, 2012 at 02:46 PM

In the words of the great Jim Mora, "Playoffs, don't talk about playoffs, playofs, you kidding me? I just hope we can win another game!"

I don't understand the obsession with trying to get the ball to Hrtline down the stretch. NINE targets, one catch. If Tannehill finds one more first down the FG attempts are inside 40 yards and the Dolphins win. Bad play calling to say the least. Oh and did I mention that had Jeff Fireland replaced Brandon Marshall with someone (anyone!) better than Legedu Naanee we probably win this game?

The easy scapegoats are Philbin and Carpenter.
The real culprits are Fireland and Sherman.

Several peculiar coaching calls allowed the Jets to win and they have been amply covered.

I didn't like the DT pick when they made it and I like it even less now. His highlight reel coming out of college was typically against an Iowa State team that gave up 400+ ypg. So far, he averages a fumble approximately ever 40 carries which is not a good stat to have as an NFL ball carrier. He does not appear to be a natural runner, runs too upright and generally plows straight ahead. Having said all that, I hope he has a huge game against Az.

RT has potential but if he doesn't become more accurate, he will get his receivers killed. He also needs to view the whole field. He has a tendency to look at only one part of the field (much like Bledsoe did, usually the right side).

Anyhow, I hate the Jets and Clyde Gates can rot in hell.

Your season is coming to an end very soon, Jets, very soon.

Forgot to mention, nice writeup Mando, keep 'em accountable.

Sherman and Philbin are idiots... You don't go away from what is working until it isn't working... Jets couldn't stop the run all day.. The final drive to win it OT was pathetic. We should have gotten Carpenter 5 to 10 more yards running the ball or safe over the middle pass or a screen or whatever... He woulda made a 39 yarder for sure! Plus he would have been out of the dirt... stupid play calling.. I HATE IT WHEN PLAYERS PLAY GREAT AND THE GUYS PAID TO THINK AREN'T THINKING!!!! That is exactly what happened.. PHILBIN AND SHERMAN LOST THIS GAME!!!

horrible write-up

thomas ran hard and did a nice job moving the pile; keeping the chains moving; pass protection, etc.

he's actually a very nice back and granted the fumbles are getting old, but him as a back... quite decent and exactly what he needs to be

Agree that Miller needs more situational time. They couldn't stop Bush and if any back is close to Bush in style its Miller, not Thomas. Every time Thomas touches the ball i hold my breath. Miller has to learn the playbook...he failed to be in the right place once forcing Tanny to take a loss. More important is Millers failure to block effectively in pass protection. Until he improves in these areas he will not get more carries than Thomas.

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