Today's NFL, as violent and physical as it is, is about fear in some respects.
One way the NFL show fear is teams hate personalities and opinions and different points of view. And that's one reason practically all, if not all, NFL teams prohibit the media from talking to assistant coaches. The NFL mandates the head coach speak to the media. The NFL mandates the coordinators speak to the media.
The defensive line coach doesn't typically speak during the regular season.
The quarterbacks coach doesn't typically speak during the regular season.
And even the coordinators, mandated to speak, do so only once a week and for, perhaps 10 minutes.
That is the way it has been for years. And that is why I have very little perspective on Zac Taylor despite the fact he's been with the Dolphins since 2012 and I've covered the team since we were writing stories on stone tablets.
(By the way, back in those prehistoric days of the 1990s, coaches talked any time. You walked up to them after practice and you could just talk to anyone. Don Shula was not afraid the message from an assistant would be different than the message from him because, my guess is, he was confident he had passed down his message well enough that everyone got it.)
Anyway, when Zac Taylor was promoted to play-caller on Monday -- the Dolphins are not calling him the offensive coordinator -- after replacing Bill Lazor, that was the first time he conducted a full-fledged press conference since arriving in South Florida.
The guy has been training a young quarterback for four seasons, he was obviously a next guy in line so to speak, and ... silence.
(Not blaming the Dolphins. Just the way it has become in the NFL since Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick dropped the Iron Curtain over the league to keep the media away).
So Taylor had to talk on Monday because the NFL mandates it.
And what follows is all that he said. And what follows all that he said is what I think of all he said. Again, I don't know Zac Taylor and he doesn't know me. But I know this team. And I know poo when I see it coming out of someone's mouth.
So let's get to it:
(Opening Statement) -- “Obviously these are unusual circumstances for me. This is not ideal. This is not how I dreamed up this situation happening. Bill Lazor was awesome to me. He put his heart and soul into this offense and I know that every coach upstairs in that staff have a ton of respect for him. It’s disappointing to see it happen like this because we were all invested in this offense and it’s on all of us. And he took the fall for us, but certainly we owe it to him and we owe it to this organization to get on track and get going on offense. I know you guys are going to ask questions on what’s our identity going forward, what’s my philosophy. I have not called plays before. That’s probably a question that’s going to come of me. What I want to see us do is run the ball. I know we’ve said that before but we’re going to run the ball, okay. I think it’s important that our players have that mindset. Obviously situations dictate how the game is called but it’s important I think for any offense to get that thing going. We’ve got a lot of trust in these players. We want them to have confidence. We’re going to streamline what we do on offense. We’re going to simplify it. It’s important that the players know that we believe in them. I think they’ve known that all along but it’s on them as players and coaches for us to get this straight and start scoring some points and winning some games and start helping our defense and special teams out. With that I’ll open it up to questions for you guys."
Salguero thoughts: A play-caller had better have great anticipation of what is coming from the opponent. He must think about what the other guy is thinking about, both in drawing his game plan and attacking on game day. Taylor showed great anticipation in talking of what he expected in the form of questions. And he also recognized he and the team have weaknesses. You have to understand you have weaknesses before you can mask them. Well done.
(On what this means for QB Ryan Tannehill) -- “Ryan (Tannehill) and I have had a relationship for a long time and it’s important for him. He’s always had input in this offense and I think we have a great relationship. I know how he thinks and he knows how I think. It’s important for him to have plays where he can be accurate, he knows exactly where he’s going with the ball. Not that that hasn’t been the case but when I say streamline and simplify things for everybody and make sure that we’re all on the same page and make sure that we can get the most out of our passing game. That always stems from having a good running game."
Salguero thought: Plays were he can be accurate? So have they been running plays he isn't capable of being accurate in? Also, nothing wrong with simplicity. Do something so well that the other team cannot stop it no matter that they know it is coming. This, however, requires a high degree of talent. It requires you to have more talent than them. Taylor may soon find out the Dolphins don't have more talent than the other guys, particularly in the middle of his offensive line.
(On if QB Ryan Tannehill has been hamstrung in the offense) -- “No, I think a lot has always been asked of him. He’s a very smart guy. He can handle anything. We’ve always put a lot on his plate. I don’t think that in any way he has been hamstrung. We’ve got to find a way to get guys to play the best they can possibly play and that’s what we’re going to do this week as we game plan."
Salguero thought: Spin. Tannehill has wanted the ability to do more. I thought Taylor said he knew what Tannehill was thinking?
(On if QB Ryan Tannehill will have more latitude to call audibles at the line) -- “Those are things we’re still discussing. This all happened fast this morning. I feel like I’ve been able to deal with everything but game planning at this point. There are times where we have to sit down as a staff and narrow down what our approach is as we go forward. So everything is on the table, certainly. I want to continue to meet with Dan (Campbell), meet with all the offensive coaches. We’re all going to have input in this thing and make sure that we’re all on the same page. We are going to do what’s best for this offense, what’s best for Ryan (Tannehill), what’s best for those linemen so that we can score some points."
Salguero thought: Consensus is good. Offense by committee is not good. Are you going to take charge or not? And if not, because you just took over, you have set yourself up for failing with other people's ideas.
(On the lack of run game) -- “I think each game has been different. Unfortunately some games we haven’t had the lead early and so it causes you to go in a different direction. I can’t sit here and say that we’re going to run the ball 10 straight times. That’s not what I’m saying at all, but it’s important to have the mindset that you’re going to establish the run; whatever it takes."
Salguero thought: The idea that you can run the football only when you have the lead is bogus. You're down a touchdown, you do not abandon a plan that took you six days to perfect. You're down 10-0, you do not abandon a plan that took you days to perfect. You are down 14, you do not abandon the plan. Now it's halftime, and that by definition is the time to regroup. If your plan isn't working by then, you had a crappy plan. Time to do something else.
(On how ready he feels calling plays despite never doing it before) -- “I’ve called a thousand games in my head, I can promise you that. Now that doesn’t translate to being on the sidelines and calling a game but I am absolutely prepared. This is, as a player you dream about playing in the Super Bowl, as a coach you daydream about calling the Super Bowl. There is no substitute for experience, there is no doubt about that, but I have all the confidence with the staff around me – I have unbelievable guys on offense that are there to help me. However many there are, I believe in every single one of those guys. This is not just about me, this is about the players executing, it’s about all of us assistant coaches being on the same page putting together the game plan. The words will be coming out of my mouth on Sunday, but it will be a cumulative effort I promise you that.”
Salguero thought: Taylor will be fine calling plays. He's a bright guy, from what I've been told. The part that worries me is "assistant coaches being on the same page putting together the game plan." Get them on the same page, Zac. That's your job. Get the vision from Dan Campbell and make it come alive.
(On what was going through his mind this morning) –“I felt awful for Bill (Lazor). I saw the guy put his heart and soul and the hours he put into this thing. He’s treated me with nothing but respect. I learned a lot from him. He’s a great person. He’s going to land on his feet. He’s going to be just fine. That’s just the way this business works. Felt terrible for Bill (Lazor). That’s just the way it goes.”
Salguero thought: The NFL is a results driven league. As Yoda said, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."
(On when he found out of the position and if it was before or after he found out about the change with Bill Lazor) -- “Just right after I found out about him I found out about myself."
Salguero thought: Next.
(On what can be done to achieve continuity on the offense) -- “We just have to find ways for our players to play with confidence. That’s the biggest thing and making sure that we are all on the same page with the game plan. I’m not saying that that hasn’t happened. That’s what we have to do because we haven’t been very good so far and that’s on everybody- coaches and players. Whatever we have to do to make sure the players are confident in what they’re going to do and that they know the plan, we can go with that. We can execute it. And there is no substitute for the players having confidence in what they’re doing and doing it full speed. That’s what we’re going to find ways to do.”
Salguero thought: Are Dolphins players ... not smart? Have they not known the plan well enough to execute it fast? Asking for a friend.
(On if they need to be more physical) -- “When you’re not winning games and you’re not running the ball well then yeah, you could always say you need to be more physical. How do we accomplish that? There are a lot of different ways. Dan (Campbell) has been working on that since he’s been here. Dan (Campbell) always has a good plan in place and I trust that he’ll get these guys going."
Salguero thought: Next.
(On how strange it is to be put in this position) -- “It’s unique. It’s not something that you plan on. But like I said, any of you guys in your own jobs, you’re always prepared for the next step. It’s something that you always think about and dream about. So it’s always something I thought about. I did not anticipate this being the situation, but it’s certainly something I’ve always prepared for since I’ve been a coach.”
Salguero thought: Right answer.
(On if he has met with his players) -- “I did, yes. I met with the quarterbacks first and then I met with the offense. You know, I didn’t give a message too different from what we got going here right now. These players know that they are accountable for everything that goes on in the game. As coaches we have to prepare them and the players have to be accountable for what they put on tape on Sunday. It’s a cumulative effort and I trust everybody that we’re going to be on the same page and we’re going to get this thing going the right way.”
Salguero thought: Good.
(On what the issue is on third down) -- “(There is) a lot of issues. If I knew the answer to that we would have been doing it. We’re going to continue to evaluate everything that we do. We always feel good about our plan going in; I’ll be honest with you. Every week we sit there as a staff we feel good about the plan. We just have to continue to evaluate that and find the best ways to get first downs because a lot of it is we get to third down and we’re not converting and that’s the way the game is shaking out. It’s on us. We’ve got to have a great plan in place, we need to have the players execute it and we have to make sure it happens."
Salguero thought: If you knew the answer? It is now your job to know the answer. Bill Lazor didn't provide the answer. This is your problem now. Provide the answer.
(On if it’s that extreme to go away from the run in situations they are behind) -- “Each situation is different. Going forward we are going to do our best job to have the best plan in place and our players are going to know that plan and our players are going to execute it to the best of their abilities. We’ve got to move the ball.”
Salguero thought: Take him at his word.
(On if he keeps in touch with Mike Sherman) -- “I do, absolutely.”
Salguero thought: Dumb question. Mike Sherman is Zac Taylor's father-in-law. Even if they don't stay in touch, Taylor isn't going to say it and reveal a family rift. Geez.
(On if he will go to Mike Sherman for advice) -- “Always. I have always done that. He’s been a huge influence in my life in many ways. I learned a lot of football from him. He’s always been unbelievable to me. I talk to him almost weekly. He’s always been a big influence and key in my life."
Salguero thought: Just, please, stay away from Go and Go-Go .. And always lining up the WRs in the same spot with virtually no presnap motion ... And abandoning the run, which he did too often, also.
(On if he would like to see QB Ryan Tannehill use his legs more) -- “I mean that’s one of the things we’ll talk about as a staff, finding ways to get this offense going forward. And if we believe that’s Ryan (Tannehill) using his legs more then absolutely that’s what we’ll do. If we feel like it’s going in a different direction then we’ll do whatever we have to do to be successful and to make sure the players and coaches are on the same page.”
Salguero thought: He runs a 4.6. Let him run. Is he going to get hit? Maybe. No more than he gets hit when he's a statue in the pocket.
(On if he will call plays from the sideline or the booth) -- “That has not been determined yet. I’ve been in the booth for the last two years. I was on the field for seven years before that so I’ve done both. I’ve just got to keep thinking about that, talking to Dan (Campbell) and seeing what the best plan is for everybody. But that has not been determined yet.”
Salguero thought: Do whatever you feel most comfortable doing. Nobody cares, as long as it works.
(On if he has numbers in mind for what he wants the offense to look like) -- “I don’t have numbers in mind. I have balance in mind. We need to be balanced; that’s the most important thing. So as long as we achieve balance I think the points will come. Again, we’ve got to come up with a gameplan against Baltimore because this is a good defense we’re facing. But obviously our best shot is to be as balanced as we could be.”
Salguero thought: Great answer.
(On if the run game has been abandoned too soon) -- “Like I said, each situation in a game is different. Each game always feels differently and we’ve just got to do a great job of coming up with a plan and sticking to it. I’m not going to say that we’ve abandoned it too quickly. Each game has felt differently but we’ll have a good plan of being balanced moving forward.”
Salguero thought: Zac, say "Yes" and take the next question.
(On if fixing the run game is a matter of quantity or different calls) -- “We’ve got 11 games under our belt so to say that we’re going to completely change what we’re doing. We believe in the system and what we’ve been doing. We just have to find ways to be more effective. There may be different things we throw in as a staff to try to get us going but to say that we’re going to abandon what we’ve been doing, we all believe in what we’ve been doing, we’ve had success in this system and so we just have to find ways to utilize it the best way possible.”
Salguero thought: First and goal from the 1 and Dolphins in shotgun. No. Five-yard slant on third-and-10. No. Bubble screens up the ying yang. No, people have caught up to that. Fake the bubble screen and throw an out to the other side. And for God's sake don't run a draw on third-and-25 and have that be one of only seven running plays you call all game.
(On if he expects QB Ryan Tannehill to line up under center more often) -- “Again, that’s something we’ll have to talk about as a staff. We haven’t determined any true game plan thoughts as it pertains to Baltimore yet. So I’ll know more about that later on in the week.”
Salguero thought: Again, impose your will. Have courage of your convictions, as Shula used to say. If you don't, you fail using somebody else's idea and you'll hate yourself for it.