The way it works is whenever the Miami Dolphins hire a new coach or player, fans rally to love the guy without truly knowing what they're getting. If the player or coach has a good history, he's taking us to the Super Bowl! If the player or coach is a rookie with little or no experience at his job -- the Dolphins do this a lot, by the way -- he's going to earn his stripes in Miami and...take us to the Super Bowl! If the player or coach has flaws that have been shown in past NFL or college stops, he'll get it all straightened out in Miami and...we're going to the Super Bowl, goshdarn it!
Yes, I'm using poetic license here. You don't actually say we're going to the Super Bowl as a result of every new hire. But you do get excited. You expect the best. You see a new day dawning and don't consider the possibility it might rain.
But people are human. They make mistakes. They're not perfect.
And that leads me to new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor.
When he was hired, he became an instant icon with Dolphins fans. He'd worked for Joe Gibbs and Mike Holmgren and Chip Kelly so, by God, he's going to institute the return of the Fun Bunch offense with Hogs offensive linemen and a quarterback who'll play like Matt Hasselbeck while using an uptempo offense that will make the Oregon Ducks seem slow as a glacier.
Nobody mentioned this is Lazor's first NFL coordinator job. Nobody mentioned (except me) it's not about the scheme, it is usually about the players.
You loved him without knowing him because his name was not Mike Sherman.
Well, we're getting to know Lazor a little more now. I told you last week he shows excellent leadership skills when he's in front of the media -- accepting responsibility for problems with his offense. That's great.
But last Sunday, he was a problem for the offense.
His playing-calling was head scratching bad at times. I mean, terrible.
On Miami's first possession against Kansas City, the Dolphins took the opening kickoff and advanced from their own 39 to the KC 45 where they faced third-and-10. It is the first quarter. At home. In Kansas City territory. It is third down and long.
And Lazor called a run between the tackles.
Lamar Miller gained four yards and the Dolphins punted.
It felt like the Dolphins were afraid of something. It felt like surrender on the first possession.
Fast forward to the fourth quarter. The Dolphins trailed 21-15 when they got the football at their 33 yard line with 12:44 left in the game.
Understand that already the Dolphins had established two things in this game: That they could run the football on the Chiefs and that they were struggling to protect Ryan Tannehill on pass plays. Tannehill wasn't on target this day, either, by the way.
So Lazor opens the drive with a pass. Tannehill is sacked. (Didn't I just say they're running well but losing up front on pass protection)?
Next play, Miller runs for 7 yards. Good.
Then a four-yard quickie pass to Jarvis Landry. First down. Fine.
Then on first down from the Miami 44, a nine-yard run by Lamar Miller. Very good.
And then Lazor's brain explodes.
On second-and-1, with the Chiefs on their heels, in the fourth quarter, on the road, in the heat, Lazor decides it is time to take a shot. I got zero problem with that, sort of. Hey, a play-caller is hopefully working a couple of plays ahead. If he's thinking about taking a shot on second-and-1, he better also be thinking of jamming the ball down their throats on third-and-1 if the pass fails, or know his coach is going for it on fourth down, so he's got two more downs to play with.
Well, Tannehill is rushed -- shocking nobody who'd been watching the past three quarters -- and rolling right, he fires a beatiful spiral down field to Mike Wallace. Except it was about 10 yards out of bounds.
So third-and-one. Miller, right?
Nope, Lazor calls another pass. And the protection is shoddy and Tannehill doesn't get rid of the ball to Daniel Thomas who is standing two yards away wide open nor downfield incomplete to avoid the sack. He takes the sack for minus-3.
And the Dolphins thus punt on fourth down.
That basically sealed the game. And Lazor knows it.
"Absolutely," he said. "I thought that was a critical part of the game where we failed offensively because I thought with a 21-15 (lead), with about 10 minutes and 20 something seconds when we snapped the third-and-one, it was under 11 minutes. I felt very confident at that point that we were winning the game.
"I feel like, to be an NFL offense, you have to be able to pick your spots of when you want to take a shot and manage it. I felt like those were two plays where really we had a chance to move the ball forward. If I could go back and do it over, I’d probably did what I thought at the time was the right thing. Certainly, I expected things would happen differently. That was a failure offensively."
I don't even know what that means. If he had a chance to go back again, he'd do what he felt at the time was the right thing to do?
Does that mean he felt it was right to run and called a pass anyway? Does that mean he thought the pass was the right call and he'd do it again?
Here's the thing: The Dolphins rushed for 141 yards against Kansas City. They averaged 7.1 yards per attempt. And this happened in the same game they averaged 4.7 yards per pass attempt, which is almost hard to be so terrible.
It's the fourth quarter. The trend of the game is already set.
And you pass on two consecutive downs needing only one yard?
It's also curious Miller had a breakout game (for him) in that he gained 108 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per carry. But he only got 15 carries.
Is there a rule the Dolphins use that you cannot give the ball to Lamar Miller more than 15 times in a game? This apparent rule, established last year by Sherman seems to have been passed down to Lazor.
In the fourth quarter Miller carried only three times -- and two of those gained, as you just read, seven yards and nine yards. The other carry came at 2:05 left and Miller hit a brick wall for no gain.
The point is what happened to riding the hot hand? The hot hand was not the passing game and Ryan Tannehill and an offensive line that was struggling with pass protection. The hot hand was Miller and an offensive line that was actually getting some push up front on runs.
Finally, I refer you to the regular-season opener. The Dolphins passed the ball 32 times against the New England Patriots. They ran the ball 38 times.
Treinta y ocho.
The passing game didn't do anything spectacular. But the running game carried the day.
Trailing 21-15 with 12 minutes to play, the running game might have again been enough against the Chiefs defense that was without two starting inside linebackers. But the offensive coordinator picked the passing game.
Indeed the Dolphins passed 43 times while running only 20 times.
That is the formula for winning only if you believe going with what you're not doing so well more often is the right approach.
"Not all of those decisions," Lazor said, "are the right ones."
Yes. I see that.