Philadelphia advanced to the Super Bowl this year with good defense (second in the league at 301.5 yards per game) and a strong run game (fifth in the league at 147.6 yards per game) led quarterback Jalen Hurts, the team’s second-leading rusher and a MVP candidate. It’s a bit of an unconventional approach in today’s NFL.
Kansas City advanced to the Super Bowl this year by relying on quarterback Patrick Mahomes’ magical right arm. The Chiefs led the league in passing yards at 297.8 per game. That’s a very conventional approach nowadays.
Among the lessons the Dolphins can learn from this year’s Super Bowl is your playing style isn’t what matters. What matters is making sure the style fits your roster, and that combination can make you a winning team.
Quiet as it’s kept, there’s more than one way to win in today’s NFL. You don’t have to pass your way to a title.
Styles vary just as personnel varies.
Don’t try to be something that you’re not just because it fits a style that other teams are using.
And don’t be dissuaded from doing something because other teams aren’t doing that thing.
This is the last of a three-column Super Bowl series that shows what the Dolphins can learn from this year’s Super Bowl. The lessons include the general manager being the MVP (Most Valuable Person) of your organization, and the Dolphins can win with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa if they put the right support around him, since you don’t need that 6-foot-5, rocket-armed quarterback and high-scoring passing game to get to a Super Bowl.
The popular thing to do nowadays is trying to develop a fancy passing game. But if you don’t have the right personnel, do something else.
Tennessee advanced to within one victory of a Super Bowl appearance last year by riding the legs of running back Derrick Henry. That’s an unconventional approach in the current NFL, but it works for the Titans.
San Francisco advanced to within one victory of a Super Bowl appearance this year by playing good defense and running the ball.
One issue with the Dolphins for the last decade or so is they haven’t identified a style that works.
Last season, the first under rookie coach Mike McDaniel, the Dolphins had a good passing game. But that was their entire offensive identity. For a number of reasons, the offense wasn’t sustainable. Concussions to quarterback Tua Tagovailoa were one reason.
The Dolphins also complicated their offensive road to success by not involving tight end Mike Gesicki, the third-best receiver on the team after Hill and fellow wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. And they over-utilized the middle of the field in the passing game. They also failed to employ their running game. The Dolphins were second-to-last in rushing attempts.
In the end, their offensive style didn’t work well enough.
Defensively, they never found a comfortable style. Cornerback Byron Jones’ season-long absence due to leg surgery put a big dent in their philosophy of using the shutdown skills of Jones and fellow cornerback Xavien Howard as a defensive starting point, and they never adjusted.
As a result, the Dolphins relied too heavily on the big play on both sides of the ball last season.
The Dolphins need a sustainable style offensively and defensively.
You can debate whether Tagovailoa and his concussion concerns are part of a sustainable offensive system. Whatever the case, the Dolphins seem to have the foundation of their offense. But it needs tweaks.
Once they develop a defensive system, which you’d think will happen soon after new defensive coordinator Vic Fangio joins the team after the Super Bowl, then they can acquire players in free agency and the draft that fit that system and continue fast-tracking their path to the Super Bowl.
I think McDaniel is an innovative offensive coach. I still like his offense. It’s creative. I’d have a much heavier emphasis on the run game next season, but I’m old school.
Defensively, Fangio knows what he’s doing. The big question is whether the Dolphins have the personnel to do what he wants to do, and if not, whether they can obtain the personnel before the season starts.
The Dolphins have some good players, and they undoubtedly need more.
But the most important thing for the Dolphins to know, and the thing we learn from the Super Bowl, is your style of play doesn’t matter. What matters is whether your style fits your personnel, and whether you can marry the two to advance to a Super Bowl.
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