Compatibility Calamity: Why Miami’s Offense Cannot Work With Campbell & Lazor

The Miami Dolphins, while still not a good football team, have undoubtedly improved over the last two months of the season. Early in 2015, the team did not want to be there for their coach. They did not want to show up on Sundays, and they definitely did not want to put their bodies on the line for head coach Joe Philbin.

Now, desire is not the issue. However, there are certain hurdles a team cannot overcome, regardless of motivation. One of those hurdles for the Miami Dolphins remains to be the lack of cohesion between offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, and interim head coach Dan Campbell. 

When you watch children learn about categorizing objects, you see them start to understand the basic characteristics that make things different. Things have different shapes, uses, colors, and so on. Children learn that different objects have different places, and are placed with other objects.

The same is done when learning about the game of football.

You can see when something doesn’t belong. You could watch the Seattle Seahawks’ offense and understand that Percy Harvin really didn’t belong. You could watch the Miami Dolphins’ offense and observe that Mike Wallace was clearly not a fit.

Unfortunately, the misplaced object in Miami is currently not easily visible to many fans. It isn’t even on the field. Dan Campbell is the round peg, and the Dolphins have asked him to make a square philosophy work with a round offense.

The Origins of Bill Lazor & Dan Campbell:


Joe Philbin did not hire Dan Campbell. Interestingly, he is one of the few mainstays from the Tony Sparano era. Sparano believed in a hard-nosed running attack, and was not the type of coach to endorse the heavy-shotgun based system that Miami is currently working out of.

That being said, usually an interim head coach is picked for his ability to demonstrate some continuity. It is impossible for a coach to accept a job on the fly, and change the philosophy and scheme. Teams are built for years with specific players to execute an exact system in the correct manner.

Unfortunately for Dan Campbell, there could not be a team built in a worse way to execute his ideals than the Miami Dolphins.

Joe Philbin brought in Bill Lazor in hopes to adopt one of the NFL’s modernized offensive systems. This essentially means that the team does away with power football, operating out of the shotgun as their base formation.

For those who do not know, the shotgun is a formation in which the quarterback lines up several steps behind the center, as opposed to positioning himself at the line of scrimmage.


This was first brought to the NFL in the form of the read option. However, the Miami Dolphins have used it differently. The shotgun was often employed to help the tempo of offenses like that of Chip Kelly, who Bill Lazor served as the quarterbacks coach for. Miami does not run an up-tempo offense, or run the read-option entirely. There are certainly elements of both, and evidence of their effectiveness within those circumstances. If you have ever wondered why Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins’ offense are so much better in two-minute drills, it is because the very nature of their system is to allow for quick decisive movement down the field.

Joe Philbin wanted to fuse these new up-tempo offenses (shotgun heavy) with his Green Bay offense, which also operates in the shotgun.

The issue of why this didn’t work is a can of worms that should not be opened up here, as it really does not pertain to the main issue of Dan Campbell’s cohesion with Bill Lazor.

In short, Ryan Tannehill is not Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is given immense authority in that offense. Also, calling audibles and making reads are easier in the shotgun in many cases. So, by taking away Tannehill’s ability to call audibles, you neuter the offense by removing one of its best traits.

What Dan Campbell’s Team Should Look Like:


Dan Campbell is clearly not one for the finesse football that is associated with shotgun offenses. He came from the likes of Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano. These coaches do not know what finesse means.

Jason Garrett’s Dallas Cowboys are an example of the team that the Miami Dolphins would ideally embody under Dan Campbell.

Dallas is currently 9th in the NFL with an average of 28.8 rushing attempts per game. They are 25th in passing attempts with 31.80 on the season. They did not change their offense when Romo was injured, which explains why they struggled so much down the stretch. However, when Romo is in, they are able to pass with efficiency.

The Cowboys currently lead the NFL in time of possession per game on average. They average 33 minutes per game, or 56.83% of time. This is because they are 7th in the NFL in rushing first downs per game, with almost 7 each game on average.

This means that the Dallas Cowboys pass when they need to, but otherwise are running the football and establishing dominance on the clock. Their passing game allows them to get into comfortable situations so that the running backs can pick up first downs. The relationship is symbiotic; the running backs can also set up Tony Romo and the passing game for big plays.

The Miami Dolphins’ offense is an entirely different story. They are ranked 24th in rushing first downs per game, averaging almost 5 per game. They are 31st in time of possession, averaging just 45.33% of time on the clock. Coincidentally, they hold the same ranking for rushing attempts, as the 31st team in the league, averaging around 21 per game.

For some perspective, the undefeated Panthers average 34.2 rushing attempts each week.

Where the Problem Arises:


The Miami Dolphins lack an identity.

The team has not had a true identity since the days of Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. Then, they were a running team, who passed when necessary. Now, the Miami Dolphins are a finesse football team that cannot win up front or in the trenches.

There are two main problems here.

1) You can’t win football games if you can’t win in the trenches.

2) The Dolphins are a finesse offense, but still aren’t very good at finesse plays.

Bill Lazor and Joe Philbin devised this offensive scheme, specifically in order to operate this 21st century system. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

Stephen Ross and Mike Tannenbaum clearly wanted to change the team immediately when they fired Joe Philbin. They did not want continuity, or an interim who would simply wait out 2015. They decided on the candidate who gave them the best chance at a true change of culture.

Dan Campbell is the only person on the team’s coaching staff that was not brought in to help deploy this system.

So, Dan Campbell is now expected to lead a team to wins, even though he did not want to win the way the previous coaches did in Miami. He is now forced to operate a team with which his philosophy does not fit, placing him in an incredibly difficult scenario.

Imagine you are the owner of an Italian restaurant, heading into your busiest time of year. You fire your chef, a man born and trained in Sicily (let’s call him Poe Jilbin), because of poor reviews regarding the food. You want to make a change, because all of his sous-chefs are trained to use his same methodology. There is one chef however who was trained separately from the rest, and you believe that he can turn the restaurant around.

The problem? He is trained to make American foods. Sure, this chef (known as Can Dampbell) can get by for a while, but eventually he realizes that his ingredients are all wrong. He also realizes that he cannot communicate with the sous-chefs efficiently, because their whole kitchen system is laid out for the previous chef.

The Miami Dolphins are the kitchen in this instance. Dan Campbell wants to make changes, and prepare the team in a way that he feels best equips them to win football games. Unfortunately, three-years of coaching and preparation had gone into Bill Lazor’s system, which is infinitely different.

It is time to realize that the Miami Dolphins’ struggles on offense are attributable not to one individual, but to the relationship between Dan Campbell and Bill Lazor, the two individuals tasked with putting together a competitive unit.

The Skinny:

Miami Dolphins vs Tennessee Titans

(Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

The Dolphins need to find an identity. Unfortunately, it is too late to do so in the 2015 season.

The amount of uncertainty and turnover from one system to another is unimaginable, and unfortunately you cannot simply pair a philosophy with a system.

Dan Campbell believed that he could do just that. His idea coming in was to instill a new philosophy in the offense without applying the proper system.

Philosophy can only get you so far with a football team. Eventually, a true identity is required, one of which can only be established by adding up three important factors.

Consistency. Philosophy. System.

Those three elements are all found in football teams with true identities, and become the foundation of those teams’ ability to succeed.

Currently, the Miami Dolphins lack each of these factors due to their revolving door of coaches and the changing approaches that go with changing the figurehead of your team.

They cannot achieve these elements with an offensive coordinator and head coach who have adopted and specialized in entirely different forms of football.

If the Miami Dolphins want to succeed, they will need to find someone who can bring consistency, philosophy, and systematic ideas to South Flori

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