The Miami Dolphins are an abysmal 0-4 in their division, and now have lost two straight under interim head coach Dan Campbell. The Dolphins have shown us that they lack the ability to beat above average teams, after posting impressive performances against two of the league’s worst teams in the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.
What we do know is that Dan Campbell is already a better motivator than Joe Philbin, as this Dolphins team has not been embarrassed yet as a lack of effort. No, even their lopsided loss in New England was closer than the score indicated, and a lot of that came as a result of Dan Campbell having his players ready to play.
The problem with Dan Campbell lies not in his ability to motivate or get the most out of his players; it lies in his lack of on-field coaching experience. I believe this will prove to be his downfall as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins at season end.
Let’s examine Sunday’s game against Buffalo, where two horrendous coaching calls ultimately cost the Dolphins the game.
Down 19-7, the Dolphins had a tremendous two minute drive down to inside the Buffalo 5-yard line following great play-calling by Bill Lazor. With a little over 20 seconds left and a timeout, all the Miami Dolphins had to do was use their timeout, and they would have had three or four chances to throw the ball into the end zone with plenty of time left.
Did Dan Campbell stop the clock? No. We watched Ryan Tannehill attempt to run another play, and saw the time tick down to less than five seconds after an incompletion from Tannehill. An absolute monstrosity of clock management on the part of Dan Campbell, who should have known to use the timeout and give the offense time to run three plays and score a touchdown.
I do not question Campbell’s decision to go for it on the ensuing play rather than kick the field goal, as that is his aggressive mentality and I believed it to be the right decision. But the point remains that Campbell should have NEVER been in that position in the first place. With 20 seconds left, the Dolphins should have had three chances for a quick hit slant or strike into the end zone, which is exactly what they tried to do on the following play and failed.
Should have been no problem and they should have had multiple chances to score a touchdown.
The result? An absolute bonehead coaching decision by Campbell that led to zero points and a 7-19 deficit at halftime. The score should have been 14-19, which would have set up a completely different dynamic in the second half.
That was Campbell’s first HUGE mistake.
The second mistake came in the second half, after the Dolphins made the game a one score game. Buffalo found themselves only partially in Dolphins territory, and the defense held Buffalo to a 4th and 3 after chasing Tyrod Taylor from the pocket. Ndamukong Suh was held on the play, and instead of declining the penalty, Campbell elected to push the Bills back and create a third and long, ultimately hoping the Bills would not convert and punt.
You probably remember what happened next. Sammy Watkins burned Brent Grimes for a third and long touchdown, which was the worst possible scenario that could have happened. This could have been prevented.
If Campbell elects to decline, the Bills kick a field goal or go for it on fourth down. Either way, the Dolphins would have had a better shot of keeping the Bills in front of them and settling for a field goal down the road (had the Bills converted on fourth down). Either way, the game would have stayed close and given the Dolphins the chance to continue to chip away at Buffalo’s then small lead.
Instead, the Bills basically sealed the game, and the Dolphins, through Campbell’s poor decision making, allowed them to do so.
We will return to this game at season’s end, as I believe Campbell’s fate rests on his in game coaching techniques and decision-making. I like Dan Campbell and I believe he was the best option for this team at this time. But this team needs someone not only capable of inspiring his players and getting the most out of them, but a coach that can also put his players in the best position to win. Campbell failed to do that twice at crucial moments in Sunday’s game.