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At the end of this past NFL season, Dolphins fans were left with seemingly more questions than answers. Could coach Flores assemble an NFL level offensive coaching staff to turn things around? How much of the offensive line’s poor play was because of talent and how much was more related to scheme and coaching? Is Tua the answer at QB or do we need to go back to the drawing board there as well? Was there fire behind all of the Deshaun Watson smoke we kept choking on? The questions appeared to have a 2:1 time of possession advantage over the answers.

Then, one of those questions became moot as Flores was fired. Shortly after, the news hit our timelines that he was filing suit against the NFL and specifically against the Dolphins (in a bizarrely unrelated set of charges). Our questions now included whether or not Steve Ross was going to be allowed to remain the owner of the Dolphins.

It was in the midst of this storm of chaos and controversy that our coaching search began. Everyone had their short list of favored candidates. In the end though, the man chosen to right the Dolphins’ ship was a person most of us had never heard of before. Mike McDaniel was announced and thus began a flurry of reports and video clips as we all scrambled to find out who this guy is and what makes him tick. We saw his humor, his intelligence and his passion for football put on display in the form of an endless supply of video links.

So what have we learned? What do these first impressions lead us to believe we can expect from the new coach of the Miami Dolphins? Based on what we’ve seen and heard so far, here are a few characteristics I think we can look to be a part of the culture that McDaniel is establishing in south Florida.

1. Transparency. Gone are the days of the cloak and dagger “Patriot Way” information hoarding. McDaniel (and even GM Chris Grier) have been refreshingly candid and loquacious when answering questions of the media. This may not be a game changer on Sundays, but it sure does make it more fun for the fans (and reporters.) Pressers are now fun, quick-witted and informational.

2. Aggressiveness. We all bemoaned the stubborn reluctance to address what seemed like painfully obvious glaring needs in the past couple of offseasons, especially on offense. While we stocked up on cornerbacks like rolls of toilet paper during quarantine, the offensive line and running back rooms failed to receive the attention we all felt they needed. This year, the aggressive approach in building the roster focused on the areas that were woefully underperforming, the result being that arguably our greatest weakness on the entire team (the left side of the offensive line) now boasts a perennial all pro in Terron Armstead and a solid, upper-echelon proven vet in Connor Williams. We have new running backs in Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds who bring speed, athleticism and pass catching ability and represent good scheme fits in McDaniel’s offensive system, a reliable ascending talent at WR in Cedrick Wilson, and a major upgrade at backup QB in Teddy Bridgewater. Finally, as if to underline the aggressive change in our approach, Grier swung a trade for one of the most talented, electric playmaking receivers in football, Tyreek Hill. All of this while retaining nearly all of the team’s own free agents, including important starters Mike Gesicki and Emmanuel Ogbah and working out an Xtension for Xavien Howard. It’s hard to imagine the previous regime ever signing off on some of these moves. Time will tell if this aggressive approach will be reflected in X’s and O’s on the football field, but every indication would seem to suggest that.

3. Bringing the “R” back to the RPO. McDaniel’s system relies on a strong running game, and that has been a trademark of the offenses he’s been a part of everywhere he has been. From the improvement of the offensive line and running backs and the signing of talented fullback Alec Ingold, it is very evident that the running game is and will continue to be a point of emphasis. This can only help our young QB as the play-action game, quick screens and slants which he excels in should thrive in this system.

4. Collaboration and delegation. Every coach says it, but many don’t follow through. The early stages of his time in Miami have given us some glimpses as to how McDaniel approaches his responsibilities. He seems to have communicated the kind of players and skill sets he wants on the team and then let Grier go and make it happen without him having to control every step along the way. He also clearly took that approach with the defense, retaining Josh Boyer and then bringing back nearly all the significant players that were free agents. He seems to be focused on team identity (and clearly fixing our offensive woes) and letting the professionals that he has hired to coach do their jobs. Will it work? That depends on whether or not the coaches are up to the task, which the last set clearly were not. Certainly their resumes would indicate that at the very least we should see significant improvement in our offense. Will any of this translate to a playoff appearance? Maybe. Lots of things have to happen for that to take place, including continued development of our young players (yes, including Tua,) the offensive line gelling early and the new system settling in sooner than later, as well as some good luck in the injury department. But so far, you can call me cautiously optimistic. I do believe good things are coming. Fins up!

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