Offensive Thoughts: Give Gailey His Due, Final Numbers, and More

The Miami Dolphins didn't put up big stats on offense in 2020, but the numbers don't tell the whole story
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News of Chan Gailey's resignation as Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator was not exactly disappointing for some of the team's fans.

On the contrary, a quick look at social media would suggest more than not were happy the longtime NFL coach's second stint with the Dolphins ended after one year.

In the eyes of some Dolphins fans, more precisely Tua Tagovailoa fans, Gailey was the reason the rookie first-round pick didn't put up better numbers in 2020 and why the offense lagged far behind the team's defense.

But here's the reality: Gailey did a much better job than his critics would have you believe.

Actually, Gailey did a good job in 2020, period.

The 2020 Dolphins finished 15th in the NFL in scoring with 404 points and were 22nd in total offense at 339 yards per game. While those rankings aren't great, consider they were the team's best since 2014 when they were 11th in scoring and 14th in total yards.

The Dolphins accomplished this, mind you, with offensive personnel that could be described as average at best.

Move beyond the fact the Dolphins didn't have one offensive player selected to the Pro Bowl, how many would be considered among the top 10 in the NFL at their position?

The only one we can think of at the moment is Mike Gesicki, who had a nice 2020 season but still isn't in the same category as the true blue-chip tight ends like Travis Kelce or Darren Waller.

DeVante Parker has that kind of ability, but he was nicked up a good part of the season and simply wasn't able to build off his breakout 2019 campaign.

The running back corps, as we previously examined, was made up of low-round draft picks and former rookie free agents.

The offensive line was infinitely better than it was in 2019, but that really wasn't hard to do and it's still a unit with a lot of room for improvement.

The quarterback position? Ryan Fitzpatrick is a journeyman who has his moments, which is why he's FitzMagic, but he also has his limitations — as Tua fans are quick to point out at every turn. As for Tua himself, he simply didn't show elite passing skills as a rookie the way Joe Burrow did before he was injured or Justin Herbert did all season on his way to a likely NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.

This is where Tua fans will take offense and suggest the reason Tua didn't shine is because Gailey held him back with conservative play-calling while he was in the game as opposed to letting Fitzpatrick chuck the ball downfield.

But here's the important point that needs to be made: Doesn't everybody realize that maybe there was a reason for the conservative nature of the play-calling for Tua? Maybe even two reasons.

First, does it perhaps suggest that the Dolphins simply had more trust in Fitzpatrick because of his experience and knowledge and that the play-calling was done to protect Tua and keep him from taking chances that would produce bad turnovers?

And that leads to the second, and most important, point about Gailey: The Dolphins offense did not have the ability — period, end of story — to light up the scoreboard and produce at the same level as, say, the Packers or Chiefs. If you find yourself arguing that point, you might as well stop reading right now.

That said, the best thing the offense could do for the Dolphins in 2020 was not cost the team games that the defense and special teams were on their way to winning.

Gailey hinted as much in one of his final Zoom weekly sessions when he was asked about the play-calling differences with Tagovailoa and Fitzpatrick in the lineup: "The situation of the game has a lot to do with it. If you end up getting behind and needing to get down the field and to score points quickly, that has a lot to do with it. We’ve been a team that has tried to be 9, 10, 11, 12 play drives, run the football, play-action pass, control the time on the clock. That’s the situation that we found with Tua in the ballgame. Plus you’re missing some receivers from time to time and that has something to do with it. A lot of that goes into decision-making about how the game is being called and what kind of plays we run.”

If the point was missed, it bears repeating: The 2020 Dolphins were 10-6 because of their defense and special teams, with the offense playing a secondary role. That role, particularly once Tagovailoa took over as quarterback, became to play mistake-free football, take advantage of opportunities created by the other two units, and anything beyond that was a bonus.

That is not a philosophy conducive to putting up big numbers, for Tua or for the offense in general. In that light, finishing with 404 points — oh, by the way, yes, it did involve three touchdowns on returns but it still was the team's highest total since 1986 — was some of kind of impressive.

So complain all you want about Gailey and how he "held back" Tagovailoa in his rookie season. His job was to help the team win and a 10-6 record says he did that job pretty well.