If the Dolphins can do it why can’t the Rams. And by IT, we mean going from [1-15] to [11-5] and AFC EAST Champs? Heck, the Rams have a head start; they ONLY have to improve from a [2-14] record. There is no doubt that the Dolphins provide an interesting model for the Rams to attempt to follow, in trying to right the ship.
Let’s compare the coaching and offense of the Dolphins of last year to the Rams of 2009. We will match the teams and players up and see what our little football science experiment concludes. We will go under the microscope as we compare the teams’ position by position.
While trying not to stat-you-out- with too many numbers, we will look at this from a fans view and from the view of a mad football scientist.
The Rams and Dolphins don’t have too much football history in common. Well the dolphins did beat the Rams last year, but who didn’t? Therefore, we will dedicate this break-down to a Rams Dolphin game I remember watching from my Wake Forest dorm room in 1986. In fact, it was 12/14/86 -- Miami 37- L.A. Rams 31 (OT). It was an awesome contest, featuring a Marino led comeback, in a shootout under the setting Anaheim California sunshine.
As the Sun begins to rise on the 2009 season, let’s take a look and see, can the 2008 Fins teach the 2009 Rams anything. Can the Rams beg, borrow and steal their way into emulating Miami’s Magical Mystery tour success? We don’t have a Walrus, but we do have a Tuna, for sure.
Coaching Staff and Front Office– Both teams brought in new, Italian head coaches from the NFC EAST. How much more similar can you get? Of course Tony Sparano came over from Dallas to rescue the Fins, and now, Steve Spagnuolo bolts from the Giants to try and save the Rams. Sparano had an offensive line and tight end coaching background and Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator of the Giants last year. By the way, Coach Spags married his wife, Maria, at the Vatican in Italy. He might need some Holy Water or a Holy Roller or and Immaculate Reception this year! Too easy.
Both teams also brought in new offensive coordinators. The Dolphins went with Dan Henning, who has been in the NLF for 28 years, 7 as a head coach. Pat Shurmur comes to the Rams from the Eagles. Shurmur, 43, has coached Eagles' QBs the past seven seasons. Before that he spent 3 years coaching tight ends. Shurmur worked closely with new Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who was an Eagles assistant for 8 years before he left for the Giants 2 years ago.
Oh yeah, the Fins brought in some guy named Parcells to run it all. The Rams have gone with a new guy too. Billy Devaney is no Tuna, but he isn’t a guppy either. He has 23 years of scouting under his belt and has been involved with teams that have racked up 3 Super Bowl and 19 playoff bids.
QUARTERBACK– Both teams feature new field generals; if you think about it. Of course, Chad Pennington fell into the Dolphins lap and redefined the term- managing the game. Marc Bulger better play like a brand new quarterback or it will be back to back misery for Rams fans. Bulger didn’t suffer his concussion until game 11, but he played like he had one all year long. He was sacked 38 times and had a quarterback rating of 71.4. He threw 13 picks and only 11 td’s. He has to have a better year right? If you have a clue, than you are a better man than me Gunga Din
RUNNING BACK- This is a fascinating comparison. Who and what would you rather have? On one hand you have the most innovative offensive philosophy to hit the league in decades, fueled by two pro bowl caliber running backs in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams.
In St. Louis a very valid argument can be made that the best running back in the NFL is Steven Jackson, and he is far from being done.
I am sick and tired of the short term memories of sports fans. Everybody wanted Jackson at the 1, 2, or 3 pick in fantasy drafts over the last three years, and now many are jumping on other running backs’ bandwagons. Jackson has done nothing wrong. He has actually been underutilized, and the crumbling of the infrastructure around him combined with the aging and exodus of fellow superstars are the only reasons his numbers have been down.
I am a Dolphin fan, but I would take Jackson over Miami’s backs in a heartbeat. It’s that damn Wildcat formation that makes this argument so intriguing.
OFFENSIVE LINE---This spot is eerily similar to the head coaching category. The Dolphins had to fix their offensive line before any progress could be made last year. Parcells drafted Offensive Tackle Jake Long with the first pick of the 2008 draft.
The Rams could not protect Bulger, give receivers enough time to get open, or stay healthy or young enough on the offensive line. Rams General Manager Billy Devaney drafted Offensive Tackle, Jason Smith with the second pick of the draft.
Now, I might not be a guru or anything, but those battling blueprints are downright trippy!
WIDE RECIEVER- The Dolphins did not get great production from their Wide-Outs last year. Again, it was more play calling than anything that got them into the playoffs. They lost their best receiver Greg Camarillo to injury during the critical late season playoff hunt. They watched Ted Ginn Jr., progress very slowly. They enjoyed the amazing production of undrafted free agent Davone Bess, and a no name tight end, Anthony Fasano, was the go –to-guy.
The Rams have less talent than the Dolphins did. They will need a nobody, Laurent Robinson, or a has-been, Tim Carter, to come out of nowhere like Camarillo or Bess. And to finish off the Dolphin – Rams offensive report, ex Dolphin Randy McMichael needs to have an Anthony Fasano type of year.
Here is the bottom line when it comes to the Rams trying to pull off a Dolphin this year. The play calling seems to be incredibly vital for a Rams team that doesn’t have much to work with at wide receiver. The Wildcat might be the only reason the Dolphins made the playoffs, and only time will tell if the rest of the NFL has figured that formation out yet.
The offensive line and Bulger must eat up the new playbook, and stay healthy. Steven Jackson will be fine and maybe great again. But the Dolphins overcame a lack of explosive offensive talent with a gimmick offense, a high draft pick, a don’t lose the game focus, and a promising new head coach.
Rams fans, do you have to go the similar route? Other than the gimmick offense there are a lot of similarities. But how are you going to move the ball through the air without revolutionary play calling? Like I said, only time will tell.