Dolphins Need to Double Down or Fold on Hugh Jackson

RealFootball365.comSenior Writer IFebruary 1, 2008

Stung by their attempts to pry Pete Carmichael away from New Orleans, the Dolphins have turned their attention to current Falcons assistant Hue Jackson to fill their open offensive coordinator position.

Some see this as a chance for Miami to reunite Jackson with his protégé, South Florida product and Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson. Here's what the Dolphins need to know:

If they hire Jackson, they'd better get Johnson.

Jackson is the third man to open position, after Carmichael and Dan Henning, and it's widely believed the Dolphins will talk to Giants assistant and former Browns head coach Chris Palmer, another branch from the Parcells tree, after the Super Bowl.

The possibility exists that whoever gets the job will have the play-calling duties as new head coach Tony Sparano hasn't publicly laid claim to that responsibility.

This past season, Jackson was Atlanta's offensive coordinator. The team's lackluster offensive performance was preordained with the legal troubles of Michael Vick, but Jackson wasn't fully responsible for the results.

He didn't call plays; Bobby Petrino did...until he bolted for Arkansas before Atlanta's final three games. In those contests, Jackson did call plays, and in two of them, the Falcons scored 44 against playoff-bound Seattle and 27 against the Cardinals, who were still fighting for a postseason spot.

Jackson is most known for his tenure in Cincinnati, where as wide receivers coach he turned Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh into one of the NFL's best duos. However, Jackson wasn't calling the plays; that job belonged to Bob Bratkowski. Jackson's only full-time experience running an offense came in 2003 with Steve Spurrier's Redskins.

Largely working with whatever Spurrier personally thought constituted an NFL offense, the results were dreadful. They averaged fewer than 18 points a game, ranked 22nd in total offense, didn't have a 300-yard passer after Week 3 and only one 100-yard rusher the whole season.

Jackson hasn't done a terrible amount with what talent he had, which has also been pretty much a terrible amount. That would also be a fair description of the Dolphins' current offensive roster. Ted Ginn presently sits as Miami's best hope at wideout next season. The Dolphins' next best pure pass catcher is their third-down running back, Lorenzo Booker, also heading into his sophomore season. Marty Booker is coming into the final year of his contract and likely not long for South Florida.

The next spot on the depth chart belongs to Derek Hagan, who hasn't asserted himself in the offense during his first two seasons in the league and has battled dropped passes.

Jackson isn't going to improve upon his Washington or Atlanta stats with that set of wide receivers. Whatever magic the Dolphins think may have rubbed off on him in Cincinnati and want working in Miami isn't going to come without a major upgrade at the position.

It may turn out to be that the best reason to hire Jackson is that it enhances the chances of getting Johnson. A bidding war for his services seems unlikely, and he could probably be had for a late-first-day selection. He'd have a chance to become a star in his hometown, where the city's biggest stars are all in other sports that no one here really cares about anyway. The reunion might be the clincher for Johnson push Cincinnati, if and when they finally decide to send him south.

In his own shy and diminutive way, Ocho Cinco seems intent on departing the Bengals even if he has to torch every last bridge in Ohio. Over the weekend, it was an on-camera plea for Parcells to call him. This week in Glendale, Ariz., Johnson has done everything short of put a For Sale sign around his neck, telling a Boston reporter, "I'm going to be playing for your team next year," and a Charlotte radio station that putting him on the Panthers would equal a Super Bowl.

If Johnson can be had for their last first-day pick—remember, the Dolphins already have two second-rounders, and there's that "Jerry Jones wants Darren McFadden" rumor that won't go away, so they might end up with as many as five—Miami has to do it.