The last time Chan Gailey coached in the the NFL was the 2016 season, and he returns for a second stint in South Beach after Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was able to coax him out of retirement to replace one-and-done offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea.
Flores wants to simplify the play-calling and get away from the methodical, dink-and-dunk style of offense O’Shea brought over from New England. Gailey is known for a spread but balanced system. The tempo is a higher, while more three- and four-wide designs are employed. One commonality to his predecessor’s style is a reliance on play-action passing. Gailey’s offense will be easier to pick up for what figures to be among the youngest 2020 Week 1 rosters.
Even though there’s some irony to turning the keys over a 68-year-old for a fresh start, the move to the experienced Gailey wasn’t without calculus. Miami certainly could retain quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick one more year for a third reunion with the new OC. There is little doubt Miami will add a quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft, and Fitz can steer the ship prior to becoming a mentor. It is fair to remove Josh Rosen from Miami’s future plans.
From 2010-12, Fitzpatrick was Gailey’s quarterback in Buffalo. They were linked once again in 2015 and ’16 with the New York Jets. Looking at the seasons in which Fitzpatrick made 12 or more appearances, Gailey was his coach for five of them, including the top-two fantasy campaigns of Fitz’s career (per-game averages).
Much will change before we have a clearer picture of the Dolphins’ personnel from a fantasy perspective. As mentioned, an eventual passing of the torch at quarterback appears inevitable in 2020.
Miami desperately needs a running back (or three) — something that should go without saying after its 37-year-old quarterback was the team’s leading rusher.
Another receiving option to complement 2019 breakout DeVante Parker is a priority. We saw flashes from WR Preston Williams (knee) before tearing his ACL, and tight end Mike Gesicki took a significant step forward in Year 2. All three face uncertainty in a new system.
The offensive line will require improved coaching and substantial talent upgrades across the board. It was among the worst in the league for paving lanes in the rushing game and in pass protection.
A look at recent Gailey offenses can help point to possible outcomes for the 2020 Miami team.
Table: Chan Gailey team rankings as OC (last 5 seasons)
|Offense||Rushing Off||Passing Off|
- When the offense is functioning properly, it finds success running the football. Some of this can be attributed to having better personnel at running back than quarterback. Generally speaking, RBs require some level of QB competence to perform well. Four years inside of the top 13 in rushes vs. only one in passing attempts is the more important takeaway.
- Ball security has been an issue across the board with only one season in the top 10 for fewest turnovers. Personnel plays a large role in this area, too. Guys with ball-security issues tend to find their way to the bench. However, when a roster is devoid NFL-caliber skill players, it leads to guys like Fitzpatrick getting the star year after year.
- Only one year in the top half of the league in yardage gained and two seasons among the top 12 in offensive points scored … teams with shaky defenses often rack up major yardage figures but fail to score a lot of points. Aside from those two years with Miami the first time around, Gailey’s teams have managed to get out of the cellar on defense only once (2015 Jets).
How about where Gailey’s offenses ranked as the head coach of the Bills?
Table: Chan Gailey offensive rankings as head coach (2010-12)
|Offense||Rushing Off||Passing Off|
- Consistent theme … still a mess of turnovers. As mentioned, Fitzpatrick was his primary quarterback during this time frame. The most productive year for both rushing and passing the ball resulted in the fewest fumbles lost but the second-highest interception figure.
Do any of these stats really matter or translate to the 2020 Dolphins? Maybe. The primary correlation is most of Gailey’s teams were without adequate talent and protection. Sound familiar? The years in which he had a stellar rushing attack (Miami), his quarterback play lagged. During his entire tenure in the modern age of pass-friendly game plans, Gailey’s aerial system has struggled to matter in fantasy football for return on investment.
Fantasy football assessment
Miami currently has 13 picks in the upcoming NFL draft, including the fifth overall selection after a late-season surge produced a 5-11 record. No one will argue Flores didn’t motivate his team into a scrappy, competitive band of misfits, yet it resulted in only Parker having consistently reliable fantasy football utility.
It’s not a stretch to expect some regression from Parker and Gesicki in 2020 as they have to learn yet another new playbook. It’s not a stretch to expect regression from Fitzpatrick, despite knowing the offense, as he enters his age-38 season. It’s hardly a stretch to expect this backfield to be irrelevant, regardless of the personnel, due to quarterback deficiencies and offensive line woes. The point being, where can one confidently expect fantasy value to be found in the Gailey-led Dolphins offense in 2020?
Banking on a bevy of rookies and whatever Miami can lure to town in free agency to drastically upgrade the prospects of this entire offense is asking too much of one offseason. That’s not to say Parker cannot have another strong year, or that Gesicki isn’t capable of advancing once again in his third season. It is, however, a scenario in which keeping expectations at the bare minimum is wise. Miami is on at least a three- or four-year plan in its bid to turn around a once-proud franchise that has a rich tradition of offering fantasy football weapons.