The Dolphins enter their third season with head coach Brian Flores but the offensive coordinator position has been constantly churned with a different one for each of the last five seasons. That’s not exactly a model of consistency.
Flores’ first year tabbed Chad O’Shea to run the offense since both were fresh from stints with the Patriots. The Fins went 5-11 that first year and the offense gave up 56 sacks while featuring the NFL’s worst rushing attack. O’Shea was released after just one season.
For the second year with Flores, he went back into the past to lure Chan Gailey out of retirement. He had last ran the Jets offense (2015-2016) and his lengthy resume included two head coaching stints and numerous other offensive coordinator jobs in the league. He helped turn around the franchise that ended with a 10-6 season. Gailey had a history with Ryan Fitzpatrick and helped the mid-season transition to 1.05 pick Tua Tagovailoa. Gailey resigned at the end of the season.
All of Flores’ previous coaching jobs had been on the defensive side of the ball, so he relies more on the offensive coordinator than many other NFL teams where the head coach may call plays and has a more direct hand in the offensive scheme and personnel. Flores went with an unusual approach for 2021. Not only do the Fins have a different offensive coordinator for the fifth-straight season, they actually have two.
Flores promoted up Eric Studesville and George Godsey to become co-coordinators. It’s highly unusual to give both the same title.
Offensive Coordinator (Run Game) Eric Studesville – Starting in 1997, Studesville started coaching the running backs in the NFL for the Bears (1997-2000), Giants (2001-2003). Bills (2004-2009), Broncos (2010-2017), and finally the Dolphins (2018-). Studesville was also the assistant head coach for the Broncos (2017). That’s 23 years of coaching running backs, and he’s also been the run game coordinator for the Fins for the last three seasons.
The Dolphins’ backfield has been one of the least productive for the last three years though that’s hard to pin on Studesville. There hasn’t been a top back in Miami in many years, and the last two with Flores had the lead backs of Myles Gaskin and Patrick Laird. There’s been little to work with and the offense has tended towards passing more often in the last few years if only due to trailing in games.
While the play-calling duties are still not certain, both coordinators will be involved and the offensive scheme is not expected to change much from what Gailey has left behind. While the Dolphins ranked only No. 28 in rushing yards by running backs (1,380) last year, they completed 104 passes for 849 yards to the position, ranking Top-5 for each.
The Fins have been in a full rebuild for the last two years, and the improvement in the backfield should be seen this year with a better offensive line and a likely upgrade in personnel.
Offensive Coordinator (Pass Game) George Godsey – The Dolphins promoted Godsey into the co-coordinator role after two years as their tight ends coach. He spent time with the Patriots, Texans, and Lions over the previous nine seasons and was the offensive coordinator in Houston (2015-2016).
Like Studesville with his backfield the last two years, when Godsey ran the offense in Houston, he had little to work with as well. The starting quarterbacks were Brian Hoyer (2015) and Brock Osweiler (2016). The Texans drafted Deshaun Watson the year after Godsey left.
Godsey had experience with Ryan Fitzpatrick and then helped to transition Tagovailoa into the offense. The Fins are all-in with their second-year quarterback and Fitzpatrick may not resign. While Fitzpatrick was more of a pocket passer, Tagovailoa brings more mobility to the position with three to six rushes per game last season.
As with Studesville, any deviation from the offensive scheme of last year is difficult to forecast. They should see higher rushing numbers but that depends more on adding new personnel.
The offensive scheme should be an evolving one with input from two different coordinators. Since both were there last year under Gailey, there shouldn’t be much difference at least in the earlier part of the season.
This is the season that the Fins under Flores should take shape. They are armed with four picks in the first two rounds – 1.03, 1.18, 2.04, and 2.18. With a solid defense, there’s a good chance that at least three of those first four could go to the offense – wideout, running back and offensive line. All three could be Week 1 starters.
Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed will return as the top two backs from last year’s roster. Gaskin turned in several solid games in the second half of 2020 but only totaled 142 runs for 584 yards on the season. The Dolphins need an upgrade for their backfield that hasn’t seen a top rusher in many years. Studesville helped squeeze that they could from the mishmash of players these last two seasons, but the team needs a true No. 1 back and has the draft capital to make that happen.
Tagovailoa returns for his first full season. There was speculation that the Fins could end up trading for Deshaun Watson, but that appears to be just offseason chatter.
Devante Parker enjoyed a breakout season in 2019 (72-1202-9) when he feasted on the prevent defense in a throwaway season. He dropped back to only 63 receptions for 793 yards and four scores last year while helping to break in the rookie quarterback. He still managed two 100-yard efforts with Tagovailoa.
Preston Williams Is a 6-4, third-year player that has flashes of talent and twice was lost for the year in Week 9 each season. He tore his ACL and then injured his foot. The Dolphins are expected to use one of their first four picks on a wideout and may even consider burning their 1.04 on a top wideout in the draft to give Tagovailoa three solid wideouts, at least until Williams leaves again in Week 9 this year.
Mike Gesicki returns for his fourth-year after a breakout 2020 campaign that saw him with 53 catches for 703 yards and six scores, four of which came from Tagovailoa in the second half of the season.
Fantasy football takeaway
How the dual coordinators work out remains to be seen and it will likely evolve as the season progresses. Keeping continuity by promoting two position coaches will help Tagovailoa’s development continue, as will spending an early pick (or getting a top free agent) on wideout.
There is no consensus early on as to whether the Fins buy an early wideout or running back in the draft, but both should be addressed. The Dolphins already showed improvement last year though mostly on defense. While the passing effort naturally declined with the rookie, there’s every reason to expect at least incremental improvement from Tagovailoa with a chance for fantasy relevance if they upgrade the offensive line and skill players around him.
Parker and Gesicki are the only offensive players that are locked into being fantasy starters. But any early pick on a running back could turn into a fantasy star in this improving offense. The dual coordinators will be worth watching during the season since it is a new flavor to offensive schemes.