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  Mularkey on the Hot Seat
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by Chris Shashaty, Phins.com Columnist

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Last weekend, two NFL offensive coordinators were fired.


The reason? Lack of offense!


In Baltimore, head coach Brian Billick canned Jim Fassel because “we have to have more offensive productivity…something dramatic needed to be done”.


In Arizona, head coach Denny Green dismissed Keith Rowen in the wake of the Cardinals’ stunning Monday Night Football collapse to the unbeaten Chicago Bears.



Said Green, “We are not scoring enough points.”


“At certain times you feel like you have to do something different.”


Granted, firing one’s offensive coordinator in mid-season is an unusual thing to do. But sometimes such a move can make sense when a source of the problem is the person in question.


Turn the microscope now on the Miami Dolphins and their sorry offense. They need to do something different, too.


Brought in by Nick Saban to assume the role and system left behind by Scott Linehan, Mike Mularkey’s job was to take Linehan’s work and build on it.


He hasn’t done that. Today, the Dolphins are a disappointing 21st in Total Offense and 29th in Scoring.


Not surprisingly, given the firings of Fassel and Rowen, questions concerning Mularkey’s job security are now being raised.


Consider that the Ravens (110) and Cardinals (111) have outscored the Dolphins (78).


Consider that the Ravens (10) and Cardinals (11) have more offensive touchdowns than the Dolphins (8), with a key statistic for big plays, passing touchdowns, heavily favoring the Ravens (8) and Cardinals (18) over the Dolphins (3).


Consider that the Ravens (4.4) and Cardinals (4.4) have achieved roughly the same yards per play as the Dolphins (4.8).


Consider that the Ravens (30:38) and Cardinals (31:58) have better average time of possession than the Dolphins (29:32).


And, finally, consider that the Ravens (12) and Cardinals (18) have yielded fewer sacks than the Dolphins (22).


So why is it that Mularkey isn’t looking for work today?




“I think that we’re more interested in trying to develop solutions to help us get better”, said the ever positive Saban. “If we knew making a change would make it better, we’d probably do it. But I don’t feel that that’s what we need to do right now.”


Publicly, Saban never wavers in protecting his staff and players. To Saban, ‘family business’ stays within. It doesn’t mean that Saban is happy with where things are; it just means that Saban believes that canning Mularkey now will only create distraction and disruption on a team that needs neither.


To Saban, focusing on correcting mistakes, rather than changing the leadership and the approach, is what’s needed under the circumstances.


“I think when we look at what we’re doing, I think when the players look at what we’re doing, I think they see that we can have success if we’ll go do it the right way”, said Saban. “I think that needs to be the point of emphasis for us right now, and I think we’re all responsible to find a better way. That’s going to be our approach.”


Making chicken soup out of chicken feathers is Saban’s approach. He knows he doesn’t have the horses he needs. But is he also questioning his decision to hire Mularkey in the first place?


As often as Saban grouses about getting Ronnie Brown and Chris Chambers the ball more, perhaps he should at least consider handing the playcalling to someone else.


Remember that part of Mularkey’s undoing in Buffalo was a lackluster offense, fueled by what some considered conservative playcalling. For example, his 2005 Buffalo Bills scored a paltry 16.9 points per game. This year, his Dolphin offense has fared even worse (13.2 ppg).


Even the disgraceful 2004 Dolphins (17.2 ppg) were more prolific!


Now, in fairness to Mularkey, coaches are only as good as the players they’ve got.


Consider the lousy caliber of quarterback play, the biggest bummer of this disappointing season.


Also consider that, despite years of coaching, some Dolphins continue to brain-lock all too often. A case-in-point would be the so-called playmakers on offense, guys who regularly drop passes and make other repeated mental errors.


At least Saban and Mularkey had the backbone to admit their mistake in starting out the season with a not-healthy Daunte Culpepper, albeit weeks later than they should have.


But really, whether it’s Culpepper or Joey Harrington running the show, there is just too much talent for so little to have been gained. It’s a hard sell to any football-savvy person to suggest that the Dolphins were better off with Jay Fiedler and Gus Frerotte.


Even if you factor in the loss of Ricky Williams, the improvement of Brown and Vernon Carey plus other gains at least keeps them on par, talent-wise, from where they were last year.


In the Not For Long league, the bottom line is wins. Mularkey knows this as well as anyone. He knows he was hired at a considerable salary to deliver results.


But he hasn’t, not yet. And unless things get dramatically better over the balance of the season, it could be Mularkey who joins Fassel and Rowen on the street.



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