When the Miami Dolphins wrapped up their 2019 campaign with a 27-24 upset over the New England Patriots, the team appeared poised for an offseason of stability.
The Dolphins didn't have the needed success to warrant a big exodus of hiring across the rest of the league, but they did overachieve relative to the talent on the roster and did well to do the "little things" well — a sign of good coaching and future promise. But some 24 hours after the season came to a close, head coach Brian Flores threw a curveball at Miami's upcoming offseason by firing fellow New England Patriots alumni and Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea.
The decision rattled the cage of every Dolphins fan who heard the news. O'Shea's offense looked markedly better down the stretch despite zero talent on the offensive line, and the Dolphins' offensive game plans were generally effective over the team's final nine games — which it went 5-4 after an 0-7 start.
Should this really have been a surprise? Maybe not. Flores did fire his offensive line coach just a week into training camp for poor performance. And by the time the sun was up Tuesday morning, the Dolphins' replacement at offensive coordinator was known.
No, it wasn't Jim Caldwell, who was supposed to be Miami's assistant head coach in 2019 before health issues caused him to take a leave of absence. It wasn't quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski, either, who some speculated was in line for a promotion to protect him from getting plucked by a potential Josh McDaniels led coaching staff. Chan Gailey is the Dolphins' new offensive coordinator.
The hire is about as far out of left field as it seems at the surface level — Gailey wasn't on anyone's radar for the job when the news broke that O'Shea had been relieved of his duties. Indeed the decision to bring Gailey does make some sense, at least on a surface level.
Gailey has five years of experience working hand in hand with Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who played the best year of his career in 2019 with the Dolphins. And Gailey is about as well traveled a coach as one can find. He spent several years at the college level running a triple-option offense at Georgia Tech, and during his most recent stint in the NFL with the New York Jets, Gailey ran a ton of wide-open passing with high usage of three-plus wide receiver sets.
With the change in Miami's play calling, one has to wonder how the adjustments in its coaching structure and offensive philosophies will impact the team's potential targets at the quarterback position in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Here's a quick look.
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Of all the criticisms surrounding Tua Tagovailoa at Alabama, one of the most intense was that the Crimson Tide ran too much of a dink and dunk quick passing game. With so many top-shelf weapons, the concern was that Tagovailoa was too reliant on the quick passing game to find the same success at the pro level. In a potential marriage with Chan Gailey, Tagovailoa would get many of the same circumstances — a horizontal spacing attack that would allow Tagovailoa’s quick decision making disperse the ball to his pass catchers quickly.
Jordan Love, Utah State
The projection here is a fascinating one — namely because the Dolphins could potentially mitigate some of Jordan Love's issues with decision making courtesy of so much horizontal, quick game in Gailey's offense. From there, the off-script skills of Love could help create some explosive plays down the field. Love stands to be protected from his own mistakes in reading coverage in a Gailey offense thanks to more significant spacing relative to the complex, layered and nuanced offensive system O'Shea and company brought to Miami in 2019.
Jake Fromm, Georgia
Jake Fromm's physical limitations are better masked in a Gailey offense than they would be in the 2019 edition of the Dolphins' offense. Fromm is widely applauded for his decision making and football intelligence; making everything happen quickly would play right into what Fromm does best, especially considering one of his primary strengths is keeping his offense "on schedule."
Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Where Jalen Hurts is best aided in a Gailey offense versus the O'Shea offense is in the personnel usage. Coming out of Oklahoma, Hurts saw a ton of wide-open spacing for his reads. O'Shea's ideal offense? A whole lot of two-tight end sets and condensed formations. Gailey's offense would put Hurts in a more familiar environment and allow for more consistent success in making reads as a passer, easing his transition to the NFL level significantly.