2-3 Dolphins are the 2-3 Redskins Done Right
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Miami Dolphins Team President Bill Parcells is famous for remarking in a press conference that, “you are what your record says you are.” While that may hold some truth, the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins have both won 40% of their games, and are not anywhere near each other in terms of accomplishment.
Expectations going into the season were similar for both these franchises: while the Dolphins were an 11-5 playoff team expected to regress towards the mean a little bit, while the 8-8 Redskins reloaded heavily in the offseason, and were looking for a little bit of a boost from the 48 million dollar man, Albert Haynesworth.
Whereas the Washington Redskins have made it to 2-3 because of a complete failure to develop their offense, the Miami Dolphins are there because of some excellent work they have done with theirs.
The development of Miami’s wildcat from a gimmick offensive wrinkle into a massive, playbook eating versatile scheme didn’t just happen between week two and week three of last year. It’s been happening this whole time. The Redskins are notable for head coach Jim Zorn’s refusal to run anything resembling the wildcat, but where these two offenses are linked at the hip is in their remarkably 20th century ball-on-the-ground, grind it out style. Both teams keep scoring under control by working tirelessly to control the time of possession. When Washington was successful in the first half of last year, they were a dominant T.O.P. team, if not a big point scoring team.
The Miami Dolphins are aware of their flaws against the top AFC teams, talent-wise. It needed to be no more evident than when they were being thrashed at the hands of the Ravens in the playoffs. Those were not two evenly matched teams. The Dolphins aren’t measureably better this year, in fact, they’re without their MVP from last season, Chad Pennington. But what they have focused on is the development of their competitive advantage. They beat teams by limiting mistakes, and controlling the clock to an unfathomable degree. Every snap is about high efficiency, clock-control football, with execution in the red zone super-emphasized. The Dolphins get all their playmakers involved: Ricky Williams, Ronnie Brown, and Anthony Fasano. And execution to the littlest detail is stressed.
The Redskins are similar in a lot of ways. They focus on getting everyone involved. They really try to take it to you once they get a lead. They want to be a mistake-limiting football team. All those principles got them off to a strong start in the first two games, probably ahead of where Miami is.
What the Redskins have found out in the hardest way possible is that while you can continually stress good decisions and limiting mistakes, you can’t eliminate mistakes. You have to be able to take advantage of all those things you can control, because interceptions and fumbles will occur in a football game. They are occuring at a much higher rate for the Dolphins this year than they were last year as well.
But the Redskins don’t stress the details like Miami does. Miami will lose some games when they turn the ball over: they just don’t have the talent to overcome big deficits. The Redskins on the other hand probably do have the talent. But the execution is shoddy, and it has been for years. By not stressing the small things, the Redskins are willing to accept the macro results on a large scale, which means if they get behind big, they lose, even though they have the talent to make a comeback, they just make too many mistakes.
The Dolphins have taken a historically boring offensive style, and turned it into an intriguing, exciting, quick strike, rush-heavy attack. And it’s won them two games against a very tough schedule to open the season. The Redskins, well, against the endless string of zero win opponents they have opened the season against, they’ve just been boring.