Why the Miami Dolphins Offense Will Thrive Under Chan Gailey This Season

Chan Gailey

The Miami Dolphins made a bold change to their coaching staff this offseason.

By firing offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea after just one season and hiring Chan Gailey, Miami proved it isn’t afraid to take a chance.

O’Shea’s firing was detailed in the Miami Herald recently, with one unnamed player calling last season a “disaster” because O’Shea tried to teach an offense that was too complex for a young team.

Head coach Brian Flores’ decision to move on from a former New England Patriots mind shows that he is trying to create his own identity in Miami.

Gailey’s History

Chan Gailey

Gailey has spent 14 seasons as an NFL play-caller, serving as a head coach for five years and an offensive coordinator for nine.

He has coached for each team in the AFC East – except the Patriots.

Gailey, 68, will be the NFL’s oldest offensive coordinator this season, but pairing his spread offense scheme with the Dolphins’ personnel makes him an ideal fit.

In the past, Gailey’s running game has been better than his passing game. Part of that, though, is due to the talent he had at quarterback.

Current Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was Gailey’s starting quarterback for five of his 14 seasons in charge.

Outside of two seasons each with John Elway and Troy Aikman, Gailey’s former quarterbacks include Mike Tomczak, Kordell Stewart, Jay Fiedler and Tyler Thigpen.

For the most part, he has been tasked with journeyman quarterbacks over the years. With rookie Tua Tagovailoa in the fold, he could have some stability for years to come.

Emphasis on the RPO

Gailey was also hired because of his work using the run-pass option (RPO) scheme.

Dolphins general manager Chris Grier explain in January why that aspect is so intriguing.

“Chan was a little bit ahead in the RPO game early on before it became, I guess, ‘in-style’ for the league,” Grier said.

The RPO, as the name implies, gives the quarterback the option to hand the ball off to a running back or throw a quick pass, usually a slant.

The quarterback’s job is to keep his eyes locked on the middle linebacker. If that player takes the bait and goes toward the running back, the quarterback is suposed to pull the ball back and fire at the presumably open receiver coming across the middle.

Fitzpatrick excelled in Gailey’s system with the New York Jets. The best statistical season of his career came under Gailey in 2015, when Fitz threw for a career-high 31 touchdowns and 3,905 yards.

But it’s Gailey’s potential fit with Tagovailoa that should excite Miami.

Tagovailoa thrived using the RPO at Alabama, helping orchestrate one of the nation’s best offenses.

Expect to see a lot more RPO action with Gailey calling plays, especially if Tagovailoa is under center.

The Spread Offense

Another key aspect of Gailey’s offense is using three or four receivers spread out wide.

With the Dolphins’ current array of weapons, this is a perfect match.

DeVante Parker emerged as a No. 1 receiver last season and should continue to improve.

Albert Wilson had a career-high 43 receptions in 2019 and is a steady weapon when healthy.

Preston Williams had 32 receptions as a rookie, but was limited to just eight games after suffering a torn ACL in Week 9.

He is progressing well in his recovery, and the team remains hopeful he will be ready for the season opener, according to the Miami Herald.

As for the fourth receiver spot, Gailey will likely look for an unorthodox player.

Mike Gesicki was second on the team with 51 receptions last season and could fill that role.

Even though Gesicki is a tight end, Gailey could deploy him out wide in four receiver sets. He has displayed the ability to catch passes at a high rate, and should only get better as he enters his third season.

Much of how the offense runs will depend on who starts at quarterback. That starter is still unknown, but both quarterbacks have proven they can succeed in Gailey’s system – or, in Tagovailoa’s case, a system similar to it.

Improvement on the Ground

Jordan Howard

Looking at the running game, this is where Gailey has made his money.

In seven of his 14 seasons, Gailey’s running game has ranked in the top 10 in yardage. Five of those seven seasons were ranked in the top six, including some dominant Jerome Bettis-led units in the late ’90s.

The Dolphins struggled mightily running the ball last season, with Fitzpatrick ending the season as their leading rusher.

Miami signed former Pro Bowler Jordan Howard and traded for former San Francisco 49er Matt Brieda, who has been underutilized for the past three seasons. The position will clearly be much better in 2020.

Under Gailey, though, the unit has a chance to be among the league’s top half.

In addition to the infusion of talent at running back, the Dolphins also added to their porous offensive line.

Free agent additions Ereck Flowers and Ted Karras, as well as early draft picks Austin Jackson and Robert Hunt, will do wonders for Gailey’s running game.

If Gailey can play to the strengths of his personnel, the Dolphins’ offense should be much better in 2020.

The Dolphins have to hope that the 68-year-old, who had been retired since 2016, doesn’t get lost in the evolution of the game.