They just couldn’t hike the ball fast enough. Cincinnati offensive coordinator Ken Zampese discovered second-year Miami cornerback Tony Lippett matched wide against prodigious Bengals receiver A.J. Green. They were seven yards from the Dolphins end zone. No help for Lippett. No way.
That quick-out pass from Andy Dalton to Green on Thursday night and the way Green caught it, dismissed a flailing Lippett and scored was really all you needed to know about Cincinnati 22, Miami 7. It was a quintessential example of what an offensive coordinator on top of his game does, how he has tutored his players to execute and how they must complete the process. The entire game and a quarter of this season have served as a league reminder that when offenses click, offensive coordinators are exalted and when they fizzle, these coordinators are scorched.
And how that leads to the entire franchise being grilled.
It’s happening with the Jets’ Chan Gailey after a six-interception Ryan Fitzpatrick game. It’s happening with Buccaneers’ head coach Dirk Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken after they have thrown it so much more than they have run it, with too little payoff. It’s getting hot in Arizona for head coach Bruce Arians and offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin as the Cardinals’ glitzy offense too frequently crawls. They are wondering in Tennessee why head coach Mike Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie are having so many early woes getting quarterback Marcus Mariotta on track.
It got Greg Roman fired as Buffalo offensive coordinator only two games into the season.
It is a sore spot now with the Dolphins.
Miami head coach Adam Gase was hired to fix the offense. He and offensive coordinator Clyde Christenson are finding it a tiring task. So much offensively looks broken through a 1-3 start that Gase on Thursday night admitted:
"What makes me feel terrible, to be honest with you, is they (his defense) laid it out there and we didn’t show up on the other side of the ball. We have to go back to work, whether it’s schematically, players, decision making, play calling. I put us in a couple of bad spots with some of the play calls."
For an offensive, fix-it guru, that is an ominous admission.
NFL owners have trended for several years toward hiring offensive coordinators as head coaches. This is the NFL glamour coaching spot. They are considered among the brightest guys in the room. Among the most creative.
NFL rules are geared for offenses.
Fans expect their teams score points. Lots of them. More importantly, owners do.
If you’re going to be a losing, troubled team, at least get into the end zone. Do a dance. Be at the edge of the NFL’s offensive explosion. That will buy you time to get the defense fixed (see the New Orleans Saints). Otherwise, coaches with perpetually broken offenses will continue to be the first booted.
There are simply too many examples nowadays how it can work. How it should work. And those examples are increasing offensive impatience in other NFL cities.
Take New England. No Tom Brady, two different young quarterbacks as starters and the offense is still humming under offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Take Philadelphia. Rookie quarterback in Carson Wentz, yet an undefeated team thus far and an offense under head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich that ranks second in the league in points scored. Take offensive coordinator Norv Turner in Minnesota, coaching without his planned No. 1 quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater) and running back (Adrian Peterson) but still managing enough offense to keep the Vikings undefeated. And Denver head coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison are employing the inexperienced Trevor Siemian at quarterback in a way that he is clearly growing each week.
This places even more heat on league offensive coordinators who are failing.
It can’t all just be the talent, or a lack of it.
In one game after replacing Roman in Buffalo, new offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn designed a simplified, more specific offensive attack and play-calling that produced against Arizona. We’ll see how that approach fares this weekend against New England and beyond. But Lynn early on is an example of how some of these coordinators whose teams are struggling need to double-down in their tinkering and in creating solutions.
They must realize that owners are looking at McDaniels and other offensive coordinators off to strong starts and do not see coaches handcuffed by arduous circumstances, just ones focused and resilient enough to find answers.
I am especially curious to see how the Seattle Seahawks and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell handle the offense and quarterback Russell Wilson this Sunday at the Jets.
Wilson is nursing leg injuries. He is expected to be less mobile.
But Wilson throws as strong and as beautiful a deep ball as any quarterback in the league. People still want to label him a running quarterback and one who only does great work on the run, but that is stupid. He can fling it from the pocket as good as it gets.
So, will Bevell protect him and ask him throw short stuff and simply stay out of harm’s way? Will Bevell find a running game and ask Wilson to do less?
I hope Bevell asks Wilson to chuck it on quick drops and let these Seattle receivers win against the Jets secondary like other teams have this season.
The key for winning, successful offensive coordinators is to fixate on what you do best, to flaunt it, insist upon it, stick with it, live it.
I see too many excuse-me offenses and too many excuse-me offensive coordinators.
Time for them to step forward. Be bold.