Mike McDaniel is the talk of the NFL, and rightfully so. For the first time in recent memory a self-professed “football nerd” took his analytics and scheme to a head coaching role and he’s made it all work.
There was plenty of promise for the McDaniel system in 2022, but this season has surpassed anyone’s wildest dreams. The Dolphins are running a HISTORIC offense that nobody in the league has an answer for. Unlike gimmick offenses of the past, there’s nothing tricky about what McDaniel is doing, no single way to beat it. Instead he’s taking some classic principles, mixing them together in a new way, and he’s created something unstoppable as a result.
In honor of the Dolphins’ astonishing 10 touchdowns on Sunday against the Broncos here are 10 stats that make this team tick and explain what they’re doing.
No. 1: Best in class
The Dolphins rank first in both passing and rushing in the NFL this season. Part of that is skewed because of the beatdown against the Broncos, but they are still running an absolutely prolific attack.
Miami is averaging 552 yards of total offense per game. They are currently on pace for 8,832 (normalized for a 16 game season). That would put the 2023 Dolphins above the 1999 Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” (6,412 yards) and the 2007 Brady-Moss Patriots (6,580) for most yards gained by a team.
No. 2: Nobody is close
Even if you try and wave those yards away due to modern NFL rules benefiting offense, nobody is playing like Miami right now. Their 552 yards-per-game is 218.7 above the NFL average this season.
For comparison the ‘99 Rams were 81.95 yards above average, and the ‘07 Patriots were 86.05 yards above average. Two of the widely-accepted greatest offenses in the history of football were less than 90 yards over average. Again, the Dolphins are TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTEEN yards over average.
No. 3: Speed for days
A lot is made of the former track stars the Dolphins have on offense, but it’s more than a gimmick throwaway graphic for Sunday Night Football. Miami is wrecking the curve on speed when it comes to top plays for 2023, with the team boasting all six of the top spots according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
The trio of Tyreek Hill, Devon Achaine and Raheem Mostert are being put in positions where every play is a potential track meet, and nobody has the speed to content with them in the open field on a regular basis.
This is what makes the Dolphins’ offense tick.
No. 4: Playing the game like we’ve never seen before
The modern NFL is largely predicated on the notion of putting receivers in mismatch positions to win in the open field. It’s for this reason that almost every team in the league has a negative Air-Yards-To-Sticks (AYTS) rating this year. It’s a way of calculating pass depth relative to the first down marker.
It’s not bad to be negative in this regard, because it more symbolic of running a modern NFL offense than anything else. You hit a receiver in stride, they turn upfield to pick up the first.
However, the Dolphins are not only playing with a positive AYTS of +0.4, but Tua Tagovailoa is leading the NFL with an average of 6.7 YAC per completion. McDaniel has essentially blended the quick passing West Coast style of finding an open man in a mismatch, with the verticality of an Air Coryell system.
This is not supposed to work in tandem, but because of the speed McDaniel is employing it’s impossible to stop.
No. 5: Jaylen Waddle is a MONSTER in this offense
Waddle was out against the Broncos, and if he played that game would have been even uglier. The four-headed monster of the Miami offense is impressive enough, but Waddle is playing at a ludicrous level.
He leads the NFL with a disgusting 11.2 yards of YAC per reception, better than Mike Evans in second place by a full three yards. Waddle is +5.8 over his expected YAC per reception this season and he’s catching over 72 percent of the passes thrown at him.
The offense is finding ways of putting Waddle in positions where he can thrive, and he’s giving them huge dividends.
No. 6: It’s impossible to know what this offense will do as a defense
The speed and big-play potential of the Dolphins have made this the league’s most unpredictable offense. If you sell out to stop the receivers from making big plays they’ll cut you underneath and still pick up yards. If you commit to break the linebackers out into the flats so they can cut off lanes for Hill and Waddle the offense will burn you inside with one of its runners.
Easily the biggest benefactors right now are Achiane and Mostert. The running back duo are tearing teams apart. Achaine is averaging 6.5 yards over expected per carry, while Mostert is at +1.4. Only 11 running backs in the NFL are averaging over +1 yard above expected, and the Dolphins have two of them.
No. 7: Tua Tagovailoa has been magnificent
No quarterback in the NFL is playing better when it comes to throwing with swagger and backing it up. Tagovailoa ranks 11th in throw aggressiveness this season, showing trust in his receivers to make plays on the ball over DBs — while also boasting the 6th highest completion percentage in the NFL.
These aren’t typically stats that gel together. You either throw safe and get easy completions, or you play aggressive and get yards, but accuracy tends to suffer. Totally in control of this offense, Tua is doing both.
No. 8: The offensive line is godly
This is a mixture of factors including Tua’s quick decision making and the offensive system, but the Dolphins just don’t take sacks.
Through three games Tagovailoa has only been sacked for a loss one five yards. That’s it. Several teams have only allowed one sack too, but none that have the offensive explosiveness paired with it except for perhaps the Chiefs, and they’re not close to the Dolphins in production right now.
No. 9: This teams scores A LOT
Even if we erase the entire 10 touchdown game against the Broncos on Sunday the Dolphins would be on par with the Colts and Browns in total touchdowns, and above 18 teams in the NFL.
Their 17 total scores is vastly above anyone else, and it’s the final product of this entire offensive system.
No. 10: Third downs barely exist in Miami
The Dolphins offense is so good that they rarely find themselves in a desperate situation. Miami has run 197 yard from scrimmage this season, and only 28 of them have been on third down.
Forget stopping the Dolphins on offense, because teams are struggling to even put them in a position where they have to make a tough decision. McDaniel has drawn up an offense that wins so often it never puts mental pressure on his players.
It’s simply awe-inspiring to watch.