Dave Hyde: Mike McDaniel still has the best QB on the field and a better lineup against the Patriots if some thoughts are ironed out

Mike McDaniel sits in the seat where Don Shula lost Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Gris and is still sailing for a perfect season, where Jimmie Johnson lost Hall of Famer Dan Marino and is still 5-1 to help the playoffs The race advances.

When Tua Tagovailoa was diagnosed with another concussion this week, McDaniel lost a quality young quarterback, not a rising Hall of Famer like those two Dolphins coaches.

The season shouldn’t be sunk when veteran Teddy Bridgewater replaces Tagovailoa on Sunday. This team shouldn’t even falter, just like Adam Gase’s Dolphins didn’t falter in 2016 when Ryan Tannehill was injured for 10 games and Matt Moore led them to the playoffs.

Everyone wants to see Tagovailoa finish the season because of who he is, how invested this team is in him and how he’s playing his worst football in this four-game losing streak.

“It’s horrible,” McDaniel said Tuesday of Tagovailoa’s injury, remaining silent for several seconds before and after his answer.

Of course, he felt bad. Honesty is one of McDaniel’s calling cards. But he should have gotten over that horrible, horrible, not-so-good feeling when he spoke to the media on Wednesday, and when he spoke to the team. This Sunday means a lot in New England.

There’s a playoff spot to win, the Dolphins have the inside, and McDaniel still has the best of the last two games against the New England Patriots’ Mike Jones and the New York Jets’ Mike White (or Zach Wilson) quarterback. Despite not having a week of practice, Bridgewater threw for 329 yards in three quarters against Minnesota.

Part of the reason the Dolphins shouldn’t miss a quarterback goes beyond the quarterback. Wide receivers Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are the real heart of the offense. They created the space, and McDaneil created the concept to make it work.

McDaniel toasted South Florida in November when the Dolphins were 8-3 and half a game behind Kansas City for the top seed in the AFC, and the offense, like this season, was full of possibilities .

Even on this four-game losing streak, he’s still that coach. He just has to prove it again with a backup quarterback and some of the hard questions that have been raised over the past month.

One question: are they riding hills and wobbling too much? For example, the Dolphins rank last in the league in rush attempts. It’s not that they can’t run. During that four-game losing streak, they averaged 5.6 yards per carry.

But their lack of a running game undermines the idea of ​​”complementary football”. With the Dolphins taking only eight runs, San Francisco held the ball in 40:34 to the Dolphins’ 19:26. That’s the second-largest difference in all NFL games this season. The biggest was Buffalo’s 19:20 possession on 40:40 against the Dolphins in September.

The week after the San Francisco game, the Los Angeles Chargers had 39 minutes and 38 seconds of possession. Owning time Even in Buffalo, the Dolphins ran 25 times (the season high was the New York Jets’ 27). But Green Bay got the ball in the 32nd minute, despite playing from behind, to the Dolphins’ 28th.

The Dolphins defense gave up long runs against the Chargers, Buffalo and Green Bay at the end of the game for a simple reason: They were on the floor for too much time in those games. They are exhausted. You want the opposing defense to be on the floor for at least 32 minutes — not yours. And the Dolphins defense played 39 and 40 minutes?

Running the ball more is a remedy that helps the quarterback and the defense. another? Decide what to do with the next two quarterbacks.

A common refrain this season has been that veterans like Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers scored 88.7 when blitzed by the Dolphins and 53.8 when they weren’t blitzed, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

The Dolphins blitzed a lot — fourth in the league — but too many opposing quarterbacks did better than the basic four-man rush again.

Will the Blitz help the struggling Patriots offense by allowing Jones to simply throw the ball to his outlet receiver? Wouldn’t more blitzing have him reading defenses and struggling to find targets in his lackluster receiving corps?

That’s up to defensive coordinator Josh Boyer and McDaniel above him. It was a big finale for McDaniel. Until December, his team made few mistakes. Now without Tagovailoa, McDaniel has to prove his way again.

Earl Morrall played for the Dolphins in 1972, Damon Huard played for Marino in 1999 and Moore led the Dolphins to the playoffs in 2016. This didn’t always work out, as Chad Pennington quit racing in early 2009 and the season collapsed the following year with Chad Henney.

Tagovailoa is like Pennington – smart, accurate, without strong arms and too much damage. Bridgewater is not Henne. It’s up to him and McDaniel not to make this season worse than it is.