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Tavern talk: Don’t discount experience

Miami’s Henning understands how to attack a defense. Michael Lombardi

Print This October 13, 2009, 06:19 PM EST

QUOTE: “When you blame others, you give up your power to change.” -- Author unknown

Sorry I missed the Diner this morning. I had fully intended to write before I left for Los Angeles early today, but the airport Internet would not cooperate with my constant re-booting, and I was forced to board the plane. (By the way, who says it doesn’t rain in California?)

Here are some thoughts from Monday night’s game, and a little game management session.

Currently in the NFL, there’s an undercurrent that experience is not necessary to function well in coaching. It seems that a well-polished notebook, with schedules and a specific timeline, is more appealing to owners than a coach who’s well seasoned in football knowledge. Any young play caller in the league who makes three consecutive first downs is an instant head coaching candidate and on the media’s star watch. But last night in Miami, watching the Dolphins handle the Jets’ blitz package with essentially a rookie quarterback highlights, at least to me, the importance of having an experienced staff.

Miami’s offensive coordinator, Dan Henning, has been around the block -- at least three times. He’s seen the game evolve from one point to another, and he coached against Buddy Ryan back in the day, so he understands how this blitz package was built and what gives it problems. He knows football, he understands the evolution of concepts and plays, he knows how a play can adequately function, and he knows what causes a play to break down. He’s not a play drawer like so many young offensive coaches; rather, he understands how defense works and how to attack a defense.

Football is a game made of plays, but knowing a lot of plays doesn’t guarantee a coach success. Knowing and understanding how a defense operates is more important than knowing plays, or having a pretty notebook. The best offensive minds in the league offer simplicity in their offense, but they know how to attack the nerve center of the defense. Gadgets and fades never stand the test of time, but sound football principles do.

The Colts run a very simple offense each week that’s tailored to specifically attack the defense. Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore knows how to attack a defense. Howard Mudd, the offensive line, coach knows how to protect the passer. Between the two of them, they’ve seen every new wrinkle, and like Harry Truman once said, “The only thing new in the world is the history you don't know.”

In a billion-dollar industry like the NFL one might think experience matters, but apparently it doesn’t.

Miami quarterback Chad Henne was very good, and Dolphin fans have to feel as excited as the Jets do about Mark Sanchez. Many, especially in Miami, felt Henne was going to be the Jets’ pick when they traded into the first round, but they opted to select tight end Dustin Keller.

Another thought that occurred to me watching Henne play was that his arm will make people defend the deep ball, which will make the Fins’ run game even better.

Last night, the Jets had the lead with 5:12 to go and two timeouts. It’s funny when a defensive head coach has control of the timeouts and the lead as opposed to an offensive head coach. Ryan clearly was sure the Jets would win the game 27-24, but even with his undying confidence in his defense, he knows that Miami kicker Dan Carpenter has a strong leg, and once the ball crosses the 50, a tie is likely. So to avoid overtime, Ryan needs to use his timeouts. But the key question: When is the right time to use them?

Miami doesn’t have to worry about the clock. Its goal is clearly to win the game on the last play, or tie it on the last play, so clock is an opponent as much as the Jets defense.

Miami Dolphins at 5:12, (1st play from scrimmage 5:05)

1-10-MIA 30 (5:05) C.Henne pass short left to R.Williams pushed ob at MIA 38 for 8 yards (C.Pace).

2-2-MIA 38 (4:57) Direct snap to 34 - R. Williams. (Shotgun) R.Williams left end to NYJ 47 for 15 yards (B.Scott). R19

1-10-NYJ 47 (4:11) New QB - P.White. (Shotgun) R.Brown up the middle to NYJ 41 for 6 yards (B.Scott).

2-4-NYJ 41 (3:30) (Shotgun) P.White up the middle to NYJ 35 for 6 yards (B.Scott). R20

1-10-NYJ 35 (2:48) New QB - C. Henne.

PENALTY on MIA-J.Grove, False Start, 5 yards, enforced at NYJ 35 - No Play.

1-15-NYJ 40 (2:47) Direct snap to 23 - R. Brown. (Shotgun) R.Williams right end to NYJ 34 for 6 yards (D.Revis, B.Scott). MIA-R.Williams was injured during
the play. His return is Questionable.

2-9-NYJ 34 (2:12) R.Brown up the middle to NYJ 30 for 4 yards (S.Ellis).

Two-Minute Warning

3-5-NYJ 30 (2:00) C.Henne pass short left to G.Camarillo pushed ob at NYJ 16 for 14 yards (D.Coleman). P21

1-10-NYJ 16 (1:53) New QB - P. White. (Shotgun) R.Brown up the middle to NYJ 16 for no gain (K.Jenkins). HERE IS WHERE THE FIRST TIMEOUT SHOULD HAPPEN….AND THIS MIGHT FORCE THE DOLPHINS TO RUN THE BALL AS OPPOSED TO TAKING A SHOT DOWN THE FIELD.

2-10-NYJ 16 (1:12) New QB - C. Henne. C.Henne pass incomplete deep right to A.Fasano.

3-10-NYJ 16 (1:06) (Shotgun) C.Henne pass short right to G.Camarillo to NYJ 4 for 12 yards (D.Lowery). P22 NOT TAKING THE TIMEOUT BEFORE, HE HAD TO TAKE HIS FIRST ONE HERE. WITH LESS THAN A MINUTE AND LEON WASHINGTON AS THE RETURNER, THE JETS MIGHT BE BACK IN BUSINESS WITH A GOOD RETURN.

1-4-NYJ 4 (:23) Direct snap to 23 - R. Brown. (Shotgun) R.Brown left end to NYJ 2 for 2 yards (K.Rhodes).

Timeout #2 by MIA at 00:17.

2-2-NYJ 2 (:17) C.Henne pass incomplete short left to A.Fasano.

3-2-NYJ 2 (:10) Direct snap to 23 - R. Brown. (Shotgun) R.Brown right guard for 2 yards, TOUCHDOWN. R23

(Kick formation) D.Carpenter extra point is GOOD, Center-J.Denney, Holder-B.Fields.

NYJ 27 MIA 31, 13 plays, 70 yards, 5:06 drive, 14:54 elapsed

This is a tough way to lose a game — especially for a defensive coach who is always confident in his ability to stop an offense. Ryan will learn from this experience and will never leave a game again with two timeouts in his pocket.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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