What Does Gailey Chan Bring to South Beach?
Chan Gailey brings over 40 Years of combined coaching experience both at the college level and in the pros to the Miami Dolphins. When you look at that volume of time guiding a football team toward winning you are looking at a lot of valuable learning experiences. One of the big reasons why Gailey was picked as the Dolphins new offensive coordinator was that he has many lessons to teach and more knowledge to pass on to the next level of young NFL superstars. He might want to start by bringing back some of the magic he worked in his first stint with the Dolphins because while he was their OC back in 2000-2001, the team ended up with back-to-back 11-5 seasons. The Dolphins do have a plan though because they talked Gailey into coming out of his short retirement to help them resurrect their offense based on the talent they’ve assembled over the last year.
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What Can Be Expected from Chan Gailey’s Offense
Since Chan Gailey has been around for so many years there are a lot of views on what his offensive style is. Some say he is a conservative play-caller while others will look at his many coaching stops and say he usually favors a spread offense. As I look at stats and read other’s analysis one thing seems to stick out, that he schemes to his personnel’s strengths to maximize the team’s chance of winning. That might explain why he has had so many different coaching stops in his 4 decades and has had measurable success in most of them. He is willing to adapt the system around the players to squeeze the most out of them. It gives credence to the success he was able to deliver with QBs like Jay Fiedler and Ryan Fitzpatrick when they overachieved based on what people expected out of them. That also might be another reason they were able to bring Gailey out of retirement, the fact that he would have some familiarity with one of his QBs right from the start. Ryan Fitzpatrick has arguably had more success under Chan Gailey than any other OC that he has played for. Assuming Gailey will tailor the Dolphins scheme to fit his personnel we might expect to see different things for the different skill positions.
Fantasy Positional Impact
The last time Gailey was in the league, he was with the NY Jets in 2015 and 2016 as their offensive coordinator with Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter. He attempted 601 passes in 2015 with 75% going to the wide receivers. In 2016 they attempted 543 passes with 71.8% going to the wide receivers. They did line up in spread formations or 11 personnel a majority of the time as the percentages show us Gailey had Fitzpatrick looking for his wide receivers early and often. Fitzpatrick’s rankings in fantasy were near the top (11th) in 2015 and dropped to near the bottom (29th) in 2016. The drop in rankings was partially due to teams adjusting to the Jets offense and the Jets not having the ability to change it up due to a lack of capable backups at QB (Geno Smith and Bryce Petty).
As much as it might be tempting to go with Fitzpatrick again this year after he won over the team last year toughing it out to take 5 wins, the team drafted Tua Tagovailoa and if he’s healthy there will be pressure to get him on the field. If Tua’s hip is healthy and he is showing a command of the offense, then we might see the rookie get the nod over the aging 37-year-old journeyman. Fitzpatrick himself has been quoted as saying Gailey’s offense is easy to learn as an offensive player. The issue is if Gailey plays to the strength of his players, it should look different with Fitzpatrick under center versus Tagovailoa. Tua is better using his legs and throwing on the run while Fitzpatrick is more at home in the pocket surveying the field and launching to receivers streaking down the field. Tua played in a pro-style offense last year but didn’t do as well as he did the year before when Nick Saban had Alabama using an RPO style offense. Gailey has used this type of offense too back in 2008 in Kansas City when Tyler Thigpen was his starter. Thigpen threw for 2,608 yards and 18 TDs and ran for 386 yards and another 3 TDS. He even had a 37 yard TD reception.
If Gailey can make Thigpen useful as a starting quarterback, he can be successful on the football field using Tagovailoa in the role that drove him to the top of everyone’s want list as a draft prospect. Fitzpatrick might start the year as they are cautious with Tua’s recovery from hip surgery, but it won’t be long until he makes the switch once they realize he can handle it every week.
Even as Gailey spends most of his time utilizing multiple wide receiver sets, he does use the running back as a rusher and a receiver. How well the team’s rushing attack ranks in the NFL is determined by the number of attempts they take, but again it isn’t all in rushing the ball that the running back in Gailey’s offense is going to do his damage. Running backs with good hands can beat weaknesses in the opposing defenses and gaining 4 on the ground or through the air will still move the chains. Going back to his latest NFL stint as an OC, with the NY Jets Gailey had 20.8% of the team’s pass attempts go the running backs in 2015. In 2016 it was a little bit higher with 22.7% of the pass attempts going to a player coming out of the backfield. In 2019, everyone seemed to take a turn in the backfield where they had five running backs tote the rock and only one running back totaled over 200 yards for the team. The bad part is he wasn’t the teams leading rusher. That distinction went to their QB (Fitzpatrick) with 243 yards on the ground. That might’ve turned out differently if the didn’t trade Kenyan Drake to the Arizona Cardinals or if they just stuck with one guy and let him get in a rhythm.
The Dolphins signed Jordan Howard as a free agent and they traded for Matt Breida during the draft, so it looks like Gailey’s gameplan will have to include giving the running backs enough “touches” to keep the chains moving. As a backfield, if they run the ball around 12-15 times a game and add another 6-8 touches through the air, it should keep the Miami offense afloat. It will also go a long way to keep the opposing defenses honest and slow down the pass rush. That, in turn, will help whoever the quarterback is to have time to get rid of the ball. Both Breida and Howard are capable of catching passes out of the backfield averaging 22 catches and 20 catches respectively. That won’t be enough to get it done but the Dolphins have to take baby steps and look toward the future. They are hoping they’ve got their QB of the future in Tagovailoa, their running back position is a work in progress. Look for Gailey to use the variety of running backs on the roster to gain a favorable matchup and exploit the defense while grinding out positive yards. You might not be able to guess who is going to go off in a given week because Miami is playing against the matchup that week and next week will be different.
How can one watch this play and not want to see more Jordan Howard? pic.twitter.com/spAyQ1koFq
— Mike Kaye (@mike_e_kaye) September 23, 2019
Playing matchups and putting players in the position to play to their strengths should pay bigger dividends with this group. Gailey throwing to his top three wide receivers 75% of the time should be a great bonus for people looking to benefit from the Miami passing attack. Because the running game won’t be the strength of the team, gaining yards through the air will have to be the way the team puts points on the board. Using the height and size of DeVante Parker and Preston Williams to overpower defenders should be an easy part of the gameplan to implement. Using the speed of Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant, and Allen Hurns as a complement to the size of Parker and Williams will be a good way to pick up chunks of yards in a hurry.
Last year Parker got 128 targets and turned them into 72 catches for 1202 yards and 9 TDs. Something finally started to click for him as this was statistically his break out year. It took him a little longer than most would’ve liked it to but he seems to have taken the mantle of WR1 for the Dolphins. He probably won’t be able to do more than a high WR3 for your fantasy team with a couple of weeks of WR2 production. As Parker is at the top of the wide receiver depth chart, Miami is hoping that Preston Williams is healed up for week 1 so that he can draw defensive coverage away from Parker. In 8 games last year he was able to average 53.5 yards per game so the Dolphin’s coaching staff is looking forward to seeing what he can do in the new Miami offense for an entire season. I wouldn’t count on much more than WR4 production for your fantasy team though. Both wide receivers become a little more attractive acquisitions in dynasty leagues if you believe Tagovailoa is going to right the ship and improve Miami’s scoring. The remaining wide receivers are going to exploit mismatches when they can using speed and technique, but you won’t be able to predict when they go off and that won’t be worthwhile for your fantasy team.
In many of Gailey’s coaching stops he hasn’t utilized his tight ends much. That is a shame considering most Dolphins fans were hoping for another improvement from the young and talented Mike Gesicki. The thought of him being left out of the game plan on Sundays might not be realistic. There have been talks that, in the habit of using a player’s strengths to create mismatches, Gailey is thinking of having certain packages where Gesicki lines up in the slot as the third wideout. That would create a mismatch for the defense. What do you do as the defensive coordinator of the other team? Neutralize Gesicki’s size with a linebacker? Try to mirror him along hi route with a shorter but quicker safety in hopes of making a play on the ball in the air? Gesicki has shown his athleticism last year and he has the size at 6′ 5″ and 250 lbs. If there was a time that Gailey is going to start using the tight end more effectively in his offenses, this might be a perfect time. Going back to 2015-16, the Jets’ tight ends only got 4.2% and 5.5% respectively. With all due respect though the Jets didn’t have Mike Gesicki and the Dolphins do. They also don’t have another option at tight end so it’s Gesicki or nothing. As far as your fantasy team goes, you can get Gesicki as your tight end later than you might think. As usual, after the top 3-4 tight ends come off the board you can afford to wait and jump back on board when the rest of your starting roster is solidified. I would keep an eye on him though because Miami needs skilled players to step up and electrify the offense and Gesicki has the skill, he just needs his number called in the huddle.
Whether it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick or Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback, head coach Brian Flores knows Gailey will put his players in positions to makes plays. He has also been quoted as saying that one of the things he likes about his offensive coordinator is that “he is great at making adjustments in-game” which gives the team a better chance to win individual matchups. Flores being from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, will more than likely meet with Gailey to design game-plan specific offenses that might change weekly to match Miami’s opponents. Because of this, besides the starting QB and DeVante Parker, there might not be a Dolphins player who you can rely on starting consistently. As you look to add pieces to your dynasty teams, however, keep one eye on some of these Miami Dolphins players because as they develop in the growth of Chan Gailey’s offense you might be watching someone who you can rely on starting most weeks 3-4 years from now.