Brian Flores has earned near universal praise for his coaching performance through two seasons in Miami. The Dolphins are already back to relevance in the AFC after they went into full-tank during 2019. Miami saw a five-win improvement in 2020 and they had their first winning season since 2016 with a 10-6 record.
Flores has quickly raised expectations on South Beach but he’s also raised eyebrows with how he’s gone through offensive coordinators early in his tenure. He’ll be on his third and fourth offensive coordinators in three seasons after Chan Gailey resigned at the end of last season, which came after Flores fired Chad O’Shea at the end of the 2019 season. Flores coaxed Gailey out of retirement last off-season at 68 years old, but Flores’ extremely hands-on approach with his quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa and Ryan Fitzpatrick, had Gailey feeling like Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon movies.
The Dolphins took a month to resolve their open coordinator spot, and Flores couldn’t even settle on one of his in-house candidates for the job. Miami went a unique route by naming George Godsey and Eric Studesville as co-offensive coordinators. The 2016 Chiefs were the last team to have co-offensive coordinators with Brad Childress and Matt Nagy, but HC Andy Reid still called the plays that season. Other teams have used run- and pass-game coordinators in recent seasons (e.g. the 2020 Eagles) but, in almost every case, the team has been led by an offensive-minded head coach. That won’t be the case with the 2021 Dolphins and the defensive-minded Flores. Miami’s offensive coaching situation will be interesting to watch play out this season.
Godsey, 42, is younger than Studesville but he at least brings some play-calling experience to the table. Godsey’s only experience calling plays came in 2015 when Bill O’Brien took a step back from those duties in his second season in Houston. The Texans finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring and total offense, but they did win the AFC South with a 9-7 record despite starting four different quarterbacks (Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, T.J. Yates, and Brandon Weeden). Godsey was stripped of play-calling duties after just one season, and O’Brien fired him as the offensive coordinator after the 2016 season.
Godsey started his coaching career as a graduate assistant at UCF in 2004 after breaking the Georgia Tech single-season passing record in 2001, a record he still holds at 3085 yards. He broke into the NFL ranks in 2011 with the Patriots before joining B.O.B. and the Texans from 2014-16. Godsey spent two seasons with the Lions as an defensive assistant (2017) and as a quarterbacks coach (2018) before joining Flores as a tight ends coach the last two seasons. Godsey and Flores worked together in New England from 2011-13, and they must have a solid relationship if Godsey has been able to survive some offensive coaching turnover in Flores’ first two seasons in Miami.
Studesville, 53, will be getting his first big chance after 24 seasons in the NFL coaching ranks and after 30 years of coaching overall. He started his career at the University of Arizona as a graduate assistant in 1991 and he eventually made the jump to the NFL as a running backs coach with the Bears in 1997. Studesville has had a job working with running backs ever since he broke into the league nearly a quarter-century ago. He’s been a running backs coach with the Bears (1997-2000), Giants (2001-03), Bills (2004-09), and Broncos (2010-17) before joining Adam Gase’s staff with the Dolphins in 2018.
Studesville survived Gase’s firing and he’ll get the chance to be a coordinator for the first time. He did hold the title of interim head coach in Denver for a brief period during his eight-year stay in the Mile High City. He became the first African-American head coach in Broncos history when he held the top coaching position for the final four games of 2010 after the franchise fired Josh McDaniels. He went 1-3 in his brief stint as a head coach before returning to his RB coach position under John Fox and Gary Kubiak.
Godsey and Studesville got an early taste of their new arrangement in late January at the Senior Bowl. The Dolphins staff coached the National Team to a victory with Miami’s new OCs splitting the play-calling duties. Studesville will likely design the running game while Godsey will handle the passing game this season. Godsey is the best bet to call the plays since he has previous experience but the Dolphins haven’t formally announced how the arrangement will work.
The Dolphins made two semi-splashy moves at running back last off-season by signing Jordan Howard and by trading for Matt Breida, but it was a pair of relative unknowns who led the position for Miami last season. Under Studesville’s tutelage, two University of Washington backs, Myles Gaskin and Salvon Ahmed, came out of nowhere to dominate the work in the backfield. Godsey also had his own success story in Mike Gesicki. The 2018 second-round pick out of Penn State has made steady progress in each of his two seasons under Godsey, culminating in a career-best 53/703/6 receiving in 15 games last year.
Miami’s new offensive coordinators will have their biggest project yet as they try to take Tagovailoa to the next step in his development after a rocky rookie campaign. Miami’s two coordinator setup might be rare in the NFL, but Tua actually worked in a two-coordinator system at Alabama in 2017 (Brian Daboll and Mike Locksley) and in 2018 (Josh Gattis and Locksley). The Dolphins also brought in former Browns quarterback Charlie Frye to work with Tagovailoa next season.
Tua will have some continuity in offensive verbiage and schemes with the Dolphins promoting Godsey and Studesville. However, they’re expected to use more Run-Pass Option plays (RPOs) next season while also blending in more college-style concepts with Gailey’s old offense. Frye is expected to help in this area having orchestrated Central Michigan’s offense the last two seasons.
Flores clearly isn’t sold on Tua based on his handling of last year’s #5 overall pick despite his 6-3 record as the team’s starting quarterback. The Dolphins are moving forward right now like Tua will be their quarterback in 2021, but they have the draft capital to potentially upgrade the position with a proven commodity like Deshaun Watson.
If the Dolphins are unable to pull off a big quarterback move, it’s imperative for them to upgrade their receiving corps behind DeVante Parker and Gesicki. Preston Williams has seen his first two seasons end on the injured reserve after eight games, and Tua was down to the likes of Lynn Bowden, Mack Hollins, and Isaiah Ford as his top receivers in the final weeks of the season. Tua wasn’t at the level of fellow rookies Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert in his first season removed from his catastrophic hip injury suffered at Alabama, but he wasn’t exactly working with an all-star receiving corps.
Potential Fantasy Riser
Myles Gaskin (RB) — Studesville helped Gaskin develop into an every-down back in two quick seasons after the Dolphins selected him in the seventh round in 2019. The Dolphins clearly trusted Gaskin as they immediately gave him a chance to be their featured back to start last season despite signing Jordan Howard and trading for Matt Breida last off-season. The Dolphins could easily draft a back with one of their five picks in the first 81 selections of the 2021 NFL Draft, but Gaskin has at least earned a crack at the top billing heading into training camp.
Potential Fantasy Faller
Tua Tagovailoa (QB) — Tua lost one of his allies with Gailey resigning at the end of last season. Flores clearly wasn’t sold on his rookie quarterback after multiple benchings in 2020, and the Dolphins will be weighing their options at the position this off-season. They could bring in some competition with one of their five picks in the first 81 selections of the 2021 NFL Draft, or they could make a big splash and trade for a proven quarterback like Watson — they’re currently the second favorites to acquire Watson.