Some of Cam Cameron's questionable decisions
We all know, and grudgingly accept, that Miami's talent misses opportunities to make plays. That cannot be addressed until more talent is drafted or acquired through free agency or trade. But the frustrating thing is some of the coaching decisions that are made never seem to help the team.
Normally, I accept coaching decisions because these guys know more football than the rest of us. They are professionals. But this season, Miami coach Cam Cameron has made it practically a habit to make questionable decisions, decisions that don't seem to pay off in loss, after loss, after loss.
It has become habitual to the point that I am not really concerned you readers will think me second-guessing when I point them out to you. So what follows is a log of some of Cameron's questionable decisions he has made this regular-season and what their results wrought. I am not including ALL the questionable decisions because, frankly, not every decision affects the game's outcome.
Here are the ones that did, in my opinion:
Pittsburgh 3, Miami 0: Tied 0-0 the Dolphins are faced with a fourth-and-15 from the Steelers 31 yard line. Instead of attempting a 48-yard field goal or punting to pin the Steelers deep in their territory, Cameron goes for it. John Beck is sacked for an 8 yard loss.
Later, in the first minute of the fourth quarter actually, the Dolphins drive to the Pittsburgh 20 where they attempt a 37 yard field goal. It misses, but a delay of game penalty gives Miami new life with a fourth-and-11 at the Pittsburgh 25 yard line. Instead of trying a 42 yard field goal, Cameron goes for it and Beck is sacked and fumbles. The Dolphins do not score in the game.
Philadelphia 17, Dolphins 7: The Dolphins trail 17-7 with 6:45 left to play. They have a fourth-and-1 situation at the Eagles' 1 yard line. So Cameron calls a timeout.
Coming out of the time out he elects not to kick the field goal. He elects to run the ball with running back Jesse Chatman, who has a sprained ankle. He elects to pitch the ball back to that injured player at the 7 yard line, effectively turning a 1-yard run into a 7-yard run, and he does it, knowing the play calls for no blocking on defensive end Juqua Thomas. Instead of getting out of position, Thomas is waiting for Chatman and tackles him for a 13-yard loss. The game effectively is over because Miami gets no points in a two possession game and doesn’t get the ball back until 13 seconds remain.
The next day, Cameron admits the fourth-down call was a “risk."
Buffalo 13, Dolphins 10: Cameron ignores calls from fans and media to start John Beck. He goes with ineffective Cleo Lemon. But even before the game, Cameron sensed Beck was ready and said he was, “the most prepared to play, even against Buffalo.”
“I saw that early in the game in the warm-ups," Cameron says the day AFTER the game. "I just sensed that had he gotten an opportunity to play in the Buffalo game he would have played well.”
So Cameron sensed his future quarterback would have played well but didn’t make the change. Instead Lemon plays the entire game and doesn't throw a touchdown or interception while managing a poor 66.9 quarterback rating, his second lowest rating in five starts.
It doesn't end there. The Dolphins lead the game 3-0 at halftime and the Bills fail to score on their first possession of the second half. But Miami is pinned at its 2 yard line. Does Cameron do the conservative thing and run the ball out of the shadow of his end zone? No, he passes on second-and-7 from the Dolphins 5 yard line and the pass falls incomplete.
On third down, he calls a slow developing pass play with a five step drop. Lemon, in his own end zone, holds the ball too long and is sacked for a safety. Momentum shifts.
Houston 22, Miami 19: The Dolphins are leading 16-13 with 6:30 to play. Starting quarterback Trent Green is out of the game and backup Cleo Lemon is in for the first time in 2007. The Dolphins are marching using Ronnie Brown, who has gained 33 yards on four carries and has delivered three first downs.
So on second-and-9 from the Houston 30, in a game Jay Feely has already kicked three field goals, does Cameron ride his emerging and hot running back or does he put the game in the backup quarterback’s hands? He picks the QB.
And so on second down, Lemon holds the ball and is sacked for an 8-yard loss. Then on third down he completes a pass for no gain. Instead of being in position to kick a field goal, the Dolphins must punt.
Surely a lesson learned right? Wrong. With the game tied at 19, the Dolphins have a second-and-9 situation at the Houston 38 yard line. Coming out of the two minute warning, do the Dolphins give the ball to Brown to get within field goal range and also milk the clock? Nope, they pass. They pass incomplete on second down, then incomplete again on third down, eating only nine seconds off the clock.
The stage is now set for defeat. Houston gets the ball at its own 3 yard line and drives 59 yards in 1:32 to win the game with a field goal.
Jets 31, Dolphins 28: The Dolphins offense is playing well but the special teams coverage unit is struggling, allowing a 98-yard kickoff return to Leon Washington in the first quarter.
Apparently stunned by the return, Cameron doesn’t get his coaching staff to adjust their coverage right then and there on the sideline. but rather orders kicker Jay Feely to squib kick each of the next two times the Dolphins kick off before halftime. The coach later says the kickoff adjustment, which might have been made on the sideline, was eventually made at halftime.
The problem is one of the two squibs Cameron orders, gives the Jets the ball at their own 43, setting them up for a 59-yard TD drive in the final 1:34 of the half. The scoring drive proves crucial as the Jets win by three points.
There you have it. I didn't mention the blown timeout situation before the half in Washington or the lack of urgency in trying to mount a comeback against the Giants in London. I also didn't mention using Marty Booker on a QB sneak in that London game -- yeah, he fumbled. Those plays didn't affect the outcome of the game.
But the list of decisions that did affect games is staggering. And depressing.