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Coaching pasts of Miami Dolphins OC duo leave room for doubt in 2021

The Miami Dolphins are taking an unconventional route to running the offense this season, employing co-offensive coordinators Eric Studesville and George Godsey.

The two have a lengthy history in the league, but little is known about either given their positions outside of the limelight throughout their careers.

Studesville is a Super Bowl champion with the Denver Broncos who’s made a living as a running backs coach for five NFL teams since 1997. However, he’s never held an offensive coordinator position. Most recently, he’s been the running backs coach and run game coordinator for the Dolphins, joining the team in 2018.

Meanwhile, co-coordinator Godsey is likely to have a heavier role in the passing game. He’s been the quarterbacks coach for the Houston Texans (2014) and Detroit Lions (2018) in the past, and also has some experience as an offensive coordinator for the Texans from 2015 to 2016. He’s been the tight ends coach for the Dolphins the past two seasons.

The co-coordinators have over 30 years of combined experience in the NFL, filled with ups and downs. 

However, the downs have been more prevalent in recent years, leaving some reason for pessimism. Let’s examine their past experience and attempt to hypothesize on what it means heading into the 2021 season. 

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Eric Studesville and the run game

Coaching pasts of Miami Dolphins OC duo leave room for doubt in 2021
Jan 24, 2016; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos running backs coach Eric Studesville against the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Broncos defeated the Patriots 20-18 to advance to the Super Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Studesville will most likely take the lead on Miami’s rushing game, but rushing offenses he’s led recently haven’t exactly shined in the NFL. 

To start, let’s take a look at where Miami’s rushing Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) ranked each year since he joined the organization in 2018, according to Football Outsiders

  • 2018: Ranked 15th in the league
  • 2019: Ranked last
  • 2020: Ranked 23rd

2019 likely gets a pass as it was Miami’s tank-for-Tua season, but Studesville’s rushing attacks seemingly haven’t ranked well in recent years. You may, however, look to blame the Dolphin’s lackluster offensive line for some of these running woes. The team’s rushing DVO mirrored the offensive line’s run-block win rate ranking in 2020, per ESPN Analytics, indicating this season’s run game could sink or swim depending on the line. 

Even if you go back to Studesville’s last three years with the Denver Broncos – where he was prior to the Dolphins – his track record is similarly lackluster. The Broncos ranked 16th in rushing DVOA in 2015, 26th in 2016 and 22nd in 2017, which were all seasons he was an assistant head coach. 

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A Studesville-led rushing attack hasn’t ranked within the top 10 in rushing DVOA since 2014 with the Broncos. That was C.J. Anderson’s second year in the league, and it marked his highest career Pro Football Focus rushing grade, so there is evidence Studesville can get the most out of running backs. 

In fact, we saw this last year with seventh-round running back Myles Gaskin. It was perhaps a risky play to feature Gaskin above off-season additions including Jordan Howard and Matt Breida. But, it paid off, as Gaskin boasted a higher DVOA than both Howard and Breida last season. 

George Godsey and the passing game

Coaching pasts of Miami Dolphins OC duo leave room for doubt in 2021
Aug 21, 2014; Englewood, CO, USA; Houston Texans quarterbacks coach George Godsey during scrimmage against the Denver Broncos at the Broncos Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

With Studesville managing running backs and the ground game, expect Godsey to head the Dolphins’ air attack this season. 

Unlike Studesville, Godsey already has some past experience as an offensive coordinator through two years in Houston (2015 and 2016). Those two years, however, were rough for the Texans. 

The Texans ranked 29th in the league in expected points added per play (EPA/play) through that two-year period, according to nflfastR. That means on a per-play basis, the team’s offense was doing more to benefit the other team’s scoring than its own. 

Even when you isolate the team’s output to only passing, the story isn’t much better. The Texans’ dropback EPA was 27th in the league during that period. 

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It was also a less-than-ideal quarterback situation for the team those two years. Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett started most games in 2015, while Brock Osweiler started 14 games in 2016. Neither are who you want leading your offense.

In 2018, Godsey became the quarterbacks coach for the Detroit Lions. That season proved to be an efficient season for quarterback Matthew Stafford, who boasted a Pro Football Focus (PFF) passing grade of 76.6. At the time, that was his third-highest passing grade since 2011, when he became a full-time starter. 

The Lions also put up a positive passing EPA that season. 

Even if you subscribe that success mostly to Stafford himself, it’s perhaps a positive sign that Studesville could milk substantial improvement from Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa.

Still, the rest of his experience over the past five years leaves hanging doubts over how he’s expected to take this offense — with new weapons including Will Fuller and Jaylen Waddle — to an elite level. 

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