If the Miami Dolphins had Tua Tagovailoa and Vic Fangio available for the 2022 NFL playoffs, it’s not unreasonable to think they would have been participants in Championship Weekend and not observers.
That’s a counterfactual with no way to prove.
But make no mistake: The expectation moving forward is that those two very important pieces — Vic and Tua — will be a part of significant games the likes of which the Dolphins have not seen in some three decades.
Miami Dolphins To Hire Vic Fangio
Assuming the deal doesn’t fall apart at the 11th hour, Fangio will be the Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2023, NFL Network first reported. The three-year agreement with a fourth-year team option reportedly makes him the NFL’s highest-paid assistant.
That should come as no surprise. It’s a simple matter of supply and demand.
Fangio, the former Denver Broncos head coach and 2018 NFL Assistant Coach of the Year, was certainly a man in demand this cycle. Multiple teams with DC openings considered him.
But Mike McDaniel is the one who landed him. And that shows great awareness by a coach who, despite making the playoffs in his first season with Miami, acknowledges he still has a ways to go.
Would McDaniel have figured out the game-management hiccups that probably cost the Dolphins their Wild Card playoff game with the Bills had Fangio been around for guidance?
Hard to say. But it’s fair to say that a Dolphins team with better quarterback play and a cleaner operation would have given the Bills absolutely everything they could have handled two weeks ago.
Part of Fangio’s significant value is there’s probably nothing he hasn’t seen in his third of a century on NFL sidelines.
Credit McDaniel for understanding that value, and not feeling threatened by hiring an older, more accomplished subordinate — as more headstrong young coaches often are.
Vic Fangio Hire a Home Run
Fangio’s résumé is a dream. He’s not only been a defensive coordinator for five teams and a head coach of a sixth, but his 6-1 tilt scheme has had such an impact on the league. The Athletic last May called him “the most influential DC in the modern NFL.”
In a 2019 ESPN.com roundtable with Sean McVay, Mike Shanahan, and Matt LaFleur, all three NFL head coaches named Fangio’s defense the most difficult to read and attack.
“He does so many things with his personnel groupings that he puts you in a bind with protections. He ties a lot of stuff together,” Shanahan told ESPN at the time.
Added LaFleur: “Just the fronts and the multiple looks you get from him. That’s incredibly difficult.”
The Dolphins should have the personnel in the front seven to generate those looks. Expect a big breakthrough from Bradley Chubb, for whom Miami traded at the deadline and then extended with a blockbuster contract.
Chubb had 7.5 sacks and 19 quarterback hits in 14 games playing for Fangio in 2020. He might get double that in 2023, playing alongside Jaelan Phillips, Christian Wilkins, Emmanuel Ogbah, and Zach Sieler.
Another major beneficiary of the Fangio hire?
Xavien Howard, who had the most disappointing season of his career in 2022. Howard wasn’t right physically for much of the year, and yet still was asked by Josh Boyer to play man coverage with no over-the-top help far too often in 2022.
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Expect Fangio to dial that way back. Fangio prefers zone to man — and is usually able to commit extra defensive backs to coverage because he’s able to generate pressure with his front seven.
If Fangio still has his fastball, Howard can return to form, Tagovailoa can stay healthy, and McDaniel improves his game operation, the Dolphins should be among the teams to beat in 2022.