Rick Dennison : Head Coach Candidate Worth Looking Into

MurkyWaters

Danger lurks below the surface!
Joined
Jul 29, 2011
Messages
93
Reaction score
2
Location
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
I posted a brief mention of a head coaching candidate I hope Miami looks into (or maybe has already reached out to) in a different thread. Given that it received little notice, I figured I would start a new thread and expand upon my reasoning. The coaching candidate I'm referring to is Rick Dennison, OC for the Houston Texans. This may get long, but I think it'll be worth it :)

Background
  • 53 years old
  • Played TE at Colorado State in college (switched to LB following transition to the NFL)
  • Former LB for the Denver Broncos
  • ST Coordinator (DEN) 1997-2000
  • OL Coach (DEN) 2001-2005
  • Offensive Coordinator (DEN) 2006-2008
  • Offensive Coordinator (HOU) 2010-present
Statistics of Offenses Under Dennison's Coordination (statistics provided by www.pro-football-reference.com)
  • 2006 (DEN) -- 17th in Scoring, 8th in Rushing Yds -- Notable players: (QB) Jake Plummer and rookie Jay Cutler, (RB) Tatum and Mike Bell, (WR) Javon Walker and rookie Brandon Marshall
  • 2007 (DEN) -- 21st in Scoring, 11th in Yards, 9th in Rushing Yds, 13th in Passing Yds -- Notable players: (QB) Jay Cutler, (RB) Selvin Young and Travis Henry, (WR) Brandon Marshall and Brandon Stokley
  • 2008 (DEN) -- 16th in Scoring, 2nd in Yards, 2nd in First Downs, 12th in Rushing Yds, 3rd in Passing Yds -- Notable players: (QB) Jay Cutler, (RB) Michael Pittman and Selvin Young, (FB) Peyton Hillis, (WR) Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal
  • 2010 (HOU) -- 9th in Scoring, 3rd in Yards, 4th in Passing Yds, 7th in Rushing Yds -- Notable Players: (QB) Matt Shaub, (RB) Arian Foster and Derrick Ward, (WR) Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter, (TE) Owen Daniels
  • 2011 (HOU) -- 10th in Scoring, 13rd in Yards, 18th in Passing Yds, 2nd in Rushing Yds -- Notable Players: (QB) Matt Shaub, later injured, and rookie TJ Yates, (RB) Arian Foster and Ben Tate, (WR) Andre Johnson, injured for great deal of time, and Kevin Walter, (TE) Owen Daniels
What Can We Speculate Given Offensive Statistics Above?
  • I am not familiar enough to know whether or not Dennison always called the plays or what role he played in player developement and game planning. Granted he coached under well-known offensive minds in Mike Shanahan and Gary Kubiak, Dennison likely played a role in the success of the listed offenses. If anyone has better knowledge in this area, please feel free to add your information.
  • A common theme found in almost all the offenses listed? A strong running game (keyed almost entirely by a true Zone Blocking Scheme, something I'll go into more below). Dennison would likely employ a similar scheme here in Miami if hired as HC. Some will point to the level of talent available in the skill players listed, but remember how much success players like Mike/Tatum Bell have had in that ZB scheme. Arian Foster, an afterthought coming into the NFL, broke out in this scheme as well.
  • Passing offense is not an afterthought. Dennison's offenses have had solid success (ESPECIALLY in Houston) through the air, and have done so with very good (but not truly elite) QBs. Cutler and Shaub are both VERY good QBs, but not in the same tier as Rodgers/Brady/Brees etc. In both places, the strong running game and 1 'elite' receiver (Marshall in DEN and Johnson in HOU) combined to make very good offenses. If one examines the failures of the teams I listed above, most of the statistics (and my vague memory, lol) indicate it was the lack of defense that led to failure, not the offense. Guess which side of the ball needs the most work in Miami (rhetorical question, offense is where we need a boost).
Why Zone Blocking Scheme (ZBS)?

  • Regardless of the defensive front that is faced, the rules used by the lineman in a ZBS do not change. In man-to-man blocking, the offensive line must account for changes or wrinkles in defensive scheme (e.g. blitzing, stunts, etc). ZBS is straight-forward, with little change/adaptation required.
  • I believe Miami has a solid amount of personnel tailor-made to run a ZBS. Due to the focus on athletecism and footwork involved, with less emphasis on muscle and the cornfed linemen we all just LOVE around here, Miami would be forced to look into a different variety of lineman. Jake Long, at LT, would likely not have an issue in this scheme. One player in particular who would excel would be the highly athletic Mike Pouncey. Think he was a stud this year? Put him in a ZBS and watch his skills skine. With Carey regressing and Colombo HIGHLY unlikely to return, Miami will need new players for the O-line anyway. Why not get some players to add a little athleticism to the line in transition to a ZBS?
  • Also of note, in a ZBS scheme a team's receivers should be very good run blockers. With Marshall on the outside (and a balanced Fason at TE) we already have a good number of pieces in place to run this offense. Oh, and if you read the key personnel listed above, guess who's on our team that also worked in Rick Dennison's offense? Yeah, some guy named Brandon Marshall.
  • Daniel Thomas' skillset compares favorably to Arian Foster. Thomas has a nimbleness with his feet that is very rare for a back of his size. Just as Foster thrived in a ZBS, I strongly believe (if healthy) Thomas could explode in this scheme as well.
Final thought on ZBS in Miami
  • Miami is rumored to be interested in RGIII of Baylor (where Ireland has familiarity and connections apparently). IF Miami lands the #2 pick in trade, RGIII will likely be the selection. Anyone else here think RGIII would just be sick running a ZBS? His athleticism would be ideal for the scheme, giving him the mobility and out-of-the-pocket movement that helped make Jay Cutler a success (not to mention killer deep-ball accuracy that would be on display with - a likely - potent run game). The possibilities would be crazy. No RGIII? Assuming by some chance Matt Moore returns as the starter with no high QB pick to challenge him, I believe Moore could thrive in this variety of offensive system. Would be another Brady/Manning/Brees? No. But if Miami feels upgrading of talent in other areas of need is more important than upgrading the QB (God... err Tebow ... help us), we could do a lot worse than Moore in a ZBS.
Conclusion
If you've made it this far through my rambling, I say kudos to you (and a 'thank you' as well). I think I've made a solid argument for Rick Dennison as the next HC of the Miami Dolphins. He's not exactly young (for the posters that demand a really young, up-and-coming assistant) but neither is he ancient (to those who want a coach they think will be lively, passionate, and still 'kickin' in a few years). -- *Note: Age means nothing to me in this search* -- Dennison has worked with and under a number of talented and knowledgable coaches. He's shown he can coordinate an effective offense (hell, look at what he did this year in Houston without Matt Shaub and losing Andre Johnson for significant time as well -- not to mention starting a 5th ROUND ROOKIE in TJ Yates). Is he a 'leader of men' as some here crave? Again, I do not know this. Many of the questions regarding Rick Dennison could be answered through an interview or two, so get on it Miami :up:
 

NBP81

Yippi ka yay mother******!
Super Donator
Club Member
Joined
Jan 22, 2008
Messages
11,002
Reaction score
12,674
Location
Montreal
Wow! nice writeup! We should definitaly look into it IMO...
 

13marino13

Where have all the good times gone
Administrator
Super Donator
Club Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2004
Messages
25,706
Reaction score
74,183
Location
Institutionalized in PA
You should have titled this thread War and Piece II. Anyway not a bad train of thought, you seemed to do some research and you make some valid points. I don't know why he is not on anyone's radar. I think the assumption of most is Kubiac runs the offense, therefore it would be difficult to gauge the involvement and importance of Dennison in the offensive game plan and scheme. It would be worth an interview IMHO.
 

MurkyWaters

Danger lurks below the surface!
Joined
Jul 29, 2011
Messages
93
Reaction score
2
Location
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
You should have titled this thread War and Piece II. Anyway not a bad train of thought, you seemed to do some research and you make some valid points. I don't know why he is not on anyone's radar. I think the assumption of most is Kubiac runs the offense, therefore it would be difficult to gauge the involvement and importance of Dennison in the offensive game plan and scheme. It would be worth an interview IMHO.

You hit the nail on the head regarding one of the only big questions I have with Dennison. How much of the success attained was due to the (recently questionable) mastermind Mike Shanahan and his student Gary Kubiak? I've seen a large number of posters here clamoring for Joe Philbin, who is more involved in game planning and other offensive duties outside of gameday play calls. With Philbin, we know he didn't call the plays, but I can GUARANTEE YOU he knows that offense up and down. Though he couldn't bring his elite QB with him, Philbin would likely install that same offense anywhere he goes.

My point is that whether or not Dennison shares a similar role with his teams as Philbin does with GB, Rick would most certainly bring the ZBS with him where he goes. If it wasn't obvious, I highly favor someone incorporating a ZBS in Miami :)

And yes, as we both mentioned, an interview would go a long way to clearing up concerns over Dennison.
 
Top Bottom