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Kurt Warner, Hall of Famer: Dolphins’ Offense Evokes Memories of The Greatest Show on Turf

MIAMI GARDENS — Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner is on the phone. he’s able to share his thoughts on the Dolphins’ offense, but you’re undecided if he’s able to make The Comparison. It’s probably the comparison he has heard countless times before, to The Best Show on Turf, the Rams’ groundbreaking offense Warner engineered to devastating effects, not to say a Super Bowl championship.

You wonder if Warner will beat back at any hint that there are parallels to be drawn to those Dolphins. You don’t wonder for long, because in less time than there’s between snaps in an NFL game, Warner begins by bringing it up himself.

“They’re very modern,” Warner says of those Dolphins. “They’re doing things that no person else is doing. And you realize, a number of these items type of bring me back to The Best Show on Turf.”

Over the course of quarter-hour, whether the conversation drifts toward coach Mike McDaniel’s concepts, Tua Tagovailoa’s accuracy, Tyreek Hill’s unique gifts, or the success of Miami’s running backs, time and again, Warner sees connections.

“I am going back to The Best Show on Turf,” says Warner, an analyst for the NFL Network, including “GameDay Morning” at 9 a.m. Sunday.

Warner was in his first season because the starting quarterback of the then-St. Louis Rams in 1999 when he became one in every of the league’s great success stories, a former food market stockboy who became an overnight All-Pro and the inspiration for the 2021 film “American Underdog.” The Rams, coached by Dick Vermeil, went 13-3 and beat the Tennessee Titans 23-16 within the Super Bowl. They averaged 32.9 points per game, scored no less than 30 points in all but six games including the postseason, and have become the benchmark against which all other high-flying offenses are measured.

Before breaking down what Warner most appreciates about these Dolphins, there’s an urgent benchmark that should be addressed. On Sunday, the Dolphins travel to Orchard Park, Latest York, to play the Buffalo Bills, the three-time defending AFC East champions who’ve lost only one in every of the past dozen home games against the Dolphins. In that, there’s a parallel to 1999.

Just because the Dolphins are 3-0, so too were the Rams entering Week 4. The Rams’ task: the San Francisco 49ers, who had beaten the Rams 17 consecutive times.

“And so we went and we destroyed the 49ers,” says Warner, who threw three first-quarter touchdown passes to Isaac Bruce in a 42-20 win. “That was the sport that was type of the turning point for us. Because you may be really, really good, but there are turning points inside every season where it’s like, ‘We’re good,’ but then you could have a win, or a signature win, where you go, ‘OK, we’ve got something special. That is different than up to now.’ And I feel that’s what these games mean. … There’s going to come back a time where it goes from playing good to believing that you could win a championship.”

Will the Miami Dolphins get that “signature” win over the Buffalo Bills?

The Dolphins have beaten the Chargers, Patriots, and most recently blew out the Broncos 70-20 on a record-setting day. None is in the category of the signature win Warner referred to, but this weekend’s showdown may very well be.

Still, the Dolphins have shown Warner enough to say this offense has championship potential.

“No one seems to have a solution,” Warner says. “And persons are like, ‘I’ve never seen this before. We don’t know what to do.’ ”

Essentially the most obvious features are the pre-snap shifting and motion the Dolphins use, including rare inside-out motion.

“The way in which that they use motion to release Tyreek Hill to work the center of the sphere,” Warner says. “Because whenever you’re a timing-oriented team, the one thing that you just don’t want is someone to mess up that timing. And so what messes up that timing is jamming and being physical. Again, I’ll return to our team with The Best Show on Turf. That’s where we were so good and we scared people because we played so fast.”

Putting Hill in motion also puts man coverage in motion, taking away jams and letting Tagovailoa operate on schedule. Not only has Tagovailoa perfected his timing with receivers to the tune of 362 passing yards per game, however the Dolphins have managed to include so many moving pieces while drastically cutting back on pre-snap penalties that dogged them in McDaniel’s first season.

“There’s a number of things that go into our motion timing,” Tagovailoa says. “There’s some motion snap points that we are saying ‘snap here’ for certain plays after which some we are saying ‘snap here’ for other plays.”

Kurt Warner: Good luck attempting to copy what the Dolphins are doing

Warner says he’s beginning to see other teams attempt to copy the Dolphins. Good luck, he says. The identical happened in 1999.

Warner: “What we all the time said was like, ‘People can attempt to copy us but they don’t have the small print. They don’t understand why we’re doing it. They don’t understand the distinctiveness of it. That’s what makes us different. Even when people attempt to run the very same play we run, they don’t have the quarterback we’ve they usually don’t have the receivers that we’ve they usually don’t have the intelligence inside the system to make use of it the identical way.’ ”

Under no circumstances is that this to suggest McDaniel’s work is finished, that he can shutter the mad scientist lab and chill. The wildcat, you’ll recall, worked wonders for the Dolphins until it didn’t.

“The true tell goes to be, A) Can Miami proceed to do that and have the identical kind of success with the system? Can they stay ahead of the curve, trying to add nuances to the offense?” Warner says. Then, Warner adds, comes Part B: What’s going to defenses do to slow the Dolphins?

“After which it’s the countering of Mike McDaniel going, ‘OK, they’re going to begin taking this away, then here’s our counter.’ ” Warner says.

For now, Tagovailoa, Hill, and Jaylen Waddle have enjoyed freedom to slice through the center of defenses by working the center of the sphere. Warner expects defensive coordinators to make that a high-priority item to remove.

“If teams are capable of take that away, can they’ve the identical kind of success attacking outside the numbers?” Warner says. “Miami’s going to attempt to do all the pieces they’ll to say, ‘Regardless of what, we’re going to still discover a strategy to throw it in between the numbers. We’re going to do what we do.’ ”

On average, Tagovailoa is releasing passes in 2.34 seconds, the fastest within the NFL.

“With the principles that we’ve, it’s really hard to remove the short passes within the NFL,” Warner says.

Dolphins rushing for 350 yards presents more problems

Within the NFL, the scheming never stops. After Tagovailoa passed for 466 yards within the opener against the Chargers, the Patriots and Bill Belichick aligned their defense to ensure that wasn’t repeated. Using a more balanced attack, the Dolphins rushed for 145 yards and beat the Patriots 24-17. Then got here the barrage against the Broncos wherein Miami passed for 376 yards and rushed for 350.

It’s one thing to wish to force teams to depend on their weakness. “Now you’re beginning to ask, ‘OK, what their weakness?’ ” Warner says.

In 1999, Warner threw for 41 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. Bruce and Torry Holt combined for 18 touchdowns, but don’t forget that running back Marshall Faulk had 2,429 total yards from scrimmage, including 1,381 rushing. Loads of The Best Show involved Faulk gliding across that turf.

More: Dolphins’ Conga Line during win over Broncos rises to the highest of NFL end zone celebrations

In 2001, Warner and the Rams went 14-2, again leading the league in scoring (31.4 points per game) but lost within the Super Bowl to the Patriots 20-17.

“They principally said, ‘We’re going to grab them and hit them and hold them and we’re going to do all the pieces we will to mess up their timing, even to the extent that, hey, if we get some penalties, we’ll get some penalties. That is the one way we will decelerate this team,’ ” Warner says. “And so teams wish to try to do this, I’m sure, to Miami as well.”

More: Vic Fangio vs. Josh Allen fascinating Dolphins-Bills Sunday storyline

Three games hardly constitute a sample size, however it’s all we’ve in 2023. For what it’s value, these Dolphins are averaging 10.0 more points and 115.6 more yards per game than the 1999 Rams of their first three games.

The nickname The Best Show on Surf is gaining traction in South Florida, but there’s far an excessive amount of football to be played.

Perhaps later this yr, it’ll be time to begin pressing those T-shirts.

Identical to perhaps early next yr, the Dolphins can have a reason to party prefer it’s 1999.

Comparing The Best Show on Turf to the 2023 Miami Dolphins

Here’s how the 1999 St. Louis Rams’ offense compares to this season’s Dolphins, each after three games.

Stat Rams Dolphins
Yards per game 394.7


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