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NFL - US Sports: Sleeping Giants - Can new coaches revive the Bears and Dolphins?

16 June 2022 05:36:58 EST
Bears and Dolphins hoping for bright future

New coaches are at the helm in Chicago and Miami as the once-great Bears and Dolphins attempt to revive their fortunes after spells in the doldrums.

They were among the teams to sack their coaches on NFL's Black Monday in January - the now-traditional date for firings to be announced as dissatisfied owners seek to wipe the slate clean after unsuccessful seasons.

Just over two weeks later, new Bears general manager Ryan Poles named Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus as the franchise's 17th head coach and tasked him with returning it to its former glory.

Winds of change in the Windy City

The Bears won the NFC Central title six out of seven years between 1984 and 1990 during a halcyon period that included their lone Super Bowl win and made many of their players into household names.

Playoff success returned to Soldier Field in the first decade of the third millennium, returning four division titles, two NFC Championship appearances and another trip to the Super Bowl.

But a bitter conference championship game loss at home to NFC North-rival Green Bay precipitated a downturn that saw Lovie Smith's nine-year stint as head coach ended after two seasons in which the Bears failed to make the playoffs.

And in the nine years since Smith was let go, the historic franchise have won one solitary division title and finished bottom of the NFC North pile on four occasions.

Eberflus' reputation rising all the time

During his time in Indianapolis, Eberflus was known to be a hard-minded coach, but also a 'player's guy' who often found the right words or gimmick to get the best out of his men.

The Colts ranked in the NFL's top-10 for takeaways in each of his four seasons running their defense while in 2021, Indianapolis finished a creditable ninth in points allowed and 18th in yards allowed.

In 2020, they finished 10th in points allowed and eighth in yards allowed - a major upturn on their ranking of 30th in both categories the year before he took the job.

The question he must now answer is can he translate that success as a coordinator into the top job and all that goes with it.

Challenges in Chicago

Reviving an offense that ranked inside the NFL's bottom six for points per game and yards per play will be an onerous task, but the Bears' 2021 stats provide even more gruesome reading when it came to quarterback play.

They finished dead last in the league on third down conversion percentage while no team gave up as many interceptions or sacks.

So the odds would appear to be stacked against Eberflus, who may need to simplify the playbook for second-year quarterback Justin Fields, turning the Bears around in one season.

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Miami seek magic from run game wizard

After an exhaustive search, the Dolphins picked former San Francisco 49ers run game and offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, as their 14th head coach in early February.

Reputedly one of the NFL's brightest offensive minds, the 39-year-old has risen through the coaching ranks quickly and served as the 49ers OC for just one season before landing the Dolphins HC job.

San Francisco finished seventh in the NFL in total offense and 13th in scoring offense while advancing to the NFC Championship game last year.

Prior to that, the Yale graduate had a major hand in making the Niners' rushing offense one of the most efficient in NFL history - and it was done without reliance on any one star name.

Can McDaniel make Miami great again?

Miami fans will hope he can wave his magic wand at a dreary Dolphins ground game that finished 30th in the NFL in rushing yards last season, 26th in yards after contact and 31st in rushes of 10-plus yards.

A unit that lacked talent has been bolstered in free agency with McDaniel recruiting former 49ers playoff star Raheem Mostert alongside other veteran backfield presences Chase Edmonds and Sony Michel.

Including incumbent starter Myles Gaskin, the Fins now have four players who have been No. 1 RB options at some point in their NFL careers.

McDaniel's other great offensive challenge will be in harnessing the talent of inconsistent QB Tua Tagovailoa and utilising the qualities of huge offseason addition Tyreek Hill.

The swoop for three-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Terron Armstead should keep Tagovailoa tucked safely in the pocket for longer and the hope is that he can deliver the ball in the vicinity of Hill.

Re-emphasizing the run game can also keep defenses guessing and, given they won eight of their last nine games in 2021 to finish 9-8, it may only need a little push to get Miami back into the playoffs. 

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