The Miami Dolphins have had an identity crisis on offense all season.
Coach Tony Sparano ideally wants a ball control offense that features a power rushing attack. Problem is the running game has limped through the season, averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
"We hang our hat on the run, but sometimes out of necessity we need to get away from that," tight end Anthony Fasano admits.
That's where the team runs into a trouble considering its conservative nature. A day after the final two drives of Sunday's 17-14 loss to Buffalo fizzled, Sparano labeled his hurry-up offense as "just average."
So what can this offense lean on?
"We haven't really found ourselves," Fasano said. "We haven't played consistent enough to find ourselves and put a label on what type of offense we are."
And whose fault is that, considering the Dolphins added Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall and rebuilt the offensive line this offseason to assist Chad Henne's development?
Even though offensive coordinator Dan Henning has gotten the majority of the blame for the offense's lackluster performance this season, which features an uninspiring unraveling in the past three games, the players believe they should be held accountable, too.
"Put it on our shoulders. Whatever is called, we're not going to point our fingers at our coaches or players. Whatever is called, we have to execute," Henne said. "It's execution."
How about personnel decisions? During the summer, Bill Parcells and Co. rebuilt the interior of an offensive line that averaged 4.4 yards per carry, paved the way for 22 rushing touchdowns, and was one of four teams to rush for more than 2,000 yards in 2009.
What they got in return is a ground game on pace to rush for 1,651 yards, and has scored six rushing touchdowns, the fewest in the NFL.
In the first two seasons of Sparano's tenure, the tight ends were featured plenty. In 2008, Fasano and David Martin set franchise record for production at the position. Even though Martin was on injured reserve last season, the backup tight ends — Joey Haynos and Kory Sperry — continued to play a significant role, catching 22 passes for 193 yards and three touchdowns.
This year's trio of backups to Fasano — Jeron Mastrud, Mickey Shuler and Dedrick Epps, all undrafted rookies — haven't caught a pass in 14 games.
Henne is on pace to throw more touchdowns and interceptions this season, and his completion percentage (60.8 to 61.9) and quarterback rating (75.2 to 77.6) have improved slightly. But after 26 NFL starts (13-13 record) he's still in the bottom tier of the league's starting quarterbacks, coming in at No. 25.
Whether he's fired or retires for the third time at the end of this season, most inside the Dolphins organization don't expect Henning to return in 2011. He's prepared to take the bullet for this year's struggles.
Sparano said Henning has been "tremendous" for his development, and should be judged on his full body of work in his three seasons as the offensive play-caller.
"It's easy to point blame, fellas, and I get it; it comes with the territory," Sparano said when addressing his offense, which is ranked 31st in the NFL in points per game (17.1). "I need to do a better job. Tony Sparano needs to do a better job."