If you want a nostalgic reunion, there was former Miami Dolphins cornerbacks Sam Madison and Patrick Surtain, together again, talking Wednesday about coaching with each other this time.
If want a strategic reunion, there was Wes Welker, the Dolphin who got away, in from San Francisco with new coach Mike McDaniel to direct the receivers. Now, they just need some receivers.
But if you want to see what this Dolphins offseason is about beyond the owner and former coach calling each other liars, there was Josh Boyer explaining his understandable and unusual transition from the old defensive coordinator to the new defensive coordinator.
That is the proper framing, too. Understandable and unusual. Neither makes it right or wrong, inspired or insipid.
Everyone starts with a blank slate when a regime changes, as they do with enough regularity around the Dolphins to understand why Boyer is the offensive-minded McDaniel’s biggest hire. He’ll coach McDaniel’s blindside.
The defense is Boyer’s now, like never before under the defensive-minded Brian Flores. Boyer was adamant Wednesday about drawing up the game plans and calling the plays last season.
“I did all that,” he said, in walking through the process of calling plays.
Here’s why it’s understandable that Boyer was supported by general manager Chris Grier when veteran Vic Fangio passed on the job: Keeping young players in the same defensive system is a prime way to continue improvement.
Boyer, to be sure, expects the same system and improvement from, “All our guys, especially guys going from Year 1 to Year 2.”
Here’s why Boyer’s return is unusual beyond him not knowing McDaniel until this process: Of the six other head coaches hired outside a team this offseason, all six brought in a new defensive coordinator. Ditto for the seven coaching changes last year. And the five in 2020.
Of the eight coaching changes in 2019, only Green Bay’s new coach, Matt LaFleur, kept Mike Pettine at defensive coordinator. Pettine lasted a year.
Boyer, you hope, lasts longer with the Dolphins. That he’s the defensive yin to McDaniel’s offensive yang. That he continues molding the young clay into something impactful. That this regular churn of coaches and failed seasons ends.
“I’m excited we have a great group of players coming back,” Boyer said. “I believe in a lot of the same things Mike believes. Him and I had numerous conversations throughout this process.
“There’s a lot of positive energy in the building. I feel blessed coming to the job I love to do.”
There’s an upbeat nature to Boyer, just as there seems to be with McDaniel. They’re tied by something else, too. Each has coached in the shadow of the head coach’s strength, Boyer under Flores, McDaniel under San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan.
Boyer talked of how when he moved from the South Dakota School of Mines to the New England Patriots staff 17 years ago the question was if he was in over his head.
The question isn’t that now. It’s simply how he survived in a position where there’s typically change. His 17 years in the NFL have taught him the cold nature of change.
Still, this had to be the first time he had to say he never felt pressure to lose a game. That question came in light of Flores’ allegation against owner Steve Ross to tank games in the 2019 season.
“There’s a lot of things that are out there that are surprising,” he said. “I know that there are some things that are out there that are not true — that’s surprising to me. Things that get reported, and people say things.”
He’s moved on to next season in a way not everyone can. When the new Dolphins staff met with reporters on late Wednesday afternoon, Boyer said it broke up a nearly 12-hour day of watching film on free agents and the draft.
“We’re fired up, we’re excited,” he said.
As he should be. It’s understandable he’s back as defensive coordinator of a defense that made a turn for the better last year. But let’s be clear: It’s unusual, too.