For the last couple of years, I’ve been watching the San Francisco 49ers offense, and I feel like I’m watching the Miami Dolphins at times. The 49ers and the Dolphins both run the same offenses under Mike Shanahan and Mike McDaniel, respectively. They both are brilliant offensive minds. They both run their zone-blocking schemes to perfection on the offensive line. Their offenses are dedicated to speed and yards after the catch, and their quarterbacks are accurate throwers. 

The biggest difference is the 49ers have more talent than the Dolphins. Shanahan has been with the 49ers since 2018 and has built quite an offense that can beat you in a variety of ways, and it’s something that McDaniel would like the Dolphin’s offense to become.

It all starts up front with the offensive line. The 49ers offensive line is physical and led by 36-year-old Trent Williams, who is still playing at a high level and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. They have center Jake Brendal, who used to play for the Dolphins from 2016-2018 and, after bouncing around the NFL, has found a home with the 49ers at center since 2020 to go along with a bunch of other castoffs, Jon Feliciano and Colton McKivitz as well as 23-year-old Spencer Burford.

The 49ers have a well-blended line with a mix of veterans and young players. They are coached up well, which is something the Dolphins finally found in Butch Barry, as he had 12 different starting offensive line combinations, which was the second most in the league. The Dolphins are going to have more changes on the offensive line this off season as they have several free agents, but as the 49ers are showing, you don’t have to spend high picks or spend premium money at the position.

The Dolphins have Terron Armstead, but he’s always hurt, and it’s a given if he comes back, he will miss time, so the Dolphins must find a potential replacement to anchor the left tackle position. The Dolphins must prove in this offense they can be physical up front against good teams, which obviously hasn’t happened yet. It’s an area the Dolphins have to look to get better at. 

The 49ers and Dolphins have good quarterbacks, and they aren’t in the top 5 quarterbacks, but they are efficient. The 49ers were led by Brock Purdy, the last pick in the 2022 draft. He doesn’t have a big-time arm, but he’s accurate, and he can run when he must. The same goes for the Dolphins Tua Tagovailoa, the former 5th pick in the draft. He doesn’t have a big-time arm but can make timely, accurate throws. He isn’t mobile either, but he can run too when he wants to.

Purdy had big scrambles in the NFC Championship game that helped the 49ers comeback and win against the Detroit Lions. Tagovailoa had some good scrambles in the wild card game against the Kansas City Chiefs. They don’t have to run but can if they want to, and maybe they should. They both are good fits for what their offenses do. 

The Dolphins and 49ers have good skills position players that can make big plays. The 49ers have one of the best all-around running backs in the game in, Christian McCaffrey. The Dolphins have Raheem Mostert, even at 31 years old he is playing at a high level. Maybe he doesn’t have the wear like other running backs at his age, but he is playing his best football.

The Dolphins have a potential all-around back in Devon Achane, who just finished his rookie season and, every time he touches the ball is a threat to make big plays. With an off-season and year of development, the hope is that Achane can take another step. He had 800 yards rushing despite missing some time with injury, and he can catch the ball out of the backfield. 

The 49ers have pass catchers at wide receiver and tight end in Debo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and tight end George Kittle. They also have a 3rd wide receiver in Jauan Jennings, who can step up when Sanders is hurt or when the defense is focusing on their other playmakers. If the 49ers won the Super Bowl, it’s possible he could have won the MVP with a touchdown pass and catch in the same game. 

That’s where the difference is with these teams. Sure, the Dolphins have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle, who both make big plays, and each has received over 1,000 yards for the last two years. The problem this year was both players were hurt the last month of the season, and when they came back, they clearly weren’t 100%, and the Dolphins needed someone else to step up.

They don’t have that player on the roster. They also don’t have a pass-catching tight end. That’s no knock-on, Durham Smythe. He’s a good blocker and can catch the ball when needed to, but he’s not a receiving threat. The Dolphins didn’t have a tight end catch a touchdown pass this season, and they need to find one to help in the red zone. The Dolphins need to find another receiver for depth that they can count on when Hill or Waddle are hurt or when the defense focuses on them. That became very evident at the end of the season, and they can’t run back the same unit of receivers and tight ends. If they do, it’s a mistake. 

The 49er’s success has proven that this zone-blocking offense with speedy receivers that run after the catch can work. It’s got them to 2 Super Bowls. The Dolphins can do this as well, but they need to keep adding more. They need to keep building the line, and as we saw in the Super Bowl with Jennings, another dependable weapon and pass-catching tight end. It’s going to be a long off-season for the Dolphins after choking the division title away and being $50 million over the cap, but watching the 49ers proves if they stay the course, it can be done.