He has made his two most important hires, an offensive and defensive coordinator. He, along with Jeff Ireland and Mike Dee, personally visited two of South Florida’s major newspapers and hosted key executives of a third at their training complex, a clear indication of a different mindset, a more approachable mindset. He has met with the old staff and set in progress his way of doing things.
The consensus seems to be the same regardless of whomever you talk to. Joe Philbin is a smart guy, a dedicated guy, a guy who is determined to make his first head coaching job his last. If you met him, you’d instantly like him. That’s the type of charisma he carries. I like his frankness, his dry sense of humor and the way he looks you in the eye without blinking.
Come back in September and we’ll know how all of this translates into victories.
But these days there are different types of victories, like getting the offensive and defensive coordinators that he had targeted, two old friends with plenty of experience and hunger.
There is Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator. His reputation? A wide-open look, plenty of passing, plenty of intriguing options, a lot of aggression. He is a very cerebral man, who coached the Green Bay Packers about a decade ago and knows a thing or two about quarterbacks. Was also once Philbin’s English teacher.
There is Kevin Coyle, a 35-year coaching veteran most recently with the Cincinnati Bengals. His reputation? Knows the 4-3 defense real well. Has made a career of producing defensive players that force turnovers and play in an aggressive manner.
Aggressive. We used that word with both Sherman and Coyle. And we use it with Philbin as well. This is a good thing. If we’ve learned anything about the NFL over the past half dozen years, it is that teams that wait to win games in the fourth quarter usually don’t win games in the fourth quarter. Run-oriented attacks? Conservative defensive formulas? Hoping to stay close and then win it with a field goal? All becoming extinct.
Philbin, Sherman and Coyle clearly understand this, clearly understand that it is up to them to dictate the tempo of a game, not the other way around.
Now that the coordinators have been hired, the rest of the staff could quickly come together. February is about to begin and the Dolphins are in an all-out sprint.
Some interesting things have been discussed over the first week or so of Philbin’s South Florida experience. A sampling:
• The quarterback topic is always there. Everybody has questions. Nobody has answers. But one thing is clear: there is a unified mindset in the Dolphins organization from the owner on down that indicates the quarterback play must be taken to the another level. Regardless of where it comes from, it is obvious that this team will do everything within its means to upgrade the play at that position. This is very comforting.
• The Dolphins will use the no huddle offense. Not exclusively. But they will use it, certainly more than we’ve seen from this team. Philbin likes the way it dictates the tempo and how it creates more opportunities for big plays. Personally, I’ve always loved no-huddle looks. It just means more football.
• Even though Coyle has a lot of 4-3 experience, I expect the Dolphins to use both a 3-4 and a 4-3 this season. The 4-3 is being talked about so much because the Dolphins have been mostly a 3-4 team in recent years. What the 4-3 does is pose some interesting possibilities.
• Philbin comes with a real respect for last year’s Dolphins. He knows how many teams would have folded after an 0-7 start and feels it’s a credit to these players and their coaches that they didn’t. The 6-3 finish clearly got his attention as he researched what he liked about this job.
• As much as it was hard to watch the entire Pro Bowl, it wasn't hard watching
• Finally, there’s free agency. Ireland has made it clear this week that the Dolphins will be active participants, that they have the cap space go after some players they covet. But, he also ads, that their cap space has its limits and he needs to be aggressive, yet prudent at the same time. Can’t wait for March 13th to see it all unfold.