Head Coach Joe Philbin didn’t waste any time filling the vacancy that was created when George Edwards took the defensive coordinator job with the Minnesota Vikings earlier this week. He and Duffner worked together in Green Bay with the Packers from 2003-05, but it’s defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle he is most familiar with having been on the same staffs at Holy Cross and with the Cincinnati Bengals.
“I think first and foremost my familiarity with them is that I have observed them coaching in all of the different stops that they’ve had and recognized really how well their players played,” said Duffner, who was Coyle’s defensive coordinator in Cincinnati from 2001-02 when Coyle was the cornerbacks coach and his head coach and defensive coordinator at Holy Cross. “So I know they’re very good teachers and I know that they do things the way I think they need to be done fundamentally, so observation of their product is one thing that I had great admiration for.”
This is the second change that Philbin has had to make to his staff since the end of the 2013 season, as he hired Bill Lazor to take over at offensive coordinator last week. Now the third-year head coach has one solid piece on the offensive side of the ball and one on the defensive side of the ball.
“I want to welcome Mark and Kathy to the Miami Dolphins family,” Philbin said in a statement. “Mark brings an impressive coaching resume and a wealth of football knowledge to the organization that will not only benefit our defensive players, but the team as a whole.”
Duffner spent the previous eight seasons in Jacksonville under three different head coaches – Jack Del Rio, Mike Mularkey and Gus Bradley. He helped develop veteran linebacker Paul Posluszny into an elite player making his first Pro Bowl appearance this year and first by a Jaguars linebacker since 1999.
Posluszny and Russell Allen became the first linebacker duo in franchise history to each record 200 or more tackles in a season, as Posluszny notched a career-best 231 with three interceptions and two sacks and Allen added a career-high 201. Three of the Jaguars’ top four seasons by a defensive player in terms of tackles were recorded under Duffner’s watch, which is why his departure was bittersweet for Bradley.
“Well, it was really quick. I can say that. He was a great man with our organization,” said Bradley on Monday after the South Team’s first practice. “I know the players are going to miss him. It was a situation where we sat down and talked. It’s a unique situation for him. We both talked about it. We’re sad to see him go, but I know, ultimately, he’s happy. He’s got great friends that are part of the organization, guys he coached with for many years, and has that type of relationship.”
This is not only a coach with a combined 38 years of experience at the collegiate and professional levels, but he also has an 80-40-1 record as a head coach. He led the Crusaders of Holy Cross to five Patriot League championships from 1986-91 and to the No. 1 ranking in NCAA Division I-AA in 1987, earning his first of two National Coach of the Year awards. Then from 1992-96 he took over the University of Maryland’s program and returned the Terps to the national rankings.
Duffner cut his teeth in the coaching profession as a graduate assistant at Ohio State University under the late Woody Hayes from 1975-76 and spent 1977-80 as the University of Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator. He then moved on to Holy Cross in 1981, first as an assistant coach and then as defensive coordinator from 1982-86. Following his stint at Maryland he jumped to the NFL as the Bengals’ linebackers coach from 1997-2000 and defensive coordinator from 2001-02 and now he will make transition to the AFC East brand of football.
“I’m sure there will be some [adjustments],” Duffner said. “As you evaluate and prepare for every opponent you try to certainly recognize the strengths of their football team and how you’re going to try to stop this team. Even in the AFC South that we played in on an annual basis that plan and that preparation adjusted to the strengths of the talent they had each and every year, so there’s going to be a lot to study.
But again it’s going to come back to the team that executes and execution is done by repetition and that’s done by fundamentals. I think the more we focus in on getting the team to be a better tackling and a better running and pursuing football team on defense then we’re headed that way. Don’t put too much weight in the pockets of your players. Let them play fast, play hard and play together.”
Duffner will join Philbin and his staff for the first time tomorrow morning and get started on his preparation for the 2014 season. He was sold right away on the job after meeting with Philbin and even before the position became “I know from previous association and just again from observation that they are doing things I think the right way. I’m excited about some of the young talent that they’ve assembled there, and with how they played really this year. They had a tough time at the end but really played well. So I’m excited about what I see in the future there and part of a good defense I think is developing, and I’m going to work hard to help it get better.”