NFL Combine Day 1: Philbin And Ireland On The Same Page

Posted Feb 23, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS – Bringing a Super Bowl championship back to Miami is the established goal of new Head Coach Joe Philbin, so standing at a podium inside Lucas Oil Stadium this morning had to serve as motivation.

Philbin and General Manager Jeff Ireland joined the other 31 head coaches and general managers at the site of the most recent Super Bowl to begin the NFL Scouting Combine in earnest. Even though Philbin has been here plenty of times before as an assistant coach, this is a first for him as a head coach.

“So far it’s been exactly the same. I used to come here on Wednesday afternoons when I was an offensive line coach and an offensive coordinator,” Philbin said. “It doesn’t feel a whole lot different as I went through weigh-ins like I always do and looked at guys walking around in their shorts, which was interesting. I’m obviously going to spend a little more time and I’m going to be here for two or three more days and instead of sitting in on 30 interviews with 30 offensive players I’m going to be sitting in on 60 interviews. Now it’s just a wider scope.”

Part of the process actually began last night as the offensive linemen, tight ends, punters, kickers and long snappers went through their medical screenings and conducted some interviews with teams. The fact that Philbin and Ireland established a comfort level with each other early on should help make this week go a little smoother.

Ireland realized during the interview process with Philbin and owner Steve Ross that the two of them shared a similar philosophy when it comes to building a roster. Now that Philbin has been on the job for more than a month and his entire coaching staff in place, he and Ireland can continue to help each other in that regard beginning this week.

“I think we both have the same vision for what we want to accomplish with the football team,” said Ireland, who is now in his fifth year as general manager. “Joe and I are going to sit together pretty much the entire week and we’ll be together for all of the meetings and interviews that we have tonight and every night. So it’s just kind of bringing up to speed on some of the college players because he hasn’t been as involved with the process before.”

Creating a successful dialogue between each other is a priority for Philbin and Ireland because they realize how being on the same page with personnel impacts the construction of the roster. Philbin has been very impressed with the diligence Ireland and the scouting department has displayed thus far.

Judging by the confidence that was exuding from Philbin’s voice as he answered question after question from the media, he arrived in Indianapolis very well prepared. What he didn’t need help preparing for was his vision for the type of quarterback he wants in Miami.

“We’re looking for a great decision maker. We’re looking for a leader and we’re looking for an accurate passer,” said Philbin, who helped develop Aaron Rodgers and Matt Flynn with the Green Bay Packers. “We’re looking for a guy that has excellent game management skills and has pocket presence and awareness. Obviously the stronger the arm with more velocity the better but we’re looking for a guy that can manage a team, lead a team, make good decisions at critical times and make some big plays when games are on the line.”

Unlike last year, when the NFL lockout forced free agency to be pushed back until after the NFL Draft, teams will be able to address some of their needs before having to look at the incoming draft class. Ireland and Philbin kept it close to the vest in terms of which route is more appealing to them on the quarterback front. There are quality free agents out there at quarterback and of course some appealing candidates in Indianapolis this week and Ireland professed that the Dolphins will “use every avenue available,” including possibly trading up in the draft, to fill that need.

If there was one revealing thing to come out of Ireland’s session with the media it was that he is not married to solely finding a long-term solution at quarterback. He’d like to have both categories covered if possible considering the talent currently on the roster on offense.

“You’ve got to try to help this football win today and you’ve got to look to the future always,” Ireland said. “That’s my job, is to try to build a team for today and the future and Joe’s responsibility is to try to win right now with the mind of continuing in the future as well.”

Of course every quarterback needs to have solid protection from his offensive line and in four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long anchoring the left side of Miami’s line that gives Philbin a good start. His background as an offensive line coach along with that of offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and offensive line coach Jim Turner should give him an edge in that category.

The NFL has evolved so much in the passing game that the characteristics of an ideal offensive lineman have also changed. Philbin again has a succinct vision in that area.

“I like the guy to be an athlete still,” he said. “We want to see a guy that can stay on his feet and play the game on his feet and not be on the ground a whole lot. We like the guy that’s got some quickness who can initially get off on the snap count and who can adjust a little bit.”

Long and wide receiver Brandon Marshall were among the first players to come back to South Florida and sit down with Philbin so they could learn more about the coach they are going to be playing for.

Philbin likes what he already has in place in terms of the skill set at the different positions and came away from those meetings very impressed.

“Those were very constructive and very positive meetings,” Philbin said. “It seems like of all of the guys that I’ve met since I’ve been there the thing that I’m impressed with most is the character and the desire. These guys seem like they’re very hungry to have consistent success on a long-term basis and seem willing to sacrifice to accomplish the team goals first. I’m really excited about working with them once we can get our hands on them but I’ve had some very positive discussions.”

In addition to Marshall and Long, running back Reggie Bush was another key cog in Miami’s offense last season and he and Marshall became the first 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver tandem in franchise history. Although Philbin never looked at a lot of film of Bush in the past when he was coaching in Green Bay he has seen film of last season.

Bush showed his versatility as a pass receiver out of the backfield as well as being able to run in between the tackles and Philbin is excited to see what Bush will be contribute to the offense being in put in place by him and Sherman.

“He’s a guy who you want the football in his hands,” Philbin said. “He can make people miss and that’s a valuable commodity on the football field. He can move the chains and get you another set of downs so we’re glad we have him and we’re looking forward to him being productive this year.”

Over on the defensive end, Philbin and Ireland reiterated the importance of creating turnovers and finding as many quality pass rushers as they can between now and the start of training camp. That side of the ball has been strong of late and the bar has been set high.

Overall, the fact that Philbin retained eight coaches from last year’s staff is something that impressed Ireland because it showed the thought he put into assembling the right staff.

“I think it’s a great mix and I like the coaches that he retained because I think we had some great guys on our staff,” Ireland said. “So I think it’s a good mix. You’ve got some guys who haven’t been in the league before and you’ve got some guys who have some experience as well. I think Joe did a really good job of mixing the strengths of what was on the staff and bringing in a new flavor with other guys that were not on the staff.”

And now they’re all here in Indianapolis focused on coming away with the best evaluation of the talent that will be available in April’s draft.

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