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Philbin: Third Preseason Game Especially Important

Posted Aug 22, 2012

In this exclusive interview for dolphins.com with Dolphin Digest editor Andy Cohen, Coach Joe Philbin talks about Friday’s game against Atlanta as well as the transition of going from an assistant to a head coach.

Q. The third preseason game is approaching. Every coach seems to place the most importance on the third preseason game in getting ready for the season. Do you share in that?

JP: Yes I do. We are moving into more of a game week type of mode in preparing for this game. We are stopping practicing at 8 o’clock in the morning and were getting into more of a regular season routine. We went to one practice a day. This game is like a dry run for us. This is how we prepare for a game. This is how we practice. This is how we meet. It all leads up this game.  Especially with a brand new staff, you want to use this game to get everybody accustomed to what we’re going to do during the regular season.

The young players especially fall into this category because they don’t know what a game week is all about in the NFL. It’s good to get everyone on the same page.

I’m also planning to play my starters more in this game than any other preseason game. I’m not sure how long that means, but it’s important for our starters to get a good feel for the pace of the game and everything else we do. If we see enough by halftime, a half might be enough. But there is also some merit to making halftime adjustments and then start a possession in the third quarter coming out of the locker room. It’s important to see how these players handle a variety of adjustments from a technical standpoint.

So this is an important game for all those reasons and you really want to see your team come out and play well.

Q. You seem so comfortable in your skin. What so far has been the biggest transition in going from a coordinator to a head coach?

JP: Probably the overall practice, organization and scheduling. When you are a coordinator, you are focused on just your unit and the technical aspects. When you become a head coach, there are so many details. How long is the snack going to be? How long are we going to be on special teams? When will we have our staff meeting? What camera will film what drills so we have good teaching techniques? What field is getting overused? When you are a coordinator you have tunnel vision. Now, there is an overall newness to everything I do as a head coach.

We have a great staff here. Our assistants are talented. I’ve relied on a lot of different people to help. It has been a collaborative effort. Plus, as I’ve said before, there is no perfect plan. I am always open to tweak things. We’re still learning about the best way to do things.

Q. Your job description means making some quick, important decisions during the course of a game. Fourth-and-one? Going for two? When to gamble? How do you prepare for that?

JP: Some of it is the big picture strategy. For example, if we know we have a real good play for fourth-and-one and feel confident we can get some significant  out of it then we might be more inclined to go for it on fourth-and-one. The same thing for the kicking game. If we feel like we see tendencies and get a fake either a punt or to pull off an onside kick, we’ll go for it. So a lot of the preparations for quick decisions is done prior to the game. During the game, at least for me, it’s more about time management and calling timeouts and knowing what makes sense at a particular time. But, sure, there is a lot to be aware of and I feel comfortable and confident in that role.

Q. What are the indicators you see in Ryan Tannehill that tell you how quickly he is progressing?

JP: The decision-making is always the first thing you evaluate. When you are sitting there and you have the rush all around you, the decisiveness that that he plays with tells you so much about him. We always tell the players that you have to react quickly in this game. Ryan has shown that ability. He can run a play quickly and can run it decisively. Ryan can process things quickly and at that position it is a vital part of the game.

Q. Talk about the importance of acting for a quarterback: Selling a play-action pass, looking one way and throwing the other, what he does in pre-snap, things like that?

JP: Eye control is vital for a quarterback. If you ask the other side of the ball, the defensive backs will tell you that they are tuned into the eyes of a quarterback. So the ability to move a defender with your eyes becomes an important asset for any quarterback. It is a subtle part of quarterback play that often goes unnoticed. It’s something all of our quarterbacks work on.

Q. As a longtime offensive line coach, what makes Jake Long special?

JP: He has a lot of the physical attributes you are really looking for: long arms, great physical strength on the field and he has good quickness as well. Then he has all the intangibles you like in a player, the love of the game, the work ethic, great preparation. He’s got a lot of desirable qualities. I really enjoy coaching him.

Q. Soon you’re going to have to cut this roster down to 53 players. How difficult will that be?

JP: It’s hard. You think about the investments that these players have made since they showed up in April for the offseason program. You think about how hard they work and how much they care. I mean, we haven’t had a single bad practice yet. We’ve had some that are better than others but we haven’t had a flop. You feel for these players. I talk to them all the time about how they have to take their profession seriously, which they do. You want these guys to succeed. But the cold hard fact is that not all of them will have a spot on this team and it’s going to be difficult telling a lot of these players that it is time to move on.

Q. With so many exact measurables in today’s NFL, how do you measure heart?

JP: You have to watch the film and that’s usually your best barometer. When you around these guys every day, you see how they interact with their teammates and interact with the staff. Not only the coaches, but everybody in the building. You can get a sense that way about how much they love the game and how much they love the organization they are playing for. I don’t know if it’s easily definable. But on a daily basis your actions always speak the loudest.

Q. Talk about the importance you personally place on special teams?

JP: I have great confidence in our special teams staff. I watch the teaching and progressions that they use. They are very detailed. I’m excited about our special teams. I think we have a chance to have a quality group and I am well aware of the importance of this phase of the game when you talk about the difference between winning and losing.

Q. Finally, what message do you have to Dolphins fans everywhere about this team and this coming season?

JP: First I want to say I’m very appreciative of the support the fans have shown us during the preseason. It has been excellent. My family and I have been delighted to be a part of this community. It is more than I anticipated. I love the diversity. Love living here. I ask the fans for their support and patience. I anticipate having a really good season and I hope it is something all of us will be proud of.
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