Miami Dolphins fans are eager to forget the last 10 years of football life. From Nick Saban to Cam Cameron and Randy Mueller to Bill Parcells. It’s crazy. The search for the teams new head coach concluded and with it came an end to the questions of who but have now turned towards, “do you remember…?” It’s a fair question but one that this time around holds very few parallels to anyone else.
Joe Philbin is not Cam Cameron. He is not Nick Saban, Dave Wannstedt, Tony Sparano, or even Jimmy Johnson. He is Joe Philbin and whether he succeeds or fails will not be because he was no better than any of those just mentioned. It will be because he is or he isn’t a bad coach.
As fans, it’s easy to point out the excitement that surrounded Nick Saban’s arrival. He was the flashy college guy and cost a lot. He knew how to mold players and create winners. As Cameron arrived, the mood was electric. “Cameron Can” of course ended with “Cameron Can’t”. But are there parallels between Philbin and all these guys? Let’s look at see.
Philbin Vs. Saban: Saban was the hot college coach. Wayne Huizenga refused to take no for an answer and when it came to a decision, he flew to Saban’s home and dropped a wad of cash in front of Saban’s wife. Then he guaranteed all of it. Two years later, Saban took his money and flew to Alabama. What made Saban fail? Simple, the pro game wasn’t for him. Saban enjoys the recruiting and the building. He takes young college kids and molds them. He isn’t adept at dealing with the higher ego’s of the NFL. Saban believed that he could bring his college game plans to the NFL and when that didn’t work, he had nothing.
Joe Philbin isn’t the high-profile coach from the college ranks and quite honestly, he isn’t likely the hot name in NFL circles. He will however bring NFL experience to the Miami Dolphins. Something that Saban could not. He will bring a winning attitude with him. Not on a college level but on an adult level with players who are brash and bold and egotistical as anyone in the rank and file of the sport. Saban knew how to draw on the grooming youth but failed to cull the same with pro-adult athletes. Philbin will not have that problem.
Philbin vs. Cam Cameron: This comparison is almost unfair. Following Saban’s departure, Randy Mueller was promoted to GM after barely surviving Saban. (Saban wanted him fired). Cameron came in and immediately made waves with fans. He was the offensive coordinator in a high powered San Diego offense. He was going to bring that element of excitement to the team offensively that it had lacked in the Dave Wannstedt/Nick Saban years. There were however problems from the start.
Mueller and Cameron were both first timers at their jobs. The two of them made no fans when they selected Ted Ginn, Jr. over Patrick Willis or Brady Quinn and fumbled again with John Beck. If it were not enough that they failed in there attempt, they met with fans at a draft party and were loudly booed. Leading to the infamous quote “You will love Ted Ginn as a punt returner. You will love Ted Ginn and the whole Ted Ginn family”.
Unlike Cam Cameron, Philbin comes in with a seasoned GM in Jeff Ireland. Regardless of whether you like him or not. He will also come into a situation that is far better built for success. Cameron’s team started in salary cap hell and the roster was practically void of talent, leading the team to a 1-15 season. Philbin will inherit a team with cap space and talent. Also unlike Cameron, Philbin will not call his own plays and instead assign those duties to a highly respected former NFL head coach in Mike Sherman. Cameron never bothered to hire an OC opting instead to double his role as both HC/OC. Another doomed failure from the start.
Philbin Vs. Sparano: Over the course of the last four seasons, Sparano has been tossed under the bus as much as if not more than Chad Henne. Like him or not, Sparano was a class act individual who unlike Philbin never was put entirely in a position to win. The first two seasons with the Dolphins, Sparano was saddled with Bill Parcells’ close friend Dan Henning as the OC. Henning relied almost entirely on the wildcat package to gain victories and Bill Parcells drafted players (Pat White) to fit that style of play. Eventually it wore off. In year three, still saddled with Henning, the Dolphins failed to progress on offense with no franchise QB and rotating carousel along the offensive line.
At years end, Sparano faced the backlash publicly when his new owner/boss Stephen Ross wooed Jim Harbaugh. In Sparano’s make or break year, he got a retiring Dan Henning, a new OC, and a lockout to go with it all. No off-season to implement the new system and no turnaround on the free agents to learn quickly. Rumors swirled that Ross had told Ireland not to spend to the cap limit. Mainly because many players would not be able to acclimate that quickly.
Philbin however shares none of that. He does not have Bill Parcells ordering him to keep Parcells’ staff. He brought in his own DC in Kevin Coyle and his own OC in Sherman. The three will revamp both sides of the ball using the talent that is already there and supplementing that with what they hope will become playmakers. In addition, unlike Sparano, Philbin will get a GM who is willing to get the players or risk losing his job in the future and an owner who has no limitations on what will be spent in free agency to make the team better.
In other words, Philbin will be given far more opportunity to succeed than his predecessors. He will have the money to spend and the roster freedom. While he will not have final say over draft and free agent acquisitions, he has a GM who realizes that the two of them are bedded together for better or worse. That alone should be inspiration for Ireland to provide Philbin with the right talent to win.
This article, or my opinion, is not intended to show any reason why Philbin will succeed or will fail. Only that circumstances from each coach prior to Philbin were in play before that coach was ever hired. It lead to their eventual removal. Philbin may or may not be a successful coach in Miami. He won’t have any excuses however provided the team goes all in to find them a suitable QB to run the offense. In Green Bay, Philbins’ offenses were electrifying and he will be tasked to bring the same thing to Miami.
In three years maybe four we will have a clear idea on where this team is and where it isn’t and whether or not Philbin is classified as a good coach, a great coach, or nothing more than what came before him. In all likelihood, if Philbin fails, it could be a good argument that he was worse than others before him. He is not sharing the same question marks that each of them had coming in. The only question with Philbin is can he? Or can’t he.