Have you ever really looked at the Miami Dolphins coaches throughout history? If you go back to the Dave Wannstedt era, you will notice that every coach since has been a first time NFL head coach. . Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, Todd Bowles? Yep, yep, yep, yep. And yes, so is Joe Philbin. Not one of those coaches had one day served as a head coach in the NFL and it showed. So why should we look at Joe Philbin and think that he will succeed where the others have failed?
For starters, Philbin will have something in front of him that the other coaches didn’t have. Time.
It would be easy to say that Nick Saban had that support after all his contract was very large and out of Wayne Huizenga’s pockets but Saban marched to his own Little Debbie Snack Cake. The owner may have said “I got your back, it’s your show to run” but Saban demanded so much just to take the job that Huizenga basically only wrote checks. When Saban left, it was Wayne holding the bill and the garbage left behind. Cam Cameron was supposed to be the next great Dolphins offensive mind but did he ever really have the support of the owner? Not likely.
Wayne took the first bite he could get on the line when Bill Parcells showed a bit of interest. So, like he had done before, he tossed a truck of money in between Parcells and Atlanta and brought the Tuna and all his history with him. Tuna brought Tony Sparano. Wayne Huizenga had so much support for Sparano that he sold the team and left it to Parcells, Ireland, and a new owner to mentor him.
Sparano failed on several different levels but one true fact remains above all others. Bill Parcells stayed out of his way. He game his “groceries” and told him to cook with them yet rarely was Parcells seen chatting it up with Tony on the sidelines of practice or mentoring the first time head coach on the ins and outs of the top job on an NFL team. Sparano’s immaturity as a head coach glowed brightly through the first two seasons and by the time the third rolled around he had already lost the faith of the fan base and his owner. The guy that brought him in packed up and left a week before opening weekend kick-off.
Sparano simply lacked time. Too many coaching changes and too much continual turnover coupled with a lack of support by management and Sparano was set to fail. And he did that very well.
Joe Philbin has that time. He has more time that GM Jeff Ireland does if things go wrong and stay wrong beyond 2012. He has the unconditional support of owner Stephen Ross and a GM who has spun away from the Bill Parcells model of cliche’ players to try and find the pieces that will fit the Philbin style of play on both sides of the ball. It’s too early to tell if Philbin will be the next coach in this long line of failures or if he will indeed turn this team around. Unlike the others, he has also found a QB. None of the other coaches drafted a QB (not fair to lump the interim HC’s in with this one).
Philbin is bound to Tannehill as much as Ross is bound to Philbin. What happens in the next four years will be the selling point for the franchise and the exclamation that is put on Ross’ ownership. It’s why Jeff Ireland will try, I did say try, and find the right pieces to this puzzle. His job is on the line because Ross can’t miss on Joe Philbin. When things start going from bad to worse, Jeff Ireland, while retained by Ross, is still a product of Bill Parcells. A holdover. Ross is responsible for everything Ireland does moving forward but unlike Philbin, the leash is a lot shorter on the GM.
Whether or not in two years we are talking about the team moving forward or still walking in place one thing is for sure. Stephen Ross will not have given up on his head coach. That’s support that the other coaches either didn’t have or chose to ignore. Philbin takes his first big step this weekend in Houston.