Dec 1, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin during the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Where Do Dolphins Go From Here?

 

Alright, DolFans, it’s been a few days since the heartbreaking loss to the New York Jets.  While the 2013 season rolls on, our 2014 season has already begun.

It hurts, I know.  I believed in this team, and I still do.  Over the past 48 hours, you’ve seen articles, write-ups and social media posts calling for everything from Stephen Ross’s to sell the team on down to releasing everyone on the roster.  Chances are, you’ll see more of these in the coming days and months.  I get it, we’re all upset and feel let down by what the Dolphins did on the field this season.  The ending to the year left a particularly bitter taste in all of our mouths, and the first reaction is to scream.

Collectively, it’s time for all of us to take a deep breath.

A complete overhaul isn’t good for anyone.  It’s terrible for the team, the players and the fans.  One of the prime reasons that this team has been mired in mediocrity and seen talented players come and go so frequently is the downright alarming churn rate that this franchise has experienced ever since Dave Wannstedt first stepped into power in Miami.  This is a talented team that good coaching could take deep into the playoffs, and a wholesale changeup right now would only spin the wheels of mediocrity for this team for the next several years. 

When an entirely new staff takes over a franchise, in most cases they don’t take the approach of Chip Kelly.  If we are to see a new head coach, offensive coordinator or defensive coordinator come in this offseason, then we need to see the approach that Chip Kelly brings to a team.  The approach that I’m referring to is essentially the fact that Chip will take the players that he has and design an offense to maximize their talents while minimizing the exposure of their flaws.  That is something that Miami has severely lacked since Don Shula was pushed out the door.

The final two games were an utter disaster against two sub-par teams in Buffalo and the Jets.  It was especially bitter given that the two game skid came immediately following an emotional win against the Patriots leaving them one solitary win from a postseason berth.  The team, as a whole, simply came out unready to play in the final two weeks.  They were completely flat.  Two weeks ago, if you asked me about Joe Philbin remaining as head coach I would’ve given a “yes, with caveats”  Now, I’m still undecided on Philbin’s fate, so let’s examine that first.

Joe Philbin:

The Good:

  • Philbin guided the team, at least by surface appearances, through arguably one of the most tumultuous occurrences in franchise history in the Jonathan Martin saga.
  • He is a likeable guy who prepares meticulously

The Bad:

  • Has shown a propensity for being too over the top in regards to character issues. 
  • Fails to either push or see appropriately necessary adjustments needed such as cadence issues
  • Improper utilization of players (i.e. Mike Wallace, Ryan Tannehill, Charles Clay, Dion Jordan, Offensive line) on a very talented roster
  • Cronyism – by all accounts, it appears that Philbin has been blind to both inferior ability and the feeling in the locker room regarding coaching staff, with the prime example being Mike Sherman

Summary:

I expected to have more “good” here than bad, but as I went to assemble the “good” items, I was a bit stumped.  It is unclear how much of the team banding together relating to the Jonathan Martin saga was on Philbin, his staff or the players themselves.  Several of the “bad” items are correctable based upon swift and impartial decisions being made in regards to coaching personnel over the next few weeks based on an honest assessment of the 2013 season.  Showing the ability to cut ties with his close friend and mentor in Mike Sherman would demonstrate an ability to make “the big boy” decisions, and might buy him another year with me.  I am impartial to whether he stays or goes.

Mike Sherman:

The good:

  • He was pivotal in the identification of Ryan Tannehill and in his initial growth in the league

The bad:

  • Playcalling has been unimaginative and downright bad at times
  • Improper utilization of some very talented players
  • Cadence issues that both exposed the play calls and continued with same timing issues tipping advantage from the offense to defense on several levels before the ball is even snapped
  • Failure to make appropriate adjustments when required both in-game and between games.
  • A propensity for “getting away from what works” in games, abandoning or failing to continue to utilize aspects of the offense that have shown to work
  • Appears to have lost the locker room, per multiple sources including NFL Networks Ian Rappaport

Summary:

This move should be the most obvious, as we reported should’ve occurred back in November here on PhinPhanatic.  They should, out of respect, give Sherman the opportunity to resign and keep his dignity, but if that route fails he should be terminated sooner than later.  I have respect for the man, but too many fundamental aspects of the game appear to have passed him by at this point in his career.

Kevin Coyle:

The Good:

  • Kevin has done an excellent job with Miami’s secondary, overall (outside of utilization of Reshad Jones).
  • Development and utilization of Koa Misi
  • Occasional creative utilization of personnel in coverage, such as dropping defensive line in coverage and masking coverages

The Bad:

  • Overutilization and rotation of depth resulting in top-tier players being on the sidelines in pivotal moments of games
  • Blatant misuse of one of the most talented and deep personnel groups in the NFL in Miami’s defensive line
  • Failure to appropriately adapt and utilize the linebackers in schemes

Summary:

While Coyle has done a better job utilization of personnel than Mike Sherman, the usage of personnel and defensive schemes were both subpar by NFL standards.  With so many talented defensive minds out there, and Coyle primarily only having done a good job with the secondary in Miami, it may be a poor decision to retain him if a better candidate can be brought in to replace him.

Jeff Ireland:

The Good:

  • Has brought a number of talented players into Miami, while also replacing players as needed at coaching requests
  • Has done a superior job managing the salary cap in a very short time from the out of control point it was at when he took over
  • Has refused to budge from a value for players, or be swayed by fan sentiment
  • Has shown a good eye for “long picture” on talent (such as Charles Clay, Jimmy Wilson, Rishard Matthews, Dmitri Patterson, Chris Clemons, Koa Misi)

The Bad:

  • Not all draft picks are immediate contributors, to the ire of fans
  • This team has not been able to utilize the skill sets of players that have been brought in by Ireland, giving an unclear picture as to what he has or has not achieved in regards to talent acquisition.
  • Not a “media guy” by any stretch of the imagination
  • Some players have not appeared to pan out
  • Has not been able to piece together an offensive line, as of yet, that can make a difference

Summary:

I saved this one for last, as it is probably the most hot-button issue amongst the fan base today.  Outside of running back, Jeff Ireland shored up the skill positions of this team for the next several years on offense.  He’s made good decisions in regards to personnel in bringing them in on a “try out” deal when cast off by other teams, and done a very good job in the deeper portions of drafts (i.e. rounds 3-7).  While some fans argue that casting off players such as Reggie Bush, Dansby and Brandon Marshall, it was the right decision to make at the time.  Dansby was a player showing up overweight and who was not producing in Miami (i.e. 1 takeaway in 3 years as a starter), Marshall was giving lackluster effort in games and would’ve been a cancer to a young quarterback, and Reggie Bush’s salary demands were too much for a player who had proven to be brittle and wear down throughout the season in Miami (while also not being properly utilized by the coaching staff).  Ireland, for better or worse, has filled this team with too much talent to be 8-8.  Despite the injuries, Miami was a team that better coaching should’ve brought to double-digit wins for the season along with a first round bye.

Overall:

Miami is a very talented team, and both coordinators need to be replaced.  This will result in some portions of the underlying staff being replaced as well.  If Joe Philbin is unable to recognize the shortcomings of the coaching staff as it is currently assembled, the time has come to replace him after two seasons as Miami’s head coach.  That, combined with the way the team came out downright flat in the final two weeks with a postseason berth there for the taking are inexcusable.  This team is far too talented to have such poor game plans and lack of emotion or urgency.  Jeff Ireland is someone who has assembled a very talented roster for this team, and that talent has thus far been squandered by this coaching staff. 

A wholesale reboot of the franchise, however, would spin this team into mediocrity for years to come, and may be the biggest argument for keeping Philbin while retooling his staff, as well as for keeping Ireland who is in the midst of a plan that should turn out a true powerhouse next season.  Taking the fifty-thousand foot view, Ireland had already set the table to revamp the offensive line in the coming offseason, and we need to stay the course with that. 

In the coming days, we’ll examine some of the potential names to replace each of the above mentioned individuals if they are indeed shown the door.

Fins up!

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Tags: Jeff Ireland Joe Philbin Kevin Coyle Miami Dolphins MIke Sherman

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