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


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


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


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


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.


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

  • Jason

    For the most part I agree with your sentiment. If you look back at the 2009 draft class, the only reason that the talented players are no longer with the Miami Dolphins, is because of a new coaching staff. There have been times in the past where we started to build a roster for a specific style of play. As it starts to develop, with a season or two of sub-par performances we fire the coaching staff and start over.
    If you look at the great teams in the NFL that are consistently good. Teams like the Steelers, the Patriots, the Packers, the Ravens, and the Giants have continuity. I know people are going to say that the Ravens and the Giants didn’t make the playoffs, but in the last 10 years those teams account for 3 Super Bowl titles. The Patriots have 4 appearances in the Super Bowl in that same time. Even the Colts have a couple of Super Bowl apperances.
    We need to stick with some sort of continuity. Keep the talented players on this roster. Honestly I think that players with the heart and the drive like Don Jones should get more playing time. Dion Jordan deserves more time. Maybe go to a 3-4 defensive scheme and put Jordan out as an OLB. We have some excellent pass rushers, and it would help to have them on the field for a majority of snaps. Olivier Veronon, Dion Jordan, Cameron Wake, Jared Odrick and Derrick Shelby are all dangerous.
    There’s a lot of talent on this team I don’t care what anyone else says. Hartline is an amazing receiver. Brandon Gibson is a solid slot receiver after never having played the position before. Pouncy is the best center in the league. Ryan Tannehill has all the physical tools to make into a great Quarterback with propper coaching. And the defense, even if you take away Randy Starks due to the potential salary demand is just riddled with talent. The pass rushers already mentioned but also Brent Grimes, Paul Soliai, and Don Jones (I mentioned him before but did you watch that hit and forced fumble against Atlanta? WOW!)
    Some great talent, all it takes is the right people to utilize them and polish the tools.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Miami even has the personnel to run w that hybrid 3-4/4-3 that they teased us with but never tried. This team has been strapped with underutilized and misappropriated talent, and that needs to get fixed NOW.

  • tpl

    I agree. If philbin cannot see that Sherman needs to go, fire philbin. But, I think philbin will agree. I think Coyle should be given another year on probation. If the defense doesn’t improve, fire him next year. Though I would prefer miami to hire a new offensive coordinator in house. I think Ross gives philbin and Ireland another year, on probation. Plus, a better offense will take some of the pressure off the defense.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      I can’t a grim torn on Coyle… If he doesn’t go, he needs better assistants for the front 7 who have a strong pedigree. I’m not upset if any of the top 3 coaches go, but I am upset if Sherman doesn’t.

  • Johnny

    Quick stat for peeps wanting Tannehill gone:::: Ryan Tannehill finish 9th of all QBs in Passing Yards (OVER 3900 YDS) (plus 24tds)… If that’s not improvement, I don’t know what is…Win the Super Bowl??? Be realistic.. This is the kids 2nd year with not a lot of college experience before that… He definitely improved.. And that was behind the worse OLine in the NFL!!! Get real!!!

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      I agree wholeheartedly. Tanny took a number of strides this season – more than enough to warrant having a deep hold on the starting role in 2014. I read an article yesterday that indicated he wasn’t planting on the left knee by stepping into his throws in the jets game (the knee he injured the previous week in buffalo).

      One note on the o-line, I put some of that on the cadence issues. If you look back at my write up on Sherman from nov 28, the cadence issues gave drastic advantages to opposing defenses and really put the o-line at a severe disadvantage at the snap – and things snowball from there.

  • Johnny

    Where do they go??? HOME!!!! Maybe watch the playoffs from their couch AT HOME!!! lol

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Lol eh, at least 4 know they get their free trip to Hawaii

  • gofins60

    “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.”

    This is why hiring Philbin was a huge mistake! Ross should have hired someone who could build an offense (and defense) around the good players on the team, and then slowly upgrade the weaker positions. Philbin has no idea how to do this. He came in with his “system” and proceeded to force it on players who didn’t fit. His defensive scheme changes ruined the rushing defense; from 3rd to approx. 24th in two years. His system doesn’t emphasize the running game, so Polite and his automatic 1st downs were gone. Now they struggle to convert 3rd and inches. Philbin has no clue how to take advantage of the talent on the roster… all he knows is that his system is carved in stone, and it’s his way or the highway.

    Just about anyone would be an improvement over Philbin. Giving him another year to perfect his inept offense would just prolong the agony and waste more time. A decent coach who KNOWS what he’s doing could turn this into a playoff team quickly.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      I agree with the vast majority of this. I liked Polite, but at the same time he has struggled to land anywhere else and is out of football.

      • gofins60

        I didn’t mean that Polite himself must stay, but that the FB position was a huge plus in converting 3rd downs and sustaining drives. A big strong beast that can plow ahead for that yard or two is not IMO a waste of a roster spot.

        I’ve always felt that starting with a “wall of beef” o-line and a power running game and then adding in a good passing attack is more effective than using a “finesse” o-line with a short timing-based passing game and the occasional run.

        Having a power running game doesn’t mean that you can’t have an explosive passing game.

        • Paul L. Picken, Jr

          I fully agree there. I know you’ve read a few of my previous articles, so I think you’ve seen me both lobby to see what Egnew could do in short yardage from the FB role, as well as to possibly use a player like Starks (as the Jets did with Richardson).

          I agree on the approach, depending upon the personnel in house. I don’t like pushing an approach that doesn’t match your personnel, or pushing out talented players because they don’t fit the scheme you want to run.

          I’d go one further, having a power running game increases the likelihood that you CAN have an explosive passing game

  • Jcartwright67

    That was a good read. I don’t see us changing HC’s with Ireland still in control. What coach worth his salt is going to accept a position with a GM on a one-year lease knowing that a GM change will most likely result in a HC change. Ireland has 2014 to get a playoff win under his belt or he’s gone. I think Philbin and Ireland are safe for one more season pending a “no fault” decision from the J.Martin fiasco. Ireland/Philbin need to hire two coordinators with a lot of charisma to offset both their character traits. Folks, not too much has been written or voiced about the 53 strong and proud professional athletes that collapsed during the last 8 quarters. We don’t have any leaders. Tannehill has the physical tools but his mental game is pitiful. The “gosh” and “gee Wally” (Leave it to Beaver: reference for you young guys) approach is over for me. I’m going to expect him to be stronger willed next year and show a little fire in his belly when players don’t block, run, and catch with a desire to move the chains and score. Tannehill is on a one more year deal too. A new HC and GM will most likely want to build their empire with a new King.

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      A young coach, ala David Shula, would. Coaches and GMs lose or accept jobs every year independent of the other position. We had a good discussion on the younger Shula on “on the finside” last night.

  • J holobinko

    Anybody who wants to give Coyle a pass hasn’t watched very many games this year! He was touting this past summer how his defensive scheme would be like no other the nfl has seen before! His scheme was a joke! Let’s keep your best player on the side lines for qtrs at a time! Both Coyle and Sherman couldn’t coach a high school team to a winning record! Beside the fact that I can’t even stand to look at philbin, he should be fired just for hiring these two incompetent fools!

    • Paul L. Picken, Jr

      Lol it was like no other… It misused the front seven while relying more than most on the back 4-5 players…