Miami Dolphins Stephen Ross wants a winner, start with coaching


Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is doing his best to put a winning franchise on the field but his biggest mistake so far is trusting his head coach. If he wants a winner, he should start there. The Dolphins under Joe Philbin have been 7-9, 8-8, and 8-8 and through two games of 2015, are .500. That’s not good enough. Not because the team is 1-1 but because of how they got there.

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The Dolphins simply are not playing good football. Yes, I’m well aware of the reports that Ndamukong Suh didn’t follow the plays called in by Kevin Coyle on Sunday but does anyone really believe that it would have made a difference? Kevin Coyle’s schemes have been steadily declining since he arrived from Cincinnati and this off-season many thought Coyle, at minimum, should have been fired.

I could probably go back to my articles from 2014 and copy and paste them into this one, or even instead of this one. Change a few players names and opposing teams and the exact same topic of conversation would be easily relevant today. I am well aware that we are in week two of the season and this is in no ways a knee-jerk reaction to Sunday’s loss to the Jaguars. It’s a sad reality of the state the Miami Dolphins are in.

Looking across the NFL landscape something is very clear. The Dolphins are not very good. Following the victory in week one, most fans if not all easily found reasons to dismiss the lackluster play on the field. It was the first game. Perhaps the Washington Redskins are not as bad as we first thought. After all, prior to the Dolphins kick-off on Sunday, the Redskins managed to beat St. Louis pretty handily. This a week after the Rams beat the defending NFC Champion Seattle Seahawks. Jacksonville changed all that.

The Dolphins are sloppy defensively, they are sloppy on offense as well. This is coaching. This is preparation. This is habit. After the first two seasons we blamed and the Dolphins blamed offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. They fired him. Yet nothing as a whole has really changed. Bill Lazor’s offense is so vanilla, so stagnant, that one can’t help but wonder how much input Joe Philbin is having on the game plan.

During Sunday’s telecast the announcers referenced a habit Joe Philbin has gotten into dating back to last season. He spends his Thursday nights watching game tape of 2:00 minute drills from every team in the NFL. Hoping, they said, to learn trends. He should spend quite a bit of time watching Gus Bradley’s two minute drill from the first half yesterday. Never in the time Philbin has been here would have thrown the ball with less than a minute to go in a half while leading. Bradley did and it was the difference in the game.

This however is not about the Dolphins loss to Jacksonville. What’s wrong with the Dolphins is deeper than that. It’s something that starts with Philbin and cascades down to the players, through the players, and onto the field. It needs to stop.

The Miami Dolphins are Joe Philbin’s team and you don’t have to look any further than their record or play over the last three years to see that they are indeed Joe Philbin. They play carefully and they play to the plays that are called (except Suh). In other words there is no player on this roster that plays on instinct. It’s one reason we see so many players leave Miami and find success. Case in point, Jared Odrick. When was the last time you saw Odrick take over a defensive series to win a game? Not in Miami. He did yesterday against them forcing a Tannehill fumble on one play (loss of seven yards) and on the next play batted the Tannehill attempt at the goal line. The Dolphins own goal line.

Miami plays so much like their coach that you wonder how they can go out there and be fired up for anything? They play with no passion, no exuberance, and what seems like no desire. Hey, I’m not saying these players are talented and don’t want to win anymore than I am saying Joe Philbin doesn’t want to win. I’m simply saying that Joe Philbin lacks the conviction to be better than the coach across from him and that translates to how his team plays under him. They play like him.

What makes matters worse is there is no team depth except at wide-receiver and defensive tackle. Is that a Dennis Hickey problem? To some degree yes but understand how things work in Miami. Hickey doesn’t have final say over the roster. Philbin does or at the very least has a large say in who is on the roster. When Stephen Ross hired Hickey he said that the GM would be responsible for the roster. He is but there are limitations that other GM’s don’t deal with.

Hickey is not absolved of any responsibility here. If in fact his job is to find the right players, he hasn’t done a very good job. It’s obvious the team can recognize the expensive talent but what about the the quality depth players? Who builds that 53 man roster exactly? How many more years of drafting will be spent on players from small schools or are developmental projects? Hey I like what little I have seen from Jordan Phillips but another DT in round two instead of a guard?

Let’s forget about the players themselves as I believe that proper preparation and coaching could make this team better. While watching other games on Sunday, and I watch a lot of games, two things stick out to me the most. The first is the intensity of other teams when they play. They play fast. They get to the line fast, they look ready to hit someone. They communicate. I don’t see that with this years Dolphins. I see confusion and uncertainty. I see a team who strolls to the line and I see a team that doesn’t change with what the opposing team presents.

Secondly, I see tackling. Watching other games I was amazed at how Buffalo players have been coached to tackle the opposing runner. They wrap and drive through the ball carrier. In Seattle’s game against Green Bay last night, I saw a 2nd string corner set up, watch the hips of the ball carrier and wrap and drive him to the ground. I see Dolphins players arm tackle. I seem them miss. A lot.

All of these players have played at a high-level for decades through their collegiate and high-school careers and even some at the pro-level. No one has ever seen Ndamukong Suh play so lukewarm. It again, goes back to coaches.

Last season Joe Philbin nixed the index cards after he became a joke around the league. It hasn’t helped. His pep talks are boring and will make even the most enthusiastic insomniacs want to take a nap. I get it though, these are highly paid professional athletes that shouldn’t need a pep talk but guess what, all of them do. Do you think that Pete Carroll in Seattle doesn’t get his team ready to play verbally before the game?

Joe Philbin is soft. He coaches soft and as a result the team plays soft. This has become a finesse team and frankly there hasn’t been a finesse team champion in as long as I can remember. It doesn’t work. Hard hitting, tackling, and a very good gameplay does. Joe Philbin is a head coach who get’s out coached every week.

Sadly the biggest game for the Dolphins since 2008 came last season against San Diego when the Dolphins blanked them 37-0. The sad part is it came in a week that Joe Philbin missed all of the practices due to his father’s passing.

2015 is young. Teams are still learning how to run and the Dolphins seem to still be learning to walk. The Dolphins have top end talent on the roster but it seems as though the coaches don’t bother to coach them up and rather rely on their status as veterans and starters do the job for them. The Dolphins need a coaching change. I fear that if this season continues like it has begun, we will see a coaching sooner rather than later. Then you can write the season off.

Miami still has a lot of football to play and this is for now just one hiccup in a marathon but they have to play better on both sides of the ball and it’s the job of Philbin to make that happen. I simply don’t have faith enough to believe he can build this team into the team they can be. Not based off of two weeks but off of three years and two weeks where nothing mind you has changed. Nothing but the cap number that is.

If the Dolphins part ways with Joe Philbin at the end of the season, it’s time for Ross to make the impact decision with his next coach. Retreads rarely work but a strong coach with the right attitude might at least finally turn this team into something other than a finesse team. I think we can all take losing if losing came at the end of a well fought game. Losing to a team like the Jaguars and losing to them sloppy…that’s unacceptable. Those are the types of games that cost head coaches their job.

Welcome to the 2015 Miami Dolphins season. It’s looking a lot like the 2012, 2013, and 2014 seasons.