Is Dolphins Dan Campbell committing career suicide?


Yesterday Dan Campbell was named interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Is he committing career suicide? It’s a huge jump from being a tight end coach to running a franchise. There are a lot of things that go into managing a football team.

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I have always been interested in what a head coach has to handle once he becomes, you know, a head coach. When Joe Philbin took over the job in 2012 I sat in a room with a bunch of other “web-heads” and asked him what the biggest challeng was so far. He had been on the job about 11 months including the off-season. It was in November two days before the Dolphins were embarrased at home by the visiting Tennessee Titans.

“Coach Philbin, what are the biggest challenges you have faced since becoming a head coach?”, I asked. “What’s the difference between being a coordinator and a head coach?”.

Philbin was polite and responded that the biggest difference was all the little things that a head coach had to handle. He pointed to a buffet in the back of the room. “Those things. As a coordinator you don’t deal with making decisions like what the team is going to eat during camp, you don’t make dietary decisions, or travel iteneraries. You just coach”.

Those are some of the challenges that now await a tight ends coach. The little things. Those are things that will eat at a new coach with no experience as a head coach. No longer will Dan Campbell sit in a room and wait for his name to be called to report on the tight ends. He will be the one calling names. He will have to organize practice schedules, deal with off-field issues, catering, hotel issues, dress codes, and of course every single NFL rule that most coaches are not aware of. It is taxing to say the least.

Campbell has put his head up on the block for all to see. A promising position coach with a bright future suddenly finds himself a marked man with a crosshair on his forehead. Succeed, even a little bit and he will bolster his chances to grow in the NFL but where exactly would he go if he fails?

It’s likely that if the Dolphins go in a different direction at seasons end, which is a very good possibility, Campbell isn’t going to get a call for another head coaching job. He isn’t going to get a call to be an offensive coordinator either because he has never held that position and has no background to handle it. Instead he would likely get a job as an offensive quality control coach or go back to being a tight-ends coach. At least for the foreseeable future.

All that aside, he is not committing career suicide. This is a chance that may never come to him again. Yet even a modicum of success will bolster an already promising start to his future. Choosing to accept this promotion means learning as he goes. It gives him a leg up on competition down the road. He joins fraternity that is rich in history but short on current employees.

For Campbell it’s a win-win situation. Succeed and his options open, fail and he will simply need to get more coaching experience. Somewhere down his career path will be more opportunities if this one doesn’t work out and he will have this on his resume.

It’s a great situation for a position coach and comes with low expectations. That would of course change if he is retained next season as the head coach. For now, he holds a bright future in the palm of his hands and one that he now controls emplicitly. It’s hard to imagine that one day you are coaching three to four guys to coaching 53 plus a practice squad. Somehow for some reason, I think he can handle the pressure quite well.

On a side note, I can’t wait for his first game, it will be nice to have some new pictures to post.