Dolphins owner Stephen Ross upped the stakes considerably when the team signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a mega-deal in free agency and gave a handsome contract extension to fourth-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the spring.
When Philbin and the Dolphins did not deliver winning results early in the season, the hot seat on which Philbin was sitting became considerably warmer. When the team’s record dropped to 1-3 with Sunday’s loss to the New York Jets in London, the move became fairly predictable, with the Dolphins now on their bye week.
Does it change much of anything? No.
Will it fix anything? Probably not.
But was it worth a try by Ross? Sure. What else is he going to do to attempt to fix this? You can’t fire all the players in the middle of a season. But you can fire a coach and hope that something changes. It’s just the way the profession works.
Philbin had a fair opportunity. He was given three and a quarter seasons by Ross and went 24-28. He never had a winning season. He never reached the playoffs. There was a locker room bullying scandal on his watch.
“This was a tough decision for me to make knowing how tirelessly Joe worked in his four years here to make this a winning team,” Ross said in a written statement. “He is a man of the highest character and integrity that I developed a close personal relationship with. I am extremely disappointed with how we have started the season, but I feel confident that we can improve quickly with the talent we have on our roster. We will soon be announcing an interim coach to lead the team going forward.”
Suh has followed the signing of his six-year, $114 million contract by being credited with 10 tackles and no sacks in his first four games with the Dolphins. The scrutiny of his on-field tactics has followed him from Detroit to Miami. The on-field production has not, at least so far.
Tannehill has celebrated his four-year, approximately $77 million extension completed in May (making for a six-year, roughly $96 million deal overall) by posting a passer rating of 77.1 in the first four games of his fourth NFL season. That is far more like the 76.1 passer rating of his rookie season in 2012 than the improving marks of 81.7 in 2013 and 92.8 last season.
Clearly, it wasn’t working with Philbin in charge.
“I want to thank Steve Ross for allowing me the privilege to serve as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins,” Philbin said in a written statement released by the team. “This is a tremendous organization from top to bottom that has a talented and dedicated staff. I want to especially thank the players, coaches and football staff who have worked so unselfishly and represented the team with dignity and class. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the incredible fan base who has supported me and my family unconditionally since day one. It is my hope that the 2015 Miami Dolphins achieve great success both on and off the field.”
In-season coaching changes rarely work in the NFL. There’s only so much a coach can change during the season. Tight ends coach Dan Campbell is reportedly in line to be promoted to interim head coach. It is not clear yet if Dolphins defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle also will be ousted.
The Dolphins need to find a way for Suh to resemble the player he was for the Lions. They need to get Tannehill to go back to being an ascending quarterback. If those two things happen, the rest probably would fall into place.
It is far easier said than done, of course. It is partly about schemes. It is far more about players believing in the message being delivered to them.
Ross can start over in the offseason with a new coach. In the meantime, he can cross his fingers and hope for the best for the remainder of this season.
The odds for a turnaround are not with him, but he has done about all that he could have done.