We know that the Dolphins came very close to making things interesting versus the New England Patriots on Sunday. Just a low snap and Brian Hartline catching a bomb from Ryan Tannehill separated the Dolphins from being pretenders to contenders. How these lovable Dolphins can tug at one fan’s heart strings all the way down to a double fake on-side kick with two kickers on the field is amazing! Sadly, the Dolphins remain out of contention for the fourth straight season. Inexplicably, it’s the same exact play in big games: whether it is a special teams gaffe from veteran long-snapper John Denney or Ryan Tannehill overthrowing the coverage and just missing the hands of Brian Hartline for a sure touchdown, the Dolphins are still in the same place 4 straight years.
However, there are positive takeaways if you are a fan that likes to look on the bright side. For one, the Dolphins showed they can hang with New England in one area that has failed them in past years: coaching decisions. While the Dolphins were inside their own 30 yard line at 4th and 1 in the first quarter, the Dolphins elected to punt…even with a waiting and hungry Jorvorskie Lane on the sideline, having to run past a re-invigorated Vince Wilfork, who seems to get younger every year would prove difficult. Even with that old Lousaka Polite FB Dive play, Philbin elected to punt.
Facing the same exact situation in the 4th quarter, Philbin at 4th and 1 ran Daniel Thomas for a sizeable gain and a Dolphins first down. Of course, the chain of events of punting on the first drive of the game is not what angers the fans, it’s the lack of execution on the punt setting New England up nicely at the 12 yard line.
Let’s not forget Philbin’s decision to conserve time with no timeouts, to kick a FG on 2nd down with 36 seconds. Which coach has done that? Sparano never did.
Lastly, Philbin has revolutionized what is expected of the players from day one. Sure playing, smart, tough football is one thing, but evaluating all his players by taking them through a gauntlet of fast paced workouts have kept the majority of the Dolphins conditioned and healthy has the players adjusting to the speed of fast paced no-huddle teams…especially on defense.
So, is Philbin coaching well? I’d say he is one of the better coaches that has the smarts to survive the South Florida media market and has the players respect. Never mind the Reggie Bush benching or the mysterious sideline hand-holding of Cameron Wake for passing situations only at the end of the game with New England driving, Philbin has shown that he is an NFL coach that has to make tough decisions that most new coaches hesitate to make.
Rating Philbin versus the likes of Mike Mularkey (2-10) and Dennis Allen (3-9), Philbin looks to be well ahead of the curve. He had his team set up for contention until two weeks ago where the Dolphins were in the hunt and the games became meaningful for the Dolphins in early December. Rating Philbin’s ability to prepare his players for tough games, Philbin has done a good job. With wins in Cincinnatti and New York versus the Jets, Philbin proved his team can win on the road. Even if you look at losses in Arizona and Buffalo, the Dolphins were in those games until the very end. In addition, the Dolphins are built right now to be a mistake free bunch and all but the win versus Seattle counts as victory where the Dolphins win where there are zero turn overs. The Dolphins overcame a Ryan Tannehill interception versus Seattle and Tannehill led the Dolphins to victory for the first time. Inconsistency has led the Dolphins down a path of not being able to overcome turnovers, bounce back and win close games.
There are four games remaining and sportswriters and NFL pundits are chomping at the bit to rate Coach Joe Philbin and his ability to turn the Dolphins into a contender. Even bloggers too are looking to find weaknesses in this roller coaster of a season and it starts with coaching first. However, down the stretch in the final four weeks, with the monumental task of winning versus a tough and physical Forty-Niner team next Sunday and two winnable games versus Jacksonville and Buffalo at home, Joe Philbin should at least get the credit for not making a mockery of this flagship franchise, the Miami Dolphins.
Sure five wins isn’t special, but winning three more games puts Joe Philbin with the likes of Jimmy Johnson in his first season in Miami. Johnson had a hall of famer in Dan Marino at quarterback and still finished 8-8. Think about that!