NASHVILLE – We probably won’t be hearing much the rest of the way from Darren Rizzi, the Miami Dolphins’ new assistant head coach and Dan Campbell’s right-hand man.
It’s the long-standing policy of the Dolphins and most NFL teams that the head coach and the offensive and defensive coordinators be made available to the media on a regular basis. Most of the others are off limits except for special requests.
Well, Sunday’s 38-10 win at Tennessee was about as special as it gets, so I stopped Rizzi on his way to the bus for a brief interview about Carpenter’s debut. Rizzi, Miami’s special teams coordinator, has head coaching experience at New Haven and Rhode Island and he has consulted Campbell on all the basics of the job, during game preparation, during practice and during the game.
There’s some interesting stuff here, including confirmation that Campbell was thinking about going for it on fourth-and-3 at the Titans 7-yard line in the first quarter. Miami took a field goal instead to go up 10-3, but not until kicking around all the options during the first timeout of Campbell’s coaching career.
Asked about what Campbell did right, Rizzi said “Dan did a hell of a job turning this into a 12-game season and having all the focus be about this game and our team and not the four weeks of negative stuff that happened.
“It was just keeping the focus on moving it forward. That was his message, and if today is a judge, he did a pretty darn good job.”
Asked if part of his job was tamping down Campbell’s enthusiasm and nervousness, Rizzi said “it was just trying to keep him abreast of game situations. He’s obviously an excitable guy. I thought it worked well today. There certainly were some different things we can improve on, but certainly it was a good start.”
What general advice did Rizzi give Campbell on being the head coach?
“I joked with him when he was named the head coach and walked into his office and sat down that there’s going to be a funnel that comes to this desk that you don’t k now about,” Rizzi said. “Everything is going to end up on your desk, everything from the whole building to game management to non-football issues.
“I thought he did a hell of a job these last few days of focusing down on just the team and the game. It’s baptism by fire, that’s for sure. If anybody can handle it, he can.”
What about the timeout called in the first quarter, and the way it progressed to unsuccessfully trying to draw the Titan offsides for a first down inside the 5-yard line rather than settling for a short field goal?
“It was a collective effort there,” Rizzi said. “Kind of a three-thought process. No. 1, thinking about going for it, and we called a timeout to talk about it. No. 2, take the field goal. No. 3, trying to draw them offsides, because it was still a short-enough field goal.
“Let’s be honest. That first-half timeout, we thought that was a good one to take at that point.”
Also being honest, Joe Philbin probably would have gotten slammed for doing the same thing.