Now that former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin is back in the news as offensive line coach of the Indianapolis Colts, the time has come to set the record straight.
He really did call plays for the Green Bay Packers, contrary to popular belief, and he absolutely killed it.
Of course, it was just one game, the 2008 Pro Bowl, when Packers coach Mike McCarthy was in a festive mood and turned over the play-calling duties to Philbin, his offensive coordinator.
Working with Tony Romo, Matt Hasselbeck and Jeff Garcia at quarterback, and plotting against the lowered defensive intensity that is common in these all-star exhibitions, Philbin discovered that just about everything he sent in worked under the sunny Hawaiian sky.
Adrian Peterson rushed for a couple of touchdowns. Terrell Owens caught two scoring passes. Romo caught a 34-pass from Owens. Heck, the only guys who didn’t get a workout were the punters as the NFC scored a 42-30 comeback win over the AFC.
The Packers’ official bio for Philbin in the team media guide made a special point of listing this game as one where he was directly involved in the execution of every offensive play.
Oh, what fun, though when it came time to play games that counted the following season, and when Brett Favre was back taking the snaps, McCarthy resumed his role as Green Bay’s playcaller. That’s the prerogative of the head coach.
Philbin, meanwhile, returned to his duties preparing game plans in grand detail and, above all, running offensive team meetings.
Years later, when he got the job in Miami, Philbin described how seriously he took those meetings.
“If any PowerPoint slide had a spelling or grammar mistake, any typo, any scheme error, that was my responsibility, just like a teacher,” Philbin said.
I’m hoping Philbin does well with the Colts. He’s a good man and a hard worker. Looking back, though, it’s more difficult than ever to understand why the Dolphins didn’t pick up on the warning signs of a quote like the one above, stressing punctuation over the raw power of leadership.
They should have.