Offensive line room, the source of Dolphins’ strength during Shula years, needs fumigating

The Miami Dolphins’ offensive line meeting room used to be where you went to find the grownups.

Pro Football Hall of Famers like Larry Little and Jim Langer and Dwight Stephenson. Sturdy veterans like Norm Evans and Bob Kuechenberg and Jon Giesler.

And running the operation was the late John Sandusky, who spent 26 years coaching for Don Shula in Baltimore and Miami.

Former Dolphins assistant John Sandusky. (Palm Beach Post file photo)

Since Sandusky left the Dolphins in 1994, the team has had nine coaches in charge of the offensive line. One of them was cut loose in the Bullygate scandal of 2013 and another resigned in disgrace this week.

The whole lot of them have come and gone in Miami just like the head coaches, two of which, Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin, first built their reputations in the league as offensive line coaches and are coaching that position now.

The new guy, Dave DeGuglielmo, is really an old guy. He was Miami’s offensive line coach from 2009-11, losing seasons all.

It makes a difference who has that job.

For all the flash that Dan Marino showed, it was his blocking that made it possible. For nine straight years in the 1980’s, while Sandusky was coaching Miami’s offensive line, the Dolphins led the league in fewest sacks allowed.

For all the changes that came to the league during Shula’s time, spanning Miami’s Super Bowl years to the wide-open passing attacks of the later years, the offensive line was the foundation of every game plan.

Today, it seems that Adam Gase ought to bring in an exorcist to cleanse the offensive line room of whatever has gone wrong. Even with three first-round draft picks as starters, the unit can’t function. Leadership is a constant problem, too. Chris Foerster, the man caught in what I’ll call the Coachcaine scandal, is only the latest and most troublesome example.

Until this gets fixed, the Dolphins have no core strength. The offense will remain out of balance. The head coach will continue to fight for first downs when he’d rather be fighting for a division title.

Sandusky wasn’t fully appreciated around here. He was stable. He was reliable. Most of the time, he wasn’t noticed at all.

Everything the Miami offensive line needs to be, in other words, but for a long time now it has seemed like too much to ask.

[Even UM’s national title teams proved how tough it is to run the table]

[Mood swing for Adam Gase, who was part of NFL-record scoring at Denver]

[Is it possible that Derek Jeter has rarely even seen the Marlins play a game?]

 

There’s one former Dolphins head coach who made quite an impression on Adam Gase

Adam Gase was careful not to question recent head coaches of the Miami Dolphins when asked on Monday about a positive change in the team’s basic culture.

“I can’t speak on the past,” he said. “I just know everybody that has been here since the time I’ve been here has had one goal, and it’s to try to help our players do everything they can to win a game.”

Miami Dolphins interim-head coach Dan Campbell, celebrates with players in the closing seconds of their game against the New England Patriots Sunday January 03, 2016 in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
Miami Dolphins interim-head coach Dan Campbell, celebrates with players in the closing seconds of their game against the New England Patriots Sunday January 03, 2016 in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

One particular former head coach, however, got a special compliment from Gase.

Addressing the strong pass protection that Dolphins tight end Dion Sims provided in Sunday’s win at Los Angeles, Gase said “any time you have a tight end that basically you feel good enough to where you go one-on-one versus a defensive end, that’s a pretty rare thing to have.

“I don’t know if I’ve had too many tight ends that have been able to do that. The last guy I actually can think of that I felt really comfortable when it was one-on-one was Dan Campbell. That shows you how long ago that was.”

Campbell, the Dolphins’ interim head coach for 12 games last season, spent a decade playing tight end in the NFL with the Giants, Cowboys and Lions. He was with Detroit in 2006 and 2007 when Gase was an offensive assistant to head coach Rod Marinelli, first as a quality control coach and then as the quarterbacks coach.

[FAU job was tough enough without Butch Davis moving next door]

[Making rookie Jared Goff wait is mistake Miami didn’t make with Tannehill]

[Might be final opportunity to see Brad Kaaya play at Hard Rock Stadium]

Campbell went 5-7 in Miami as the replacement for Joe Philbin. These days he is the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints. Wouldn’t be bad to see him back with the Dolphins some day if he doesn’t get another chance as a head coach.

Wouldn’t be a surprise, either.

Gase clearly was impressed with his toughness and attention to detail, and Campbell has come as close as any Dolphins coach ever will to matching Gase’s bold approach to the game.

 

Holding Rams’ Jared Goff on bench is mistake Miami didn’t make with Ryan Tannehill

The Dolphins are in Southern California the next couple of Sunday’s, facing teams that started out the careers of a couple of first-round quarterbacks far differently than Miami did with Ryan Tannehill.

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Quarterback Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams runs on to the field to play in the game against the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum on November 6, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – Quarterback Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams runs off the field after sitting out last Sunday’s loss to the Carolina Panthers at the Los Angeles Coliseum. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

First comes a game at San Diego, which in 2004 wanted to take Eli Manning first overall in the draft but couldn’t convince the Ole Miss star to come without a fight. The result was a trade with the Giants and the arrival of Philip Rivers in a Chargers uniform.

Rivers, built for the NFL at 6-feet-5 and 230 pounds, was the No. 4 pick in that draft. He didn’t start right away, though. Didn’t start until his third pro season, as a matter of fact, because Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer preferred to have the kid learn the ropes behind veteran Drew Brees.

Seems crazy now, but maybe it wasn’t. By the time Brees was gone to New Orleans and Rivers got his chance everything was synched up for a 14-2 season for the Chargers. Rivers was great then and he’s still pretty good, hitting 24-of-33 passes with a couple of touchdowns in a 43-35 shootout win over Tennessee last week.

Next on the schedule for Miami comes the Los Angeles Rams at Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 20. The Rams are 3-5 with Case Keenum at quarterback and due to be a free agent after the season.

Never mind that the franchise had the No. 1 overall pick in the last draft and used it on Cal quarterback Jared Goff. Gave up a ton of draft picks, too, in order to move into that spot.

Goff hasn’t thrown a pass in the first half of his rookie season, and if he’s in the lineup by the time Miami gets to town, it will be a surprise.

“As I say consistently, repeatedly, week after week, I’m pleased with Jared’s progress,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher said following Sunday’s 13-10 loss to Carolina.

Fisher is the coach many South Florida fans hoped would agree to coach the Dolphins in 2012 instead of Joe Philbin.

Is he being stubborn or smart in not moving toward the future of the Rams franchise and turning the offense over to Goff?

Probably overcautious is the answer, taking a page from a 20th-century playbook for coaches and organizations. That’s really not the ticket in L.A., which just got the Rams from St. Louis and needs a reason to fall in love with pro football again.

The Dolphins, on the other hand, didn’t wait with Tannehill, the No. 8 overall draft pick in 2012. He started the season opener of his rookie season, got intercepted three times in a 30-10 loss at Houston and just kept going. The idea was to let him learn under fire rather than letting some caretaker quarterback hold the spot until Tannehill was completely ready.

I had my doubts at the time, in large part because Philbin was a rookie head coach that year, too. It was the right move, though. When and if the Dolphins decide they have had enough of Tannehill, the experiment of drafting him will have been given every opportunity to succeed.

He may not be the elite quarterback that fans hoped, but he wouldn’t have gotten better by wasting time on the bench. And what would have been better in 2012, a 7-9 finish with Tannehill the potential savior or 8-8 with some guy everyone is booing?

Don Shula struggled with the same issue when the Dolphins took Dan Marino late in the first round of the 1983 draft. The future Hall of Famer didn’t start until the sixth game of this rookie season, and it was about time. Marino went 9-2 the rest of the way and got the Dolphins a division title.

[In 2009, Dolphins burned Jets with TD returns even worse than Drake did]

[Running out of time to see Brad Kaaya at Hard Rock Stadium]

[Overtime TD vs. Browns is what kept Ajayi from being lost in the shuffle]

David Woodley, even with a prior appearance in the Super Bowl, was never going to be a dominating franchise quarterback like that. Knowing that and acting on it were just matters of timing.

When you invest a first-round pick in a quarterback, the payoff may not come soon enough to please everyone but the collection of real-time data on that decision should be immediate. At least, that’s how it feels in the 21st-century NFL.

Here’s hoping that Goff will be in the lineup against the Dolphins in a few weeks. Makes it more interesting and besides, what’s Hollywood without a star?

Check out some of the top NFL head coaches who started out younger than Adam Gase

 

Maybe Adam Gase, 38, isn’t so young after all, based on a longer view of NFL history and some of the game’s most successful coaches.

We all know that Don Shula was 33 when he became the head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1963. That caused quite a stir, especially since he replaced Weeb Ewbank, 23 years his senior.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
DAVIE – Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase watches the players perform drills during practice at the team’s NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

A few other quick promotions didn’t work out so well, with Lane Kiffin at the top of the list. He was 31 when hired to coach the Oakland Raiders. Raheem Morris and David Shula were both 32 when they were handed NFL teams. Their combined record adds up to 41-98.

Here, though, is proof that it’s always the right time to find the right guy, no matter what is printed on his birth certificate.

The following coaches worked their first seasons as NFL head coaches at the following ages.

33 – Don Shula, John Madden

35 – Jon Gruden, Mike Tomlin

36 – Tom Landry, Mike Shanahan, Hank Stram

37 – Chuck Noll

38 – Paul Brown

39 – Bill Belichick

40 – Bud Grant

41 – Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy

42 – Bill Parcells

Of course, patience is a factor in letting young coaches grow into their roles.

Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season with the Dallas Cowboys and didn’t post a winning record until his seventh year.

Belichick and Noll needed four years to field their first winning teams.

[As training camps open, do you know where former Dolphins coaches are?]

[Gase faces toughest schedule among first-time NFL head coaches]

[Confident Jim McElwain is remaking Florida Gators again]

Gruden won pretty quickly at Oakland but got fired anyway. Then he went to Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl.

Since Stephen Ross has a reputation for giving his head coaching hires more than enough time to turn the corner, Gase at least has a fighting chance.

Most interesting in relation to Gase’s rookie season with the Dolphins is the fact that only two of the big names listed above had any previous head coaching experience.

Parcells had one 3-8 season as coach of the Air Force Academy.

Grant won four Grey Cup titles as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before the Minnesota Vikings hired him, and he was 30 on the day he ran the show at his first CFL game.

Of course, it’s all up to Gase to show what he can do personally in this particular circumstance, but we probably won’t be focusing in on his age much longer.

Tony Sparano was 47 and Joe Philbin was 51 when they were hired to coach the Dolphins. Being older and supposedly wiser didn’t make champions of them.

As training camps open, do you know where your former Dolphins’ head coaches are?

 

From the where-are-they-now department, here’s a reminder of where all those recent Miami Dolphins head coaches will be for the opening of training camp.

Joe Philbin is the assistant head coach and offensive line coach for the Indianapolis Colts.

Dan Campbell is the assistant head coach and tight ends coach for the New Orleans Saints.

Head coach Todd Bowles before the game with the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park on December 18,2011.
Former Miami interim head coach Todd Bowles before the game with the Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park on December 18,2011.

Todd Bowles, of course, is head coach of the New York Jets, still trying to figure out what to do with Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Tony Sparano is the offensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings.

The question is will any of these guys be in the playoffs this season while new Dolphins coach Adam Gase remain on the outside?

I’m guessing Sparano has the best chance, followed by Bowles, Philbin and Campbell.

They’re all good, hard-working pros but Stephen Ross correctly moved on in each case.

Don’t see Philbin as a future head coach, though. If the Colts greatly improve, it will be because of Andrew Luck and everyone will know it. Philbin already got too much credit for Green Bay’s offensive success with Aaron Rodgers.

Bowles has got a great temperament as a head coach and would have good for the Dolphins if they had chosen him instead of Philbin.

Sparano will probably pop up again one day as head coach of, say, the Titans or the Texans. These guys seem to cycle around, no matter their success level. Campbell wouldn’t surprise if he was head coach of the Cowboys some day.

Amazing that the list of former Dolphins coaches has grown this long, and we’re not even talking about Nick Saban and Cam Cameron, both of them back on campus.

For a quarter century Don Shula had an iron grip on this job, and it seemed he would never let go.

 

Rate the Adam Gase offseason buzz against other Dolphins coaching debuts

It’s pretty exciting having a new coach with the Miami Dolphins. Fresh ideas. Great expectations. And then there’s that undefeated 0-0 record.

Where, though, do you rate the buzz level on Adam Gase compared to other coaches who have come this way since the departure of Don Shula?

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
DAVIE – Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team’s training facility on Monday. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

I’m talking about how many people you meet who are talking about the Dolphins with less than 100 days before the season opener, and how many times you have checked in to see what Gase is saying or doing at OTA’s, just in case he’s right about a lot of stuff and Miami is about to make some noise.

Here’s my list in order, from (A)South Florida is crazy-go-nuts over the Dolphins’ new direction to (Z) South Florida is stuck somewhere between ambivalent over what’s coming up and fast asleep in the midst of the offseason lull.

 

  1. Jimmy Johnson – 1996 – He had Super Bowl-winning credentials plus a high Miami profile as former coach of the national champion Hurricanes. Also there was the mystery of what the Dolphins would feel and look like without Shula leading them onto the field for the first time in 26 years.
  2. Nick Saban – 2005 – He was a championship coach at LSU, not to mention previous NFL experience as Bill Belichick’s defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns. A proven winner who had been given full control of the Dolphins operation and was ready to make the move up from college ball.
  3. Adam Gase – 2016 – Hey, an aggressive head coach who calls his own plays rather than standing around with one hand on the red challenge flag and hoping his staff is on point with the game plan. If Ryan Tannehill ever is going to take off, this should be the year.
  4. Dave Wannstedt – 2000 – Raw deal being the one who had to tell Dan Marino his time was up, but on the other hand he was Jimmy’s hand-picked successor and a trusted partner during great years with the Hurricanes and the Cowboys. Handed a playoff team in Miami, he figured to do fine.
  5. Cam Cameron – 2007 – Sure, this seems completely out of whack now, but that summer Cameron was viewed as the offensive wizard behind San Diego’s high-scoring teams and one of the top coordinators available around the league. If you’re drawing comparisons to Gase, just stop.
  6. Tony Sparano – 2008 – Nobody knew a thing about this guy but Bill Parcells was newly in charge of the Dolphins and he wanted Sparano after working together in Dallas so that was good enough. Most of all, whoever served as head coach immediately after Cameron was going to shine.
  7. Joe Philbin – 2012 – This one was puzzling from the start, and Philbin certainly wasn’t helped by everybody knowing the Dolphins really wanted Jeff Fisher. Joe was helped by coming from Green Bay but hurt by the fact he was a coordinator who didn’t call plays. No outward intensity either.

[One last quick look at all those great Doral moments]

[There’s really no such thing as a simple summer for Dwyane Wade]

[A modest proposal for spicing up Dolphins OTA workouts]

Mix and match these names as you wish. The big thing is it’s good to get a fresh look at the Dolphins. Sooner or later, if only by accident, this franchise needs to start winning again.

Adam Gase showing signs of openness that did not come naturally to Philbin

[cmg_cinesport url=”http://cinesport.palmbeachpost.com/embed/palm-beach-nfl-miami-dolphins/miami-dolphins-draft-needs/”%5D

Of course, we’re just getting to know new Miami Dolphins coach Adam Gase. There are some good signs, though, that his conversation with players will be more open and comfortable than it was for Joe Philbin.

Joe’s personality is his own, with a New Englander’s dry wit just below the surface. As Dolphins coach, he strived to keep his players focused on the job at hand, each drill, each walk-through, each play in each game. Not a bad idea, but there was a disconnect between Philbin and his team leaders, as proven in the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying flap.

Dolphins new head coach Adam Gase is introduced at Dolphins training camp facility in Davie, FL on Jan. 9, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Dolphins new head coach Adam Gase is introduced at Dolphins training camp facility in Davie, FL on Jan. 9, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Also, Philbin worked hard to loosen up and bond with his team but it sometimes came off as just another task to be checked off the weekly list. A wacky dance to get guys giggling at a coaches’ talent show, a sardonic comment to break the tension in a team meeting, and then right back to stoic, stone-faced Joe.

Clearly, it didn’t come all that naturally, and Philbin even said at the beginning of mini-camp in 2014 that he was going to work harder on communication with players as part of learning how to be the best head coach possible.

“I think you see a more relaxed coach Philbin than I’ve ever seen before – a guy who is willing to listen to the players, listen to suggestions and put them into action,” Ryan Tannehill said at the time. “Last year and the year before, some suggestions got shot down pretty quickly. Now, he’s hearing us out.”

Great, but by then more than half of Philbin’s three-and-a-quarter seasons as coach were already gone.

Gase, too, is a first-time NFL head coach with plenty to learn about particular facets of his job that probably haven’t even occurred to him yet. Getting to know his players, however, does not seem to be a problem, and neither does showing a level of enthusiasm that will help to motivate them.

Speaking at the NFL’s annual meetings in Boca Raton, Gase sounded like he’s already made himself at home at the Dolphins’ training facility, and is getting players comfortable with having him around. That takes a little extra work during a period in the NFL calendar when coaches and players aren’t supposed to be doing much more than bumping into each other in the hallway.

“That’s the hardest part right now about where we are at in the dead period,” Gase said. “You can’t talk football. The thing you can do is you can at least, if you see a guy in the building, you can have a conversation just about general topics. You avoid any kind of football conversation but just kind of get to learn these guys as people.

“ ‘Hey, what do they like to do? What are they about? What kind of guy are they?’ So, that’s really what, at least, I try to do is try to learn these guys, which is a first step in developing a good relationship with our players. That’s the nice thing about being in Miami is we have a lot of guys that don’t leave. They stay here. I think it’s good to know that our guys are at least in the area.”

[Here’s proof that Larranaga knows how to beat Villanova]

[Simplest measure to tell if Dolphins hired the right coach]

[Dolphins never really took the wrapper off Lamar Miller]

One of the guys who doesn’t live here year-round is the uncommonly reserved Ndamukong Suh, but there are signs that he and Gase are making important connections, too.

“He (Suh) has been in multiple times to just come in and talk to me,” Gase said. “I mean, you can’t talk football. He just kind of talks to me about what he’s kind of up to during the spring. To see him be around the building and to pop in and out, I know he’s on the West Coast a lot and it’s a long flight for him. I’ve enjoyed my interaction with him so I’m excited to see him practice.”

That comes later, but the progress Gase already is making in figuring out what makes his players tick may eventually turn out to be just as important.

The Dolphins never really took the wrapper off Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller averaged less than 11 carries per game during his four years with the Miami Dolphins. In college at Miami he averaged only 14.5.

You could say that he’s a lot fresher than most NFL running backs are at 25, because that’s what Miller will be when he opens the next season in the backfield of the Houston Texans.

Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26), runs over New York Giants free safety Landon Collins (21), on second quarter action for his second touchdown of the first half during NFL game Monday December 14, 2015 at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
MIAMI GARDENS – Former Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller (26), runs over New York Giants free safety Landon Collins (21) for a touchdown during Dec. 14, 2015 game at Sun Life Stadium. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Or you could say that Miller has yet to prove himself as such a workhorse of a back that coaches can’t wait to utilize in the first quarter or the fourth.

Either way, Texans general manager Rick Smith is ready to take the wrapper off both Miller and his team’s new quarterback, Brock Osweiler, who started just seven games in four seasons at Denver as Peyton Manning’s backup and never would have played at all if Peyton hadn’t gotten injured.

Gotta start somewhere. After all, Smith himself was the youngest GM in the league when the Texans promoted him to that position at the age of 36 a decade ago.

This youth movement might seem a little strange for a franchise that reached the playoffs last year. Houston is coming off a 9-7 season. After all, if the Dolphins of Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin were in the same position, they’d be thinking about tweaking, not torching, the lineup.

Only in the case of Ryan Tannehill, who started from the first game of his rookie season, has Miami really placed the future of the organization in the hands of a young player to see what he could do under fire.

Oh, you have your occasional Jarvis Landry making an early impact, but he had to play his way into the lineup. Not until Week 5 of Landry’s rookie season did he get a start, even though it was clear that Brian Hartline and Brandon Gibson were never going to track down as many balls or score as many touchdowns as the kid from LSU.

Ja’Wuan James started right off the bat as a rookie in Miami but he was a first-round draft pick and an offensive lineman. When you invest that much into a player at a position of desperate need, he’d have to be a total bum to sit the bench.

Hopefully new Dolphins coach Adam Gase will be bolder and more demanding with the young players given him, whether they’re draft picks or free agents.

What would he have done with Dion Jordan. How could it have turned out worse than babying the kid the way Philbin and his staff did, worrying that he didn’t have all of his responsibilities down?

[Mario Williams is better than Olivier Vernon, period]

[Crowd roars and growls as MLB returns to Cuba]

[Zo taught Pat Riley not to wait on answers from Chris Bosh]

We’re going to find out now about Miller and Osweiler in Houston, and if it turns out right they’ll both be in the playoffs for the first time next January. That would be closer to their full potential.

With Miller in Miami, where the coaching was cautious and the blocking mediocre, we never really knew what that might be.

It’s not true that Joe Philbin never called plays during his Packer days

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.

Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, (L), chats with Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after the Packers defeated the Fins 27-24 during NFL game Oct. 12, 2014 at Sun Life stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, (L), chats with Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy after the Packers defeated Miami 27-24 during NFL game Oct. 12, 2014 at Sun Life stadium in Miami Gardens. (Bill Ingram / Palm Beach Post)

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.

[Fun to know Dolphins are returning to LA Coliseum, site of Perfect Season’s Super Bowl]

[Richt had another of Saban’s Alabama national championship teams right in his sights]

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.

Dan Campbell has luxury that Todd Bowles didn’t as Dolphins interim coach

 

 

Todd Bowles was 2-1 as Miami’s interim coach at the end of the 2011 season but didn’t get much time to see what else he could do with the Dolphins.

Too bad, because he might have been a solid long-term answer, and probably more productive than Joe Philbin turned out to be.

Head coach Todd Bowles in the snow in the first quarter in the game with the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park on December 18,2011.
Former Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles in the snow in a game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 18, 2011. (Photo by Joe Rimkus, Miami Herald)

Now Dan Campbell is 2-1 in the same interim position with the rare opportunity to ride it out for nine more games. If he’s looking to make it stick as Miami’s head coach in 2016, it will take something special.

Losing at Buffalo on Sunday? Nothing special about that if it turns out that way. Philbin made it an annual practice.

Toggling back and forth between strong efforts and weak ones to finish around .500 or just below it as a head coach? Yeah, that was another Philbin fault, and Campbell needs to separate himself from that trend if he wants to be seen as more than a caretaker of a coach.

How about building a winning record within the AFC East? Philbin couldn’t do it in his first three seasons and was off to an 0-2 start in the division in 2015 when the Dolphins fired him.

Funny thing is, Bowles scored well in all of these categories but former Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland and team owner Stephen Ross still didn’t have enough faith in his leadership.

Bowles’ first game as Dolphins interim coach was a 30-23 win at Buffalo. How’s that for a brawny debut?

He built a winning record, too, and did it exclusively within the AFC East with victories over the Bills and Jets and a tough 27-24 road loss to the Patriots, who went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.

Makes you think that the Dolphins quit too soon on Bowles, if they ever really took him seriously at all. Now he’s 4-3 as the Jets’ rookie coach, with a 27-14 London win over Miami included.

Also makes it clear that for all the good Campbell has brought to the team in terms of attitude and aggressive play, he still hasn’t done enough to stop Mike Tannenbaum and Dennis Hickey from looking around for a surer bet as head coach.

[Time has come for UM to start monitoring Mark Richt’s situation at Georgia]

[Thinking back on Doug Betters, when a sack was a sack]

[Dan Campbell, true believer and quote machine, on the majesty of football]

Consider Miami’s 36-7 drubbing at New England last week. It wasn’t even a game.

When Bowles went to Foxborough as the Dolphins’ interim coach, he had the team ready to compete. Matt Moore, nobody’s franchise quarterback, passed for three touchdowns that day. Reggie Bush rushed for 113 yards and Brandon Marshall totaled 143 yards in receptions.

So far Campbell’s Dolphins have delivered that kind of production against a couple of lesser teams in Tennessee and Houston. Of course, he has time to get it rolling against tougher competition, and across a couple of months.

My focus, though, will be on what he does against division opponents specifically.

At Buffalo on Sunday.

At the Jets on Nov. 29.

Against New England in the Jan. 3 season finale at home.

If Campbell can push those guys around, that would be pretty strong evidence that he can find his way to the playoffs one day as Miami’s coach.

If he can’t, well, no other NFL interim could ever say he got a fairer, longer opportunity to demonstrate just how special he is.