Surviving December collapses defined the Joe Philbin era in Miami. Unfortunately for Philbin, he could not survive an early-season collapse, as the Dolphins fired their head coach Monday after a disappointing 1-3 start.
Omar Kelly of the Sun-Sentinel was first to report the decision, while Ian Rapoport of NFL Network noted defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle was also expected to leave the franchise. However, Albert Breer of NFL.com reported Coyle is "still employed and going about his job."
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross confirmed the decision to part ways with Philbin in a statement, via Alain Poupart of Dolphins.com:
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. 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.
Philbin also issued his own statement after his dismissal, via Poupart:
I want to thank Steve Ross for allowing me the privilege to serve as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins. 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 fanbase 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.
Dan Campbell, the team's tight ends coach, was named interim head coach by the franchise in an announcement made after Philbin's firing.
"He brings leadership, toughness, and energy," executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said of Campbell at a press conference, via Kelly.
Campbell also spoke about his goals for the remainder of the season, saying: "I'm not here just to finish the season out," per Kelly. "That's not my plan. We're coming here to win games."
Jeff Darlington of the NFL Network captured the reaction of one member of the organization on the decision to go with Campbell: "Dan Campbell is not just a good hire. It's a GREAT hire."
Philbin, 54, went 24-28 in four seasons with the Dolphins. His tenure was largely defined by middling performances, as the team finished 7-9 or 8-8 in his first three years. In both 2013 and 2014, disappointing Decembers—Miami was 7-8 overall in the month under Philbin—cost the team a playoff spot and put him on the hot seat.
That seat was ablaze after the Dolphins started this year 1-3, winning their first game against Washington before dropping their next three. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill is showing marked signs of regression after appearing to be on the verge of a breakout in 2014, and high-profile signings such as Ndamukong Suh haven't worked out.
Despite the team's struggles, Tannenbaum said the franchise can "still accomplish all our goals this year," via Around the NFL.
After Sunday's 27-14 loss to the New York Jets in London, the writing was on the wall. Luckily, Miami has a Week 5 bye to deal with the travel, so Ross and his team have time to adjust to the coming changes.
Philbin previously served as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Packers, working his way up from an assistant offensive line position to offensive coordinator. Though he was billed as vital to the development of Aaron Rodgers, he could not work the same magic with Tannehill, the Dolphins' first-round pick in 2012.
Tannehill is far from a bust, but his inability to develop into a reliable downfield passer hamstrung the Miami offense. The Dolphins are 26th in Football Outsiders' DVOA formula, a drop from eighth in 2014. Their offense has been below average in three of Philbin's four seasons, perhaps the most damning mark on his resume.
Following Philbin's firing, Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post relayed information from a team source who detailed the "tension" within the team regarding its signal-caller:
On Saturday during practice, Tannehill, after a couple of practice squad players forced turnovers, made negative comments toward them, including saying: “Enjoy your practice squad paycheck, enjoy your practice squad trophy.”
Sources say this has been going on for the past few weeks as the practice squad players have been intercepting Tannehill and frustrating the former Texas A&M wide receiver turned quarterback. ...
Philbin told the practice squad players to take it easy on Tannehill to not affect the young quarterback’s confidence.
With Campbell now at the helm, he's planning on making changes, noting he wasn't happy with the team's practices, per Judy Battista of NFL.com. He also said he doesn't want dirty players, "but we're going to walk that line," according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today.
Defensive struggles were also apparent all over the field despite efforts to fortify the roster with high-profile veterans. Suh is without a sack in his first season in Miami after signing a nine-figure contract this offseason, and opposing quarterbacks had a 95.8 passer rating against the Dolphins secondary.
Expect Ross to go high-profile with his next hire. Ross reportedly wanted Jim Harbaugh last season, per CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora, and will want an established name to go with what looks like a solid roster on paper.
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