7-9. 8-8. 8-8. The records posted by the Miami Dolphins under the first three seasons of head coach Joe Philbin. As you may have guessed by looking at those numbers, none of the three records were good enough for a postseason berth. Surprisingly, however, the Dolphins missed the playoffs by just one game each of the last two seasons. Ultimately, this was a result of the poor coaching down the stretch (and earlier in the year too) by Philbin. This season, his fate should rely solely on whether or not he gets this extremely talented team to the postseason for the first time since 2008.
While many watched the Miami front office (and a good amount of fans) celebrate last year’s Week 16 comeback win over the Minnesota Vikings to enter the final week of the season 8-7, I was still seething at the fact that the Miami Dolphins would not be making the postseason for yet another season, despite finding themselves in the perfect position to do so. They blew two straight games (much like the season before where they lost to the Jets and Bills in the final two weeks of the season) to virtually miss the playoffs by one game. Nobody commented on the fact that the Vikings torched the Dolphins’ defense for over 350 yards of offense with a rookie quarterback. Or that the Dolphins needed to block a punt in overtime to win beat a losing team. The Vikings were 5-9 heading into that game for crying out loud. But no, we celebrated the narrow win like we had just one a playoff game. We celebrated like we did in 2007, when the Dolphins beat the Baltimore Ravens to avoid a 0-16 season. While Stephen Ross smiled and sent high-fives all around, I could not help but thinking that the celebration of a meaningless game had become the identity of this seemingly lost franchise.
My fears were confirmed just moments later, when Ross announced following the “big win” that the Dolphins would be keeping Joe Philbin for at least one more year. I was disgusted at the thought of having to sit through another sixteen games of mediocrity. It only made matters worse when the Dolphins were embarrassed on their home field by the then 3-12 New York Jets the following weekend, as Rex Ryan sent ecstatic fist-pumps down Miami’s throat on his way out of the Jets’ organization. He knew he would not be retained and yet still led his team to victory, while the Dolphins simply were outplayed behind their emotionless coach. That made the thought of another season with Philbin almost unbearable to fathom. It was the icing on the cake to see Rex Ryan stay in the division, becoming the head coach of an already loaded Bills defense.
What does this rant have to do with Joe Philbin and this team heading into the upcoming season? This absolutely has to be Joe Philbin’s final strike. And by strike, I mean no playoffs, no more head coaching job in Miami. There are simply no more excuses. He has one of the league’s best offensive coordinators (when he actually lets him call the plays) in Bill Lazor. He has a fourth year starting quarterback who has managed to grow each year in production despite shackles like being unable to audible, or having a pre-snap count that even the pretzel salesman on row four knows. Philbin has in his arsenal one of the best defensive lines in the team’s history led by the arguably the most impactful defensive player in the game in Ndamukong Suh. As if that wasn’t enough, the Dolphins also face one of their more favorable schedules in years, boosted by a four game suspension of the one of the league’s best quarterbacks and division rival.
Combine all of these things, throw in more youth and talent at the receiver and running back positions, and the Dolphins have to make the playoffs this season right? You can feel it. It is right there. This is the year when Joe Philbin won’t call the safe play on 3rd and 8 resulting in Aaron Rodgers getting the ball back with over two minutes left to play. He will make the gutsy calls necessary to produce a big time win late in the season. This is the year where the Dolphins will finally beat the Jets or Bills by posting more than seven points in two games and make the playoffs! Basically, this is it for Joe Philbin (at least in my mind). It is now or never for the fourth year coach.
Joe Philbin, take this team to the playoffs, or take your talents away from South Beach.