A beleaguered Joe Philbin stepped to the post-game podium late Sunday night and refused to point fingers. He said the last thing his team could should do was point fingers and blame other people.
We’ve got two ways to go," Philbin said. "We can start saying,"‘You’re the problem, I’m the problem, he’s the problem, we’re the problem’, or, ‘We’ll work together and come up with some solutions and play better football.'"
And that sounds good in theory.
But in practice the problems the Dolphins face now don't seem to have either easy solutions or plausible patches. The Dolphins right now are the Titanic. And moving around deck chairs isn't going to keep this thing from going under.
And why do I say this?
Because the Dolphins seem fundamentally flawed on multiple levels.
Level No. 1 -- Ownership. I wondered, as the Buffalo Bills were lighting up his team, what owner Stephen Ross was thinking. I wondered because while it might be fair to believe he was disappointed or frustrated or even angry that this is how this team performed in its first regular season game in the renovated Sun Life, maybe Ross was going totally opposite to the thinking of a normal person. After all, Ross did exactly that last December when right in the middle of a late-season collapse in which the Dolphins lost three of their final four games, Ross gave Philbin a one-year contract extension. Everyone was expecting the Miami owner to put his coach on blast at the end of the season and either fire him or seriously consider firing him. And yet, Ross gave Philbin somewhere between $2-$4 million more for his 1-3 efforts at season's end.
The very idea stretches logic. And so does this one:
If, barring a miraculous recovery by these Dolphins, Ross finds it necessary to go coach hunting after this season, I tell you here and now that exercise is already doomed. Why?
Because Ross, for all his real estate acumen and his degrees from his beloved Michigan, has committed the same mistake over and over again and is about to do it again. And that mistake guarantees that Ross cannot hire the right people for jobs he is offering.
That mistake is forcing shotgun weddings upon potential new candidates for any significant Miami job.
Consider that when Ross fired coach Tony Sparano he made the mistake of keeping Jeff Ireland as the general manager. So instead of starting fresh, Ross had to tell potential coaching candidates they had to work with a GM that was already in place.
Within a couple of years Ireland and new coach Joe Philbin were feuding while not winning. So Ross fired Ireland. And then he committed the same mistake by keeping Philbin. So now he had to force Philbin upon an incoming GM. And, of course, several GM candidates declined the job or bowed out of the process.
And after hiring GM Dennis Hickey, Ross determined that Hickey couldn't run the organization's personnel department by himself. So this offseason he heaped both Philbin and Hickey upon new football czar Mike Tannenbaum.
And if this trio fails this year, Philbin will be gone. Maybe Hickey will be gone, although that is not certain. But it is a practical certainty Tannenbaum will remain. And so Ross will force the next incoming coach and perhaps general manager to accept Tannenbaum.
That means Sean Payton -- on the long shot chance he's even available -- will not be interested in coming to the Ross circus in Miami. It means no coach of high reputation will really be interested in Miami. Why? Because Ross continues to do the same thing over and over, expecting a different outcome. He refuses to clean house and start anew.
Level 2. Coaching. The owner refuses to get it right, is there any wonder his first hire -- Philbin -- does the same? Look, Kevin Coyle should have been fired at the end of last year. He'd had three years. He'd failed to make the Miami defense better even one of those years. Yet Philbin could not bring himself to fire the defensive coordinator, much the same way he didn't really want to fire former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman.
It just seems that Philbin comes from the viewpoint that players either make plays or they don't and that coaches aren't going to make that big a difference as long as they didn't really bungle the week of preparation or the management of the game.
But much of the NFL comes at it from a different viewpoint and that is a coach should put his players in a position to succeed. And if that coach discovers the player failed when he's in the position to succeed, he has to take an active role in making that player much better or finding a replacement.
Give me the list of players who have become better under Kevin Coyle? It's late. I can't think of any right now. I'm sure the list is not long.
So the owner refused to fire the head coach and the head coach refused to fire the defensive coordinator and the problems that manifested at the end of last season on defense are rearing their heads again now.
Oh, by the way, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's group has regressed so far this year. They scored two touchdowns in a game Sunday matching the output last week. It wasn't good enough last week and it wasn't good enough again this week, particularly when one understands the offense also gave up a TD on a pick six.
Finally, how great is this coaching staff, really? I mean, who is the rising star on this staff? Who is the next head coach in waiting?
The fact I'm asking you this rhetorically rather than giving you a list of possible interim head coaches should tell you something.
Level 3: The personnel decisions of the past offseason don't look too awesome right now.
Ndamukong Suh signed a $114 million contract. Has he been dynamic? Has he affected the outcome of any game? Has he made a difference? No. No. No.
So far the investment is returning very little dividends.
Maybe instead of a defensive tackle that gets paid like a quarterback, the Dolphins might have been better served by finding a cornerback and a safety that got paid like good corners and safeties do. Suddenly, Brice McCain isn't starting but playing the slot in sub packages. Suddenly, nobody is thinking about Walt Aikens.
Ryan Tannehill got a $96 million contract extension this offseason. The Dolphins didn't need to do that. They could have waited to see what Tannehill was going to do in the final year of his rookie contract. They already had a fifth-year option guaranteed for injury on him. And they had the trump card of a franchise tag after that. In other words, Tannehill wasn't going anywhere if the Dolphins didn't want it.
And yet they paid him anyway. The Colts haven't paid Andrew Luck but the Dolphins stepped out on Tannehill before he proved he's a fully formed franchise QB. And, I get it, I think the kid does indeed check a lot of boxes and he's going to be fine. But I remind you that on the small chance it doesn't work out, it wasn't a deal the Dolphins had to do.
The Kenny Stills trade for a third-round pick? Not looking tpo good at this point. Stills has three catches for 20 yards. He didn't catch a pass Sunday. So what was the vision for Stills when that trade was made? Because whatever the vision was, it needs corrective lenses right now.
Greg Jennings? Folks, he is a great person. So I suppose he'll understand that he needs to fade into the background and the Dolphins need to give DeVante Parker more snaps. Parker needs to start for this team. Period. No excuses.
Jennings does not.
And, by the way, I did not say Parker needs to continue to be worked in slowly. He's the first-round pick. He is the future. The future needs to begin immediately because the present is not feeling very good for this team.
As I wrote in my column in today's Miami Herald everyone is on the hot seat now. This is going to be an ugly week.