The immediate future is sealed for Joe Philbin, who got the big endorsement for 2015 from owner Stephen Ross. The immediate future is sealed for general manager Dennis Hickey, who obviously has done nothing to deserve even scrutiny about whether he should return. And, as I write in my column in today's Miami Herald, Ryan Tannehill has earned his ongoing spot as the Dolphins quarterback.
I could make the argument Tannehill is better at what he does and has improved with on-the-job training than either the owner or the head coach.
And that brings us to the ripple effects of the Ross decision he announced Sunday.
With Philbin assured of coming back, it raises the question about what assistants the head coach will be bringing back. Philbin is not big on change and fought hard last season to try to keep offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and even offensive line coach Jim Turner when it was clear to anyone with eyes both had to go.
It is pretty clear now Philbin needs to continue upgrading his coaching staff with a better defensive coordinator. But my guess is the coach is going to stand behind defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle.
This even if as the facts say Coyle's defense has regressed every season he's been the DC in Miami.
Consider that Sunday's 37-35 victory was the fourth time this season the Dolphins have allowed 30 points or more. The Patriots scored 41 last week. The Broncos scored 39. The Chiefs scored 34 points.
And now the Dolphins have allowed 336 points with one game left to play. So with one game to play the defense has already allowed more points than it did last year. The problem is last year the defense allowed more points than the year before. And the year before it allowed more points than the year before.
So the defense has allowed more points than the previous year each year Coyle has been in charge. That is, by any standard, is heading in the wrong direction with the most important statistic of all -- points.
Fact is the Dolphins this year allowed their most points since 2009 -- the year then defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni was fired when his unit gave up 390 points.
The Dolphins have given up the third most points of any AFC East team, which doesn't sound terrible until you realize there's only four teams in the division. They've yielded the most rushing TDs (12) in the division as well.
And overall the Dolphins have the No. 18 scoring defense in the NFL.
The bar graph of Miami's ranking in this category? Headed in the wrong direction.
The Dolphins were sixth in scoring defense in 2011 under Mike Nolan as the DC. They were seventh in scoring defense in Coyle's first year in 2012. They were eighth in scoring defense last season. And, again, 18th this year.
The statistics suggest what was once a playoff-caliber defense needs mending now. The anecdotal information might go further. It says the Miami defense is broken.
Even in games they didn't yield over 30 points, the Miami defense has given up fourth-quarter scores that led to losses against Detroit, Denver, and Baltimore. This unit also often gives up scores on opponent drives following scores by the Miami offense -- as happened multiple times on Sunday.
And there should be other worries that suggest things might get worse unless significant work is done to address the unit.
To begin, the Dolphins have uncertainty on defense because some of the highest-paid players are not performing up to their salaries. Phillip Wheeler, Dannell Ellerbe, Randy Starks and Cortland Finnegan may all be cap casualties because all are highly paid but the return on that investment may not be considered worthy of the cap space.
Then the Dolphins have some younger defensive players who are pretty good and want a raise. Jared Odrick is a pending free agent and Olivier Vernon, while signed through 2015, is going to want a contract extension next year. So they're likely to eat more cap space than they did this year or, in Odrick's case, move on altogether.
Age? It hasn't caught up to either Brent Grimes or Cameron Wake yet. They are probably the defense's biggest stars. But Grimes will be 32 next season and Wake will be 33.
The coaching staff, meanwhile, has failed to fully develop younger players such as Jamar Fletcher Taylor and Dion Jordan who should be already pushing Grimes and Wake were the team's draft day plans of 2013 becoming fruitful. (Personally, I don't see Taylor as being a starter caliber guys so I don't blame coaches for him, but I see stardom in Jordan if he'd only be used correctly so that's on the coaching staff).
And then there's the feel stuff:
The Koa Misi experiment at middle linebacker was a shoulder shrug at best.
The continued dependence on Jimmy Wilson as the slot corner felt better a year ago than at the end of this year.
This unit feels like it should be lining up in a 3-4 instead of a 4-3 to make maximize Jordan as an OLB instead of asking him to play out of position at DE and turn Odrick into the 3-4 end he was drafted in the first round to be. Mitchell would play at NT. Starks went to the Pro Bowl as a 3-4 DE. Misi and Ellerbe (if he's brought back) can play inside backers.
Coyle won't do it. He's a 4-3 guy through and through. And Philbin will likely stay comfortable with that.
But everything about this defense screams that something is wrong. It has been trending poorly for a couple of years and now it is full blown wrong direction mode. The Miami defense is regressing.
So what will the Dolphins do about it?