A couple of weeks ago Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, disgusted by the team's sixth loss of the season, mentioned that perhaps it was time to start playing younger players and think about who is going to be on the team in 2013.
A lot of coaches go that route once the losses mount and the current season seems little more than a formality for getting to next season.
Don't expect Joe Philbin to do that.
Even if the Dolphins lose on Sunday as the oddsmakers expect; indeed even with the Dolphins record falling back to 5-8, Philbin is apparently going to continue playing his veterans if he stays true to his philosophy.
“Really, play time’s based on players have to have earn play time and they earn it through what they do on the practice field<' Philbin said Thursday. "If players earn the opportunity to play, we’ll certainly play them whatever year they are, it doesn’t really matter to us what year they are.
"I’m a big believer… I think when you walk into the room with those guys, it’s not fair to play a guy, people have to earn their keep and I don’t care what year you’re in the league. Those guys that bust their tail every day, we’re not going to put somebody in the game that doesn’t deserve to be in the game or hasn’t earned an opportunity to be in the game."
I get it. This is a perfectly reasonable and fair approach.
Philbin wants tell his team that the only way to play is to practice well. He doesn't want to reward subpar practices. He wants to play guys that make him the most comfortable and the coaching staff gains that comfort level by watching what happens in practice.
It is a perfectly logical approach.
Football is a game of adaptation and not logic. The ball does not bounce logically. The best team does not always win. Good plans that logically should succeed often go awry. And the people that come out ahead are those that adapt quickest not those that offer the most logic.
Thus, the idea of sticking to the stated philosophy works when the season is salvagable and all things and the goal for the entire organization is winning in the present. But when winning in the present is no longer the most vital thing, when doing what is best for the future of the organization becomes more important, all that logic and unwavering philosophy about whomever practices best plays should be cast aside.
It is smart to adapt and consider that certain players who might not be the best in practice now might become your best performers in the future. The Dolphins obviously believe running back Lamar Miller is such a player.
He is a rookie. He has promise. But Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas are both practicing better and obviously playing more because coaches are more comfortable with them, because they get more chances in practices and because Miller needs to improve his pass protection.
“I think he’s going to be a good football player in this league," Philbin said. "He’s got good instincts as a runner. He’s got good balance. He can catch the football. I think he has a chance to be a very good pass protector eventually too. I really do. He’s got good feet. He can bend. I’m excited about him.”“I think he’s going to be a good football player in this league. He’s got good instincts as a runner. He’s got good balance. He can catch the football. I think he has a chance to be a very good pass protector eventually too. I really do. He’s got good feet. He can bend. I’m excited about him.”
Well then, when the relevance of this season becomes what is going to happen next season, then the Dolphins coaches should consider putting those feet and all that bending ability to work. Like immediately.
Would that make Reggie Bush upset? Would it upset veterans?
Look, Bush was upset about sitting after that fumble against Tennessee, although he understands that's the business. He's not all that thrilled that the team has not had any contracts talks with his agent, although he understands that's the business.
He'd probably not be happy about giving up snaps to Miller, but he would understand that is the business.
Tight end Michael Egnew is in a similar situation as Miller. He's behind players that are better than he is today. Both Anthony Fasano and Charles Clay practice better than Egnew on most days -- be it in that they make fewer mistakes, or block better or make more catches.
But eventually the Dolphins need to know what they have in Egnew. They can't keep putting off the need to find a tight end to help rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the red zone and down the seam of the defense.
Maybe Egnew isn't that guy. Maybe he is that guy. The point is we might soon need to get about the business of finding out.
Would that upset Fasano or Clay, either of whom might get fewer snaps in games? Maybe. But it wouldn't be an issue if they were more productive. If they were the sure answers, the Dolphins wouldn't have drafted Egnew and no one would even mention him. So ... next!
Now, I am only a journalist. I suppose the Dolphins coaching staff could ignore these suggestions. They could scoff at the idea of someone who doesn't know football like they do suggesting they start looking ahead with players that ar younger and need experience.
But, I remind you, Mike Shanahan three weeks ago was preparing to do the very thing I'm suggesting. And he's won two Super Bowl trophies as a head coach. And that's more than any Dolphins coach can say.