The Dolphins won their season-opener on Sunday. They have a 1-0 record and are tied for the AFC East division lead.
And coach Joe Philbin has a problem.
That's because the Dolphins head coach has at least three players who are quite unhappy even after the Dolphins are coming off a 23-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
You already know that receiver Mike Wallace was unhappy after the game and I have confirmed through a source close to the WR that he was livid because he fact he didn't get a pass thrown his way in the first half and it got little better in the second half.
Wallace actually declined to speak because he didn't want to throw coaches under the bus. But despite his effort to not make waves, Wallace's actions -- an obvious display of displeasure over the way he was used -- show he's a problem now.
How else to describe a player who pouts after his team wins?
Then there's Randy Starks. He is not a happy camper either, although he played very, very well on Sunday as shown by his 1.5 sacks.
He did not start Sunday, making that only the second time in the past 64 games with the Dolphins that happens. And Starks has let it be known to his teammates and others he's not happy about his status as a backup.
He believes he was the starter last year and should be so again this year. He believes he is Miami's franchise player, which he is, and did nothing to lose his job.
Yet there was Jared Odrick in the starting lineup Sunday.
It's not to Starks. He is not happy about this. It is a major issue for him, believe it or not.
And then there's this:
Starks and the Dolphins have exchanged contract proposals. So far, there is no deal. Starks isn't thrilled about that, either, although this is considered a secondary issue at worst. It's not major for Starks at this point. So that much, I know.
I cannot, however, tell you with certainty whether Starks showed his displeasure with the coaching staff, or perhaps the personnel department that is negotiating with his agent, when he flipped off the Dolphins sideline after a sack Sunday -- pictured below.
That would be speculation and I'm not ready to connect those dots.
Let's just say it looked like a message. It didn't seem coincidental even if it might have been.
Then there's Paul Soliai. He is very, very angry, according to a source close to him.
Why is a member of the Dolphins leadership council upset at the team?
Well, it's a contract thing. Soliai and the team have been trying to negotiate a new extension for a couple of weeks. The talks heated last week and the Dolphins offered three new years that would have kept Soliai with the team through the 2016 season.
But the sides couldn't agree on guaranteed money.
And the sides couldn't agree on tactics.
It seems Soliai believes he's been a good soldier and took less money to stay with the Dolphins two years ago when he signed a two-year, $12 million deal. Soliai, I'm told, walked away from a five-year deal worth $35 million with $15 million in guaranteed money in 2010. And he did so happily.
He loves South Florida.
And when this round of negotiations opened for the player in his final contract year, Soliai told his agent, David Canter, to do whatever it took to stay with the Dolphins again.
But then, Dawn Aponte, the Dolphins executive Vice President of Football Administration who is handling this negotiation for the team, seriously insulted the Soliai camp with one of her offers.
The e-mail offer was dubbed a take-it-or-leave-it offer and Canter not only left it, he walked away from the negotiations altogether. And then he took to twitter to rip the Dolphins for their "tactics."
"We're fed up with their tactics," he wrote on twitter.
Canter called the Dolphins approach one of delivering "ultimatums."
Another Soliai source said the offers so upset the player that he feels he's ready to no longer be part of the team in the future and that the idea of asking for a trade was floated within the family. No such request has been made, but you get the idea.
Paul Soliai is hurt and borderline angry. He feels he's been loyal and the Dolphins rewarded him with a lowball contract offer followed by a take-it-or-leave-it offer that wasn't even delivered in person.
So where does that all leave us?
Well, Philbin basically has to resolve this avalanche of unhappiness before it spreads. It's up to the coach to get his locker room in order before small issues turn to larger issues. It's up to the coach to solve the crisis.
I must tell you, the situation with Starks and Soliai is already spreading. Both are respected players and are considered team leaders. And although they aren't complaining publicly, for the most part, they are complaining to other teammates. The men in the locker room know there are issues with these guys.
And those with an opinion agree with Starks and Soliai.
I'm not certain what effect the Wallace issue is going to have. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Philbin. I don't know if there are issues between Wallace and Tannehill because the quarterback didn't even look toward him in the first half Sunday.
But I know there are issues in general.
And there is only one person that can solve it -- Philbin.
Frankly, the Starks issue is one Philbin helped create. Seriously, what right thinking coach with a finger on the pulse of his locker room doesn't discern that starting is a big deal to a prideful veteran such as Starks and probably not nearly as big an issue to Odrick?
Well, then, start Starks. Problem solved.
And yet, Philbin didn't see this coming even when outsiders such as the media and others could see it a mile away. The coach didn't act. And, as a result, he was standing on the sideline that Starks flipped off.
The Soliai issue is not Philbin's fault. But it is apparently one the he must resolve. Philbin has to somehow convince Soliai that he's appreciated and loved even while his consigliere, Aponte, is turning the screws on Soliai's agent.
Is Philbin capable of being so diplomatic? Is he capable of being a good actor? I have no idea. I have no idea if he even would want to do that.
The Wallace issue is more complicated because at the core, Wallace has a reason to be upset. He's the team's best receiver. He shouldn't be a decoy. If the team doesn't throw him the ball at all in the first half of a game, something's wrong with the game plan. Something is wrong with the philosophy behind that. Something is simply wrong.
No, Wallace didn't handle it well, although he tried. But he has a point.
Where does this all leave the Dolphins? I perceive Philbin will be talking to these players privately in the next few days. At least he should be.
If he doesn't, add this to the list of problem Joe Philbin has: Not handling issues while they're still manageable.