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Dolphins vs. Chargers pits No. 1 coach choice vs. No. 2 choice

In January of 2012 the Dolphins were searching for a head coach to replace Tony Sparano. And they interviewed Joe Philbin, among other men. And Mike McCoy was one of those other men.

And while the people that did the hiring, including owner Stephen Ross, general manager Jeff Ireland and others obviously picked Philbin, I am told by a club source the No. 2 choice for the job was ... McCoy.

"Joe was just very well prepared," the source said. "Everyone was impressed with how detailed he was. But Mike was an outstanding candidate also. He was very impressive."

Fast forward to this week. The Dolphins will play the San Diego Chargers. Philbin still coaches the Dolphins. McCoy is the first-year Chargers coach.

You have McCoy, who is doing a good but not great job in San Diego, against Philbin, who is doing a ... well, a job here in South Florida.

And while both men are 4-5, the prism by which they are being viewed is diferent.

In South Florida, Ross thinks Philbin is awesome. Players think Philbin is doing a good job. Some fans and media, meanwhile, don't quite share the same opinion.

This isn't a bash Joe Philbin post. But his 11-14 record speaks for itself and so does this: His teams don't play well after byes, having lost after both byes since he was hired and Monday night after a 11-days off. His team doesn't necessarily seem all that aware, from the quarterback whose pocket presence is inconsistent to a defense that seems talented but has serious lapses.

We've know about the Go vs. Go-Go issue for months but Philbin refuses to acknowledge it. The Dolphins still don't move Mike Wallace around all the much and have successfully turned one of the NFL most dynamic deep threats into a possession receiver.

By the way, let me share this little known fact following Monday's game: Tampa Bay's first TD of that game was a 1-yard TD pass to offensive tackle Donald Penn on a tackle eligible play. That play happened after an extended time out because Bucs running back Mike James injured himself.

Well, during that time out, the video board operators at Raymond James Stadium played a tribute to Penn for playing a high number of games for the team. Part of the tribute included highlights of Penn and one of those highlights was of him catching a TD pass on a tackle eligible play.

Tampa Bay coach Greg Schiano said Tuesday that after the play was shown to the entire stadium, the coaching staff debated calling off the play for fear that the Dolphins were now alerted to the possibility of the play.

Ultimately the play call remained the same. And the Dolphins, apparently unaware of the video that tipped them off, were surprised by the play. TD.

It is that kind of stuff that makes people cringe about a Philbin coached team. Right then and there, the other coaching staff caught you off guard after basically showing you a play they might run.

McCoy, on the other hand, is generally thought to be doing a good job so far. He is being credited for the renaissance of quarterback Phillip Rivers and the offensive line that was a mess under Norv Turner has held up surprisingly well this season.

But not everything is sunny in paradise.

If you read this piece and this piece you can see McCoy has detractors.

"Despite a vastly more effective Philip Rivers, aided by the acquisition of Danny Woodhead, and protected by a surprisingly solid offensive line, the Chargers have still only managed to win 4 games," San Diego's Ben Higgins writes.

"If you’re so inclined, you can give Mike McCoy and his new coaching staff the credit for the revival of Rivers. But that still doesn’t explain why the Chargers haven’t been more productive in the win column.

"The defense has taken a step back, to be sure, and injuries have played a part in the decline. Still, the coaching miracles on the offensive side of the ball don’t seem to carry over to a unit giving up more yards than any other team in the NFL.

"Maybe the late-game failures are simply masking this team’s improvement. After all, the Chargers could easily be 7-1 had they avoided a second half collapse vs. Houston, a defensive lapse in Tennessee, and a goal line gack in Washington.

So did the Dolphins make the right choice?

We cannot possibly make that call quite yet. But Sunday will help.