The Dolphins had a former head coach in Mobile, Ala. during the Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday. Nick Saban attended the practices as he often does and did when he was the Dolphins coach.
The Dolphins did not, however, have a current coach in Mobile for practices or the interviews with players that happen afterward. Head coach Joe Philbin stayed in South Florida as did all his coaches.
Philbin was the only AFC East coach not attending.
New England's Bill Belichick, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and Buffalo coach Doug Marrone were all at the Senior Bowl. Marrone took his entire staff. Ryan gave his assistants the option of attending or taking a vacation week. And Belichick did not have his assistants attend.
Those are the facts.
So is this troubling?
Is it worrisome that the other AFC East teams -- the Patriots and Jets which finished ahead of the Dolphins and the Bills which swept the Dolphins -- have coaches on the ground at these practices and for the meetings and the Dolphins are the only one that does not?
Is it worrisome the Dolphins are the only NFL team that has neither their head coach nor general manager in Mobile -- an outgrowth of the fact the Dolphins have yet to hire their next general manager?
Well, let me be honest: I'm not in a position to know for sure.
I know the optics of it are bad. It looks terrible for the Dolphins. But that's public relations. That's perception.
Whether indeed it actually is bad is another story. I don't know if the three other AFC East head coaches are picking up nuggets on players that Philbin is missing by not being there. We're not talking just information from practice tape, by the way. Everyone can get the practice tapes and review those if they missed the practice.
I'm talking about nuggets from the face-to-face conversations and interviews with the players.
Maybe those offer nothing. And maybe they offer something tangible and worthwhile. We simply do not know.
It is known Philbin has prioritized his time this week and the Senior Bowl is not the priority. I asked the Dolphins why the head coach didn't attend while all his rivals did.
Philbin's answer through a club spokesman is he did not attend the Senior Bowl because he decided his priority this week was meeting with Bill Lazor and getting the new offensive coordinator acclimated and up to speed with what the Dolphins are going to run offensively in 2014.
(I'm not sure if that means Lazor is telling Philbin what offense he wants to run or Philbin is telling Lazor what offense he wants).
Philbin also said the secondary reason he did not attend the Senior Bowl was because he was finalizing the hiring of new linebacker coach Mark Duffner.
And obviously Philbin has a strong conviction about his approach because Duffner was in Mobile along with all the other Jacksonville Jaguars coaches Monday morning, but once his hiring was solidified Monday afternoon, Duffner returned to Jacksonville Tuesday and will join the rest of the Miami staff in South Florida Wednesday.
"Anytime you can take advantage of all the opportunities you have to evaluate a player, and certainly if you can see them in person that's a help -- you can see and observe their ability to follow directions in drills and practice -- that's all good," Duffner said. "But with the way technology is now with the video all that is filmed. With proper study of the practice, of the individual sessions, the drills and so forth, you get a great evaluation. It's hard not to."
Look, these are hard times to be a Dolphins fan. The Dolphins stunk at the end of the season. They were shown to be dysfunctional internally. The head coach didn't want to fire an assistant that absolutely had to go and was pressured to do so by the owner. Some assistants that probably needed to go as well -- ahem, 58 sacks allowed -- are still on staff. And the GM search is proceeding at a snail's pace as Miami is the only NFL team without a GM.
Amid all that, is Philbin being in South Florida while Rex Ryan, Bill Belichick and Doug Marrone are in Mobile going to determine the course of 2014?
I'd say there are bigger worries.