NFL owners today tabled the idea of playoff expansion for 2014 and will take up the matter again at their next meeting in October, according to multiple media reports out of Atlanta where the owners are meeting.
It's not the best news for Joe Philbin.
Well, anyone with any sense of where the Dolphins are as a franchise understands Philbin, entering his third season with the team, is coaching for his job in 2014.
Owner Stephen Ross has been loyal to his coach in siding with Philbin versus former general manager Jeff Ireland after their rift last season. The owner told candidates during his search for a new GM that they had to accept Philbin and even turned away from candidates he liked because they wanted the ability to move on from Philbin.
And Ross made sure new GM Dennis Hickey understood he must work hand-in-hand with Philbin, who now seems to be more empowered than ever, in order to be considered a success with the Dolphins.
But here's the catch: Ross, despite his unfettered public confidence in Philbin and optimism about the coming season, also has confided to multiple people that if 2014 does not unfold quite the way he hopes, it may be time for a reset.
And a reset would involve getting a new head coach.
It remains unclear exactly what parameters Ross would have for needing or resisting change.
If the Dolphins make the playoffs, it is as near a certainty as one can have that Philbin would continue as coach. On the other hand, If the Dolphins' record takes a step back from a year ago and the team fails to the make the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year, the likelihood of a Ross reset would be very high.
That much seems clear.
But what about the gray areas of what might happen in 2014?
Would a winning record alone that does not include a playoff appearance appease the owner? Would another 8-8 record but another year out of the playoffs be acceptable?
Bottom line is if the Dolphins make the playoffs, no matter what their record or results in the postseason, Philbin can be confident of coming back for 2015.
And that is why an expanded playoff field that includes 14 instead of 12 teams would have been in the coach's interest. With an expanded field, the Dolphins might have overcome the hurdles they haven't been able to overcome since 2008.
But with the traditional 12-team postseason (six teams per conference) now the league plan, the Dolphins will have to overcome not only division rivals New England, Buffalo and New York for a postseason berth, but also recent playoff contenders Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Baltimore, San Diego, Denver, Indianapolis and Cincinnati.
The Dolphins finished third in the AFC East in 2013.