FRIDAY BUZZ COLUMN
With Joe Philbin’s Thursday news conference now behind him, here’s what matters now for the Dolphins coach: Doing something, strategically or otherwise, that has a tangible impact on his team winning, which we haven’t seen enough of. Working with his coaches to extract more from his players, several of whom played better before they got here or after they left (Karlos Dansby, etc.)….
Being more alert, something that clearly is an issue. Ditching the cue cards and becoming more of an inspirational leader when he addresses his men --- important considering at least one Dolphins player expressed concern that the team has assumed the flat, unemotional personality of its coach.
Some Philbin fallout from BullyGate:
### One thing Philbin must do, according to ESPN analyst and former Jets coach Herman Edwards, is not allow his players to pick the leadership council. (Richie Incognito was on that council.) “You never let the players do that,” Edwards said off air Thursday. “It’s like giving them keys to the candy store.”
### Here’s another: Philbin must identify players who like him enough to tell him the truth about what’s going on in his locker-room. A UM player said he believed Al Golden had an offensive lineman on the 2013 team who would tip him off when something was amiss.
Former UM assistant Don Soldinger said if Jimmy Johnson wanted locker-room insight, he could summon Alonzo Highsmith, among others, “and Alonzo would give it to him straight, wouldn’t hide anything.”
One NFL official who deals with Dolphins players said Philbin developing that type of player relationship is difficult because some Dolphins view Philbin as an old-school coach who’s not especially approachable. “You have to have the ability to get information from your locker-room,” said Edwards, adding this scandal “would not happen” on a team Edwards coached.
Edwards blames Philbin and also faults his assistants and staff for not telling him what they witnessed. “I’ve been in this 30 years, and the equipment guys see everything,” Edwards said. “And players talk. They’re like leaking refrigerators.”
Soldinger said Johnson’s biggest “eyes and ears” at UM (and presumably with the Cowboys and Dolphins) was trainer Kevin O’Neill, who was fired by the Dolphins on Wednesday, prompting this reaction from J.J. on Twitter: “Unbelievable! The BEST I ever worked with.”
### Philbin’s credibility has taken a hit. On Thursday, ESPN's Mark Schlereth called him "incompetent" and Tedy Bruschi marveled at his "amazing lack of awareness."
One person who led multiple NFL teams' front offices for many years told me it’s difficult to believe Philbin didn’t know what was going on: “You think something like this gets by Bill Belichick or Bill Parcells? No way. It’s ridiculous. If he doesn’t know, he doesn’t deserve the position.”
Soldinger, who coached 37 years, said: “It’s like running a business. If you run a business, you should know what’s going on. If you’re with it, you should know what’s going on.”
### Dolphins Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti said this “never” would have happened under Don Shula. But Buonconti’s concerns extend beyond that.
“As a team, they don’t play with pride and passion,” he said this week. “If you are going to get beat, get beat scratching and clawing. They embarrassed themselves [the final two weeks of the season]. It doesn’t look like they care.”
### This also should concern Philbin: “Players leave here and blossom elsewhere. That’s a reflection of the coaching staff,” former Dolphins standout Manny Fernandez said.
And a front office official who has worked with Philbin during his Dolphins tenure said his concern is Philbin is over-scripted and not spontaneous with players, spitting out his message like a computer.
### Joe Theismann said “it strikes me as odd” that Tony Dungy and Shula, but not Philbin, are on Stephen Ross’ committee to formulate a locker-room conduct policy. “Philbin has been around too long to have that many people looking over his shoulder,” Theismann said.
### Philbin does have supporters. A lot of players like him personally. Mike Ditka said Thursday he doesn’t blame Philbin because “Jonathan Martin is a sissy, and if his assistants knew what happened, they should have told him.”
And John Madden, who has worked with Philbin on an NFL committee, said: “We talked during the season. He’s a good coach and good man.”
### Former Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said he hasn’t decided whether to join Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey in Miami. (The assistant GM job is open.) “I want Dennis to have his time with the staff, team, etc.,” Dominik said.
### There’s some sympathy among players for fired offensive line coach Jim Turner, who was liked by even those who were harassed. He will be paid by Miami only if the league doesn’t suspend him, which is traditionally without pay.
### Former Heat shooting guard/small forward Caron Butler, on an expiring contract with Milwaukee, makes the most sense of the perimeter player buyout possibilities for Miami, though Danny Granger could emerge as one, too. Butler and the Heat hold each other in high regard. He entered Thursday having made 17 of his past 31 three-pointers.
### Yahoo! reported tonight that the Heat is among several teams expected to have interest in 6-9 power forward/center Glen Davis, who was bought out by Orlando. He's averaging 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds this season. ESPN says the Clippers are the front-runner to sign him.
### Hmmm: Evan Turner, acquired by Indiana in the Granger deal with Philadelphia, has shot 50.7 percent in 13 games against Miami, his second-best against any team (behind Phoenix). Granger shot just 40.5 percent vs. Miami in his career, among his worst.
"This wraps up the East for me," TNT's Charles Barkley said of Indiana. "They're going to win the Eastern Conference." (And yet the NBA will still have an Eastern Conference Finals anyway.)
### A few postscripts from Miami's impressive 103-81 win in Oklahoma City tonight: This performance looked very much like how Miami played during much of its 27-game win streak last year... LeBron James (33 points, 15 for 22 shooting) likely would have reached 35 points for the fourth game in a row if he hadn't departed midway through the fourth quarter with a swollen, bloody nose sustained when Serge Ibaka raked him across the face. "He's got a swollen nose right now," Erik Spoelstra said. "It's sore. We'll re-evaluate him when we get back to Miami."
James also had seven rebounds and four steals but also eight turnovers on a night when he set the tone early with 16 first-quarter points. He passed a concussion test but didn't speak to reporters after the game....
Dwyane Wade was at peak efficiency, with 24 points on 11 for 17 shooting, plus 10 assists... Chris Bosh made 11 of 12 free throws on a 24-point, 8-rebound night... The Heat not only again dominated the Thunder with Kendrick Perkins in the game (Miami was plus 12 in his eight minutes), but unlike in its loss to OKC in Miami, the Heat also maintained control when Perkins was out of the game (plus 10)....
Kevin Durant shook off a slow start to finish with 28 points on 10 for 22 shooting. But James improved to 14-4 in head-to-head matchups with Durant....
The Heat's 76.2 percent shooting in the first quarter was its high this season.... The Heat shot 54.7 percent, OKC 37.8.... In a sign of how seriously he took this game, Spoelstra played only eight, opting not to use Michael Beasley or Greg Oden. Chris Andersen served up eight rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes.