Joe Philbin often spends considerable time on his messaging. The Miami Dolphins coach told me that days before the game against Denver he was already thinking about what he would tell players after that victory. His message was going to be not to look past the coming Dec. 1 game against the New York Jets now that everyone believed the team was pretty good after going to Denver and beating Peyton Manning.
Well, the planning went for naught because the Dolphins didn't win at Denver. But the point is Philbin puts a lot of time and effort into his messaging.
Unfortunately for him, it sometimes doesn't strike the right chord.
And that is what I'm told happened the final week of the season.
Early that last week, when the Dolphins were 8-7, I'm told by multiple sources that Philbin's main message to the team was to make a reach for 9-7.
That was it.
It was just win for the sake of having a winning season. Philbin explained the history -- how Miami hadn't had a winning season since 2008 and that this game represented an opportunity to be 9-7.
And how did that go over?
"I care about making the playoffs and I knew we weren't going to make the playoffs so to me the season was a disappointment whether we finished 9-7 or whatever," one source said. "I didn't care about 9-7. I was thinking playoffs or no playoffs and that's where my head was at when he said that."
Well, Saturday night before the game Philbin changed the message.
No, he didn't mention the possibility of making the playoffs.
Sources say he told the team to remember the San Diego game of eight weeks prior and think about the feeling everyone enjoyed after that game -- that sense of victory and great accomplishment. He told players to recall earlier great performances in the season and think about the feeling they had after those games.
And he told the team everyone should want to feel like that after the season-finale.
I cannot tell you how everyone felt after that message because I have not talked to everyone in the room. But at least a handful of people in the room who heard the message didn't exactly feel like running through a wall for their coach.
"He tells us every week to look at the next game and think about going 1-0 without looking back or too far ahead," one source said. "And then the final game of the year he's asking us to remember what happened two months ago and how we felt?"
"Man, to be honest I don't even remember what he told us," another source said with a chuckle. "I can't remember any of his speeches. I remember some of my high school coach's speeches. I remember the time he cried because he was so proud to be our coach. I remember my college coach one time hugged every player on the team in the locker room before we went on the field and told us he loved us. I remember that.
"But I don't remember no [Philbin] speech or messages. I don't think that's a terrible thing. But I guess it ain't good, neither."
Joe Philbin is going to coach his fourth season with the Dolphins in 2015. He's had three years to refine his craft, which is not just about organizing Xs and Os but also how he addresses his men and others.
He's come a long way. He no longer reads off index cards to give his post-game locker room speech. (Thank you, God!).
But a couple of players and others have told me they don't often feel like Philbin is talking from the heart. "I don't feel him at all," one said. "We have to get by on being professionals. We have to motivate ourselves. I ain't complaining. That's fine. But no, I wouldn't say he gets inside anybody, if you know what I mean. "
A couple of players have told me they think Philbin tries to compensate for, well, something, by simply talking louder. (Strange, but that's what they've told me).
I don't know how the coach can improve on this. I have no clue what he can do to connect. But I would suggest he do something to prevent having people, particularly veteran players who've been around him for a couple or three years already, tune him out.