« Blowout loss will move Ross to consider firing Philbin during bye | Main | Brent Grimes out for Dolphins rest of game »

No great options to replace Joe Philbin on interim basis

LONDON -- The fact Joe Philbin's job could be on the line Sunday if, as I reported, the Dolphins allow themselves to be blown out (again) this week raises some intriguing questions that are not easily answered.

The biggest question that such a scenario would raise would be is firing Philbin even feasible given that the Dolphins have no logical in-house replacement to take over as interim coach.

Believe it or not, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle makes the most sense to take over for Philbin should the current coach get blown out Sunday and then, well, get blown out during the bye week. Coyle served as Miami's head man in Philbin's absence last year when Philbin's dad passed away and he was away attending to those solemn family matters.

And, you'll recall, the Dolphins actually beat San Diego immediately following the week of preparation Philbin was away. But here's the problem:

Coyle is part of the Dolphins' problem right now.

Players are not saying this publicly but there is a growing lack of confidence in what the defensive coordinator wants to do on the field. Players very much dislike his read-and-react approach up front to start with. Yes, players are eager for the system to work. It has worked in some regards and to acceptable degrees in the past.

But right now the level of confidence in Coyle among the players is not high. So this is the person that gets handed the reins to save the season?


If this was the end of 2014 and not the start of 2015, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor might be a candidate for the interim coach job. Lazor's approach, while needing refinement on the interpersonal front, is that of a hard-driving, no-excuse-making, accountability-demanding man. And, by the way, the offense scored more points last year than it had in many years.

But Year II of Lazor's system has so far been a dud. And Lazor has to shoulder that responsibility. So he's the answer?


Indeed, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi is actually more likely to be a candidate than either Lazor or Coyle, I'm told. He has a good reputation and is respected by players. He was a head coach before -- albeit at tiny New Haven (1999-2001) and Rhode Island (2008).

Rizzi also has the respect of Executive Vice President Mike Tannenbaum, who would likely be the person picking an interim coach but more importantly the next true head coach. Rizzi and Tannenbaum have a New Jersey native thing to draw from.

There are other wildcard possibilities: Tight end coach Dan Campbell is a good coach, linebacker coach Mark Duffner, who was the Maryland head coach from 1992-96, and linebacker coach Jack Bicknell Jr., who was the head coach at Louisiana Tech from 1997-2006.

But stop for a minute. Consider everything you just read ...

... Which of these names screams NFL head coach candidate? Which of these men is going to be on a short list of names on Black Monday 2016 -- the date maybe a handful of head coaches will find themselves unemployed if history is to believed?

Yeah, none of them.

And that, in my opinion, is a reason the Dolphins aren't doing as well as they could or should now. This is a weak coaching staff when it has no obvious head coach candidates in waiting.

Tony Sparano, fired late in the 2011 season, didn't exactly have a stellar coaching staff. But his staff makes this one look like a high school staff by comparison. Sparano had former Syracuse head coach Paul Pasqualoni on his staff. He had former UCLA head coach Karl Dorrell on his staff. He had former Chargers head coach Dan Henning on his staff. He had former 49'ers head coach Mike Nolan on his staff. Bill Sheridan had been a defensive coordinator with the New York Giants and Tampa Bay and was a linebacker coach on the staff. Sparano also had future New York Jets coach Todd Bowles on his staff and Bowles had already interviewed for a handful of head coaching jobs when he was with Miami.

What NFL head coaching experience is on Joe Philbin's staff now? None.

What NFL head coaching jobs have the men on Joe Philbin's staff interviewed for? None.

This says it all about Philbin's assistant hires so far: He had former Green Bay and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman as a confidant and the most decorated and experienced assistant on his staff. Sherman's offense failed miserably in Miami but Philbin wanted desperately to keep the coach anyway. When he was forced to fire Sherman, how many teams came trying to hire the newly available coach?


Sherman, still relatively young at 60, is now coaching Nauset Regional High School in Eastham, Massachusetts.

Sherman's team is currently 0-3.

Philbin's inability to identify and hire a strong coaching staff -- as defined by past NFL experience and desirability to other franchises as head coaches -- has been an undoing for him. The irony of that, however, is that the staff's weakness could actually help Philbin keep his job because there's not a lot to pick from to replace him if his team gets blown out today.