Mistakes are difficult for everyone to admit, even more so when they’re attached to seven-figure severance packages. But it’s time for Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross to admit his biggest one yet.
It’s time to fire Joe Philbin.
In the three-plus seasons since hiring Philbin, the Dolphins have sputtered along, clanging their way to an uninspiring 24-27 overall mark, including a 1-2 start this year. A career coordinator before Miami, Philbin has often appeared out of touch and overmatched by the position, his even-keel demeanor instead coming off as bland and detached.
After the Dolphins were “outplayed and outcoached” in Sunday’s 41-14 trashing at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, Philbin admitted to being out of answers. An offense that shed Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline in favor of DeVante Parker, Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills is averaging just 17 points per game through three weeks. Under pressure on over 40 percent of his dropbacks, according to Pro Football Focus, quarterback Ryan Tannehill has regressed from his 2014 performance, forcing throws and failing to diagnose pressure before the snap.
On defense, the problems are fundamental. The Dolphins’ tackling against the Bills was anemic, highlighted by the olé technique used on Charles Clay’s 25-yard touchdown. The pass-rush is no better. Despite the offseason addition of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Dolphins are dead last in Football Outsiders’ adjusted sack rate. Thanks in part to a total lack of push up front, a secondary that finished last season a respectable 16th in pass defense DVOA has slipped to 30th despite games against Kirk Cousins, Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor.
After an expensive and thorough offseason overhaul, the Dolphins entered this season with hopes of challenging the New England Patriots for the top spot in the AFC East. Instead, through three games this season the Dolphins have been outscored 57-17 in the first half of games, including deficits of 10-0, 17-6 and 27-0, a sure sign of a lack of preparation.
That sort of letdown is normally enough for coaches to land on a burning hot seat, but Philbin and the Dolphins have been here before. Two seasons ago, Philbin survived the Dolphins’ bullying scandal despite the Wells Report painting him as woefully out of touch with the happenings within his own locker room. Last season, the Dolphins were also 1-2 and reeling from an embarrassing 34-15 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs with a trip to London on the schedule. Philbin vaguely threatened to bench Tannehill, a public-relations ploy which not even Tannehill took seriously. After a brief revival where Miami won four of five, the Dolphins cratered down the stretch, losing five of their last eight games. Still, Ross ensured Philbin would return for 2015, preaching patience in the face of prolonged mediocrity.