Stephen Ross' Faith in Joe Philbin Is Killing the Dolphins
Michele Eve Sandberg
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is either blind, indifferent, or nuts. One would have to be, no?
The NFL season for the Dolphins has come and gone and, exactly as we predicted, Miami finished with an 8-8 record and failure to once again enter the playoffs. And as it is with this team, the Dolphins ended their season in spectacularly dumpster-fire-like fashion, by losing to the horrible New York Jets at home while making the Jets' mediocre QB look like Joe Namath in his prime.
And yet, even with their embarrassing 37-24 shellacking at the hands of a four-win team, the Dolphins are going to enter next season exactly the same where it matters the most: at the top.
Last week, after the Dolphins won a meaningless game against the Minnesota Vikings, owner Stephen Ross announced that Head Coach Joe Philbin would be returning next year. No more evaluations were needed. No other coaches would be sought. Ross had apparently seen enough in this mediocre team to pronounce his loyalty to Philbin. And Philbin rewarded that loyalty by not only having his team lose in embarrassing fashion on Sunday but also with a full-blown locker-room circus where yet another of his players undermined his authority. Wheeeee.
Ross made his announcement last week immediately following a game the Dolphins won in dramatic fashion. Miami and Minnesota played a barn-burner of a game and were able to pull off the win with a walk-off safety after they blocked a last-second Vikings punt. Despite the win, Miami still was eliminated from playoff contention. Yet, immediately after the game, Ross marched up to members of the media and announced his endorsement of Philbin.
Normally, an owner waits until the season ends, the games are over, and the dust settles before he makes such an announcement. Especially with a head coach who's been struggling. It's prudent to wait for the emotions of the game to subside and the overall season to be reviewed. But Ross -- who may or may not have already made up his mind about Philbin weeks ago -- blustered in to tell the world Philbin was still his guy directly after an emotional win.
This while now-former 49ers Head Coach Jim Harbaugh was still likely up for grabs.
This while Philbin was on his way to losing three of the final four games of the season.
This while the Dolphins once again failed to make the playoffs with Philbin in charge.
This while players undermined Philbin's leadership publicly, time and again.
Let's recap, shall we?
-There was that time Ryan Tannehill said Philbin's handling of the QB situation was a distraction.
Following their week three 34-15 loss to the Chiefs, some fans began clamoring for backup Matt Moore to start. Moore, a career backup player, is not good. Not even by a long shot. His last time on the field, the Dolphins lost 19-0.
But during Philbin's news conference following the Chiefs game, he exasperated this ridiculous idea by straight-up not answering direct questions about whether Tannehill would remain the starter. There was no rhyme or reason to this. It was inexplicable and weird.
When Tannehill was asked about it, he said that Philbin's comments created "a bunch of stir and a bunch of distraction in the locker room, mostly from the outside coming in and just guys having to deal with the distraction of it. So it's not a good feeling, but he's been clear with me, and I know where I stand."
-There was that time Dolphins players began to grumble about the coaching after losing to the Chiefs and Bills. Also following that Chiefs loss, some Fins players began to tell beat writers that they were fed up with all the ineptness going on with their coaches.
One #Dolphins player tells me "it isn't time to clean house yet but guys are on notice."
— Andrew Abramson (@AbramsonPBP) September 22, 2014
One source says Dolphins players are "beyond furious. Irate" at defensive adjustments and game plan. Not good. At all.
— Adam Beasley (@AdamHBeasley) September 22, 2014
-There was that time Dolphins players began to grumble about the coaching after the Green Bay loss.
— Sun Sentinel Sports (@Sentinel_Sports) October 13, 2014
-There was that time this happened:
-There was that time Mike Wallace had a meltdown and made another player answer questions on his behalf.
The latest player revolt came during Sunday's game, when receiver Mike Wallace wasn't happy about something Philbin decided on and threw a hissy fit. Following the game, Wallace refused to answer questions and inexplicably had fellow receiver Brandon Gibson answer questions for him, like his own personal human ventriloquist dummy.
Now Wallace is something of a loose cannon and can be a bit of a diva. But this bizarre behavior is indicative of a head coach who has completely lost control of his team.
The Miami Herald's Armando Salguero had one player on Sunday tell him, "Man, I'm part of this team and this organization, and I don't understand how the [heck] some decisions that get made around here get made. And I ain't alone neither."
Yet Ross, whose loyalty kept former GM Jeff Ireland and former Head Coach Tony Sparano around longer than they should have been allowed, is once again dragging any future success of this football team into the crapper.
The Dolphins have finished 7-9, 8-8, and 8-8 under Philbin. There has been little-to-no progress made outside of the quarterback position, and the players have revolted and expressed frustration over his leadership multiple times.
Oh, and Philbin also happened to preside over the biggest locker-room scandal in NFL history just a season ago.
But somewhere in the thicket of mediocrity and the fecal detritus of a football team, Stephen Ross sees enough progress that justifies keeping Philbin around.
Stephen Ross is seeing something literally no one else is seeing.
He's either blind, indifferent, or nuts. Either way, none of those things is good.
And neither are the Dolphins.
And there is no end in sight to things being different any time soon.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss New Times Broward-Palm Beach's biggest stories.