The decision has been questioned, particularly by some players who midway through the series became uncomfortable they were being scolded publicly when such scrutiny is usually kept within the team.
Philbin, unwavering, defended his decision.
“I have faith that our relationships are strong, that our players believe in what we’re doing, and I don’t think it’s going to be an issue,” he said. “I told them, and I mean it, ‘guys if you have an issue, you have a problem, I like to think that I am approachable, the coaches are approachable, come on and let’s get it on the table.’ I respect people that want to come talk to me and tell me ‘Hey look,’ and I have enough, hopefully, faith in what I’m doing and the direction we’re headed that we can talk about it.
“There could be guys that are unhappy and I don’t know that. I’m confident in the staff and the relationships that we have and I’m confident in these players that they know we have their backs.”
Philbin has shown similar confidence in his football decisions. He picked rookie Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback when it might have been safer to pick veteran Matt Moore. And when he picked David Garrard to start the first game ahead of Moore, he announced the decision to the quarterbacks without apology.
“If anyone disagrees, come to me and we’ll discuss it,” he said. “And we’ll explain to you why this is the decision we made and why this is the way it’s going to be.”
Notice he didn’t say come and talk and we’ll see if we change direction. When the coach makes up his mind, everything else is in the rear view mirror. But that doesn’t mean the Philbin is going to knock his head against walls or deny reality.
After the first two preseason games, Philbin admitted to mistakes and included himself among those to blame for poor performances.
He was disappointed with himself in how the team approached the pregame work before the first preseason game. So he revamped it for the second game.
“I thought the pregame was terrible and that was my fault, not the players fault,” he said.
After another loss in the second preseason game, Philbin again showed accountability for his team’s troubles.
“Until the last play about the best thing we did on offense was we hadn’t turned the ball over,” he said. “That ended on the last play of the game so we can’t say that. We had a lot of penalties. It just wasn’t a clean operation. That’s a poor reflection on me. We’ve got to do a better job.”
People atop the Dolphins organization believe in Philbin. They know there will be adversity. But they point to the fact Philbin suffered perhaps the greatest of adversities last winter when one of his sons drowned in a Wisconsin river. He had already interviewed for the Dolphins job once before the tragedy. His second interview came within days afterward.
“We looked to see if there was a change in his demeanor or approach,” said one person familiar with the interviews. “We looked for signs he was shaken or unable to cope. Instead he showed strength, which was impressive. That told us he could handle adversity.
“It helped convince us he should be our coach.”