Said linebacker Karlos Dansby: “We have the potential to be great.”
Marvel at where this club is today compared to a year ago, something else tangibly tied to Tannehill’s arrival.
One year ago the Dolphins were winless. The exit door was drawing ever nearer for embattled coach Tony Sparano. The “Suck For Luck” campaign had begun — with even many Dolfans hoping the record would sty winless so the club might get the overall No. 1 draft pick.
A year later, Sunday brought more validation that Miami has the right young quarterback, and it also delivered some symbolism that the Dolphins perhaps have also found a keeper in the first-year head coach, Philbin.
The juxtaposition was interesting.
Jeff Fisher had turned down the ardent courtship of Miami to go to the Rams instead, and stood on the opposite sideline from Philbin Sunday.
And wouldn’t you know that the game would turn in part on two coaching decisions — turn all Miami’s way.
Philbin called a fake punt from his own 40 with a scant 17-14 lead and only 3:22 to play. The move was extremely daring. If it failed and proved costly, the decibels on the second-guessing would have been enormous. But it succeeded on Chris Clemons’ 3-yard run. Miami eventually did punt, but the gutsy fake kept the ball away from St. Louis’ offense an added minute and a half, which was huge at the time.
“We didn’t have a whole lot of rhythm on offense,” Philbin said, explaining the gamble. “We felt it would be there. We’d practiced it a lot. We told the players [Saturday night] that if it was there, we’d go for it.”
That is coaching. That St. Louis’ susceptibility to a fake punt had been identified on film, and also that Philbin showed faith in his team to execute the play.
Fisher’s big decision would come a bit later. With a time out left, he had a chance to run one more play (and should have) but instead let the clock wind down to 4 seconds before trying a 66-yard field goal — the length of which would have shattered the league record.
I don’t know any of this means Philbin “out-coached” Fisher. But maybe it added a little security to the idea that maybe Miami has itself the right new coach moving forward, along with the right new quarterback.
Somebody asked Tannehill afterward if this was the best he’d played.
“I don’t know. There was a throw that I should have made to Charles Clay, but I threw it low and left,” he said. “Still things to correct. Just trying to get better every week.”
The rookie seems to be doing exactly that, and so does the team following his lead.