If the Hard Rock Casino pit bosses hope for any business from Joe Philbin, they can forget about it. He’s no whale.
“I’m not a gambler,” Philbin, the Dolphins’ first-year coach, said this week. “I work too hard for my money. I’m not gambling it away.”
Instead, Philbin saves his risk-taking for Sunday afternoons.
Although Dolphins fans are still getting to know the team’s (usually) mild-mannered general, this much is clear: He’s not afraid to take a shot.
The latest example: His gutsy fake-punt call late against the Rams. The Dolphins were on their side of the 50, facing fourth-and-1 with a field-goal lead and4 minutes 15 seconds to play.
Most coaches would have kicked it away and hoped their defense could make a stop — particularly those in their first years, who out of fear often make safe plays instead of winning ones.
Philbin might steer clear of the craps table, but he rolled the figurative dice. And the Dolphins might have won Sunday because of it. Chris Clemons executed the fake punt, the Dolphins bled the clock and left St. Louis with not enough time to rally.
“I don’t think any of us were expecting it because he did it with such a poker face,” Reggie Bush said with a smile.
Said guard Richie Incognito: “That’s exactly what we needed right there. … You have to have the exact look, the right spot on the field, so I don’t think there’s too much gambling involved. It’s a calculated risk.”
Whatever you want to call it, it was certainly courageous. Philbin loves quoting George Costanza, but his true kindred spirit might be Indiana Jones. Professorial by day, thrill-seeker by night.
So could it be that Philbin, who is so detailed-oriented that he picks up litter in the locker room, has swagger?
To that, Incognito chuckled.
“I think Coach Philbin is a very cerebral guy; everything is well-thought out, from the schedule to the play-calling,” he said. “Just his consistency and his thinking, I guess it’s its own kind of swag.”
Now it’s hard to see Philbin ever huff and puff like Rex Ryan, and he probably won’t rule with brute intimidation like Bill Belichick.
“It’s kind of a silent confidence,” tackle Jake Long said. “He’s got it.”
And he’s not afraid to use it.
The Dolphins already have gone for it seven times on fourth downs this year, successfully converting three of those attempts. Over a 16-week season, that extrapolates into roughly 19 fourth-down tries — four more than they averaged during the Tony Sparano era.
The first hints of Philbin’s aggressiveness came in Arizona. Faced with fourth-and-goal at the Cardinals’ 1, Philbin first appeared to consider kicking, which – based on the score (a three-point Miami lead) and time of the game (first half) — was the safe move.
But after a sideline conference, including an impassioned plea from center Mike Pouncey, Philbin told battering ram fullback Jorvorskie Lane to get the tough yard — which he did.
“Him having that trust and that confidence in us, to have the ability to get it done, I think that speaks for itself,” receiver Davone Bess said. “The guys appreciate that, and we want the bull’s-eye on his back.”
Philbin even allows Ryan Tannehill, the Dolphins’ rookie quarterback, to throw the ball with the lead late in games, where if he played it by the book, Bush would get the carries.
These are no acts of spontaneity. Each Saturday, the coaching staff holds a game-management meeting where they run through possible scenarios, down to the specific score, spot on the field and time on the clock.
“Some of it is gut, yeah,” Philbin said. “If you’re going to practice this stuff, you can’t go 17 weeks and never use it. Do you believe in it or not? Let’s not do it if we don’t.
“And you have to have to have faith that the guys can execute it.”