Dolphins coach Joe Philbin was forced to deal with two unpleasant issues on Monday — Mike Wallace’s postgame unhappiness and Randy Starks’ obscene gesture — while addressing a more worrisome problem: the lack of a running game in Sunday’s victory against Cleveland.
Wallace refused to speak after the game, leaving the impression he was upset about being targeted just five times and finishing with one catch for 15 yards. Wallace tried to diffuse the situation Monday.
“I was mad at myself because I didn’t have a good game,” Wallace said. “Our quarterback made good reads. I was upset with myself. It wasn’t really anything else having to do with anything.
“I’m always happy when we win. But from a personal standpoint, when you don’t do well, you’re upset. If you’re not upset, you don’t need to be on the team. I want to be a great player and I want to make plays. That’s the only reason I’m here.”
But team sources believe he was upset about not getting more passes thrown to him.
“Everyone understands his frustration,” receiver Brandon Gibson said. “You have to swallow your pride and continue to go about it.”
Wallace said he spoke to Philbin on Monday and “we had a good conversation. It was productive. We’re ready to move on. I’m good.”
Philbin declined to specifically discuss Wallace’s reaction beyond saying: “I want every player to want to make an impact.”
Philbin said there were a couple of additional times “we could have gone to him” but generally didn’t have an issue with Wallace’s involvement in the offense.
“We don’t have plays where we throw the ball to a certain jersey number just to do it,” Philbin said. “We throw it to the people who are open. Overall, our decision-making was good.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said he “could have done a better job” getting Wallace the ball and spoke with him on Monday.
“In no way did that bother me,” Sherman said of Wallace expressing his unhappiness. “Mike wants to feel a part of the game, as I would hope he would. He came here to be a factor in our success. Any great competitor would feel that way. The fact he’s disappointed he only caught one ball — that’s expected. I have no problem with that.
“I told him he can communicate that to me anytime he wants — as long as he practices hard tomorrow with a smile on his face, which he will and be ready to go next week Mike will make a significant contribution to this season. He brings a lot of energy to our team and practices. I love having him on the team.”
Sherman said Wallace still “played a huge role” because coverage against him created “opportunities for other players,” including Brian Hartline (9 receptions for 114 yards) and Brandon Gibson (7 for 77).
“I’m happy they had a great game,” Wallace said.
Meanwhile, CBS cameras caught Dolphins defensive tackle Randy Starks holding up his middle finger, while looking directly at the Dolphins sideline, after getting a sack Sunday. Two published reports speculated that Starks was giving the finger to the Dolphins’ coaching staff because he lost his starting job.
But Starks tweeted Monday: “Joking with my teammates about getting a sack. Could have used different gesture, but it’s over now Moving on!!!”
Philbin joked the gesture was “probably” intended for “me directly” but then clarified that “I don’t have any reason to believe” that Starks intended that for the coaching staff.
But Philbin said: “It’s important for our players to act the right way on and off the field.”
Asked if he understands Starks’ disappointment about not starting ahead of Jared Odrick, defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle responded: “Everyone wants to be the starter. Whoever starts one week may not start the next week.”
On Sunday, Odrick played 58 snaps, Paul Soliai 43 and Starks 37.
Of far greater concern internally than Starks’ gesture was Miami mustering just 20 rushing yards on 23 carries.
“We’ve got to get the running game going,” owner Stephen Ross said.
Philbin said “our protection wasn’t up to our standards” and also said tight end Charles Clay and the receivers, at times, didn’t block as well as needed.
And Philbin said running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas could have broken more tackles and “there was one or two where we thought there was a little more than they got based on a read. But let’s face it, there wasn’t a ton there.” Miller played 36 snaps and Thomas 32.
If the Dolphins are having success throwing but not running, why not throw every down?
“Coach Philbin is of that mindset,” Sherman said. “I don’t know that I’ve quite reached that mindset yet. Coach Philbin could possibly convince me otherwise.”