Joe Philbin’s roots might be in New England, but he was schooled – at least in the ways of the National Football League – in Wisconsin.
Before he was head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Philbin spent eight years as an assistant with the Green Bay Packers.
He served under two head coaches (Mike Sherman and Mike McCarthy), had four different jobs (including offensive coordinator the last five years) and won a Super Bowl.
It’s a homecoming week of sorts for Philbin, but in the inverse. His old friends are traveling to see him. The Packers, still coached by McCarthy and still quarterbacked by Aaron Rodgers, visit Philbin’s Dolphins on Sunday afternoon.
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So who is Joe Philbin from Green Bay? We asked the people who were there at the time. Here are their responses, in their own words.
Philbin on his time with the Packers: “Obviously, I learned the National Football League there. I never coached in the National Football League, but I had spent 19 years as a college coach. A lot of the fundamental principles that I believe in in coaching were established long before I got there. But I certainly learned a lot from a lot of different people. I was able to work with two different staffs and met some outstanding coaches who have gone on to do some great things. I worked with a lot of players that I learned from that I enjoyed being with. It was a very positive experience.”
McCarthy on why he kept Philbin on Green Bay’s staff after Sherman was fired in 2006: “I knew Joe on reputation only. I had the opportunity to sit down and interview him during that process and thought he was an excellent fit for us. Line coach, University of Iowa, pedigree he’s been around. He really worked hard to prepare himself for the offensive coordinator position, and it was natural for him to take the next step. He did a great job while he was here.”
Daryn Colledge is an offensive lineman under Philbin in both Green Bay and now Miami. But he was just a nervous prospect out of Boise State when they first met at the NFL Scouting Combine in early 2006. It was an introduction he won’t soon forget.
Per Colledge: “They sit you down in your slacks and button-up shirts, and you sit down and do these interviews and they ask you about your offense and your life and your career and all that kind of stuff. Well, he got like three questions in and [Philbin] went, ‘Don’t worry about all of this crap.’ And then he like stood up and we started doing O-line drills. We were reach-blocking and base-blocking. I’m in my loafers and slacks and my button-up shirt and I’m sweating. I’m pouring sweat. He was playing defensive tackle. He was using one of his assistant coaches to play D-tackle. We were locked up.
“I left that interview and he said, ‘Hey man, great interview. We’re excited about you. We’ll be looking to grab you if we can. But you never know how things are going to shake down.’ Then I went over to San Francisco’s meetings next after that, and [then-49ers coach Mike] Nolan sat me down and I was pouring sweat. He was like, ‘What the hell’s the matter with you?’ I was like, ‘I’ll probably not get drafted by San Francisco because these guys think I’m sweating for no reason.’ Luckily the Packers took me.”
Indeed, Green Bay selected Colledge in the second round of the 2006 draft. He started 76 games for the Packers over the next five years and helped Green Bay win the Super Bowl after the 2010 season.
Rodgers was the MVP of that championship game. He is widely recognized as one of the premier quarterbacks in football. But when Philbin took over as offensive coordinator in 2007, Brett Favre was still the guy in Green Bay.
Though Philbin would never take any of the credit for Rodgers’ greatness, his impact on the then-young player is undeniable.
Speaking to Miami reporters Wednesday, Rodgers said: “He challenged me early in my career to really think about my body language. I’m very passionate about the game and a strong competitor, but the last thing I want to do is show up my teammates on film. Sometimes you’ve got to jump on guys, guys that can take it, but Joe reminded me that everybody is looking at the quarterback, looking to me for energy and enthusiasm during practice, to get through the doldrums of a training camp practice or a tough Wednesday after a loss, always reminded me about how I carried myself during the week, and it really stuck with me.”
Added McCarthy: “Joe is definitely someone we all hold in regard here in Green Bay. Thing I remember about him is he was dedicated every day here at work. ... I miss the one-on-one conversations we used to have at night. Very proud of what he’s doing in Miami and looking forward to playing his football team down in Miami. ... You’re talking about two Irish guys who are lucky as hell to be in the NFL and enjoying what they’re doing every day. He’s one of a kind; he’s a damn good man.”