Joe Philbin’s final Dolphins practice featured heated exchanges among quarterback Ryan Tannehill and defensive players, according to multiple sources.
According to a player, Philbin has consistently conveyed a message that during Saturday practices, the defensive players should take it easy on the offense and let them execute.
Tannehill, who was irritated and testy because he was throwing some errant passes throughout the week, reached his tipping point Saturday when linebacker Chris McCain did something more aggressive than typical for a Saturday practice.
According to two players, Tannehill then flipped, saying something to the effect that he would prepare a scout team trophy case for him. At least a couple of defensive players responded angrily.
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Shortly after that, practice squad safety Jonathan Dowling intercepted Tannehill and returned it for a touchdown, according to another player. The defensive players continued aggressively going after Tannehill passes until coaches implored them to take it down a notch.
According to The National Football Post, Tannehill also told another defensive player “to enjoy your practice-squad paycheck.”
The team declined to comment on the matter, and Tannehill was not made available for comment.
Tannehill has the league’s fifth-worst passer rating among starting quarterbacks at 77.1, ahead of only Jameis Winston, Colin Kaepernick, Ryan Mallett and Andrew Luck.
In firing Philbin, Stephen Ross conceded the Dolphins might have overestimated their talent.
“Hey, that could be,” he said. “That we’ll find out if I did or didn’t. Today, with the salary cap, there’s no such thing as having a perfect roster. But I think we have a lot of great players.
“We knew where our weaknesses were and we thought we could overcome those weaknesses and develop players that could play at that level. No team has all stars, but they work together as a team and they make up for the deficiencies that other players have. I didn’t see that development happening.”
Ross said he gave no thought to firing either or both coordinators and keeping Philbin. “I believe at this point … it was time to really replace at the top.”
Asked, in retrospect, if he should have dumped Philbin during the offseason, Ross said: “That’s an easy thing to say now. In retrospect, sure. I didn’t believe it then.
“… I may be accused of having maybe too much loyalty, but I felt that we had the right people in place. … I don’t think anybody out there wants to win more than I do. … I put my money where my mouth is, and we’re doing everything we can to win.”
Ross said he doesn’t believe players quit on the coach.
“These players, they play to win. The way people look at game tapes and if their future isn’t with the Dolphins, their future is with another team is really based on the way they play. I don’t believe that anybody really laid down because they didn’t care about Joe Philbin. He might not have gotten the best out of them, but that’s a different issue.”
Ross said firing Philbin was “tough” because he’s a “wonderful person.”
▪ The Dolphins are last in the league in rush defense and sacks by large margins. Miami has one sack; Detroit is next-lowest with four. The Dolphins have allowed 642 rushing yards — 78 more than No. 31 Cleveland.
Offensively, the Dolphins are 30th in the league in scoring at 16.2.