A day after Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced Joe Philbin would return as coach next season, Philbin on Monday declined to say whether he will retain coordinators Bill Lazor and Kevin Coyle.
But Lazor, who helped elevate the performance of Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense, is fully expected to be back in 2015, unless he is offered what he deems to be a better job elsewhere.
And though Coyle’s defense has dropped to 18th in points allowed and struggled badly over the past month, Philbin made clear that he “absolutely” agrees with everything Coyle does philosophically, including his belief in a 4-3 defense.
In allowing 28, 41 and 35 points over the past three games, Coyle’s defense has dropped to 23rd in rushing yards relinquished per game and 27th in third-down efficiency.
Miami ranks eighth overall in average yards allowed per game.
“The first two years we were in the top 10 of scoring defense, if I’m not mistaken,” Philbin countered.
Philbin is right; the Dolphins were seventh in scoring defense in Coyle’s first season (2012) and eighth in 2013.
“If you look at the last couple of games, New England had 28 [of their 41 points] off of 87 yards of offense two weeks ago, so 41 points looks terrible,” Philbin said.
And what about Sunday’s Vikings game, in which Minnesota ran for 119 yards (4.3 yards per carry) and Teddy Bridgewater threw for 259 yards and produced a 114.1 passer rating?
“If you looked at their success when they started a drive on or inside their 20, it wasn’t very good; they scored about 10 percent of the time,” Philbin said, before blaming himself for sending out Caleb Sturgis for a missed 56-yard field-goal attempt on Miami’s first possession.
“Genius head coach goes for a field goal, so initially they have a 54-yard touchdown drive,” Philbin said, noting the Vikings also had touchdown drives of 5 and 23 yards.
In his final media availability of the season, Coyle said Monday he was “disappointed” about the defense’s performance against the Vikings.
“I hate to keep saying it each week, but I know we’re a lot better than what we showed,” he said. “It was very inconsistent.
“We made some plays that impacted the game in a positive way … but there were way too many explosive plays against us, too many errors, both in technique and assignment.
“As coaches, we have to do a better job. I have to do a better job getting them ready to play, and we can’t make mistakes that we made. We’re too good a defensive team to make some of the errors that we make right now.”
Asked if he expects to return next season, Coyle said: “I don’t think it’s my place to answer any of that type of stuff.”
One of the criticisms of Coyle has been the inability to extract more from defensive end Dion Jordan, the third overall pick of the 2013 draft.
Coyle has used Jordan primarily at defensive end, though his former defensive coordinator at Oregon said he believes he’s better suited for outside linebacker. Jordan played 33 percent of the team’s defensive snaps Sunday, which is about average for him in his nine games since returning from suspension.
Asked if he needs to re-evaluate how to use Jordan, Coyle said: “We’re going to evaluate everything here as we go into the offseason; that’s certainly going to be one of the main topics. We have got to find ways to utilize him more. There were some extenuating circumstances both last year, him coming in having a shoulder issue and then again this year with the suspension.
“We have got to get him in the right spot, and we’re going to evaluate that real closely, and we’ll see what we determine to be the best fit for him. He has the athleticism to do a lot of things. I think you saw that [Sunday] when he dropped in coverage and made a nice open-field tackle. He rushed the passer [Sunday], impacted some things. We certainly need to get him on the field more.”
Coyle’s unit will have some personnel changes. Defensive tackle Randy Starks, who has a $6million cap hit if he’s on the team in 2015 and $1million if he’s not, is in danger of being cut.
Defensive tackle Jared Odrick, defensive back Jimmy Wilson, injured safety Louis Delmas and backup linebacker Jason Trusnik are impending free agents. Cortland Finnegan — who has a $6.5million cap hit if he’s on the team, $1million otherwise — has said it’s possible he might retire.
And Coyle conceded Monday that he’s not sure what the Dolphins have in second-year cornerbacks Will Davis (who sustained a season-ending knee injury last month) and Jamar Taylor.
“I still would like to see more out of both of them,” Coyle said. “I wish by this point we’d have a better feel. They both have exhibited NFL traits at times, but there is a consistency that hasn’t been up to our standards, and they need to improve in the offseason.”