Joe Philbin is the ultimate creature of habit.
His organizational skills were a big reason he got the Miami Dolphins’ top job in 2012.
So when faced with the latest crisis in a career that has had more than a few, Philbin stuck to script.
He arrived at work at 5:30 a.m. Monday, some 10 hours after his team’s embarrassing 41-14 loss to Buffalo. He watched tape with the special teams, defensive and offensive coaches before much of America was awake.
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And then he addressed his team.
“We’ve played three games out of a 16-game schedule,” Philbin said to his players, he later shared with reporters. “You do the math, that’s about 19 percent of the season. There’s 13 games left to play.”
Moments later, Philbin made a bit of news. The condensed version: He’s not throwing embattled defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle under the bus any time soon.
“We’re not getting 53 new players, we’re not getting 24 new coaches in here,” Philbin said. “We’re either going to find the solutions to these problems or not. And we’re either going to stick together or we’re not. This is not a time for me to panic.
“Certainly, there are things on the film that aren’t acceptable to me, they’re not acceptable to Steve [Ross], they’re not acceptable to the players, the coaches, the fans. It’s up to me to get it corrected. And that’s what we’re going to do.”
It’s strange how life comes in cycles. And for the Dolphins, this is an all-too-familiar narrative.
A year ago, they were 1-2 after two weeks and dealing with a headache of their own making as they prepared for a game in London. That week, Philbin famously wouldn’t name Ryan Tannehill his starter for the coming game, igniting a quarterback controversy that never really existed.
Fast-forward a year, and it’s a more existential issue for Philbin and his coaching staff. They have to win this year or they will be out of work. And their defense is the No. 1 reason they’re in the danger zone.
But it shouldn’t be a major surprise. The Dolphins really haven’t played great defense in more than half of a season. Since Week 12 of the 2014 season, they have surrendered a staggering 29.7 points and 404.7 yards per game.
We’re not getting 53 new players, we’re not getting 24 new coaches in here,” Philbin said. “We’re either going to find the solutions to these problems or not. And we’re either going to stick together or we’re not. This is not a time for me to panic.
Asked about that stretch of futility Monday, Philbin disagreed with the question’s premise, saying “last year is last year.”
And when asked directly about his confidence in the ability of Coyle — who doesn’t have the full confidence of his players — to turn it around, Philbin responded:
“Team defense is more than one position, it’s more than one player, it’s more than one coach. We’ve got to do a better job, we’ve got to put our players in a position to be successful, No. 1, and our players have to execute. There’s joint accountability. It’s not all on one individual, it’s not all on one side of the ball. We’re not playing well as a team right now.”
Philbin added: “I believe in the coaching staff that I have in place right now. I think they’re the men that can come up with the solutions to the problems. We’re not playing well. You’ve got to stick with the process of development.”
But when pressed for specifics about how to right the ship, Philbin was relatively light on specifics:
▪ He would not commit to changes to the offensive line, despite having the 71st (Dallas Thomas) and 74th (Jamil Douglas) ranked guards in the league (of 75 total guards), according to Pro Football Focus.
“We’ve got a young player playing at right guard, Jamil Douglas,” Philbin said. “I think he’s done a lot of good things. … I’m not ready to pull the plug on him yet. We thought Dallas overall played a little bit better than he did last week.”
▪ Philbin pointed to the team’s turnover margin (minus-2), sack differential (minus-5) and third-down conversions (35 percent) as the top reasons Miami has struggled through the first three weeks.
▪ Philbin also pledged to re-examine the team’s practice schedule, although the Dolphins will not stray much from the blueprint they followed to victory in London a year ago. The team will practice in South Florida on Wednesday and Thursday before boarding a red-eye Thursday night.
As for the owner, Ross “was like everybody else that was there” Sunday, Philbin said. Philbin spoke to his boss after the game, but largely kept the contents of the conversation confidential.
“I don’t think any of us feel good about what happened [Sunday] at the stadium,” Philbin said. “There’s not one person in the organization. A lot of people make sacrifices, they work extremely hard. We’ve got great, loyal fans. We got a tremendous venue to play in. And we didn’t play well. There’s no excuses and we’ve got to get this thing fixed.”