Miami Dolphins

Embattled Kevin Coyle remains Dolphins’ defensive coordinator — for now

Under Kevin Coyle, the Dolphins’ defense ranks last against the run (160.5 yards per game), last in sacks (1), 30th in total defense (399.5) and 25th in yards per play allowed (5.9) this season.
Under Kevin Coyle, the Dolphins’ defense ranks last against the run (160.5 yards per game), last in sacks (1), 30th in total defense (399.5) and 25th in yards per play allowed (5.9) this season. AP

Miami Dolphins players return to work Wednesday.

And there’s a good chance they’ll do so with no change at defensive coordinator — at least yet.

Tuesday came and went with embattled defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle still on the job, even with the man who hired him — Joe Philbin — no longer a part of the organization.

In his first full day as interim coach, Dan Campbell tried to figure out the best way to fix a defense that has played well below its talent level for the better part of a year.

Options he considered: Firing Coyle and replacing him with someone outside the organization, elevating someone currently on staff or even keeping Coyle on board for the final 12 games of the season.

The third possibility was almost unthinkable for players after Philbin was fired Monday; deciding to stick with Coyle, who many in the locker room dislike, would be met with surprise and puzzlement over what would change.

And clearly, something needs to change.

Coyle has presided over a defense that, through four weeks, ranks last against the run (160.5 yards per game), last in sacks (1), 30th in total defense (399.5) and 25th in yards per play allowed (5.9).

Deep player dissatisfaction with Coyle and his system stretches back to the 2014 season, when a late-season defensive collapse caused the Dolphins to miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year.

But the problem the Dolphins face: You can’t replace someone with no one.

Since Philbin’s firing, the Dolphins contacted Jim Schwartz, who was Ndamukong Suh’s head coach in Detroit for four years, although it is not clear that it was to be their defensive coordinator.

NFL Network reported Schwartz will not be joining Miami’s staff.

A common criticism around the league is that Coyle has not maximized Suh’s potential; Suh had some of his best years with Schwartz as his coach.

Some Dolphins players have grumbled about what they perceive as preferential treatment given to Suh, and it’s clear that a top priority within the organization is to get the most out of their most expensive player.

Of course, the most likely replacement, if indeed Coyle is fired, is currently on the Dolphins’ payroll. The team isn’t going to change its 4-3 system or its verbiage midway through the season.

Possibilities include linebackers coach Mark Duffner, whose relationship with Coyle stretches back to their days together at Holy Cross in the 1980s, defensive line coach Terrell Williams and defensive backs coach Lou Anarumo.

Part of the reason for the delayed decision: Campbell — who was tight ends coach — isn’t as familiar with the team’s issues on defense as he is on offense, and he didn’t want to make a rash decision.

And even if Campbell keeps Coyle aboard, he will have input on the defensive calls and schemes.

Furthermore, coaching changes might not be limited to the defensive side of the ball. Offensive assistants are also on notice as Campbell tries to fix a unit that has also underachieved.

▪ The Dolphins on Tuesday released guard Mike Liedtke from their practice squad but suggested he could return soon, Liedtke’s agent Brett Tessler wrote on Twitter.

Miami Herald sportswriter Armando Salguero contributed to this report.

Adam H. Beasley: 305-376-3565, @AdamHBeasley

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