Greg Cote

Greg Cote: This type of loss can cost Joe Philbin his job

Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin screams from the sideline Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, September 27, 2015.
Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin screams from the sideline Buffalo Bills at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, September 27, 2015. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

One of the richest men on Earth, Warren Buffett, roamed the sideline as a guest of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross at Sunday’s home opener for Miami. Ross’ net worth is more than $6 billion and Buffett, who wore a Ndamukong Suh jersey, is worth more than 10 times that.

Ross wanted to impress Buffett by showing off his shiny new toy, the one he hoped might make the NFL playoffs, even win a championship. Here is what Buffett saw instead:

A football team that looked like Ross had bought it at the dollar store.

And not gotten his money’s worth.

What a debacle! You are launching the franchise’s 50th season in front of your home fans. You are playing an AFC East division rival in the Buffalo Bills. You have every incentive to rebound impressively from the previous week’s unexpected loss to Jacksonville.

And, instead of rising up, you lay down and get kicked all over the field.

The 41-14 final score flattered the Dolphins and the effort shown. It was 27-0 by halftime, when Dolfans literally booed their team off the field.

Now, the fallout.

Because it comes to that, even three games into a long season, when your hopes were high and now you are 1-2 coming off three unimpressive performances and consecutive losses.

“I’m the head coach. It starts with me,” Joe Philbin said afterward. “It was not a good performance. I take responsibility. It starts with me.”

Taking responsibility is fine.

Finding solutions is so, so much better.

I’m not sure how Philbin survives grand-marshaling such a pathetic show as Sunday’s to start a home season couched in such promise like this.

Philbin is a good man. But 51 games into his Dolphins tenure I’m still not sure he’s a good coach, and increasingly I wonder if Ross thinks so.

Heads might roll

In the short term, I would not be shocked if the collapse we saw Sunday cost defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle his job. That would not be scapegoating. That would be underlining the urgency of turning around a defense that spent $114million signing the superstar run-stopper Suh and yet somehow is worse than last season’s defense.

In the longer term, a loss like Sunday’s felt like the low from which Philbin will not recover. If and when he is fired — the “when” seeming to loom ever larger than the “if” — I suspect getting embarrassed in the home opener to a division rival will be what Ross thinks of first, and what hurts the most.

Already there is a feel of desperation seeping into the season. It’s logically way too early for that. But what benefit of patience should be expected from a fan base that has not cheered a playoff victory since 2000? Or from an owner who spent big to win now and and had to suffer through Sunday?

“Next week is a must-win,” center Mike Pouncey said of the trip to London to play the New York Jets. “We don’t win next week, there’s a lot of pissed-off guys around here.”

Even Philbin alluded to a fraying in his locker room, to frustration at a simmer and threatening to reach full boil.

“We’re either going to stick together or not,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of team we have. We’re going to find out.”

Philbin added, “I don’t believe in finger-pointing.”

Which is fine, of course, because there are always plenty of fans and plenty in the media to pick up the slack on that. Maybe even some sniping from within. We’ll see.

Plainly, Sunday was painful. It hurt in so many ways.

Miami spent what would be a lot of money even to Warren Buffett for Suh and has gotten three consecutive games of negligible impact.

“I think that’s your opinion,” he said, testily, to a reporter postgame.

The team also spent $93 million to extend quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s contract and just watched him throw three interceptions and get outplayed by a person named Tyrod Taylor.

“I can make a lot more plays early,” Tannehill said of a third slow start in a row. “It starts with me.”

Dolphins fans had to watch Rex Ryan, the hated ex-Jets coach, all but preening and prancing on the Buffalo sideline.

They watched the vanquished Miami Bullygate figure, Richie Incognito, leading the way in neutralizing the Fins’ defensive line.

They watched another former Dolphin-turned-Bill, tight end Charles Clay, make the home team wish it had never let him go.

They watched Bills fans, exalting and gloating in their own stadium, all but dancing from it.

No time to panic

I’d note in fairness that a 1-2 record, by itself, is no cause for panic.

Just last season, New England lost to Kansas City in Week 4 by the same score, 41-14, falling to 2-2, but went on to win Super Bowl.

The Dolphins are not the Patriots, though.

Philbin is not Bill Belichick.

“We’re kind of at a crossroads,” Tannehill had to admit, sifting through the rubble.

Sunday was supposed to be the faith-restoring, home-opening victory that set the season right.

Instead, all you saw and felt in the wake of this loss was coaches and players at a loss to explain it, and fresh doubts rising up like something capable of drowning a season.

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at miamiherald.com and follow him on Twitter @gregcote.

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