With the Dolphins playoff hopes firmly destroyed after the loss to the New England Patriots, speculation is once again starting up regarding the fate of current head coach Joe Philbin. There has already been a lot of news regarding the position of head coach, whether any of it is true or not is still unconfirmed (looking at you Miko).
Regardless of the unknowns, there are a few things that Dolphins fans can take as pretty much rock-solid statements. First one is that Joe Philbin does not have what it takes to lead an NFL team. He's a nice man, he's very organized (that much is clear since that was apparently why he was hired in the first place), but he doesn't have the fire in his belly that's required to be a leader of men.
As I wrote in a previous column, in order to be an NFL head coach, you need to have what it takes to be a leader of men. If you're not, then you better be an absolute genius at everything else, and Joe Philbin, while smart in some aspects, is lacking in too many other areas for him to overcome the handicap of not being a leader of men.
This brings us to my point. With all the Jim Harbaugh speculation floating around and the conspiracy theories that go right along with it, let us not be blinded to other options out there, and I am not referring to possible college coaches moving up to the NFL level. I am referring to a man that I feel has been disrespected by his organization for a few years now. Rex Ryan.
Now there are some people out there who would immediately say that they want Rex to stay as far away from the Dolphins as possible, for the simple - and petty - reason that he is a New York Jet, and anyone who touches the gang-green uniform is soiled in the eyes of Dolphins fans. But there are several reasons why Rex would be a good choice for this Dolphins squad, and I hope you will all keep an open mind, as these are merely theories made from sheer speculation.
Rex would make the defense elite
So many people question Rex's ability to be a head coach because he has little to no knowledge of how to run an offense. He's been called an average head coach, but an elite defensive coordinator. That's one thing that cannot be argued, Rex's ability to work with a defense is top-tier, and there are very few - if any coaches that could rival Rex's knowledge in running a defense.
Now some people can point to this year's New York Jets squad and make the argument that Rex is not nearly as great at what he does as people would like to think. Thing is, who is looking at the talent he currently has at his disposal? During the times Rex had great defenses, he also had great talent.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, Bart Scott, Shaun Ellis, even Jason Taylor for a time. What does he have now? Apart from interior defensive linemen like Sheldon Richardson, there aren't really any names that can be pointed at as talented. Now here's where the Dolphins come in.
There have been several (and I do mean SEVERAL) critics of defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle's defensive philosophy, accusing him of playing not to lose instead of playing to win. Coyle has had issues in the past whenever his linebackers aren't playing at a high level, and for the majority of Coyle's tenure in Miami, his linebackers have been average at best.
However, there's a lot more talent on this team than the recent play of the defense has to show for it. Young players like Olivier Vernon, Jared Odrick, Jelani Jenkins, Jamar Taylor and Dion Jordan (especially Jordan). Not to mention very good veterans like Cameron Wake and Brent Grimes. In the hands of a Rex Ryan, the players on this defensive squad could become the next Legion of Boom.
There are a few quid pro quos though. Rex likes physical, press corners, which Grimes isn't. He might be ok, but Rex's defense could see Grimes playing at a lesser level than his usual elite level. However, that would allow safety Reshad Jones to truly unleash his physical play style. Also, in Rex's 3-4 defense, 2013 first round pick Dion Jordan would finally be allowed to go back to his college position of outside linebacker, where he's most comfortable. Then we might finally get to see what Jordan can really do.
The other condition is that offensive coordinator Bill Lazor stays on board and is allowed to run the offense his way, with minimal interference from the head coach. There have been moments where Lazor has been overruled by Joe Philbin, and Lazor has made it known that he does not appreciate that. Rex - being a defensive minded coach - would likely allow Lazor to run it his way.
Rex would likely be ok with keeping certain pieces in place
Now is where we go into sheer speculation. The way I see it, considering the issues that Rex Ryan has had to deal with for the past couple of years, Rex might be willing to work with certain individuals who have either proven their worth or are on their way to doing just that. I am referring to coaches like Bill Lazor and of course offensive line coach John Benton. Also, general manager Dennis Hickey.
Starting with Hickey, the new GM of the Miami Dolphins did an admirable job of filling in the spot left behind by Jeff Ireland, and not just that, he surpassed all expectations. Hickey made great moves in the offseason and draft, despite the injuries that unfortunately shut down quite a few of those moves. Hickey found talented young rookies like Ja'Wuan James and Jarvis Landry, who have made immediate contributions, as well as extremely talented undrafted rookies like Chris McCain and Damien Williams.
How does this tie in with Rex? Well, to put it bluntly, both Mike Tannenbaum and now John Idzik have done terrible jobs giving Rex good talent to work with, especially with salary cap issues that the Jets are now dealing with. While the Dolphins will have similar cap issues to deal with at the end of the season, even if there is a roster purge for money's sake, there will still be an abundance of young talent on the roster for Rex to work with.
Just speaking defensively for a moment, even if players like Jared Odrick can't be afforded due to the amount of money he would demand, there are still talented players that could potentially take his place like A.J. Francis or Anthony Johnson. Defensive end Olivier Vernon soon will command a big contract as well, but players like Derrick Shelby and (assuming Rex takes over) Dion Jordan are there to take over the pass-rushing duties. The talent drop-off is there, but it isn't so dramatic that a team strength would suddenly become a weakness.
Hickey has found more talent in one year than Tannenbaum and Idzik managed to found for Rex in three, and Hickey has shown he's willing to cooperate with head coaches, since he was willing to take the job with Philbin as the established coach when several other candidates refused to accept the job because they wanted to hire their own head coach. As a talent evaluator, Hickey is showing he knows what he's doing, and Rex is looking for a GM that can do just that. Perfect fit if you ask me, especially compared to what he's had to deal with with the Jets.
As for Lazor and Benton, Lazor's job, again, is to run the offense. Rex does like to ground and pound when he does offense, and there might be a few minor changes to be made, but nothing incredibly drastic. With Lazor running the offense, Ryan Tannehill will be given another year in an offense where he seems to thrive in, which is always a good thing, right?
Benton on the other hand managed to make something somewhat serviceable out of a hot mess that is the Miami Dolphins offensive line. Considered one of the best in the business at what he does, Benton has helped the offense click better than it would have without him. With a few more pieces on the interior, the offensive line could potentially be really good, and under Rex, it's possible that Benton will be there to make sure it gets done right.
Rex is a leader of men
As I stated in the beginning of this column, the most important thing a head coach needs to be able to do is lead grown men into battle. It's been made abundantly clear that Philbin can't handle that. Rex can. There's a reason that the Jets, no matter how low they go, never seem to give up.
Last season, the Jets had an opportunity to knock the Miami Dolphins out of the playoff hunt in the final game of the season, and they did just that. The Jets were clearly inferior in terms of talent, but they looked like they wanted to beat the Dolphins more than the Dolphins wanted to go to the playoffs, which is pretty sad.
It was that final push that earned Rex another year as the head coach of the New York Jets, the players refused to give up on him despite the speculation that he would be fired as soon as the year was over. Can we say beyond the shadow of a doubt that Philbin's players are doing that? We've heard all the talk, we've heard how much the players like Philbin and want him to stay and all that, but on the field, that attitude doesn't follow them there.
Rex may not be as intellectual as Philbin might be, but he makes up for it with the ability to fire up his team no matter what the circumstances. Tony Sparano had that ability, but supposedly that was the only thing he was good at, which isn't enough to be a head coach. Personally, I feel that Sparano is given a bum rap because in 2008, his first year as a head coach, he had a healthy Chad Pennington as his quarterback. When Henne took over, they started losing. I don't see that as a coincidence.
Rex can do what Sparano does and more, he's a defensive genius on top of being a motivator, and there are a lot of things that make sense about him becoming the new head coach. Rex will likely be fired at the end of the year, and the Dolphins would be wise, in my opinion, to take a good, long look at Rex Ryan. He's a man who knows his defense and is a leader of men, and he should not be judged too harshly for his failures because of the extreme lack of talent he's surrounded with. Put Rex in a Dolphins shirt, and watch how great he can be.
This column was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @FLSportDebater