After Miami's 37-35 win over the Vikings, owner Stephen Ross announced "He's coming back!" with a smile on his face. After being eliminating from the playoffs, there was a lot of talk about Joe Philbin being fired. There were even rumors of Ross trying to pursue Michigan alumni Jim Harbaugh, but all the talk was dismissed. Now the debate will begin on whether or not it was the right decision to bring Philbin back.
After hiring Philbin in 2012, Ross said at the time that he's hopeful Philbin could become the "next Don Shula," which is both high praise and high expectations. I'm still not convinced that he's that good of a coach to be considered the next Don Shula, but I do believe he's helping Miami improve.
Miami's scoring has improved from 19.8 points per game in 2013 to 24.3 points per game this season.Third-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill is having a career season. He has set career highs in touchdown passes (26) and passer rating (93.2). And don't forget the Dolphins have had three losses this season by four points or less to three playoff teams (Denver, Green Bay and Detroit). If Miami won any of these games the season could be looked at a lot differently.
Another reason to bring Philbin back was Miami's veterans backing of him. Team captain Cameron Wake, receiver Mike Wallace and guard Mike Pouncey all came to Philbin's defense. These guys admitted any blame on losses was on the players.
"Coach Philbin is a big part of this franchise," Wake said. "He's obviously part of the success of this team. That's great news and I'm looking forward to it."
Ross has decided to let Philbin coach the last year remaining in his four year contract and said, "They say patience is a virtue, you know. But I'm expecting big things next year -- I will tell you that."
Philbin has to do better with his in-game management, especially in close games. Playing better late in the season is also a must. Philbin failed to win big games in December for the second straight season and that plays a large part in the reason Miami is not in the playoffs. With improvement in those two areas, Miami could see themselves in the playoffs.
"I want to compete for championships while I'm the head coach of the Miami Dolphins," Philbin said Sunday night. "That's what I told Mr. Ross I was going to do. I'm disappointed that we're not in [the playoffs]."
Its pretty clear that Ross is believing in Philbin and in his last year in contract, this will likely be his last year to prove he's the right choice. If things end up similar to this season and Miami fails to make the playoffs, at least Miami can make a easier exit to the Philbin era with his contract ending.
This column was written by Justin Lemanski. Follow him on Twitter: @TheKidJTL
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