Over the course of 30 minutes, three separate events brought dismay to most Dolphins fans. First, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished off its 20-12 defeat of the Kansas City Chiefs, ending the slim chances (0.2% probability to be exact) of the Dolphins earning an AFC wild card spot. Next, Dolphins rookie DE Terrence Fede blocked a Minnesota Vikings punt out of the endzone, giving the Dolphins a 37-35 lead with less than a minute left in the game after a highly eventful 4th quarter. With the Dolphins officially eliminated from the playoff picture, winning “meaningless” games only hurts your draft positioning for the following year. And then if it wasn’t bad enough already, owner Stephen Ross announced shortly after the victory that Joe Philbin would be returning as head coach for the final year of his four-year contract. My friend summed up this series of events with this succinct five-word sentence, “I hate all of this.”
But in response to my friend and the rest of the Dolphins fans out there who feel like the Dolphins didn’t get anything right in Week 16, let me tell you why keeping Joe Philbin shouldn’t fall into this category.
Let’s take a sample of the NFL teams that will be playing football in January. The following teams have already clinched their playoff spots with one week left in the regular season: Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Indianapolis Colts, and Denver Broncos. Some of these teams have elite, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, while others have standout defenses. But outside of the Detroit Lions, there’s one characteristic these teams have in common: a head coach that’s been in place for multiple years.
This result isn’t a coincidence or a statistical anomaly; simply put, there’s something to be said about continuity. Professional football players are some of the best athletes in the world, and most have gotten to where they are today due to a consistent and maniacal physical routine that us regular humans can’t begin to understand. This same concept of routine that relates to individual players can be applied to the team as a whole. When head coaches and coordinators are changing every few seasons, the lack of continuity creates an unstable and inconsistent organization. I think we can all agree the last thing the Dolphins, with one playoff appearance in the last 13 seasons, need is more instability.
One team from the aforementioned list of upcoming playoff participants stands out as a perfect example of the value of continuity: the Dallas Cowboys. For the better part of the past three seasons, Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has had the hottest seat amongst his NFL coaching peers. Despite a talented roster, the Cowboys couldn’t seem to get out of its own way, and in doing so finished 8-8, and missed the playoffs, for the past three seasons. With a disgruntled fan base (by far the largest in the NFL) and meddling owner (by far the most hands-on in the NFL), it seemed inevitable that Garrett would lose his job. However, Jerry Jones, a successful businessman in his own right, understood the value of continuity to any type of organization and retained Jason Garrett, and now the Cowboys have been one of the most impressive teams in the NFL this season.
No one would argue that the Dolphins don’t need major improvements. The quality of play on both sides of the ball diminished significantly as injuries took their toll. But in a sport where the potential for bone-crushing collisions occurs on every snap, injuries can’t be used as an excuse for an individual team’s performance. Instead, the Dolphins need to make it a priority to add quality depth across the board, and especially to its most fragile position groups (yes, I’m referring to the offensive line and linebackers).
With Joe Philbin back for the final year of his contract, the only acceptable result for the 2015 season is a playoff appearance. And if that doesn’t happen, trust me, you won’t have to worry about Philbin leading the Dolphins for the future seasons to come.
This article was written by Benjamin Meyer. Follow him on Twitter: @BRMeyer7