Joe Philbin’s new job in Miami will demand more than just his mind, and football intelligence. It’ll demand more than his resilience while battling a culture of sustained mediocrity, and a team that’s made the playoffs only once in the past decade, but has still hovered around the .500 mark while finishing with at least six wins eight times over that stretch.
He’ll need to quickly acquire the ability to lead, command respect, and show the appropriate levels of charisma and energy, a concept Tony Sparano never seemed to grasp without supersized fist pumps. He’ll need the ability to be exactly what owner Stephen Ross wants him to be: the next Don Shula.
How exactly he begins to go about that after being hired Saturday and officially introduced as the Dolphins’ new head coach Sunday is unclear. He’s not even sure yet, but the former Packers offensive coordinator knows that ordering duplicates of Green Bay’s west coast playbook and immediately sending it to his new Dolphins players is both impossible, and unintelligent.
He needs do some basic fundamentals first, like hire his assistants, and learn the names of his players. Names are important, and the name of his quarterback will be most important, and it could and should be familiar.
Philbin needs Matt Flynn, and Matt Flynn needs Philbin.
Immediately once Philbin was hired in Miami the logical buzz began around Flynn also taking his talents to South Beach and reaching for familiarity and comfort while pursuing his first job as a full-time starter. The Dolphins have reportedly stated their desire to employ Peyton Manning if he’s released by Indianapolis and becomes available. That would be the sexy signing, and it would put bodies in seats.
But it wouldn’t be the wise signing, and with his influence Philbin should steer GM Jeff Ireland towards Flynn. The knock on Manning is abundantly clear, yet his name value will still be alluring on the open market. He turns 36 years old in March, and he’s had three neck surgeries over the past two years, making any long-term investment in his services more than merely unreliable. The risk will be overbearing, and with a new head coach and likely a new offense, Miami needs an offensive foundation at quarterback, and Manning’s physical foundation is already cracking.
Flynn certainly isn’t free of concern either, and just last week we addressed the possibility of him becoming the next Kevin Kolb, while his future team will clearly hand over a paycheck to the Packers free agent hoping they’re paying for the next Matt Schaub. That risk is manageable, though, because of Matt Moore’s presence, and his very affordable $2.5 million salary during the final year of his contract in 2012.
One year ago Moore wouldn’t have been considered an option for anything ever. But now after he became an efficient game manager and threw 16 touchdowns to nine interceptions, with six interception-free games over his 12 starts while completing 60.5 percent of his passes, there’s confidence in Moore’s arm, enough that he could at the very least do his best Alex Smith impression.
So the quality backup is already in place for one more year, and even that second string quarterback has demonstrated what can be done with the offensive weapons in place for Philbin. Miami won six of its last nine games with Moore under center after losing seven straight to start the season, a stretch that included Chad Henne’s season-ending shoulder injury.
That streak also included wins over the Jets and Raiders, and just a three-point loss to New England. Much of the turnaround was powered by Reggie Bush’s reemergence with his 552 all-purpose yards between Weeks 13 and 16, and he’s supported by 2011 second-round pick Daniel Thomas whenever he’s healthy. Brandon Marshall is already there as the deep threat, and Davone Bess had 820 receiving yards two years ago, a form he could regain with an upgrade at quarterback.
All the pieces are there for Philbin’s highly-talented offense that was inexplicably unsuccessful under Sparano. There’s just one missing.