NFL's head-coaching positions that were open this offseason have been filled, so it's time to speculate on which coach is on the hottest seat in 2015. Find out inside who should be your props pick.
No Lame-Duck Season
I honestly don't know why Philbin still has his current job as the Dolphins are 23-25 under him in three seasons. They controlled their playoff fate at the end of the 2013 season but then lost 19-0 in Buffalo in Week 16 and 20-7 at home to the New York Jets in Week 17. Last year the Fins controlled their own destiny again but lost three of their final four games.
The one win in that stretch in `14 was Week 16 as home favorite on NFL Odds board against the Vikings, 37-35. It was a great victory as Miami was down a touchdown with less than 90 seconds left. Then Ryan Tannehill hit Damien Williams on a 3-ard TD pass with 1:11 left to tie it, and the Dolphins won it on a blocked punt for a safety with 41 seconds left. It was the first go-ahead safety in the final minute of the fourth quarter in NFL history.
Apparently owner Stephen Ross was caught up in the excitement because he immediately declared that Philbin would be back in 2015 despite earlier reports that Philbin was going to get canned. “Here’s a Christmas present. You don’t have to ask me anymore. He has one year left on contract and is coming back,” Ross said to the Palm Beach Post.
So what then did Miami do in Week 17 to celebrate that fact? Lost ugly at home to the Jets again, as New York QB Geno Smith, the worst starting QB in the NFL most would agree, had a perfect rating. But there was no firing Philbin now. In fact, instead of letting Philbin coach as a lame duck in 2015 on the final year of his contract, Ross recently extended the coach into 2016. I read nothing into that.
"You don't get the best from someone when they're operating with a gun to their head," Ross said after announcing the deal.
I'd say it's playoffs or bust this season for Philbin and that's not impossible for Miami, although it's going to have to be via a wild-card spot because the Dolphins aren't winning the division as long as Tom Brady is healthy. That's why I argued Miami was one of the AFC teams most hurt when the NFL decided not to expand the playoffs for the 2015 season.
Ross is desperate to get some buzz around his franchise -- the fans in south Florida are notoriously fickle. After all, there's a lot of things to do in Miami during football season instead of watching a game. The market is there for the taking with the Heat losing LeBron James and the Marlins still, well, the Marlins (although on the rise).
Thus the owner opened up the checkbook this offseason and landed the biggest free-agent fish out there: Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who got the biggest contract ever for a defender. Whether you think Suh was overpaid or not, there's no doubt he's the best in the NFL at his position. Suh will make a difference.
In addition, Miami got Tannehill some help in signing Browns free-agent tight end Jordan Cameron and trading for young Saints receiver Kenny Stills. Cameron had a really good 2013 season but struggled with injuries and lousy QB play last year. His catches dropped from 80 in 2013 to 24 in '14, his yards from 917 to 424 and his touchdowns from seven to two. Stills, who will be just 23 in April, is a speedster who caught 63 passes for 931 yards and three touchdowns last season in New Orleans. He cost linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and a draft pick. Are Cameron and Stills a better duo than former Dolphins tight end Charles Clay and Mike Wallace were? Hard to say. Clay was allowed to sign with Buffalo and Wallace was traded to Minnesota -- Wallace was considered a locker-room cancer so that might be addition by subtraction.
Miami's 2015 strength of schedule is rated as the toughest in the AFC East, although just barely. The Fins' 2015 opponents had a 2014 combined winning percentage of .492. The Dolphins are +4000 to win Super Bowl 50 at sportsbooks. If that happens, then Philbin has no worries! But it won't.