The NFL season has reached the halfway mark, and if the season were to end today, Joe Philbin would stand a good chance of bringing home the Coach of the Year honors.
A rookie head coach, Philbin has the look and feel of a cagey veteran, and he has been redefining the Miami Dolphins since he first arrived in South Beach. He has traded away or released troublesome playmakers and fan favorites. He has shown the name on the back of the jersey does not matter. He parted ways with players like Brandon Marshall, Vontae Davis, Chad Johnson, and Yeremiah Bell, and he sent a clear message that it was not going to be about the player, but about the team. Those that were left on the team have clearly bought in.
Philbin has taken a team that began the 2011 season 0-7, and has guided them to a 4-3 record that is just a few bad plays away from being 6-1. This is a phenomenal turnaround for an organization that was laughed at during the offseason, and was thought to be one of the worst in the NFL at the end of preseason.
The world got an inside look at the state of the Dolphins when Philbin and general Manager Jeff Ireland allowed HBO cameras to document the rigors of training camp with the Miami Dolphins. Hard Knocks revealed a team with a thin secondary, a rookie as the best option at quarterback, and a suspect group of wide receivers, all of which contributed to an 0-4 preseason record.
That preaseaon record amplifies the work that Philbin has put in to coach his team to their current 4-3 record. Of course, the game is won on the field by the players making plays, but Philbin has instilled the belief in the players that they can make the plays. It is his job to put them in a position to win games, and he has done just that over the first half of the season.
There were many doubts when Philbin was brought in from the Green Bay Packers, but he has coached Miami to three straight wins, two of which were on the road, and his Dolphins would be the 5th seed in the playoffs if the season were to end today.
While there are several other coaches around the league who have done wonderful things with their teams this season, none of them have faced the type of challenges that were presented by the Miami Dolphins. Philbin came into an organization that needed a complete makeover, and it is the way he has changed the culture in Miami that makes this season so special for the rookie head coach.
There is still plenty of football left to be played, and Philbin has already accomplished enough to be considered the Coach of the Year. If he can keep his team focused, and the Dolphins continue to improve, Miami will be right in the middle of the playoff hunt at the end of the season. A postseason appearance in his first year on the job would all but guarantee the COY honor to the Dolphins’ new man.
Dolphins fans look eagerly towards the second half of the season, and hope is alive in South Florida. For that alone Joe Philbin could be named Coach of the Year, and it would be hard for anyone to say otherwise.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.