With the reports that tensions have arisen between the two men running his organization, Stephen Ross needs to step in and either play babysitter or fire another person. Despite the canning of struggling offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, more might need to be done. Even if the reports are not true, Joe Philbin and Jeff Ireland have hinted in the past two years that their styles don’t mix.
Jeff Ireland, who came in with Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano from the Dallas Cowboys in 2008, has shown that the players he is good at selecting are not the same type of players that fit into Philbin’s system. When Ireland and company came from the Cowboys, Miami soon got the nickname “Dallas South” which they have lived up to by having five straight mediocre seasons.
Ireland was tasked with building a smash-mouth, physical football team when he first arrived with the Miami Dolphins. When Sparano was fired in 2011, the Dolphins wanted to get up to date with the up-tempo offensive takeover of the NFL. Stephen Ross hired Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as head coach, and the switch from a physical team to a finesse team was in gear.
The switch has been a little shaky so far as the team has been too finessing with too little offense. The offense was ranked 27th in the league in total offense, and the zone-running scheme which Philbin implemented was responsible for one of the worst rushing attacks in Dolphins history. Ireland built one of the league’s best offensive lines in 2008 and 2009 when he was tasked with acquiring maulers instead of athletic o-linemen.
Even the defense, which had been the team’s backbone through the Sparano years, played with a finesse attitude, allowing almost 2,000-yards rushing. Ireland was forced to bring in two new linebackers in Dannell Ellerbe and Philip Wheeler when Philbin exiled all the leaders of the team, including linebackers Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett, so that he would have complete control over the locker room.
The linebacker swap is still one fans cannot get over, especially since Dansby had a career year in Arizona while the Dolphins’ linebackers struggled mightily. The new linebackers took the finesse makeover to the defensive side of the ball as they both tried to play quicker instead of more physical. The two would try to go around blockers instead of power through them which led to huge holes and big runs.
Whether it is Ireland who cannot supply the proper players or it’s Philbin’s system not working, something is going wrong. The Dolphins would not have folded in such embarrassing fashion to end the season if this was not true. Mr. Ross needs to identify how to fix this problem, and the simplest solution would be to find two men who have similar philosophies instead of trying to mix two opposite viewpoints on how a team should be built.