Much humor and mystery has revolved around the phrase “Philbin-type players.” Well, unable to find the Holy Grail or the lost Seal of the Confederacy, I turned to this. Truthfully, Ireland picks the players, and the coach so they are his type players too. You might think of Philbin as a guy who embodies Jeff Ireland’s style as it pertains to game plans, and the players who fit them. In that sense, Philbin casts some light on what Ireland pitched to Ross to keep his job from Fisher, who asked for both the GM and HC jobs to take over the laughingstock Dolphins.
Well, let’s see if we have enough to reverse engineer this. Many of the quotes aren’t exact since I remember them from interviews, thus I will use the appropriate quotation marks.
What happened in the Interviews with Ross, Carl Peterson and Ireland? I believe Ireland pitched Ross on a team built for the future not the past. Personally, I thought tuna’s systems had run their course by the ’90 SB where only a perfect performance saved them from a vastly superior and more modern team.Ireland has been around the NFL forever and is famously shown hanging out with the ’85 Bears.I believe he pitched Ross on not where the NFL was but where it was going. As a few years have gone by, he has been proven correct in doing so by the evolution of the rules and fines. The future game will be faster, with more passing because of the protection offered receivers over the middle and all the ways you ‘, hit, block or hold anymore.
The old system was you assembled a team to beat the other team 1 on 1. Well, strong safety has been almost made obsolete and the fines are getting so high, players will have to change. The new NFL will be one with speed and flexible schemes, not line up and pound your man all day like pre-war Sparano.The final clue to Ireland/Philbin’s scheme is shown in the new speed package they assembled for this year.It is complicated as hell and requires a certain type of athlete. Basically it involves linemen and LBs with both rushing AND coverage skills all lining up. The dilemma for a QB is that anyone can cover or blitz, but who will? In the last few games I see the LBs deep down the field, and getting sacks, same with the linemen. Odrick and Jordan in coverage? Yes. That was the reason to move up for Dion. With him, Vernon, Wake, Misi, Odrick, Ellerbe and Wheeler, any can cover or rush. Watch the OL of the Browns in the 2nd half. They had no idea whom to plan for. By the way, the speedy pulling OL will be the same but is much further behind than the DL in its execution, and thus harder to see the plan.
So what is a Philbin type player. ‘We are looking for players with a certain specific set of intangibles.’said Joe.
‘We don’t want any players whom have reached their potential.’ said Ross.
Well, this rings a bell. Bill Walsh had psychological profiles done on Lott, Montana, and other stars, and used their profile to draft players. Clearly he was after more than 40-times. He was looking for a chemistry, a cohesion, a unity of purpose, AKA a solid locker room.
#1 the players have to be smart. #2 they have to be naturally driven hard workers after not success, but greatness.#3 they have to have the physical flexibility to play multiple roles.#4,and most rare, is they have to be team-firsters which involves the seemingly un-macho trait of humility.
I have noticed countless interviews where new Dolphins are shocked at how fast they get along with the other players. I believe that this is a camaraderie built on the respect for the other player having the above criteria. You can see it in little things – Tannehill texting the playbook during the draft and taking Wallace to dinner the day he signed – you can see it in the example Wake sets for the D by sharing all his knowledge in the meeting rooms, and being the hardest worker on D as Tannehill is on O.
Remember Philbin’s words about the WRs he was looking for? Interchangeable, able to line up anywhere. The emphasis is confusion for the D. Proof? Mike Wallace’s average distance of target has been 7 yards, not the 15-20 people said he was only good for. Interchangeable is a good label for the Speed Package of the D as well.
What does chemistry matter? A lot. Bill Walsh thought so. It starts with Ross agreeing with and fully supporting Ireland. Then Ireland found coaches who have the same player philosophy. They talk about every decision, but I never get the sense there is one group leading and keeping the others informed. They agree on the approach. Miami will out-scheme the opponents because they have the smart, flexible players to do so.
Keep in mind how complicated these systems are. They will take another year to really gel. A good example is Sherman’s pro system. Tannehill and Luck were the only two rookies thrown in to a pro offense immediately. The other rookies simply couldn’t mentally handle it until at the soonest, the end of last season, more likely this year. Proof? Matt Moore. Starting QB for several franchises. When Tanny went down midseason in the Jets rematch, Sherman said he had to simplify the playbook for him. What, a vet still hadn’t gotten the intricacies down?
Same with the D. When and if this all works out, Miami will be able to out-scheme opponents under the new NFL rules without the other team being able to counter.That is the new direction of a Tuna-free Ireland, Ireland type coaches and players to match. Jeff has taken lots of heat during the transition, mainly for Tuna’s drafts and waste of the cap on OL and LBs. Kudos to Ross with sticking with the big picture throughout.’We want a consistently winning franchise and to win the right way,’ says Ross.The right way has a lot to do with the intangibles Philbin was talking about in the players they were seeking. Will it work against the other mercenary bands being assembled around the NFL? who knows. Is the methodology to achieving consistent greatness that important, Bill Walsh seemed to think it critical.
Once Don Shula and Bud grant were asked what 3 things they wanted to be remembered by. Both gave shockingly short answers, but one of Shula’s was, “Always went first class.” What? He clarified it into ethics. Honor, respect, integrity, etc. How he won and lost was very important.Pride in one’s team covers many levels for us older fans. It is more than winning. It is winning respect for playing the right way and showing tons of respect to the opponent. Philbin wont tolerate penalties or egos. Suddenly, after many coaches and QBs, there is a familiar face in many Dolphins meetings. He likes Philbin and Tannehill for their approach. He was nowhere to be found for years, especially under Parcells and Sparano. A classy guy who is finally happy to be back with people he respects on many levels. Bob Griese.