Few people know Joe Philbin. If there was a fill-in poll taken, many people may believe that he is related to Regis Philbin. While I have never met him, the things I have read and heard about this man cause me to sit in awe.
His love for the sitcom Seinfeld, and how we share the same sentiments about George Costanza; his perseverance through family tragedy, when he lost his son in a drowning accident.
His journey was a long and winding one. When he arrived in Green Bay, as an assistant in 2003, it was his ninth different team in 19 years. Unlike places before, Philbin found a real home in the Green Bay family.
During the past nine years, he helped Green Bay in their transition from a Brett Favre led team to the Aaron Rodgers era. During his tenure as offensive coordinator, each year, Green Bay was ranked in the top 10 for points scored and total yards in the NFL. Under his watch, Rodgers helped turn Green Bay's offense into a dangerous machine and Super Bowl XLV champion.
When the Miami Dolphins brought Philbin in for an interview, it was no surprise to anyone that knew him. He was calm, confident and never afraid to put in the hard work. Miami would need a leader like him after finishing a disappointing 6-10 in 2011 and firing then head coach Tony Sparano.
On the night after his interview with the Dolphins, his son Michael Philbin would drown in the Fox River in Oshkosh, WI. The family was broken, Philbin was crushed. Michael had been vocal about his support for his father’s dream of becoming an NFL head coach. While many may have decided to take time off, Philbin pressed on and accepted Miami's offer to become their tenth head coach in franchise history.
So what mode of operation would someone, who is widely respected amongst his peers, do in his first stint as a head coach: very unconventional ones. They traded two fan favorites, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and corner back Vontae Davis and released another, safety Yeremiah Bell. His critics, who were already good in number, due to his lack of head coaching experience among other things, started to increase after these questionable moves.
Then there was the 2012 NFL Draft. The Dolphins' had holes to fill across the roster, especially wide receivers and linemen. Miami had signed the ex-Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback, free agent David Garrard in March and many had assumed he would step in as the team's starter. So on that draft night in July, when Miami picked Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M with the 8th overall pick, the buzz around the Dolphins began to increase.
Tannehill's road to the NFL was full of detours as well. As a high school junior and senior he was the quarterback at Big Springs High School in Texas. He committed to Texas A&M for the 2007 season. After redshirting his first year, he lost out on the battle for starting quarterback in 2008. Standing at 6'4", weighing 215 pounds and possessing deceptive speed, the coaches looked for ways to get Tannehill on the field.
Tannehill shined. In his first two years as a receiver for A&M, he led the team in receptions, although when asked about his situation, he always expressed his desire to be the starting quarterback. In 2010, he would get that chance. After opening the season 3-3, the coaching staff let Tannehill and then starter Jerrod Johnson split time in the seventh game against Kansas. Tannehill would start every game at quarterback for Texas A&M from this game forward. Tannehill was unpolished and rough but showed moxie and the willingness to put in the work.
Maybe that’s why Joe Philbin wanted Tannehill as his quarterback. He saw the road blocks that were constantly put in front of him disappear through a combination of hard work and determination. Perhaps he saw a little bit of himself in the young man from Texas. Some laughed when Miami picked Tannehill, others praised the decision.
After the Dolphins went 0-4 in the preseason and were shellacked in their week 1 match up against the Houston Texans, 30-10, some were questioning Miami's decision at quarterback as Tannehill threw three interceptions and no touchdowns.
At halftime, when Tannehill and the Dolphins went into the locker room down 10-7 against their week two opponent, the Oakland Raiders, there was a lot of talk inside the Dolphins' locker room. Talk about the hard work that had got them there; talk about the obstacles they had overcome. This was not going to be another rebuilding year or lost season for these Dolphins. In the second half all the hard work paid off.
On their second drive of the 2nd half, they went 44 yards in four plays, as running back Reggie Bush scampered in for a touchdown from 23 yards out. Their third drive covered 80 yards in only 3 plays, as Bush again took one to the house, this time off the left end for 65 yards.
In the 4th quarter, Tannehill had his first NFL regular season touchdown with a 15 yard catch and run to tight end Anthony Fasano. He finished the game 18 of 30 for 200 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. Bush ran all over Oakland and ended the day with 26 carries for 172 yards with two touchdowns.
Philbin and Tannehill were both told that they were not good enough or that they should just seek to fulfill a different role than they had expected. Even Bush was told that he was not an every down back, as he was too small.
Yet, through it all, they pressed onward, never listening to the chorus of critics. Philbin knows that anything is possible, but he also knows you'll never get there while sitting in a chair. "Onward and upward".