Dolphins fire coach Joe Philbin after 1-3 start
Miami — New Miami Dolphins coach Dan Campbell believes his underachieving team needs to show more aggressiveness that stops just short of dirty play, and he looks forward to breaking up a few fights in practice.
Joe Philbin he’s not — which was the motive for the Dolphins’ coaching change Monday.
Owner Stephen Ross fired Philbin four games into his fourth season, and one day after a flop on an international stage helped seal his fate.
Tight ends coach Campbell was promoted to interim coach. His only coaching experience is with the Dolphins, who hired him as an intern in 2010, but the former NFL tight end was poised as well as passionate during a 25-minute introductory news conference.
“I’m not here just to finish the season up,” Campbell said. “That’s not my plan. We’re coming here to win games. It’s still early. We have time to turn everything around. But we can’t wait.”
The Dolphins (1-3) lost their third game in a row Sunday with their fourth consecutive lackluster performance, a 27-14 loss to the archrival New York Jets in London.
Midseason head coaching changes are unusual in the NFL, but a year ago the Raiders’ Dennis Allen was fired following Week 4 after losing — to the Dolphins in London.
In this case, few will accuse Ross of impatience. He ignored calls to fire Philbin in December after the team faded to finish 8-8 for a second successive season. Doubts only grew this season regarding Philbin’s inability to motivate players with his passive demeanor.
Campbell, who lists Sean Payton and Bill Parcells as mentors, said he respected Philbin but wants to change the culture.
“My vision is a bunch of hard-nosed guys that go out every day for practice and are ultra-competitive,” Campbell said. “These are guys that are scratching and clawing, very intense, very heated, and on Sunday it’s that same team.
“We are going to play by the rules, but we’re going to be much more aggressive. There’s always that line: ‘This is OK to do, and this is dirty.’ I’m not saying we want dirty players, but we’re going to walk that line. I don’t want us playing on our heels. I want us playing on our toes.”
Campbell said he wasn’t ready to make any decisions regarding possible changes in the rest of the coaching staff, which includes embattled defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle. Miami has a bye this week and next plays at Tennessee on Oct. 18.
The Dolphins have started poorly in every game and have been outscored 37-3 in the first quarter. They rank last in the AFC in rushing and offensive points per game, and last in the NFL in sacks and run defense despite the offseason addition of $114 million tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Lack of talent isn’t the problem, Campbell said.
“This is my sixth season with the Miami Dolphins, and this is the most talented roster we have had in those six years,” Campbell said. “We have plenty of talent. I feel there’s a lot more we can get out of these guys.”
Campbell becomes the eighth coach since 2004 for the Dolphins, who haven’t won a playoff game since 2000.
Philbin, who was hired as a first-time head coach in 2012, went 24-28. He failed to reach the playoffs or even finish above .500, and his job has been in jeopardy since a rocky 2013 season that included a bullying scandal.
But even after this year’s dismal start, Ross said, the decision to fire Philbin was difficult.
“I don’t believe we were performing at the potential we have,” he said. “I felt this was the time to make this decision. I haven’t seen a lot of improvement. I see the same old, same old.
“My goal is still to make the playoffs. I felt this was the best opportunity we have — to pick Dan Campbell as our head coach.”
Philbin issued a statement thanking Ross, his players and his assistant coaches.
“It is my hope that the 2015 Miami Dolphins achieve great success both on and off the field,” he said.
Campbell said the prospect of replacing Philbin and becoming an NFL head coach was “a little surreal,” but he expects to retain the job beyond his interim stint.
“It’s a little bit of, ‘Whoa, what are you getting into?’ But I’m ready for this. I can do this.”