NFL Wire News

Dolphins owner may have known Harbaugh not an option


DAVIE, Fla. — Miami Dolphins owner Steven Ross wasn’t planning on towering over his team’s stirring 37-35 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

But that’s exactly what happened after the game when Ross announced head coach Joe Philbin would be back for the 2015 season, the fourth and final year of his contract.

“It’s frustrating we didn’t make the playoffs,” Ross said. “I feel as bad as everybody does. But I think we’re building something here, and I believe in the coach.”

Philbin, who is completing his third season in charge, has an unimpressive 23-24 record entering this week’s season finale against the New York Jets. And he hasn’t made the playoffs in any of his three season in charge.

Regardless, Ross said he made up his mind Philbin would return “before the (Vikings) game, way before.

“You’ve been watching things that are happening in the organization. I think everybody feels a buzz. Things are changing around here. We say patience is a virtue. But I’m expecting big things next year, I’ll tell you that.”

Ross, the billionaire New York real estate developer who hails from Miami Beach, has stressed continuity in recent years. It’s his belief NFL teams only get better by keeping the key people intact and allowing them to grow together.

Behind the scenes there are whispers that Ross, a big-money University of Michigan booster, might have got word San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh wouldn’t be interested in the Dolphins after the season, that perhaps Harbaugh preferred the Michigan job, or would wait for another NFL opening. So perhaps that spurred Ross to consider his other options and decide to stick with Philbin.

The drawback with Philbin, who was 7-9 in 2012 and 8-8 last season, is the Dolphins haven’t shown much progress under his guidance. On the other hand, progress is a relative term. The Dolphins have a chance to finish with their first winning record since 2008, which would also equal a one-game improvement in each of Philbin’s three years.

For his part, Philbin said getting the vote of confidence from Ross “wasn’t a big deal.”

Curiously, a few media members knew Philbin would be returning for 2015 before Philbin knew. Ross told media in the postgame locker room while Philbin was on the podium giving his postgame remarks

When Philbin was finished with his media session, Ross told him he would be back. Philbin, who maintains he was never worried about whether he would return next season, said he was grateful to know he’d be back in the same capacity.

“It wasn’t relief,” Philbin said of his reaction. “Certainly gratitude … it’s important for me that the owner believes in what I’m doing, what I believe in and what I’m all about as a coach and what this program is doing and heading in the right direction.

“But again, I’ve been in this profession a long time, I wasn’t worried about my own personal future.”

Ross wasn’t asked whether general manager Dennis Hickey would return for the 2015 season. But you would have to assume the first-year executive will be back.

Hickey secured left tackle Branden Albert in free agency and drafted tackle Ja’Wuan James in the first round and wide receiver Jarvis Landry in the second round last spring. He made other key free agent signings, such as safety Louis Delmas, cornerback Cortland Finnegan and guard Daryn Colledge.

Philbin said he didn’t know whether Hickey would return.

“That’s a better question for Steve Ross,” he said. “I’m not going to address anybody else’s future at the podium. Steve is the owner. The only person that matters is Steve and what Steve wants.”

Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle are unsure whether they’ll be back next season. The common thinking is Lazor will definitely return, but Coyle might be more of a question.

Philbin, who will likely make the decision on whether the coordinators return, declined to answer that question Monday.

“We still have a game to play,” Philbin said. “Right now all my focus and attention is on the New York Jets. There will be a time and place for all that stuff.”

NOTES: Cam Wake (11.5 sacks) earned a reported $750,000 for his first sack in Sunday’s 37-35 victory over Minnesota because it gave him a double-digit sack total for the season. … DE Derrick Shelby, who had his first career inerception vs. Minnesota, sustained a right ankle injury in the fourth quarter and didn’t return. An update on his availability for the finale vs. the Jets should be available Wednesday.


PASSING OFFENSE: A – QB Ryan Tannehill (4 TDs, 1 INT) passed for 396 yards and was only sacked twice, although he took many hits. TE Charles Clay (career-best 114 yards) was good, RB Lamar Miller (58 yards receiving) was a weapon and rookie RB Damien Williams had a game-tying 3-yard touchdown reception with 1:11 remaining.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B – Miller (92 yards rushing) was effective, and so were the Dolphins, who rushed for 116 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. The running game wasn’t special, but it was good.

PASS DEFENSE: C – QB Teddy Bridgewater (2 TDs, 1 INT, 114.4 passer rating) passed for 259 yards and looked good. The Dolphins, however, had four sacks and didn’t allow anyone more than 56 yards receiving.

RUSH DEFENSE: C – The Vikings rushed for 119 yards on 4.3 yards per carry. They moved the ball, but didn’t do heavy damage on the ground. Still, it was disappointing for Miami.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B – DE Terrence Fede’s game-winning blocked punt for a safety is huge. And partly because it bailed out KOR Jarvis Landry, whose fourth-quarter fumble at Miami’s 5-yard line allowed Minnesota to take a 35-28 lead with 4:35 left.

COACHING: A – The Dolphins trailed, 17-7, at halftime and scored touchdowns on four of their five second-half possessions. They had the players prepared even though their playoff hopes were almost non-existent entering the game. That’s not easy.

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