After missing on the only viable experienced head coach, the Miami Dolphins have narrowed the search down to three candidates, Todd Bowles, the motivator; Mike McCoy, the coach who changed his offense to fit a QB or Joe Philbin, the coach who has a system. Comparing these three against some of the NFL's greatest coaches could be the key in making the proper selection. Three great coaches with distinctly different styles can shed some light on what to expect from these candidates, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula and Bill Walsh.
Vince Lombardi was the ultimate motivator. His ability to use inspirational language to get every ounce of talent out of his roster is likened to some of history’s great leaders. Some of the phrases Lombardi used are so iconic they have passed into the vernacular of American culture. “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing. If it doesn't matter who wins or loses, then why do they keep score? It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.” The list of these quotes goes on and he delivered these words like an orator on a stage, rousing his teams to unbeatable levels.
Vince Lombardi led the Packers to 5 NFL championships and 2 Super Bowls. His players would run through stonewalls after some of his impassioned speeches, but it wasn’t the game day inspiration that made Lombardi special, he was a man who lived by these credos everyday. By passing his astounding will to win on to his players, everyday, he was able to make them believe they were an unstoppable force and for a 10 year period in professional football, indeed they were.
Shula is the winningest coach in NFL history, he was able to mold teams from the collection of players he had on the roster. When he had a bruising back like Larry Csonka and a consummate game managing QB like Bob Griese, he molded a running attach that was unparalleled in the NFL. By adding one player, WR Paul Warfield, he was able to open up the deep passing game for an unstoppable mixture of talent. His offense beat teams down until they brought house and then Griese went over the top to Warfield. It was nearly impossible to defend that combination.
When Dan Marino fell in his lap, he transformed his offense into the most prolific passing attack ever seen at that time in the league. He used lightning quick WRs, coupled with pass catching TEs to take advantage of Marino’s amazingly quick release. Shula does not get the credit, but his offense ushered in the modern NFL passing game. He took his teams to an unprecedented 6 Super Bowls and 1 NFL championship. He was even able to do it with a two-headed QB named David Woodley and Don Strock. He may have only won two SBs but getting there with such an eclectic mixture of talent is a prime example of his amazing ability to adapt to the talent he had on the football team.
Bill Walsh was a man with a plan, he was the definitive system coach. He changed the NFL by creating the unique system now known as the West Coast Offense. Instead of molding talent or using motivational language, he created a system and then found players who fit. This approach was completely different from Shula or Lombardi, because by narrowing down the type of player he needed, he was able to find jewels where others saw blemishes.
Joe Montana was a 3rd round pick, Jerry Rice was from tiny Mississippi Valley State and no one except Walsh saw him as a 1st round draft pick. Walsh wasn’t looking to build a team around players, he was looking for players to fit his system. This approach motivated these players because others could not see what Walsh saw and by providing the opportunity, they rose to the highest levels. Walsh led the 49ers to 3 SB victories but his impact on the game reverberates through the NFL as many modern coaches use his system approach and West Coast Offense to build franchises to this day.
Three different men, with three distinctly different philosophies, all rose to the top of a profession that has washed out thousands of others who were not up to the task. While it is monumentally unfair to compare Todd Bowles, Mike McCoy or Joe Philbin to these great coaches, any search for a coach must include the criteria that made these men special. Is one of these three capable of being an exceptional motivator? Is one capable of adapting a team to the talents on his roster? Is one capable of creating a system and identifying the talent to make it work?
It is interesting that each of these 3 choices fits one of the philosophies, Bowles could be a Lombardi type coach, who motivates players; McCoy can adapt an offense to a player like Tim Tebow and Philbin is a West Coast system guy. The question is, is any one of them special, can any one be the next great coach Stephen Ross is looking for?
Looking at the Miami Dolphin Roster is decisive in answering this question. Can the Dolphins get to the next level by pure motivation, the answer is probably no. The reason is that motivation like Lombardi is built from the ground up. The message gets lost on players who were not brought up through a system that begins with hard work as the premise. Because of this, Todd Bowles should be eliminated from the equation.
Can the Dolphins get there by a coach adapting to the talent on the roster. The answer to this question lies in the players on the Dolphins. Adapting to talent means there is a special player to adapt a system around. Unfortunately Miami has no single Tim Tebow like player worthy of building a team round. Because of this, Mike McCoy should be eliminated.
Can the Dolphins be adapted to a system like the West Coast Offense and the answer is… Yes. Brian Daboll was able to take the Dolphin offense and use the players in a West Coast system to succeed in the final 9 games of the season. This means the team has the offensive players to fit the system. Joe Philbin intimately understands this system and has the greatest opportunity of success of the 3 men vying for the position.
By looking at the 3 men in the coaching search and using an historic approach of comparing them to 3 great coaches and then matching them to the Miami Dolphin roster, the choice of a coach becomes obvious. There is no telling whether the Dolphin brain trust would use such an approach and without being in the interview room, there is no way of knowing the whether any of these men are worthy, but by using the available data, Joe Philbin rises to the top of the equation.
The Miami Dolphins will select a coach soon and the choice here is Joe Philbin.