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Philbin comes to Miami with wealth of offensive success

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Posted Jan. 21, 2012 @ 6:14 p.m. ET
By Kevin Fishbain

Joe Philbin might not have been the Dolphins' first choice. Heck, he might not have been their third choice. But he is next in line to attempt to bring the franchise back to the glory it had under Don Shula.

If you want to go back a year, you can argue that owner Stephen Ross' first choice to coach the Dolphins is coaching in the NFC championship game this weekend. Over a year ago, with Tony Sparano still under contract, Ross flew to California to court Jim Harbaugh, who was the PFW/PFWA Coach of the Year in his first season with the 49ers.

Next choice? Maybe Bill Cowher, who appeared to be a candidate to return to coaching in Miami when the Dolphins were 0-7 and in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes, and the team had indirectly contacted Cowher.

With Cowher remaining in the broadcast booth, the Dolphins put the full-court press on Jeff Fisher after firing Sparano. Fisher chose the Rams after a week of deliberation.

Philbin is not the splash hire that Ross may have wanted, and he also doesn't appear to have the "young Don Shula" persona that Ross also wanted (Philbin is 50 years old). But Ross did say that Philbin "has a lot of the same attributes" as the Hall of Fame coach.

Whether Philbin was Plan B, C or D is not important now — he is whom the Dolphins chose, and Ross and GM Jeff Ireland are allowing him full control to hire his coordinators and get the Dolphins back to the winning ways.

The PFW spin

It's clear that Ross and Ireland wanted Philbin for his offensive prowess. As the Packers' offensive coordinator, Philbin ran the league's highest-scoring offense in 2011. The Dolphins were 20th, which was an improvement from 2010. Yet, when looking at the future of the club, it's the offense that needs the boost, not a defense that was third against the run this past season.

Philbin said in his Saturday press conference that the team will employ an "up-tempo, attacking style" in all three phases of the game. The defense had been doing that, but the offense has yet to show that explosiveness on a consistent basis.

Philbin was quick to say that you cannot simply bring Green Bay's playbook to Miami and change the names and make it work. "We don't have any Packers on our roster," Ross said, taking it a step further, likely knowing the first thing on the minds of Dolphins fans, and the media, because of the hire:

Matt Flynn.

The Packers' backup, who is set to be the most sought-after free agent this March, could be the franchise signalcaller the Dolphins have been looking for, and few coaches around the league know him better, and know how much he is worth, than Philbin. If Philbin believes Flynn can regularly be the quarterback we have seen in flashes, such as in this year's finale against the Lions and a game last season against the Patriots, Ross has shown he is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Philbin, who didn't call plays in Green Bay, said he would like to have an offensive coordinator do that in Miami, and his first important move will be hiring coordinators. While Todd Bowles is expected to be a candidate to run the defense, Philbin could bring in some of his former assistants from Green Bay.

In his press conference, Philbin showed confidence and intelligence throughout. For a man who went through tremendous heartbreak when his son drowned days before the Packers' playoff game, Philbin displayed his strength, something Ross mentioned as a quality he saw in the interview process.

Of the teams that missed out on the 2011 postseason, the Dolphins may have the fewest holes, especially on the defensive side of the football. For Ross and Ireland, 2012 is an important season. The two men have come under plenty of heat over the last two seasons since Bill Parcells left. Philbin is their chance to have success in Miami and start fresh.

And Philbin's success will likely be tied to the QB position, as it was for Sparano. Whether it is Matt Moore, Flynn or a rookie, Philbin was brought to Miami to spark the offense and get Miami back to the postseason, and that will rely on one of his more important decisions — deciding who will start under center in 2012.

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