In 2008, the Miami Dolphins were coming off an embarrassing 1-15 season, barely escaping being the first team in league history to go 0-16 over the course of a season. After the debacle of that season, and the failure as a head coach of Cam Cameron, it was time for the team to look for a strict disciplinarian, who was not going to let the players clack off, and would not accept failure.
In stepped head coach Tony Sparano, a man built in the old school ways of his mentor Bill Parcells. And Sparano's methods worked. That 2008 season was magical, as the team "moved the hyphen" to become an 11-5, AFC East division winning team. But, that was the only year Sparano's system worked.
The next three years all saw Miami finish below .500, and Sparano was finished. This year, Sparano is taking his talents to New Jersey, and the Dolphins are once again finding themselves adjusting to a new head coach. Except, this time, Miami is adjusting to a different style of head coach - one who is more personable, more of a "player's coach."
In steps Joe Philbin, the long time Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator, and a man who, during his introductory new conference explained that he will be "demanding, not demeaning." A coach who has built a staff based on that simple concept - demand, don't demean. And the players are noticing the difference.
Defensive end Jared Odrick spoke to the Palm Beach Post last month about new defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, and his approach with the players, saying Coyle "takes a more personalized approach."
Starting guard Richie Incognito echoed those sentiments this week with the Palm Beach Post. Speaking about Coach Philbin, Incognito said, "I was really impressed that he came in and obviously set the expectations for the team, but then he set the expectations of the coaching staff, too, and what we can expect from them," Incognito said. "So it's kind of a reciprocal thing. And any time you're in a situation like that, like, ‘We're in this together,' it really garners respect. So I was really impressed by that."
Of course, players always talk up a new coach, but it seems more and more of the Miami players are talking about the coaching staff, and the new philosophy, at every chance they get. Rather than simply responding to media questions, it seems like the players are looking to get out the word that things are different in Miami.
After three straight losing seasons under a disciplinarian, a man who tried to motivate an 0-6 team into winning last year by telling them, "You know what? If you guys want to lose and be 0-16 and get me out of here, no problem. But guess what? I'm not going to be the only one gone, and that's just the reality of this business," maybe a "player's coach" is exactly what the Dolphins need.