Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin jumped off the hot seat Sunday when owner Stephen Ross confirmed privately and publicly that Philbin would be returning for the 2015 season. Speculation recently had the Dolphins potentially pursuing Jim Harbaugh as their next head coach, revisiting their 2011 pursuit of Harbaugh. Philbin's job appears to be safe for another year, and he is now comfortably seated in the job security section of the NFL coaching fraternity.
That does not mean there is not a coach on Philbin's staff who may have already replaced Miami's head coach's spot in the hot seat. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle could be in danger of looking for a new job when this season is over, especially as Miami's defense continues to allow teams to march down the field on them, with point totals soaring over the past few weeks. Miami was allowing 18.0 points per game from Week 1 to Week 10. Over the past five games, the Dolphins have surrendered 31.2 points per game, including there top three points allowed this year (41 at New England Patriots, 39 at Denver Broncos, and 35 vs. Minnesota Vikings).
Some of these points can be explained, like when your kick returner fumbles the ball at the five yard line, it is hard for a defense to prevent 14 points from being scored in 11 seconds.It does not, however, explain why the Miami defense has also been trending up in yards allowed recently. The Dolphins are allowing 95 more yards per game over the past five weeks than they did in the first ten, 300 to 395, including two games over 400 yards (450 to the Broncos and 447 to the Ravens, and a 395 yards allowed game against the Patriots, once again giving Miami their three season highest totals in the last five weeks.
There is some credibility to Miami allowing those points and yards to teams like the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos and Tom Brady's New England Patriots. The trend itself, however, is concerning. Miami needs to be able to perform better on defense, and Coyle's future with the club may be in jeopardy.
During his Monday press availability, Philbin was asked about the status of his coordinators. "We still have a game to play. Right now all my focus and attention is on the New York Jets. There will be a time and place for all that stuff."
Given this is the first year of Bill Lazor's tenure as the team's offensive coordinator, there is little likelihood he would be changed, especially after watching quarterback Ryan Tannehill grow in the system over the course of the season. Coyle, though, could be facing a problem.
Earlier this year, Philbin refused to admit Tannehill was the Dolphins' starting quarterback. While the team knew nothing was changing, and Philbin told Tannehill what was being asked, the story spun into Philbin considering benching Tannehill in favor or Matt Moore. After a week of a media circus, Philbin apologized to the team for not confirming Tannehill would start, leading to the rampant speculation. The coach said he had learned from the situation and would not be caught in the same predicament again. If Philbin is planning to keep Coyle, with no thought to making a change, then he is setting up the exact same problem, this time with his coaches. If he did learn from the Tannehill experience, Philbin could be admitting he is considering a change.
Asked if keeping his staff together or making a chance is his decision to make, and how quickly after the season he would make any changes, Philbin again danced around the topic. "Again, right now I'm just concerned about playing the New York Jets and winning this football game, period," he replied. "There is a time and place to talk about the staff and those type of things."
The Dolphins changed offensive coordinators last year, bringing in Lazor after firing Mike Sherman. Could Coyle, who joined Miami in 2012 after serving as the secondary coach for the Cincinnati Bengals, follow Sherman a year later? It would not be a surprise, given how the defense has played over the past few weeks. The Dolphins have one more game, and we could have an answer shortly thereafter.