As the Miami Dolphins struggled to find points in the second half of the team's 37-24 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday, the absence of wide receiver Mike Wallace was obvious. The reason the team's leading receiver was sitting on the bench by himself was not.
After the game, reports surfaced that Wallace was benched after getting into an argument with coaches and/or quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Later, those reports indicated that Wallace actually took himself out of the game late in the first half, with coach Joe Philbin deciding at halftime that Wallace would not return to play.
In the post game interviews, where the company line was "coach's decision" as to why Wallace was benched, an even more odd situation occurred, when Wallace stood by as reporters asked him questions, only to have fellow wide receiver Brandon Gibson answer the injuries as if he was Wallace. The only word Wallace offered to the reporters was "Definitely" when asked if he stood by the responses Gibson gave.
On Monday, Philbin was asked about the situation. "I had a conversation with him during the game and made a coaching decision. It's really nothing more complicated than that," he explained. When asked further if Wallace has said he was not going to play any more in the game, Philbin replied, "I've never discussed private conversations with players to anybody. It was a private conversation. He and I had a discussion. Then I made a coaching decision. Really, that's all there is to it."
Wallace was also asked about the situation. "Coach's decision," Wallace said, according to the a video of the media availability on the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's website. Wallace denied reports from various media sources that he had taken himself out of the game, saying that he was informed as the team headed out to the field for the third quarter that he was benched.
Then he said he felt Philbin's decision was correct. "Coach makes the best decisions for the team. I felt like coach made the best decision. I stand behind him."
Gibson also weighed in on the strange situation on Monday. "The frustrating part for him is not being involved quite as much as he wanted to be," Gibson explained, according to the Palm Beach Post's Andrew Abramson. "He just wants to contribute, I know that. He's like a brother to me. At the end of the day I understand where he's coming from, but it's team first...He may not have had the best team thoughts at one point."
Tannehill took the first step toward ending the drama, also according to Abramson. "There's a lot of time between now and April or whenever we start," the team's third-year quarterback said. "There's a lot of time to heal and get back on the same page and move forward."
"Yeah, if Mike's here, he's a heck of a player," Tannehill replied when asked if he wanted Wallace back in 2015. "You saw the things he did this year. You saw some big plays he made and I think he can only get better."
Wallace finished the season tied for his career high in touchdown receptions with ten. He finished the season with a 12.9 yard-per-receptions average, the second-lowest average for his career, just ahead of last year's 12.7. It was, however, just below the 13.1 average he had in his last year with the Pittsburgh Steelers, when he caught three fewer passes.
After Monday's exit-interviews, the Dolphins will now head into the offseason with a lot of questions to answer. Until the second quarter of Sunday's game, that list of questions was not expected to be if Wallace can return to the Dolphins.