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Miami Dolphins Head Coach Joe Philbin Succeeds Despite Turmoil

In only two years with the Miami Dolphins, head coach Joe Philbin has faced many obstacles and dealt with an entire season thrown in turmoil. Despite all these external factors, he has managed to keep the Dolphins on the right track and deserves one more year to prove that he is capable of being a head coach.


When the 2013 season was winding down in weeks 16 and 17, the Miami Dolphins were one win away from clinching a playoff berth. Coming off a huge upset win over the New England Patriots, all the Dolphins had to do was beat the lowly Buffalo Bills and/or New York Jets and they would finish the season as the sixth seed in the AFC. A funny thing happened though. They were easily defeated by both the Bills and Jets and the Dolphins collapsed in the last two weeks of the season. Once this happened, hoards of fans, including myself, called for head coach Joe Philbin to be fired. Philbin's status, along with general manager Jeff Ireland, hung in limbo for several weeks while owner Stephen Ross figured out what to do. As we all know, Philbin was kept and Ireland was fired. Was this the right move though? Is Philbin a good coach or is Ross just simply imagining things?

We've only had two years to evaluate Philbin and most would agree that you really can't get a good feel until after three years on the job.Unfortunately, there are many more questions than answers in regards to Philbin and his coaching ability. However, we can look at several stats and trends to see whether or not Philbin is on the right track or not. In this column, I analyzed the number of sacks given up by five teams over the past four seasons. I looked at whether or not the number of sacks given up in a season should translate into a losing record or if it really has no impact. I looked at whether or not it was a huge accomplishment that the Dolphins finished 8-8 this past season despite giving up 58 sacks, the most in the league. I then took all of the data and made a general assumption as to whether or not Joe Philbin is a good coach despite all the turmoil he faced last year. Let's start with the 2013 season.

2013 Season

Team Sacks Allowed Record
Miami Dolphins 58 8-8
Jacksonville Jaguars 50 4-12
Cleveland Browns 49 4-12
Baltimore Ravens 49 8-8
Buffalo Bills 48 6-10

The data from the 2013 season gives us the five teams who allowed the most sacks throughout the season. Not one of those teams made the playoffs. However, let's look at the records. The Dolphins and Ravens finished 8-8 while the others finished 4-12 and 6-10. Ravens head coach Jon Harbaugh is a Super Bowl coach but couldn't crack the playoffs in a weak conference partly because his team gave up 49 sacks, fourth most in the NFL. For his team to finish 8-8 despite that amount of sacks coupled with the fact that their running game was non-existent, some would say it's a miracle they finished at that record. The same then should be said for the Dolphins, who had a similar makeup. Their offensive line was terrible and they had no running game. They were forced to rely on their defense just about every game but they still managed to finish 8-8 while the other teams couldn't get above six wins. To make sure the 2013 season wasn't a fluke, let's look at other years.

2012 Season

Team Sacks Allowed Record
Arizona Cardinals 58 5-11
Green Bay Packers 51 11-5
Jacksonville Jaguars 50 2-14
San Diego Chargers 49 7-9
Philadelphia Eagles 48 4-12

As you can see, the Cardinals gave up 58 sacks, the same amount as the Dolphins did in 2013. Yet, they finished with a 5-11 record. The only team to finish with a winning record in 2012 were the Green Bay Packers. However, when you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers and a good coach like Mike McCarthy, anything is possible and can mask plenty of flaws a team has. The 2012 season shows that a team that gives up a high amount of sacks shouldn't have a good record unless they have an elite quarterback or a good coach. The Jaguars, Chargers and Eagles all finished with losing records and the highest amount of wins were the Chargers with seven. Let's look at 2011.

2011 Season

Team Sacks Allowed Record
St. Louis Rams 55 2-14
Arizona Cardinals 54 8-8
Miami Dolphins 52 6-10
Seattle Seahawks 50 7-9
Minnesota Vikings 49 3-13
The St. Louis Rams gave up the most amount of sacks in 2011 and finished with a 2-14 record. The only team to get to eight wins were the Arizona Cardinals. That year, the Cardinals were coached by Ken Whisenhut. Their quarterbacks were Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Some consider Whisenhut a mediocre coach but he also brought the Cardinals to a Super Bowl several years before. It cannot be argued that Kolb and Skelton are not elite quarterbacks so this would be the first year of data that would question whether or not the number of sacks given up directly correlates with the final record. However, you can also see that the Dolphins, Seahawks and Vikings all finished with losing record with the Seahawks getting to seven wins. Let's move onto 2010.

2010 Season

Team Sacks Allowed Record
Chicago Bears 56 11-5
Arizona Cardinals 50 5-11
Carolina Panthers 50 2-14
Philadelphia Eagles 49 10-6
Washington Redskins 46 6-10
2010 shoots a lot of theories in the foot because the Bears allowed the most sacks in the league yet finished 11-5 and the Eagles allowed the fourth most sacks yet finished 10-6. With that said, Lovie Smith and Andy Reid are considered very good coaches so we have take that into consideration. On the other hand, the Cardinals finished 5-11, the Panthers finished 2-14 and the Redskins finished 6-10. Those three teams continue to support the fact that if your team gives up a lot of sacks, you are supposed to have a losing record.

After comparing the number of sacks given up and the final record of 20 teams, we see that 14 of those teams finished with a losing record. Three teams, including the 2013 Dolphins, finished 8-8. Three teams finished with a winning record. Those three teams were led by an elite quarterback (Packers) and three very good coaches (McCarthy, Smith and Reid). This data supports the fact that if you give up a high amount of sacks and are in the top five in the league in sacks allowed, you should have a losing record. However, the Dolphins didn't have a losing record in 2013. They finished 8 - 8 and overcame a lot of things stacked against them. Not only did they have to deal with a patchwork offensive line most of the season, they also had to deal with the bullygate saga, Mike Pouncey being involved with Aaron Hernandez, dysfunction in the front office, no running game and so much more. The fact that they finished 8-8 was indeed a huge accomplishment which is why Philbin definitely deserves one more year to prove that he can turn this team around and make it into a contender.

Matthew Cannata is a columnist for The Phinsider. Be sure to follow him on Twitter: @PhinManiacs