Choosing a head coach in any sports organization is one of the most crucial decisions that an owner can make. Candidates are interviewed and cross-examined, but no one inside or outside the organization really has a clue as to whether the ‘chosen one' will be successful. That's because there isn't an exact science as to what makes a good head coach. For example, we will know Bill Bellichick didn't exactly set the NFL alight before the emergence of Tom Brady. In Cleveland, he led to the team to a mediocre 36-44 record.
To put it simply, it's not a case of ticking a set of boxes. Being a head coach is much, much more than that.
Let me take you back to the start: what makes a head coach?
With Joe Philbin set to begin his third season in Miami, we can begin to piece together a picture of how his tenure is progressing, and where it may end up.
Of course, the holy grail for any head coach is to find that franchise quarterback. Ryan Tannehill has plenty of weapons, and has seen his protection on the offensive line enhanced. This season, there will be no more excuses. Tannehill has to deliver and take this team to the playoffs. His career rides on it, his team rides on it and the future of this franchise rides on it.
No pressure. Philbin and Bill Lazor have to give Tannehill the best possible chance to succeed. Time and time again last season, Mike Sherman didn't call the best plays. Most of the time they were too conservative and didn't play to one of Tannehill's biggest strengths; his wheels! Our young quarterback has the feet to escape the pocket and cause mayhem down the field with the players at his disposal. Design the plays well, and the execution will follow. This will inevitably translate into wins, and wins means the playoffs. Playoffs means job security.
However, while improving quarterback play is half the battle, other factors need to be considered. Lets turn to Joe Philbin the person.
Can Philbin build a team environment? Can he create an organized and disciplined system where players will respect one another? Unfortunately, it is here where Philbin will undoubtedly be criticized, rightly or wrongly. Without elaborating on it too much, "bullying" and "harassment" are two words this team do not want to hear. The head coach claimed he knew nothing of the allegations before they hit the media. This is where he fell down. A head coach needs to know everything about the team. If a player is feeling down, the coach needs to motivate them and push them. Unfortunately Philbin didn't do this, and really needs to improve in this area. Like it or not, but he did take his eye off the ball.
How about dealing with the media, and people skills? In February, Armando Salguero published an open letter to Philbin on this exact subject. The letter detailed how Philbin doesn't communicate to the fanbase or media as much as he should do, and when he does, refuses to answer questions in-depth. While the letter may be a bit strong, it does have a point. Any head coach needs to make friends with the media. The media can influence decisions and make the fanbase turn on you. Be charming and approachable, and it will make it that much easier. Dodging questions doesn't exactly fill anyone with confidence.
Other areas include building the right staff. Unfortunately, offensive line coach Bill Turner has been relieved of his duties after being implicated in the bullygate scandal. Mike Sherman has also left the ball club after some conservative play calling. Others have been more successful. Kevin Coyle has continued to make the Dolphins defense a core part of the team, especially with the exemplary play of Brent Grimes last season. It's a mixed bag, and Philbin will learn from it. But already several members of his staff have left.
However, where Philbin does exceed is his meticulous game-planning. Philbin believes in practice, and how it will translate into the game. He isn't afraid to drop a big name in favor of someone who has performed well on the training ground. And while he doesn't call the offensive plays on game-day, he is vital in the planning. He installs the plays and explains the plays. His behind-the-scenes work is terrific.
There are numerous other characteristics that make a good head coach, and these are only a few. Is Joe Philbin one of them? The jury is still out, but he has one more season to prove he can get results and cement his place in this organization.
If I had one word to describe Philbin as head coach, it would be this: potential. What would yours be?
Alex Parish is an Associate Editor at The Phinsider. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @AlexParish89.