clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Looking beyond the win/loss record of interim head coach Dan Campbell

New, comments

History shows that interim coaches in the National Football League often don't end up with the permanent job. While there are exceptions such as Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys, the interim coach is the one who rights the ship on a temporary basis and then is let go at the end of the year. When deciding whether or not Dan Campbell is the right man for the job, the Dolphins' executives need to look beyond his win/loss record.

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Campbell is 2-2 as interim head coach of the Miami Dolphins. This includes two blowout wins and two blowout losses. Campbell and the players have said all the right things over the past five weeks but they are stuck in a funk and their playoff chances are on life support. We don't know right now what the final record will be for the Dolphins at the end of the season.

Taking a realistic view, it seems that they will have a losing record. If it is in fact a losing record, many people will look at Campbell and say that he isn't fit to be the head coach. However, it is important not to judge him based off how many wins and losses the Dolphins accumulate for the remainder of the season.

How then, should we and those making the decisions down in Davie judge Campbell?

He should be judged based on what happens behind the scenes. As fans, we get bits and pieces of information from the local and national media. However, none of us outside that locker room know exactly what is going on and how the players truly feel about the coaching staff. Yes, all the right things have been said and done. The players say they love playing for Campbell and say they will do anything for him. Campbell has done a great job of taking on a leadership role, making his presence known in locker room speeches and press conferences. He has been innovative in practice and has kept things fresh. If the players respect him, and continue to do so even in the worst of times, than that is one box to check off in terms of what you want in a head coach. You never want the message to get stale and Campbell so far has done a good job of keeping everyone on their feet.

He should also be judged as to how he learns throughout the season. Against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, we saw him botch clock management at the end of the first half. With Lamar Miller running out of bounds with about 25 seconds left, the Dolphins didn't call a time out. By the time the ball was snapped for the next play, there was only about six seconds left on the clock. The pass fell incomplete but there was a defensive pass interference penalty and only two seconds left. One incomplete pass later and the half was over. Now, had the Dolphins called timeout, they would've been at the six or seven yard line with 20-25 seconds left and one timeout. That's three-four plays they could've ran.

Everyone at home was yelling to call a timeout. Campbell didn't. Tannehill didn't. No one else on the sideline did. After the game, Campbell admitted he was wrong and should've called a timeout. Tannehill said that the coaches decide when to call a timeout. We'll see what happens next time this comes out this season and whether or not Campbell truly learned his lesson. However, he does sound like someone who will not make this mistake again based on his words after the game.

"I'm going to reassess everything I did certainly, just like what we talked about in the locker room. In hindsight, yeah, I should have used a timeout there. We were in a rhythm, we called a play, and had one of our hurry-ups. I felt like it was a pretty good play. You get them on their heels. We run something that we know. We felt pretty good about it, but it didn't work out. In hindsight, you'd certainly call a time out there."

Another thing that Campbell needs to learn is that he simply cannot have pre-conceived notions coming into a game. Following the game on Sunday, Campbell was asked why he went for the touchdown with two seconds remaining in the half instead of kicking a field goal.

"I believed we could get it. I had faith in our guys and I thought we could make that play to pull us closer. I knew we were going to get the ball back in the second half. If we came back out and scored there it would have been a 14-point swing. I just believed we could get it and I had a lot of faith in what we were doing. I had said that if we end up on the 1-yard line any time in the first half on and it's 4th and 1, we're going for it."

That sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation but was it the smart thing to do? At the end of that quote, you see that he had already made up his mind during the week that this was what he was going to do. Unfortunately, that's not the best way to do business. Had they kicked the field goal, it would have been 19-10 going into the half and a field goal or touchdown to open the second half would've made it a one possession game.

Let's say that I decide on Wednesday that I am going to get in my car on Saturday and drive down to Florida no matter what. However, on Saturday morning, I check the weather and the forecast calls for heavy rain and severe thunderstorms throughout the entire day. Would it be smart for me to still drive through the disastrous weather? No. It would be smart for me to get as far as I could, stop, and then continue on when the storm has passed.

Campbell needs to learn that you need to go with the flow of the game and not come into it with pre-conceived plans and notions because that's not always going to work depending on the scenario.

Let's flip it now and talk about things that Campbell has no control over. To begin, the players currently on the roster don't all fit into the scheme and style that Campbell wants to run. When Campbell took over the interim job, he said that he wanted a big and physical team who was willing to grind and pound throughout the game. Joe Philbin, on the other hand, assembled a finesse team full of small and fast players. These are total opposites.

Imagine that you want to cook a steak dinner with homemade mashed potatoes and red wine. You can't make it to the store though and you send someone else to shop for you. They end up buying you pork loin, instant mashed potatoes and white wine. Can you make it work? Absolutely. But is it what you wanted? No. Does it really show how good of a chef you are? Absolutely not. That is what Campbell is dealing with. He is trying to play a physical style of football with a team full of finesse players. It's just not going to work.

What will his vision be when he sits down with Mike Tannenbaum, Stephen Ross and others in the interview room? What will his plans be for players currently on the team? Who will he want to keep and who will he want to get rid of? Will that philosophy mesh with what Tannenbaum wants to do moving forward? That will be a big question and a big factor as to whether or not he gets the interim label taken off.

Campbell is also working with assistant coaches who he may not necessarily care for. Additionally, he has an offensive coordinator who can't run a balanced offense to save his life and a defensive coordinator who has zero experience and was placed into the position mid-season. His quarterback coach is someone who is four years older than Ryan Tannehill and the only reason why he's currently on the coaching staff is because he's related to former offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. Just look at the changes he made right away when being named the head coach. He moved Ken O'Keefe to the quarterback room and brought in Al Saunders to work with the wide receivers. Clearly, he wasn't happy with everyone on the staff and knew there needed to be immediate changes, thus changing what he could.

And that is what brings me to my final point.

One of the biggest things in having a successful team is how good your assistant coaches are. When Campbell interviews for the permanent head coaching position at the end of the season, he will be asked who he plans to bring on his staff. By this point, he will already have reached out to people to see if they will join him because that's how it works when one is interviewing for a head coach position in the NFL. Does he have enough clout to form a dynamite staff? Remember that he's only been a coach in the NFL for a few years and doesn't have the wide range of connections. Sure, Tannenbaum and others can help him. But ultimately, these coaches are coming to work under Campbell.

Will an ascending assistant coach want to join him? You can say that all Campbell needs to do is hire great coordinators and then they could take care of hiring their own staff.  But what if Campbell wants to hire a former head coach such as Jim Schwartz? Would he be open to working under Campbell if he doesn't land a head coaching position? That is a question that we won't ever know the answer to unless of course, Campbell is given the job.

One other snippet that will come into play are the available names on the market. Would the Dolphins pass up on someone like Sean Payton if he were available?

Ultimately, there are a lot of things that will factor into whether or not Campbell deserves to be the head coach of this team in 2016. Wins and losses though, should not play an important part in determining his fate.

This column was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter!