DAVIE (CBSMiami/AP) — Football is a sport that can bring the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but that doesn’t mean that players and coaches can’t enjoy themselves.
Make no mistake, Joe Philbin is not always happy. When the Miami Dolphins had to repeat the same play four times in practice Tuesday and still failed to get it right, their head coach was steaming.
Those moments have seemed rare so far this preseason.
Whether he’s cracking the occasional one-liner with reporters, showing a happily animated side in practice or even pulling off a few comical dance steps at the team’s annual season-kickoff luncheon, the Dolphins’ third-year coach looks to be enjoying himself much more than he was at previous points in his tenure — especially last year, when a player-hazing scandal overshadowed the franchise.
“It’s a privilege to work here,” Philbin said. “It’s a wonderful organization. I get to work with a lot great people every single day, not just the players and the coaches, but a lot of the support staff here that make tremendous sacrifices on a daily basis to be a part of this organization. That part is enjoyable. When you do something you love to do and you’re doing it with people that you like to be around, that’s hard to beat.”
His public persona remains largely unchanged. Philbin is somewhat guarded with his answers at times, which is hardly unusual for a football coach. He tends to be on the quieter side, not a yeller and screamer like some in his position.
Behind closed doors, though, players are seeing changes. And they seem to like them.
“For a lot of people, it’s tough to kind of come in from a different angle. He’s been able to do that,” defensive lineman Jared Odrick said. “He’s been doing it well. He’s been hearing a lot of us out and it’s been great. He’s doing exactly what a head coach should be doing.”
Philbin has faced tons of attention in his first two seasons with the Dolphins, none of it probably being what he wanted. Miami was the subject of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” in his first season, the cameras catching every move the team made, including the meeting where he cut Chad Johnson. Then came the storm of hazing accusations that swirled around offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin last season, which took an obvious toll on Philbin.
This summer, it’s just been football.
And in a year where change was needed, the change of attitude is welcomed as well.
“I think we all realized that, not just the organization, but as a whole players realized that,” Odrick said. “I think that’s why we were so welcoming to some of the offseason programs and some of the culture shifts that came about this offseason.”
It’s not like Philbin is taking his job less seriously. That absolutely isn’t the case. It’s just that he’s either having more fun now, or willing to let people see him having more fun, or both.
Case in point: The team’s luncheon last week, a jacket-and-tie event inside a downtown Miami hotel. Philbin, seated a few rows from the stage, got called out to dance. He stood up, broad smile across his face, threw his arms over his head four times while shuffling his feet, then sat back down as people around him laughed in delight.
“I had to be a good sport,” Philbin said. “I got called out in the middle of the luncheon. Again, I had to be a good sport and show those famous, I guess they’re becoming famous, moves now.”
With that, he laughed a bit.
That wasn’t happening last year. But now, the Dolphins seem more like his sort of club.
“I think it’s evolving,” Philbin said, “but I think this year has been the best that we’ve had.”
NOTES: RB Knowshon Moreno spent time off to the side in practice Tuesday, but Philbin said he wasn’t aware of any setbacks. Moreno had knee surgery earlier this year and has not played in either of Miami’s first two preseason games and his status for Saturday against Dallas is unknown. … Philbin, laying out in simple terms what it will take for Brady Quinn to edge Matt Moore for the backup quarterback job: “Be the second best quarterback on our roster.”
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