At the end of another Sunday that couldn't end soon enough, Steve Ross walked out of the loser's locker room, just as he has at Gillette Stadium all six times as Dolphins owner.
He buttoned his jacket against the cold, turned left down a hallway with his entourage, and shook his head when asked for a moment, saying only with a face set in stone, "No."
This isn't the time for talk anyhow. It's nearly the time for action. Ross is "on the verge" of ending the Joe Philbin era at season's end, a team source said, for all the obvious reasons that just played across another Dolphins Sunday.
At the January 20, 2012 press conference, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross stated that "Joe Philbin has all of the attributes that he was looking for in a head coach." Philbin was leaving the Green Bay Packers where he had been their offensive coordinator for the past five years. This was only 11 days after the death of Joe's son Michael, who had drowned in the Fox River in Oshkosh, WI.
In his first season at the helm, the Dolphins were 7-9. While the Miami record improved to 8-8 in 2013, allegations of hazing and bullying involving offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin, mixed in with racial implications, nearly cost Philbin the heading coaching job in his second season. The offensive line also allowed a league-high 58 sacks.
The 2014 season started off on the right foot with a home 33-20 victory over the New England Patriots. The Dolphins were hoping to break the five year cycle of zero playoff appearances. A 27-24 home loss to the Green Bay Packers was followed by three straight wins over Chicago, Jacksonville and San Diego.
The win over the San Diego Chargers was two days after the death of Joe's 93 year old father, Paul.
“I kind of just showed up for the game,” the coach said Sunday. Said QB Ryan Tannehill: “The team had his back.”
The pattern from last December still lingers. With playoff hopes on the line in 2013, the Dolphins did not put up much of a fight in losses to the Buffalo Bills, 19-0 and the New York Jets, 20-7.
Consecutive losses to the Baltimore Ravens, 28-13 and the 41-13 rout by the New England Patriots this past Sunday put the future in serious doubt in Miami for Joe Philbin. Remaining home games against the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Jets are winnable. A 9-7 season would show that progress has been made each year.
That may not be enough for the Dolphins to retain Joe Philbin. With only one playoff appearance in the past 13 years, Owner Steve Ross may be doing Joe a favor in not bringing him back for his fourth year. The other six head coaches since Jimmy Johnson left in 1999 didn't last either.
The usual big name coaches will be mentioned as replacements: Jim Harbaugh, Rex Ryan, Tony Dungy, Mike Sumlin of Texas A&M and Guz Malzahn of Auburn.
Former Dolphins' head coach, Don Shula is not asking for much of his former team. “Just to get back that credibility,” he said.
The last time Joe Philbin was seen smiling was on November 2nd. That was following the 37-0 rout in Miami of the San Diego Chargers at SunLife Stadium. The next time Joe will crack a smile will be when he is relieved of his duties as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Paul Murphy is a freelance writer from New Hampshire.