As it’s the off-season and Bears news is slowing down, I’m starting to get around to catching up on the news on other teams. In this respect, the conflict within the organization that is developing over what to do about Dolphins assistants in the wake of a late season collapse has caught my eye. The Dolphins lost to two non-playoff teams in the last two games, the Bills and the Jets, scoring only seven points over 8 quarters. Had they won either game, they would have made the playoffs. Steven Wine at the Miami Herald reports:
“[Owner Stephen] Ross has been meeting with his top advisers before deciding whether to fire anyone, two people familiar with the situation said.
“One of the people said the meetings began Sunday night and will resume Thursday, and a decision could come then. That person said that during the Dolphins’ loss Sunday to the New York Jets, Ross became so upset he turned away at one point because he could no longer watch.”
Ross’s interference puts head coach Joe Philbin in a rough position. Armando Salguero comments for the “Miami Dolphins In Depth” blog at the Herald:
“The lack of production for the Dolphins rests with players, of course, but also with offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, offensive line coach Jim Turner and others. That’s the reason Ross is pushing for staff changes.
“But Philbin can stand in the way of change because while Ross is the owner, Philbin’s contract grants him the authority on hiring and firing assistants.
“Philbin became very uncomfortable and even combative about the idea of possibly firing assistants beginning with Sherman. He was asked if he was capable of such of move if that was required of him …
“’I’m beginning the evaluation of the 2013 season, and we haven’t made any decisions on who’s coming back and who isn’t,’ Philbin said. ‘We’ll have all of those discussions at the appropriate time.’
“Obviously Philbin offered a response to some question but not the one he was asked. So he was asked a second time if he is capable of firing Sherman, who has been a mentor, friend and confidant during his career?
“’That’s my answer,’ Philbin said, again dodging the question.
“All this suggests Phibin wants to attempt filling the ‘room for improvement’ by improving players and their execution and not by changing assistants.
“So we are at a crossroads.
“When Ross asks Philbin to make changes to that offensive staff — which will absolutely happen — does the head coach resist to a point that he himself is in danger of being fired? Or does Philbin cave and let the owner have his way?
“Or does the owner, who likes Philbin and doesn’t want to fire him, cave?
“Moreover, in suggesting that the issue is with players and not necessarily coaches, would Philbin be effectively telling Ross that general manager Jeff Ireland did not give him enough talent on offense, thereby hurting Ireland’s already tenuous job status?
“The dynamic is complex.”
What we have here is a complete picture of a dysfunctional franchise. The owner interferes with football operations, he meets behind the coach’s back with “advisers”. As a result, determinations are made about what to do without his knowledge and the franchise, instead of presenting one, unified face to the public, appears fractured and disoriented about the direction it is going to take.
You can say all you want about the Bears ownership but you should be very, very grateful that the franchise has been as well run as it has been the last decade. Even at 8-8 it’s a good day to be a Bear fan.