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Friday, January 20, 2012
Philbin the latest to take on 'Fins challenge


Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin accepted an offer on Friday to become the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Philbin initially joined Green Bay’s coaching staff in 2003 and spent the last five seasons as offensive coordinator.

He becomes the latest to take on the challenge of replacing the legendary Don Shula, becoming the eighth different Dolphins coach since Shula’s retirement following the 1995 season (includes interim coaches). The team has not enjoyed the success or stability it sustained in 26 seasons under Shula (see chart).

Philbin follows in the footsteps of Tony Sparano, Cam Cameron and Nick Saban, becoming the fourth straight coach hired by the Dolphins who did not previously have any NFL head-coaching experience. Since Saban’s first season in 2005, the Dolphins are 47-65 which is tied for the seventh-worst record in the NFL.

So what kind of immediate impact might he have?

The year before Philbin took over as Packers offensive coordinator, Green Bay ranked 22nd in scoring offense and ninth in total offense. In his first season in charge of the offense the team ranked in the top four in both categories.

After overseeing the transition from Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers, Philbin is now tasked with resolving the ongoing quarterback dilemma that has plagued Miami since the retirement of Dan Marino. According to Elias, the Dolphins have had 19 different starting quarterbacks since 1999, the most in the NFL.

With Rodgers at the helm, Philbin directed a Packers offense heavily reliant on the passing game. Since the start of 2008, Green Bay has called for designed passes (includes sacks and scrambles) on 61.6 percent of its plays, the sixth-highest rate in the NFL. His play-calling remained aggressive even with the lead, as only the Eagles called for more passes when out in front.

He inherits an offense that has been in steady decline each of the last four seasons, dropping from 12th in total offense in 2008 to 22nd last season. Of particular concern last season was the Dolphins penchant for collapsing late in games.

Miami lost four games last season in which it led entering the fourth quarter, tied for the second-most in the NFL. Only the Philadelphia Eagles, which lost five such games, had more.

The Dolphins managed just 68 points in the fourth quarter in 2011, tied for the fourth-worst mark in the NFL. That same offense ranked a respectable 13th in the first three quarters.