I was away from the blog today for some unexpected reasons, but I want to pop in now that Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has been hired as the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins. Some thoughts:
Philbin's life has changed dramatically in the past two weeks. He first interviewed with the Dolphins on Jan. 7, the day before the death of his 21-year-old son, Michael. I can't imagine the range of emotions he and his family are feeling Friday evening. To my knowledge, Philbin hasn't spoken publicly since the tragedy.
Philbin was an offensive coordinator who didn't call plays, a combination that left him largely unknown to fans outside of the NFC North. But NFL teams clearly were aware of his even temperament and impeccable character, not to mention his connection to the most successful team of the past two seasons. In addition to the Dolphins, Philbin also interviewed with the Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Oakland Raiders were also reported to be interested, largely because their new general manager is former Packers executive Reggie McKenzie. It's nice to see teams take notice of an assistant who is neither a self-promoter nor one whose qualifications are easily measured in public.
The obvious question is whether Philbin will push the Dolphins to pursue Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn, either in free agency or in a sign-and-trade. The biggest knock on Flynn is that his two career starts provide a small sample size for teams looking for a starting quarterback. But Philbin has coached almost every practice Flynn has taken part of in Green Bay. If anyone has the background and institutional knowledge to take a measured risk on him, it's Philbin. On the other hand, Philbin also has a larger body of work to conclude that Flynn might not be ready to take the next step. So the Philbin-Flynn connection could work both ways here.
It will be interesting to see if Philbin wants to take highly-regarded Packers quarterback coach Tom Clements with him to be his offensive coordinator/play-caller. The Packers could block him from going, as they did when the Chicago Bears wanted to interview him for their offensive coordinator job in 2010. But even if the Packers promote him into Philbin's old job as offensive coordinator, it still wouldn't be a play-calling role unless coach Mike McCarthy gives that up.
Another candidate for the Packers' offensive coordinator job would be receivers coach Edgar Bennett, who moved from running backs coach last season to broaden his horizons.
Success has its challenges, and one is replacing the inevitable brain drain that occurs as opponents try to replicate. This month, the Packers have lost a top front office talent in McKenzie and one of their top coaches in Philbin. The pressure is on the Packers to continue to develop qualified successors.