Campbell was still trying to coach the defense in the final minutes when two of his veteran offensive linemen suddenly wanted to drum up a conversation.
“Mike Pouncey and Branden Albert were kind of near me and Branden put his arm around me and said, ‘Hey Coach, I really appreciate it,’” Campbell explained. “But I knew, because I know those guys and I know what’s genuine and what’s not genuine. I was like, ‘OK, wait a minute. There’s something a little odd.’”
Campbell realized too late when a pair of Gatorade buckets filled with ice water were poured on him. Dolphins players were excited to douse Campbell after his first win as head coach.
From the outside, it may have been viewed as going overboard for a Week 6 win against a bad Titans (1-4) team. But the win was huge within Miami’s organization. Campbell was an unknown commodity after getting promoted just two weeks ago.
Questions abounded entering the game: Will Campbell be prepared? Will players respond to his message? Can Campbell put together a winning game plan in his debut as head coach?
Campbell proved he could do all of these things and further earned the trust of his players. He demanded much more of his players during a physical practice week and it showed in the game.
More importantly, Campbell also gained more confidence in himself.
“It was a good feeling; it makes you feel good,” Campbell said. “Like I say, I told them when you watch the way they practice and watch the way they played, it makes me want to do anything I could for them. I’d give them anything I could because I know the sacrifice it takes, and I saw the work that they put out.”
To keep things in perspective, the Dolphins (2-3) still are a sub-.500 team that hasn’t won two in a row all season. They will try to accomplish that feat next week against the Houston Texans, who are 7-0 all time against Miami.
The Dolphins got an emotional boost Sunday from Campbell. But the key will be sustaining that edge with intensity and focus over the final 11 games.
“That’s one game,” Campbell said. “That’s it. We’ve got Houston next week, so I don’t want to go too far with it.”