What Firing Joe Philbin Means for the Miami Dolphins
On paper, perhaps, the Miami Dolphins have talent.
Ryan Tannehill seemed capable of jumping up the quarterback ranks this season. Lamar Miller looked poised for a featured role in an improving offense. Ndamukong Suh appeared ready to turn around the defense.
Through four games, though, none of this has came to fruition, and after starting the season 1-3, the team has parted ways with head coach Joe Philbin.
Is it too little and too late?
A Miserable 3 Weeks
According to our nERD metric, the Dolphins entered Week 4 ranked 24th in our power rankings. Their nERD of -3.08 indicated that they'd be expected to lose to an average opponent on a neutral field by, well, 3.08 points.
According to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics, which compare a team to expectation-level, they were naturally mediocre-at-best.
On offense, the team ranked 25th in the NFL through Week 3 in schedule-adjusted NEP per play (-0.02). That means that they had been performing at a below-expectation-level pace (it didn't exactly get better in Week 4). They ranked 24th in rushing (-0.07) and 22nd in passing (0.01) through the NFL's first 3 weekends.
Defensively? Miami was just about as bad as they were offensively. They ranked 26th in Adjusted Defensive NEP per play (0.14), 30th (0.41) in passing, and 11th (-0.06) in rushing.
A slow start? That's putting it lightly. Heading into the weekend, the team had an 11.8% chance to clinch a playoff spot.
Then Week 4 happened.
A London Drubbing
Against the division rival Jets, Miami lost 27-14 in Week 4, and that was the final straw for Philbin's tenure with the team.
Chris Ivory rushed for a career-high 166 yards, and the Jets tallied 425 total yards on offense. Fortunately for Miami, New York was penalized 14 times for 163 yards. This could have been even worse.
According to our initial tallies on numberFire Live, that's certainly the case.
Ryan Fitzpatrick posted a Passing NEP of 6.15 on the 'Phins, which means he added more than 6 points to the Jets' expected coring output that an expectation-level passer wouldn't have racked up while facing the same situations he saw.
Conversely, Tannehill posted a -- wait for it -- Passing NEP of -18.47. Yes, that's negative. A negative Passing NEP isn't unheard of, of course, but that is bad for a one-week outcome.
(For some context, 10 of 43 passers who dropped back at least 100 times last season finished with a negative Passing NEP. Only six lost more points than Tannehill did in Week 4.)
In terms of raw stats, Tannehill completed just 19 of 44 passes for 198 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. Basically, Fitzpatrick -- with a rather modest stat line of 218 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception -- outperformed Tannehill by more than 24 points in Week 4.
The running game wasn't exactly better. Aside from Jarvis Landry (2 carries for 29 yards), no Dolphin added points above expectation-level on the ground. Lamar Miller, who last season ranked 8th in Rushing NEP (13.69), owned a Rushing NEP of -2.57 on 30 carries prior to the Week 4 contest.
He lost roughly another point on seven carries against the Jets.
Miller is heading in the wrong direction analytically, and the Dolphins are in trouble.
Enough Promise to Turn Things Around?
Last season, Miami finished 13th in our power rankings with a nERD score of 1.04. Again, through Week 3, they owned a nERD of -3.08, a 4.12-point drop off -- and that's before crunching the numbers in the wake of the Week 4 game, as we await the results of Monday Night Football.
Of course, they had plenty of roster turnover, particularly at the wide receiver position, but those changes were (ostensibly) for the better. Kenny Stills led the league in Reception NEP per target for two years running, Greg Jennings had been efficient-enough (ranking 21st in Reception NEP per target among 62 receivers with at least 75 targets in 2014), and DeVante Parker seemed to be a breakout waiting to happen.
But much like the promising prospects of Tannehill, Suh, and Miller, none of these scenarios have been realized through Week 4.
Stills put forth a nice effort in London, with a 5-catch, 8-target, 81-yard, 1-touchdown day, good for 7.31 points above expectation, but Jennings saw just 15 yards to show for 7 targets and 3 catches, a Reception NEP of -1.43 points.
And to top it off, Landry's Reception NEP through Week 3 (0.36) was worst among 26 receivers with at least 25 targets. His Week 4 Reception NEP of 1.64 on 12 targets (0.14 per target) won't exactly help him climb the ranks.
The underlying point is that the team is (clearly) not living up to their play from last season, and their fall has been cataclysmic.
Sure, interim head coach Dan Campbell will be hard-pressed to coach this team worse than Philbin did. He can at least give the team a jolt of excitement -- Campbell played 10 seasons in the NFL as a tight end -- and perhaps perform as a player's coach.
But Campbell has no experience as a coordinator, and he's been coaching since only 2010.
It's possible that the change in leadership is all the team needs to live up to their 2014 potential for the rest of the season, but at 1-3 and in a division that's proving to be tough, Miami might already be playing for 2016 -- whatever that means to their front office.