After a disastrous 1-3 start to the season – with games and inner turmoil worse than their record indicates – the Miami Dolphins are trying to make some changes.
Their big move was firing head coach Joe Philbin and promoting tight ends coach Dan Campbell to head coach.
The Dolphins had a bye week in Week 5, so they’ve yet to take the field under their new coach.
However, reports over the last two weeks since Campbell took over sound like he’s going out of his way to change the Dolphins’ culture.
During his first practice as head coach, Campbell had players do the “Oklahoma drill,” a one-on-one battle between players in tight confines to simulate contact situations.
— James Walker (@JamesWalkerNFL) October 7, 2015
As NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington reported at the time, “That’s not a drill we see during the regular season, really ever, and, really, often not in training camp these days.”
Campbell has also gone out of his way to instill a competitive nature while promoting togetherness within the team. Here are some other examples.
- He started a practice with a game of tug-of-war (via USA Today’s Lorenzo Reyes). He’s showed the team videos of Michael Jordan to encourage competitiveness (via Sun-Sentinel’s Chris Perkins). He changed players’ lockers without telling them, reorganizing them into groups based on position (via Reyes). He pitted the starting offense and defense against each other in practice, sitting out the practice squad (via Perkins).
The latter is noteworthy as it rarely happens during the season. As Perkins notes, starters will usually only play each other in training camp. During the regular season, scout teams play the starters during practice. Some teams, however, also use this practice – Tony Dungy told Perkins the Seahawks do the same thing occasionally.
Some of these things are not totally unheard of – coaches across all sports will often show their teams motivational videos or play games to break up the routine – but Campbell breaking conventions, especially so early into his tenure as an interim coach, is interesting.
However, this type of thing seems natural to Campbell. He told reporters the hardest parts of coaching have been all of the other, nonfootball planning:
“Everything outside of football. Who sits where on the plane? What time are we going to leave on Saturday? What about food? How long do you want to serve food in the cafeteria? Those are things that have been more out of my comfort zone.”
While players, as expected, have backed these methods and said there’s a different feeling and culture around the team, it can’t hurt Campbell to try. The Dolphins were so lackluster on the field through the first four weeks that doing what seems like a 180 in routine is worth a shot.