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After falling to 1-3 on the season, the Miami Dolphins are the biggest mess in the NFL.
Head coach Joe Philbin is on the hot seat, the offense is flat, and the defense, expected to be a force this season, is wildly underwhelming, having surrendered 101 points while registering just one sack.
The failures on defense have put defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle’s job in jeopardy, with the Miami Herald’s Armando Salguero reporting that he’s more likely to be fired than Philbin.
Part of this could be due to the team’s reaction to Coyle’s defensive scheme. It sounds as if players are turning against Coyle, particularly $114 million free-agent signing Ndamukong Suh. After Week 2, there were reports that Suh was freelancing on defense, ignoring play calls.
On Sunday, Salguero also reported that Suh held a symbolic protest during a full-padded practice last week over the defense:
And so when Ndamukong Suh, the team’s highest-paid player, wore sneakers to a full-padded practice during the week, other players noticed. They took it as a sign Suh was making a statement of dissatisfaction over the defensive coaching.
And why are players drawing that conclusion? Because a prominent handful of them are dissatisfied over the defensive coaching, too.
I asked Suh what gear he wore to practice Thursday.
“Next question,” he answered.
Suh’s shoe choice was perhaps a way of showing he didn’t respect the defense the team had been running, at least not enough to wear his cleats instead of sneakers.
NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport also reported on Sunday that during the week, the Dolphins’ defense held a closed-door meeting with Coyle to complain about the defensive scheme.
Players had a very frank and contentious closed-door meeting with Coyle this week, sources say, and they attempted to clear the air. The message was his schemes were too complex and constricting, and that they didn’t put the players in position to make plays.
They begged him to simplify, and a source said Coyle junked many of the complexities of the defense this week to allow the players to play.
As Salguero notes, the Dolphins play a two-gap defensive scheme – defensive linemen line up directly across from the offensive linemen – which forces players to read the two gaps and react, instead of lining up between two offensive linemen and just attacking the offense.
Overall, it sounds as if Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has no choice but to make some changes to the team. It sounds as if players have turned against Coyle, and the Dolphins don’t have anything to show on the field that suggests Coyle’s system could work and the team can turn this around.
While the season is still young, and the Dolphins could recover from a 1-3 start, the early results don’t bode well for Coyle’s job.