Every time a new football coach comes waltzing into town -- not just this one, but any town -- he is going to make some changes. The new coach inherits players from the old coach or regime, and they don't always fit in with the new coach's goals.
Joe Philbin, entering his first year with the Miami Dolphins, is no exception. Since his arrival, Philbin has rid himself of last year's Pro Bowl MVP (Brandon Marshall), a key receiver picked up this offseason (Chad Johnson) and a former first-round draft pick who also happened to be the best cornerback on the team last year (Vontae Davis).
These moves have puzzled many fans over the past several months. First, Marshall, the best Dolphins wide receiver never to have lined up next to Dan Marino, was traded to the Chicago Bears for a pair of third-round picks.
Next, Johnson was cut following his arrest for allegedly head-butting his wife during an argument. The series of debated moves culminated in Sunday's trade of Davis to the Indianapolis Colts. It appears that Philbin is gutting the team of its most talented players at the positions of greatest need.
He is. But why?
It's simple: Philbin wants to mold this team with players committed to his vision of how the football team, and the organization, should be run. His changes aren't based simply on whether a player fits into his scheme. He wants professionals who will represent the Dolphins -- and Philbin -- in a way that makes him proud. Parcells may not have cared as much about a player's character, but Philbin is not like Parcells (this may not be a bad thing, given Parcells' track record over the course of the past decade).
When you look at the high-caliber players who have been shown the door, each had character issues. Marshall had borderline personality disorder and was involved in an alleged nightclub altercation shortly before he was traded, and has had other run-ins with the law. Johnson, as previously mentioned, allegedly head-butted his wife and previously drew Philbin's ire with a profanity-laced meeting with local reporters. Davis was suspended for one game last season after showing up for practice with alcohol on his breath, arrived at training camp out of shape, and lost his starting job to newcomer Richard Marshall.
These are not the kind of players that someone like Philbin wants around. He spent the past nine seasons working his way up the Green Bay Packers organization. Before that, he served as the offensive line coach at University of Iowa. Prior to that, he spent time at collegiate powerhouses like Harvard, Northeastern and Ohio University.
That last part was sarcasm. The reason I don't think Philbin wants these kinds of players on his team is that Philbin has spent his entire life working to get to this point. He never coached at a major collegiate program and had to wait years before getting his big break to join an NFL staff. Even then, he had to work his way up the ladder. Nothing was handed to him. A man like Philbin takes his job seriously and realizes the level of professionalism it takes to succeed. He wants his players to realize that, too.
One thing has been made clear so far: if you don't realize it, you're going to be working elsewhere.
And that's just the way Philbin wants it.