FOXBOROUGH — The ties to New England are unmistakable if not unbreakable for Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. A native of Springfield, Philbin attended Worcester Academy and began his coaching career as an offensive line coach at Worcester Tech in 1986.
After leaving the area to work as offensive coordinator/line coach at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania from 1990-93, then offensive line coach at Ohio University in 1994, Philbin returned to New England.
Out of work following the Bobcats’ 0-11 season in 1994, Philbin credited Barry Gallup, then Northeastern’s athletic director and football coach, for giving him a big break — hiring him as the Huskies’ offensive coordinator and line coach in 1995.
“Barry Gallup, who is the associate AD at Boston College, was nice enough to give me a job when I was unemployed after going to Ohio University and we went a glamorous 0 for 11 and didn’t have any job,’’ Philbin recalled Wednesday in a conference call with the New England media in advance of Sunday’s home game against the Patriots.
“I had four children and my wife was pregnant, and Barry was good enough to give me a job. I loved coaching every minute there and I was the offensive coordinator and Barry was excellent to work for.
“We had a winning season [6-5], the first time I think they ever had one there in the Yankee Conference, in 1996, I want to say.’’
That led to an opportunity for a similar role at Harvard, where Philbin spent two seasons on Tim Murphy’s staff, 1997-98.
“I used to drive by Harvard every single day going to work at Northeastern, and so I cut my commute down about 10 minutes,’’ Philbin said. “Tim Murphy’s done a fantastic job there as you guys know, excellent coach and the program that he has there. I really enjoyed that experience there as well.’’
Philbin turned to coaches with whom he worked at NU and Harvard to help fill his staff with the Dolphins.
He hired Jim Turner, a Braintree native and former BC standout who worked alongside Philbin at NU, to coach the offensive line and Lou Anarumo, a former Harvard assistant head coach during Philbin’s tenure with the Crimson, as Miami’s defensive backs coach.
Philbin turned to Mike Sherman, the former Green Bay Packers and Texas A&M head coach from Northborough (who was also his English teacher at Worcester Academy), as his offensive coordinator. For a defensive coordinator, Philbin hired Kevin Coyle, the former Holy Cross defensive coordinator with whom Philbin first became acquainted while working together at Crusaders football camps.
“We’ve got quite a few guys from the region, no doubt about it,’’ Philbin said. “When I was fortunate to get this job, I knew it was going to be important to hire, No. 1, excellent coaches, but, No. 2, people I could have total trust and faith in and guys who were loyal.”
Sunday’s game is the first division matchup against the Patriots for Philbin.
“Obviously, there’s some good rivalries we have with all three teams [in the AFC East],’’ Philbin said. “I think three of us are a work in progress at this stage and one team is playing very, very well.”
The Patriots, who own a 57-15 division record since 2001, will be looking to clinch their 10th division title in that stretch with a win over the Dolphins.
“We know it’s a big game, Miami knows it’s a big game. There aren’t many left,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “We have two games against a division rival here, so this is the first one down there. We know it’s important.’’
It was readily apparent to Philbin what separates the Patriots from the rest of the teams in the division.
“Plus-24 is what I see,’’ Philbin said of New England’s league-leading turnover differential. They take the ball away, and I think Chicago has one more than them, if I’m not mistaken. And they lead the league with only eight giveaways, and that’s a great place to start if you want to talk about winning games in the National Football League.”
Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit and woozily departed in the second half of the Thanksgiving romp over the Jets, was spotted during the media-access portion of practice. Edelman was one of 12 Patriots listed as limited for the full-pads workout. Starting guards Dan Connolly (back) and Logan Mankins (ankle/calf) and starting right tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee) missed practice, as did reserve guard Markus Zusevics (illness). Also absent were tight end Rob Gronkowski (forearm/hip) and defensive end Chandler Jones (ankle). Running back Jorvorskie Lane (knee) was the only Miami player to miss practice . . . The Patriots made a pair of moves, promoting fullback James Develin, 24, a former Brown University defensive lineman, to the 53-man roster from the practice squad and signing wide receiver Jeremy Ebert, 23, to the practice squad. A former wideout at Northwestern, Ebert was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round this year and released Aug. 31. Ebert spent a week on Philadelphia’s practice squad in September . . . Belichick was asked if he gave any thought to holding practice indoors and cranking up the heat to simulate the temperatures the team is likely to encounter in South Florida. “I don’t know if we could get it to 80 in there,’’ Belichick said. “We’ll be outside on the grass. That’s the best setup for us right now.’’