David Hyde is a columnist
for the South Florida SunSentinel
FOXBOROUGH — At the end of another Sunday that couldn’t end soon enough, Steve Ross walked out of the loser’s locker room, just as he has at Gillette Stadium all six times as Dolphins owner.
He buttoned his jacket against the cold, turned left down a hallway with his entourage, and shook his head when asked for a moment, saying only with a face set in stone, “No.”
This isn’t the time for talk anyhow. It’s nearly the time for action. Ross is “on the verge” of ending the Joe Philbin era at season’s end, a team source said, for all the obvious reasons that just played across another Dolphins Sunday.
With the playoffs on the line, with the season up for grabs, the Dolphins were embarrassed by New England, 41-13, in a game that felt depressingly similar to the previous Sunday against Baltimore.
Philbin’s team was run off the field both times. It was outscored, 48-3, in the second halves, including Sunday when New England’s 24 third-quarter points were the most it ever scored in that quarter — and the most the Dolphins have ever given up.
This isn’t the kind of history Philbin, a good man you hoped would be a better coach, should be making by this third season. It’s why unless something drastically changes he won’t be back for a fourth.
This was worse for Philbin, losing these past two games in embarrassing fashion, than losing the final two games to knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs were last year.
Good, well-coached teams like Baltimore and New England get better as the season lengthens. By Year 3 of this regime, the Dolphins are still finding ways to lose with shoddy tackling, dropped passes, penalties that kill drives, and not competing at all in second halves.
“Progress,” was Ross’s stated demand for this season. And, to be fair, There are pockets of progress. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, most importantly, has improved to being a good-not-great quarterback. That’s led to a better offense under coordinator Bill Lazor.
Would Jim Harbaugh come to the Dolphins on Ross’s second courtship? Would a defensive-minded coach (Rex Ryan?) be hired to allow Lazor to keep this improving offense developing? Does a wild card like Auburn’s Guz Malzahn have a pro itch?
These are the type of questions Ross must wrestle with in the coming days. There’s no spectacular hurry to get in line for a coach. Harbaugh is coaching to the end of the season in San Francisco, too.
On one side of Gillette Stadium late Sunday afternoon, Bill Belichick was starting his news conference by saying, “It’s always good to be able to walk up here after we’ve won an AFC East championship — so feeling good today. I think our guys really finished the game strong — 27-0 in the second half.’’
On the other side of the stadium, Philbin was saying, “I just told the team we got to play 60 minutes of football.”
Earlier in the year, they lost three games because they played 56 minutes. Now they’re not getting even that much. They’re getting a half. That’s not enough. It’s not even close.
“Embarrassing,’’ receiver Mike Wallace said.
“Awful,’’ center Mike Pouncey said.
All the old words are new again. That’s where we are with another Dolphins season.
It’s Groundhog Year. Philbin will make the fifth Dolphins regime that Belichick and Tom Brady have helped run out of town.
It was another failed Dolphins leader, Bill Parcells, who said you are what your record says you are. Philbin’s Dolphins are 7-7. They were 8-8 last year. They were 7-9 in his first season.
See the pattern? Have any reason for change?
There’s a window a coach has to effect his change on a team before the players tune out and the fans turn off, and the end of this third year with the same results is that point with Philbin.
So the Patriots do what they always do. They win the AFC East and move on to the playoffs. “It started back in March,’’ Brady said. “It’s a lot of hard work that goes into it. I don’t think you ever take winning for granted – I don’t because I know how hard it is to win.”
The Dolphins do what they often do, too. They’ll start all over and hope they get it right this time.
Ross stuffed his hands in his coat pockets as he walked out of Gillette as a loser again. That’s the image to have. Another cold Dolphins winter is upon us.