Dolphins miss out on chance to snag Jim Harbaugh
By NEIL DWYER
College Contributor Network
The rumors have finally been addressed. The last plays of the NFL regular season have been downed, and now here we are on Black Monday. Rex Ryan, Mark Trestman, and Mike Smith have all been handed their pink slips. Jim Harbaugh was supposed to be shown the door, but he got the chance to go home again.
Quick aside: I've been on the Harbaugh bandwagon this entire season. The man took a dormant franchise which had seen guys like J.T. O'Sullivan getting game reps and restored it back to where it was expected to be: three NFC Championships and one Superbowl appearance (it should've been a second last year). Yes, there were all sorts of defensive issues: Aldon Smith's airport incident and NaVorro Bowman's lengthy recovery from a torn ACL he suffered against Seattle in the playoffs. It seemed like everyone was on his back this year; to me he earned himself a mulligan.
Harbaugh has shown the most important trait of a coach on multiple levels of football. At Stanford, he developed players into champions, most notably Andrew Luck. With the 49ers, he took that same developed talent and set the bar higher, which his team set every year. San Francisco was in the NFL's 'Final Four' for three straight years, in his FIRST three years as head coach!
Bill Belichick couldn't even accomplish that in Tom Brady's glory years (for the sake of argument, we'll set that from 2001-07.) Peyton hasn't done that in Indy or Denver, nor has Aaron Rodgers. Brett Favre was in the Final Four from 1995-97, but that was already a few years into that regime. So take a step back and realize what Harbaugh did in such a short time.
So now Harbaugh moves on to Ann Arbor, and there's one man that can really thank him for the move: Joe Philbin. Philbin has never been able to get the Miami Dolphins over the December hump. The last two seasons, Miami's been on the verge of getting back to the playoffs, only to fall short. Last year, a thrilling Week 15 win over New England at home, with only a road game in Buffalo and the Jets at home remaining, all but stamped the Fins' ticket to January. Then, the anemic O-line failed Ryan Tannehill in both of those losses, and they finished 8-8.
This year was more of the same; Miami needed a late-season win over the Ravens and dropped it on the way to an eventual finish at .500. The Tannehill-Mike Wallace connection hasn't clicked after two seasons, the one big pickup at the front line, Brandon Albert, got hurt in Detroit, and while they're in the middle of the pack in sacks, the pressure on opposing quarterbacks just isn't there. In short, Joe Philbin's mark on the Dolphins hasn't equaled Regis Philbin's mark on TV.
Harbaugh could've been a natural fit in Miami. Stephen Ross is a Michigan man, and with the re-institution of the West Coast offense; the Tannehill-Wallace union could've finally sparked, along with the yards Jarvis Jandry and Charles Clay, among other receivers, pick up in the passing game. Miami's only a few pieces away from being that wild card team every year, since the Patriots will always, ALWAYS, win that division with Brady.
However, securing Harbaugh may have required a nicer package, like giving him the dual-authority of general manager and head coach titles, than what was on offer. Meanwhile, Michigan hasn't been Michigan since Bo Schembechler left and this could appeal to a competitive person like Harbaugh.
Michigan players (with the exception of a 6th-round pick from the Patriots) haven't developed on the pace of rival Ohio State or other teams. Hopefully the "H" to get them back to "W's" lies in Harbaugh and not Hoke.
Neil Dwyer is a senior at the University of Miami who loves the Yankees, Giants, 'Canes and screaming about all three. Follow him on Twitter: @neildwyer1993