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Joe Philbin spoke to the media on Tuesday at the NFL owners' meeting and conspicuously declined to say the team is rebuilding. While most observers see the Dolphins as a team in free-fall, Philbin wants his team to compete right away.
"It's way too early to predict where we’re going to be in the win-loss column," he said, "and I think it'd be a disservice to the players to say we're in rebuilding mode."
Not that he is unaware of the team's problems. "I'm concerned about everything," he said. "We've watched a lot of tape, we've identified areas we need to get better."
Besides quarterback, Philbin said the offensive line is of particular concern. "My position, when I watched the tape, was our offensive line needs to get better if our quarterback position is going to play better. That's going to be a priority."
Philbin said there will be an open quarterback competition between incumbent Matt Moore and recent signee David Garrard. He said he likes Moore's arm strength and game management, while Garrard "throws a real catchable ball" and is good at throwing the ball on the move.
The Dolphins made a sincere effort to sign Matt Flynn, according to Philbin, but was vague as to why Flynn opted for Seattle. "It always takes two people to get a marriage," he said.
He was even less illuminating on the team's decision to trade WR Brandon Marshall, simply saying, "We thought it was in the best interests of the team moving forward."
Philbin said his philosophy on rebuilding is to drive change through the draft, not through free agency. "You can't necessarily fix everything in free agency," he said, "nor do you want to do. When you’re doing it the right way, you’re developing your own guys, re-signing your own guys."
That sounds well and good, but general manager Jeff Ireland has a mixed draft history at best.
He was a little less offended by recent fan protests than his bosses Stephen Ross and Jeff Ireland were on Monday. "I'm glad there are fans with passion who care about the direction of this team," he said. "We understand not everyone is going to like every single decision."
But while the fans "didn't throw any eggs at my car when I drove by" during the protest at team headquarters last week, he knows his fan approval is not necessarily permanent. "We'll see how long that lasts."
Unlike Ireland, Philbin will at least get a year or two to right the ship before the fans mutiny. In a way, he's kind of the opposite of Jay Fielder. Instead of having to replace Dan Marino (everyone's hero), he gets to replace Tony Sparano (everyone's scapegoat). Barring a Cam Cameron-level debacle, Philbin has significant room for error during the first part of his Dolphins tenure, which he will surely need.