There's plenty of blame to go around in Miami after the Dolphins' third straight loss against the New York Jets, but any shortcomings ultimately reflect back on head coach Joe Philbin.
The Dolphins had two choices Sunday in London.
1. Show up with a chip on their shoulders and answer the Jets' challenge, thereby buying their embattled head coach another week and salvaging their season before it slipped too far away.
2. Continue their trends from the first three weeks of lackluster, uninspired play (especially along both lines), leaving them in complete turmoil.
Save for strong efforts from Jarvis Landry, who tried to spark his team both on offense and special teams, and Ryan Tannehill, who deserves credit simply for hanging in behind a non-stop onslaught of pressure, the Dolphins went with door No. 2—all but assuring that the bye week will be an ugly one in Miami.
As SI's Doug Farrar wrote last week, there no longer appears to be any other choice for Dolphins ownership. Joe Philbin likely is headed to the chopping block, but odds are he will not be alone. Defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle has generated almost no production out of his high-priced line, and offensive coordinator Bill Lazor has not fared any better. In-season coaching changes are relatively rare, but the bye week tends to be the preferred timing, since it at least offers a team extra time to regroup.
In Week 4, the Dolphins were manhandled by a more physical, far more energetic Jets team, and on a nationally-televised stage to boot. Not only did the Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake-led defensive front struggle to find a pass rush again, but it was also gashed on the ground—Chris Ivory rushed for 166 yards on 29 carries, and the Jets averaged 10 yards per attempt on a touchdown drive to open the third quarter.
Lazor was just as lost, with a glaring example occurring just before halftime. After the Jets scored with about 30 seconds left, the Dolphins spread the field with five wide. Three straight times, New York brought a blitz from the slot; three straight times, Tannehill hurried an incompletion back toward the blitzer who had come, unable to set and throw because of the pressure. Miami never adjusted its blocking nor its play call.
So, this is not all on Philbin. Sunday also was not all about the Dolphins' shortcomings, either. The now 3–1 Jets hit the quarter mark of their regular season as a playoff contender, no matter what their whopping 14 penalties Sunday tell us. QB Ryan Fitzpatrick overcame some erratic stretches to make a handful of big plays. His run game and defense did the rest.
In many ways, the Jets played like the team Miami wants to be.
Philbin talked at halftime, on CBS's broadcast, about his team's inability to balance out its offense—a pervasive theme through Philbin's tenure. GM Dennis Hickey has attempted to construct a team that's strong in the trenches, with an offense that can be run-first and a defense that dominates along the line. None of his plans have panned out this season.
The Dolphins were on the other side of the coin last year. In Week 4 of the 2014 season, they traveled to Wembley Stadium and throttled the floundering Raiders, 38–14. Oakland fired its head coach at the time, Dennis Allen, almost as soon as it returned stateside.
Again, it's not all on Philbin. But when a team crosses over from merely losing to losing without putting up much of a fight, the ax usually falls on the head coach. The past three weeks have been utter embarrassments for the Dolphins, each outing worse than the last. Perhaps a sloppy Week 2 loss in Jacksonville can be excused. But last Sunday's 27-point home loss to Buffalo and this latest blowout cannot.
It is not accurate to say that the Dolphins aren't trying. The offense scored in the fourth quarter and the defense came up with some stops, neither of which would have happened if Miami was consciously rolling over. Their overall effort level compared to the Bills and Jets on consecutive Sundays, though, has been lacking.
Fair or not, such a display reflects back on the coach.
In this case, it's probably fair. Philbin has had three-plus years to prove that he is the right man for the Miami job and four weeks this season to solve what ails his underachieving team. Instead, the Dolphins have shown minimal signs of life. (No, the late-game rally Sunday doesn't count. )
Philbin helped seal Allen's fate with a win in London last season. He may have written his own end with a loss this time around.
UPDATE: A report has surfaced that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will make a decision on Philbin's fate Monday.