MIAMI (Reuters) - Joe Philbin claimed his first victory as a head coach on Sunday when the Miami Dolphin beat the Oakland Raiders 35-13.
After losing all four pre-season games and last week’s opening game, Dolphins fans were wondering if the mild-mannered 51-year-old from Green Bay was the right man to motivate a team few expect to challenge in the AFC East this year.
A ‘fly on the wall’ television documentary series ‘Hard Knocks’ did little to help his image, showing him obsessing about litter and shoelaces.
But when the Dolphins won on Sunday, all the plaudits went to Philbin, who joined Miami after serving as offensive coordinator with the Packers.
The players showered him with ice from the team’s drinks container, in full view of the public, then Dolphins owner Stephen marched into the team locker-room and handed him the game ball.
“I think it was great,” Ross told reporters. “We’re on to something, the first of many.”
There are tougher challenges ahead for the Dolphins but for a team that was written off by most experts before the season even began, the win at least showed they have some of the components needed to be competitive.
Rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill had a good home debut, with no interceptions. He completed 18 of 30 pass attempts for 200 yards, throwing one touchdown and running in another.
Running back Reggie Bush confirmed his status as the key player in the Dolphins’ offense with two touchdowns as he rushed for 172 yards, and was well supported by Lamar Miller who had one touchdown and 65 yards.
The Miami defense restricted the Raiders to just 23 rushing yards although Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer was able to pass for 373 yards.
But what could arguably be the best news for Dolphins fans was that their new coach has clearly passed his first test, winning over his own team.
After last week’s 30-10 loss to the Texans, a performance which did little to allay fears of a miserable season, Philbin delivered a stirring speech to his players.
“He gave us one of the best post-game speeches I’ve ever heard. Really rallied the troops and we rallied around him,” guard Richie Incognito told reporters.
”He broke it down for us. He said there is no need to panic, no need to finger point, it’s just one game. He said what was on a lot of people’s minds.
“We went through a big culture change here and coach Philbin has been consistent throughout it all. I really thing that is what he hangs his hat on, consistency.”
Philbin was reluctant to talk about his personal milestone, focusing instead on the team’s performance.
“It’s good. I‘m very blessed. We’ve got a tremendous staff here, they’ve worked their tails off,” he said.
“The guys, the men in the locker-room, they are outstanding. I had my entire family here today, my mom and dad and my five siblings....it was good.”
Editing by Julian Linden