GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy couldn?t have been happier about the news. Or more disappointed.
While the Green Bay Packers quarterback and his head coach both knew there was a good chance that offensive coordinator Joe Philbin would be leaving to become someone?s new head coach ? and that?s exactly what happened Friday evening, when the Miami Dolphins hired Philbin to be the 10th coach in the franchise?s storied history ? there was a selfish part of them that was hoping he wouldn?t get any offers.
Although Philbin did not call the plays under McCarthy, because of what he meant to them ? both professionally and personally ? he will be sorely missed.
?I?m excited a hell for him. It?s a great opportunity,? McCarthy said Friday night, shortly after talking with Philbin and his wife Diane. ?I?m going to miss him more personally, selfishly. I enjoy our friendship, I enjoy working relationship. Professional football coaches spend a lot of time together away from their families. I?m going to miss our daily conversations ? football, life, all of the above.
?He does everything any offensive coordinator does. The only thing he doesn?t do is call the plays, because it?s a skill set that I have, experience that I have. I would not hesitate to let him call the plays. If he walked in and said, ?If you let me call the plays, I won?t go to Miami,? he could call the plays tomorrow. And he could even call a couple onside kicks.?
While Rodgers has worked closely with McCarthy, quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and Philbin, he said every Friday he would visit with Philbin and the two men would talk ? often about life instead of football.
?Joe?s very important to our success. The day-to-day stuff ? all the coaching responsibilities he has, installing plays and explaining plays, his role in those meetings, the way that he helps get practice run the right way ? he does a ton for us,? Rodgers said. ?As players we probably don?t even see half the stuff he does to get us ready during the week. So we?re going to miss him, we really are.
?I think as a player you love to play, you love the games, you love the preparation, but the thing that?s going to stick with you long after you?re done playing is the guys, is the relationships. That?s player-to-player, player-to-coach, player-to-support staff, player-to-personnel staff, player-to-fan. But the player-to-coach relationship is very special. To me it always has been.
?Joe has been a large part of my success as a player and growth as a person. I really enjoy our conversations together; (we) make sure we spend some time every Friday catching up, talking about things.?
The 50-year-old Philbin, who has never been a head coach before, interviewed with Dolphins owner Steven Ross twice, on Jan. 7 and again on Wednesday, and beat out Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Dolphins interim coach Todd Bowles, the other finalists for the job.
?He?s very intelligent, knows what is going on at every position,? Packers general manager Ted Thompson told reporters at the East-West Shrine Game earlier this week when asked about Philbin. ?Great background with the offensive line. Understands the running game. Very good with players, good in front of the players. All of those things are positive.?
The Dolphins are set to hold a news conference Saturday to introduce Philbin. Coach Tony Sparano was fired with three games left in the regular season, and the Dolphins finished 6-10 this season, 7-9 in 2010 and 7-9 in 2009.
Philbin becomes the eighth different Dolphins coach since the legendary Don Shula?s retirement following the 1995 season. During Shula's 26 seasons as Miami's head coach, the Dolphins had just two losing seasons; since his retirement, they?ve had six, as well as just six playoff appearances.
?I want to thank Steve Ross and Jeff Ireland for giving me the opportunity to become the head coach of one of the premier franchises in professional sports,? Philbin said in a statement released by the Dolphins. ?I also want to thank the Green Bay Packers for all the support the organization has given me during my time there. The Dolphins have a strong nucleus to build around, and working with everyone in the organization, I know that together we will return the team to its winning tradition. I have seen how much the fans in South Florida care about the Dolphins, and that passion is one reason why I?m really excited to be here. I?m looking forward to their support, and I can?t wait to get started.?
Philbin also interviewed Thursday for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coaching opening, as did Clements.
?I?d hate to see both of those guys go, but it would be exciting for them,? Rodgers said of Philbin and Clements. As for Philbin, Rodgers added, ?Joe has an incredible command of a room, he really cares about relationships and people. He?s a great teacher, a great leader.?
The Dolphins hired Philbin less than two weeks after his 21-year-old son Michael, the second-oldest of Joe and Diane Philbin?s six children, drowned in the Fox River near the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh campus. Michael Philbin was laid to rest last Friday.
Asked if he talked with Philbin about the new job providing a fresh start for the family, McCarthy replied, ?Joe and I talk daily about everything. I think that was a private conversation. I?ll tell you, we talk on a daily basis, especially last week.?
A Packers source close to Philbin said he did wonder whether to continue pursuing a head-coaching job after Michael?s death.
?Joe?s going to do the best thing for his family,? said former Packers coach Mike Sherman, who came back to Green Bay for Michael Philbin?s funeral last week. ?It wasn?t the time or place to talk about that stuff. We didn?t really talk about what was going on. (But) I?m very confident he?ll do a great job there. They?ll have some tough times, but he?ll find his way out through those tough times. The tough times he went through most recently, that?s as tough as it gets. Nothing he faces in Miami will compare to what he?s had to face as a father and husband here of late. And he?s made it through.?
Philbin joined the Packers as assistant offensive line coach under Sherman in 2003, after college stops at Tulane, Worcester (Mass.) Tech, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, Allegheny College, Ohio University, Northeastern University, Harvard and Iowa. He added the job of tight ends coach for the 2004 and 2005 seasons under Sherman, then was hired by McCarthy as offensive line coach in 2006. He has been the team?s offensive coordinator since 2007, when McCarthy promoted him following the departure of Jeff Jagodzinski.
Philbin was one of the few coaches from Sherman?s staff who were retained by McCarthy, even though McCarthy didn?t know Philbin before interviewing him.
?Really, the offensive guys that were able to stay were guys who stayed as individuals. The defensive guys, it was more the way we were going with the defense,? McCarthy recalled Friday night. ?I didn?t know Joe, (other than) from reputation. Had chance to interview him, and I just liked him. I like the man.
?He was very consistent, very thorough about what he stood for as a person and as a coach, how he got there. I just thought he was a great fit for what I was trying to build. I wanted good people, good teachers, good communicators, and he far exceeded what I thought I was getting. He?s a first-class man and an outstanding football coach.?
Sherman, who has known Philbin since he was Philbin?s high-school English teacher and football coach at Worcester (Mass.) Academy, gave Philbin his first coaching job at Tulane in 1984 as a graduate assistant.
Asked if he thought Philbin as a high-schooler would someday be a head coach, Sherman laughed and replied, ?At that time, I didn?t think either one of us would be.
?But after working with him and seeing what he?s done in Green Bay and influence he has, (the Dolphins) want a piece of the Packers, and he?s a big part of that. I think it?s great for them. They got a great man, there?s no question about that. And a great coach.
?My first college job was at Tulane, and I brought him as a graduate assistant. As a graduate assistant, we gave him a full-time position coaching tight ends. He?s just an attention-to-detail guy, cares about people, develops relationships with people. He?s extremely, extremely intelligent.
?I can say this having had him as student as a coach: He?s a very smart guy, adapts very fast to what?s going on, and I think people have so much respect for him not only because of his intellect and knowledge but he?s such a great person, too. Those were things I noticed early in his career that have held true throughout his time in the coaching profession.
?He has a great grasp of football but even more than that, as a head coach, you have to have great grasp of people ? what buttons to push. He?ll set up a system and structure that will breed success. I just have tremendous confidence in his ability to get in there and get done what needs to get done. One thing you have to do, you lay out your structure right away, and you have to stay true to your principles. And he will do that. He won?t be swayed no matter what situation he?s placed in.?