The Mike McCarthy tree has sprouted its first NFL branch. It was only a matter of time. It might’ve been Winston Moss or Tom Clements or Darren Perry, Kevin Greene or several other young, ascending assistant coaches that will one day have their own branch on the McCarthy tree. In this case, it was only fitting, only right that the first branch belong to Joe Philbin.
One week after a week of tragedy for Philbin and his family, he has been named the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, concluding a coaching odyssey that has taken Philbin from Worcester Tech to the ranks of one of the 32 most coveted positions in his profession, with stops along the way at Division III Allegheny College and Harvard.
Congratulations, Joe. May the Miami sunshine warm you and your family and help brighten your days.
This is a proud day for McCarthy. Every coach with a championship ring wants a tree to call his own. All of the coaches McCarthy admires have trees. Philbin, an offensive line coach of such skill and renown that McCarthy retained him from the staff of the Packers head coach McCarthy replaced in 2006, is the perfect first sprout about which McCarthy can brag.
In ’07, McCarthy made Philbin the Packers’ offensive coordinator, a position he held until today. Philbin labored in semi-anonymity. He was the good soldier that did the hard preparation work, then yielded the glitzy play-calling duties on Sunday to his boss.
If he doesn’t call plays, then what does he do, fans asked? Well, it appears he did enough to be noticed by a team that is said to be on the verge of becoming a playoff contender. The Dolphins aren’t in need of rebuilding. All they need is a player here and a player there, and a coach that can lead them. Now they have the coach.
The Dolphins’ arrow must surely be pointing up. We know that because they were smart enough, bold enough to ignore the big-name recycled candidates, and turn their attention to a man of intellect and achievement.
Nothing was ever handed to Philbin. Eight years of his career were spent in succession at Worcester, the Merchant Marine Academy and Allegheny. At Allegheny, he helped Ken O’Keefe win a national championship, and that’s when Philbin got his big break. It led him eventually to Iowa, where O’Keefe is still Kirk Ferentz’ offensive coordinator.
Philbin is living proof that if you chase your dream long enough, hard enough, you’ll one day live it. Just when it appeared he would be stuck forever in the small-college ranks, the sun shined on his career.
Last week was a week for Philbin that is every parent’s nightmare. It was the week that Joe and his wife Diane lost their son, Michael. Nothing can ease the Philbins' pain, but good news never feels better than it does when it immediately follows very bad news.
Miami is a great place to go in January. Good luck, Joe.
(Update: Mike McCarthy spoke with Miami media via conference call. For a transcript of his remarks, click here.) Additional coverage - Jan. 20