DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — As a high school English instructor, Mike Sherman taught creative writing and explored novels such as “Winesburg, Ohio” with students who included his new boss, Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin.
Now Sherman and Philbin are trying to develop a narrative that might seem farfetched: taking the Dolphins to the Super Bowl.
Sherman, the Dolphins’ third offensive coordinator in as many years, spoke publicly for the first time Thursday about his new job. After being fired in December as head coach at Texas A&M, he has reunited with Philbin, who became a first-time head coach when the Dolphins hired him last month.
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Their relationship goes back to 1980, when both were at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Mass.
“Joe was very introspective, cerebral, always prepared, studied hard,” Sherman said. “I wouldn’t say I gave him an A in the class. He might have gotten a B plus. I don’t know.”
Sherman’s first full-time coaching job was as offensive line coach at Tulane in 1983, and he brought Philbin there as a graduate assistant. They reunited again in 2003, when Sherman was the Packers’ head coach and hired Philbin as assistant offensive line coach.
It was Philbin’s first NFL job, and they worked together in Green Bay for three seasons.
“He was an attention-to-detail coach,” Sherman said. “His work was always impeccable.”
Now Philbin will be in charge, and Sherman — 7 years older at 57 — is fine with that.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for the chain of command,” Sherman said. “I want to see Joe be successful as a head coach. We have the same goals.”
The primary objective, as set by owner Stephen Ross, is for Miami to reach the Super Bowl for the first time since 1985. That will require a significant turnaround, because the Dolphins have endured three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the 1960s, including 6-10 last year.
Sherman went 57-39 at Green Bay but couldn’t deliver a title. He said he chose the Dolphins over other job opportunities because he believes there’s a good chance for success in Miami.
“Joe was adamant about the fact Mr. Ross wanted to win a Super Bowl,” Sherman said. “I don’t feel like I’m getting old, but my wife tells me I am. I want that opportunity before it’s all over me, whenever that is. He assured me Mr. Ross is very excited about winning a Super Bowl, and he convinced me that is a top priority.
“I’ve watched the tape. I don’t think we’re that far away.”
New defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle also has ties with Philbin that date to the 1980s, when they worked together at a Holy Cross summer camp. Like Sherman, Coyle sees a strong foundation.
“There’s a lot of talent here on defense where we can be very good very quickly,” Coyle said.
Coyle’s a first-time coordinator, but he has been in the NFL the past 11 years, most recently as defensive backs coach for the Bengals. He and Sherman have a combined 65 years of coaching experience.
Coyle said the Dolphins will combine elements of 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. As for the offense, Sherman said the playbook will depend on who’s on the roster.
“I promise you we will have a scheme that will utilize the strengths of our players,” Sherman said. “The guys who make plays will be allowed to make plays.”
Philbin was most recently offensive coordinator for the Packers and crafted their game plans, but Sherman expects to be calling the plays.
“I believe I will,” he said. “That may change. If the game is good, then Joe did it. If the game is bad, then I did it.”