DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell says the team he took over was a sleeping giant, and now that his players have been roused, he offers them two words of warning.
“No naps,” he said.
Campbell’s energy and optimism dramatically transformed the Dolphins in his debut as a head coach. With the Houston Texans next, followed by three consecutive road games, the question is whether the Dolphins (2-3) can sustain the turnaround.
Inconsistency was a problem under Campbell’s predecessor, Joe Philbin.
“The challenge now is for these guys to not start patting themselves on the back,” Campbell said Monday. “We’ve been notorious for that around here. We get a big win, and then a lull the next week.”
Campbell knows all about Miami’s 8-8 record each of the past two seasons — he was Philbin’s tight ends coach. The new head coach received a game ball from team owner Stephen Ross after the Dolphins won Sunday at Tennessee 38-10 to break the three-game losing streak that led to Philbin’s firing.
“Coach, this is the first of many — 11 more this year,” Ross said. “The sleeping giants have awoken.”
There’s that phrase again. For Campbell, it’s a combination of hyperbole and his belief that the Dolphins have that much talent. Campbell, played football at Glen Rose High School and later for several NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys.
“I’m that high on what we have here,” he said. “We have the right balance of impact players and lunch-pail workers. …
“The energy and the speed at which we played Sunday is what I was hoping we could get. I knew if we did that, we would be all right. We played faster. It came from a belief. Those guys were able to hope again. After that win, now you can start to believe.”
Campbell’s players do.
“I don’t think there is going to be a lull this time,” left tackle Branden Albert said. “Guys are going to prepare to keep winning.”
That won’t be easy, however, with the Dolphins coming to the end of the easy part of their schedule. They’ve never beaten the Texans, and next week they play at undefeated New England. They’re at home only twice until Dec. 6.
In addition, the history for interim coaches isn’t favorable. There have been 25 other midseason coaching changes in the NFL since 2000, and only four times did the interim coach win his first two games, according to STATS.
Even with the blowout win at Nashville, the Dolphins remain last in the AFC East and last in the conference in points. But they were widely seen as underachievers in the first month of the season, and their first game under Campbell reinforced that notion.
The former NFL tight end switched to more physical practices that seemed to have the spillover effect he sought, with Miami punishing the Titans up front.
“I wasn’t surprised,” defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said. “There was so much intensity during the week that coach Campbell has implemented. A lot of guys were energized and really excited.”
Four-time Pro Bowl end Cameron Wake had four sacks in the first half after totaling none in the first four games. The offensive line dominated as it rarely did under Philbin, and Lamar Miller rushed for 113 yards to nearly double his season total.
The coach’s creative twists worked. Jarvis Landry ran for a touchdown on an end-around, and the 310-pound Mitchell blocked well taking six snaps at fullback.
Lineup changes paid off, too, especially a switch to second-year pro Billy Turner at right guard. The new coach was even correct on his first replay challenge.
After the game, Campbell said, he was spent.
“When I got back to the bus,” he said, “I was blown out completely.”
The new coach had earned a nap.
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