MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin was back at the teams practice facility before 6 a.m. Monday morning despite having flown down from a road game in New England the previous night.
Philbin was anxious to get back to work, focusing on the Dolphins Week 16 opponent, the Minnesota Vikings.
Unfortunately for him, things are never that easy.
The Dolphins third year head coach finds himself securely on the proverbial hot seat following their latest demoralizing loss, this one coming at the hands of division rival New England.
After losing at home the previous week to the Baltimore Ravens, Miami needed a win over the Patriots to maintain a realistic shot at making the playoffs.
Winning road games in New England is never an easy task and that remained true on Sunday as Tom Brady and the Patriots took down the visiting Dolphins 41-13.
For the second consecutive week Miami played well during the first half and had every opportunity to come away with a much-needed win.
After halftime however, the Dolphins were thoroughly outplayed and are now facing the team's sixth straight playoff-less season.
"New England, number one, is obviously a very good football team and they're difficult to beat regardless of where you play them, as their record suggests," said Philbin on Monday. "We didn't make them work hard enough for some of their points. I think they had 21 points off of 35 yards of offense, but they certainly made the plays that decided the outcome of the game and deserved to win."
It's been a very rough couple of games for Philbin's squad, who jumped out to a 10-0 lead over Baltimore a week earlier before being outscored 28-3 the rest of the way.
In New England, Miami went into halftime trailing 14-13 only to be shutout for the remainder of the contest.
"When you look at yesterday's game, in the second half we went out there and obviously we had played relatively well on defense in the first half, but the opening drive [of the second half] we gave up a couple of explosive plays, big plays," explained Philbin. "We didn't respond well on offense, we went three and out and I think we came up a yard or two short. Then we had an interception on one play [on our next drive]. So pretty quickly things turned against us, we got down by 18 and didn't respond well offensively."
During his two-plus years with the Dolphins, Philbin has compiled a 22-24 record. Following a seven-win campaign in 2012, he led the team to an 8-6 record through 14 games in 2013. Needing one win over their final two games to make the postseason, Miami lost to a pair of below .500 teams and missed the playoffs yet again.
Heading into the current season, it appeared that the Dolphins had more talent on their roster than in either of the previous years under Philbin.
Between a bevy of injuries and questionable coaching decisions it appears that Miami will once again miss their chance to play January football, and Dolphins owner Stephen Ross could be ready to make a change.
"[Ross] and I talked after the game," Philbin said. "We'll talk again a number of times throughout the course of the week. We're both disappointed in how the team performed in the second half.
"We just talked in general about the game. Anytime you are down by one point and you end up losing by 28, if that's the final number, there were some things we didn't execute well enough. We didn't perform well enough in the second half. We were both disappointed. Players were disappointed. Coaches are disappointed. Owners are disappointed. I think that's understandable."
There has been plenty of speculation on Philbin's job security throughout the season, but after losing three games in four weeks those talks have intensified.
That can be combined with the speculation about 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh's future with his team, and his past connection with Ross towards the end of the 2011 season.
Back then, Harbaugh was being pursued by several NFL teams after having success coaching at the collegiate level for Stanford University.
Ross took a now infamous trip to the west coast, along with then-Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland and advisor Carl Peterson, to speak with Harbaugh about possibly coaching in Miami. This happened despite the Dolphins already having a coach on the payroll in Tony Sparano.
After reports of the meeting went public, Ross denied offering Harbaugh a job and ultimately signed Sparano to an extension.
The Dolphins ended up firing Sparano the following December after leading Miami to a 4-9 record.
Fast forward to 2014, where it appears that Harbaugh's tenure in San Francisco may be coming to an end. There is already speculation that Ross may once again make a bid to try and lure Harbaugh to South Florida, who like Ross is an alum of the University of Michigan.
What does this mean for Philbin? For now, nothing, but that could change quickly as both the Dolphins and 49ers' seasons could be over in less than two weeks.
Credit to Philbin though, who's façade didn't crack despite being repeatedly asked about his status for next season.
"The focus is on the Minnesota Vikings," he said. "There is going to be a time and a place for all those types of discussions.
"You are a professional. I am a professional. I've been in this business for a long time. I'm excited about getting our team ready to play against the Minnesota Vikings."
Philbin may be excited, but Ross, who has yet to see a playoff game since becoming 95% owner of the Dolphins in January of 2009, could be ready to search for that kind of emotion from a new head coach.
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