By now, Dan Campbell knows his reputation as an intense, passionate and quick-witted interim coach is getting around. His introductory news conference/motivational speech served notice around the league.
So it makes sense that he plans to mark a very special day in his career -- his first game as a head coach -- in a unique way.
"I'll probably drink a gallon of coffee to start," Campbell joked with NFL.com over the phone Saturday afternoon, after his team had arrived in Nashville to play the Titans.
Well, we think he was joking. Maybe not.
Regardless, the former longtime NFL tight end who took over for deposed Joe Philbin is tasked with turning around the 1-3 Dolphins and morphing them into a playoff team. The talent is there, the wins have not been. To celebrate, he has no family members coming and no special plans. He may look around and soak in the moment, but he may not.
"It's all about, 'Have I done everything I can do to get these players the best opportunity to have success?'" Campbell said. "I'd say every day the anticipation has grown as it's gotten closer and the nervous energy has gone up. I feel good about what we've done to this point. Just going to have to turn it over to those guys tomorrow, let them cut loose."
Campbell and new defensive coordinator Lou Anuramo (who replaced Kevin Coyle after the players lost faith in him) took the players' temperature early. Two days in, there was a full-pads practice featuring an Oklahoma drill, which is rare during the season. The new coach loved to see the players buying in.
"I wanted to know how people were going to respond, and it was a physical practice where we went after each other," Campbell said. "You were going to find out really quick who was in and who was out just based on that type of practice. And every one of those guys responded. And when that happened, I said, 'OK, we're gonna be OK right now. We're gonna work,' and they were receptive. And they're willing to turn this thing around."
Campbell said you'll see some players in the spotlight today who were previously under the radar. It's all part of the new-look team. He also addressed a few hot-button issues in South Florida.
On the subject of the defense and its lack of aggression, Campbell said it's hard to change schemes on the fly but added that despite what everyone thinks, they are a one-gap defense (where defenders can attack one gap instead of sitting back and reading). My sense from players is they'll be allowed to get after it. Perhaps most importantly, high-priced tackle Ndamukong Suh appears to be a fan of this new leadership.
"I've had numerous conversations with him, as coach Anarumo has," Campbell said of Suh, who was among Coyle's most fervent detractors. "I'll tell you what, the guy wants to win, and he's putting in the work without any question. Anytime it's one of your dominant players, everybody's going to look to those guys. Here's the thing about Suh: He's a prideful guy, he's going to get his work in."
And what about first-round receiver DeVante Parker, who has been targeted just eight times with four catches and 49 yards? Will he be allowed to emerge? Well ...
"He's getting healthier every practice," Campbell said. "The foot injury held him back in training camp, and now that we finally got him healthy, it's all about catching up on his fundamentals. He'll flash. And when he flashes, you know what's to come but they are few and far between right now. He is improving every practice. When he's ready to go, we're going to cut him loose and let him go and you'll see a lot of him. So if he's not there, he's not ready."