PHOENIX – Joe Philbin got the wide receiver he wanted in Mike Wallace. The Miami Dolphins head coach, general manager Jeff Ireland and the Dolphins scouting staff all did their due diligence on Wallace, the ex-Pittsburgh Steelers receiver whom they signed to a five-year, $65 million deal when free agency opened last week.
But Philbin insisted at Tuesday’s AFC coaches breakfast at the annual NFL Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore hotel that the team’s preference for Wallace had nothing to do with him not being a fan of ex-Green Bay Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings, whom Philbin coached as the Packers’ offensive coordinator from 2007 through 2011.
It was reported before free agency began that the Dolphins were targeting Wallace instead of Jennings because Philbin didn’t really like Jennings as a player. Although the Dolphins did indeed pursue Wallace instead – while Jennings landed a five-year, $45 million deal with the Minnesota Vikings last Friday – Philbin said it had nothing to do with him not liking his former player.
“All I’m going to say is I had an outstanding relationship with Greg Jennings over the period of six years. The guy is an excellent football player, he’s got a wonderful family, I think the world of him,” Philbin said, seemingly still agitated by the report. “He’s an excellent football player. His career reflects that. So that’s the facts. Beyond that, (the reports of), ‘We wanted this, we wanted that’ – I’m not going to get into any of that.
“The facts are, I have a great regard for him, he’s had a tremendous career, he did everything I asked him when I worked with him on a consistent basis. He’s a heck of a player and he’s got a wonderful wife and family and he’s a good person. I don’t know where all that came from, ‘Joe Philbin doesn’t like him.’”
One thing is certain: Philbin had a vastly different experience with free agency as a head coach this year than he had as a coordinator in Green Bay. During Philbin’s time as offensive coordinator, the only offensive player general manager Ted Thompson signed as a free agent was lineman Duke Preston, who was cut in training camp. This year, the Dolphins signed Wallace and ex-Baltimore linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to big deals.
“Yeah, it’s different,” Philbin said. “But again, I wasn’t maybe as deeply involved in those discussions as I am today either. I don’t know that we were ever in that position. I think most guys, you draft, you develop, you sign your own guys and you usually don’t have a huge big void, or a lot of money laying around. Because you’re using your money to keep your own guys. I think this was kind of a unique set of circumstances this year. But again, I feel good about the type of individuals that we added as well as the football players they are.”
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