As a player Bryan Cox may have talked the talk but he definitely walked the walk. The first thing many remember about the former Dolphins linebacker is a particular gesture that he made to Bills fans in 1993. However, what many fail to remember is that after firing his team up for that big game, on the second play from scrimmage Cox threw aside two blockers and sacked Jim Kelly setting the tone for a dominant defensive performance and a 22-13 Dolphins win in Orchard Park, N.Y. On the heels of the Bills making three straight Super Bowls and winning 12 of the prior 14 games against the Fins, it was no small feat for the Dolphins to win a game at Rich Stadium. On that September day Bryan Cox helped inspire, lead and will the Dolphins defense to a spectacular effort. 18 years later, the Dolphins will once again look to Cox for inspiration and leadership as he returns as the team’s pass-rush coach.
There were 11 linebackers selected ahead of Bryan Cox in the 1991 NFL Draft and not one of them made more Pro Bowls than Bryan’s three selections in his four years with the Dolphins (’92,’94, & ’95). The fifth round pick out of Western Illinois wasn’t supposed to make an immediate impact when drafted by the Dolphins in 1991, but Cox ended up starting 13 games as a rookie. Then in ’92, Cox became a star posting 14 sacks, five forced fumbled and had 127 tackles on his way to becoming a First Team All-Pro selection. Not bad for a guy with limited physical skills according to his former teammate Louis Oliver. “He wasn’t the fastest guy, wasn’t the strongest guy so I never understood how he got those sacks,” Oliver said. “He had this uncanny little herky-jerky (pass-rush) move up field and it worked all the time even though it was in slow motion.”
This quality is important for a coach because sometimes it’s hard for coaches who were excellent players and blessed with tremendous athletic ability to be able to relate to those players who may not have the same physical gifts. Cox wasn’t the best athlete, but was able to get every ounce out of his ability with a great work ethic and strong football I.Q.
Cox’s accomplishments as a Dolphins player shouldn’t be overlooked when evaluating how he’ll fare as an assistant coach. His former teammate, Keith Sims, says Cox will hold the player’s attention a little easier than others. “(Players) can look back and say my coach starred at (Sun Life Stadium) just like me … talk about instant credibility,” Sims said. “He’s going to have those guys in the meeting rooms sit-up a little taller because he’s going to know that when Bryan Cox speaks he’s speaking not just from the coaching end of experience but from the player’s end of experience.”
While Cox hasn’t had a chance to work with the players yet, he already has had a chance to make his presence felt among fellow coaches. Head Coach Tony Sparano complemented Cox during an interview last month with The Finsiders saying, “He’s a guy that brings a little something to the table, a high energy guy, not afraid to voice his opinion which I love, I don’t want a staff of ‘yes men’. And with Bryan you’re going to hear it.”
Good to hear that Cox hasn’t changed much from his playing days. He appears poised to bring a similar mentality to Sparano’s meeting rooms that he brought to the defensive meeting rooms in the early 1990s. Even former Head Coach Don Shula didn’t want to change Cox’s passion for the game, saying back then, “(Cox) has added a lot to our team … emotion, intensity and I don’t want to do anything to destroy any of that. On this team, we need all we can get.”
Whereas the Dolphins teams of the early ’90s may have been lacking slightly in intensity before Cox, these Dolphins teams certainly are not; having been crafted with the smart, tough and disciplined players that Sparano and General Manager Jeff Ireland covet. However, Cox hopes to help with an area that might have been lacking in 2010, pressure from those not named Cameron Wake. Other than Wake no Dolphins defender accumulated more than Koa Misi’s 4.5 sacks. Cox will work to develop Misi, Ikaika Alama-Francis and any other linebackers that come his way. Perhaps Cox can even work with Karlos Dansby and Channing Crowder on blitzing as inside linebackers as Cox played primarily as an inside linebacker during the middle and latter stages of his career and still was able to put up sack totals ranging from 3 to 7.5 sacks per season.
Furthermore, Cox isn’t coming straight from the playing field to the coaching ranks. After his 11 year playing career, Cox has spent the last five years as an assistant coach with the Jets and Browns. Former Pro Bowl defender Jeff Cross, a teammate of Cox from 1991-1995, says that is crucial. “There’s absolutely a learning curve coaching at this level, no coach is going to be as good in year one of coaching as in year six or seven,” Cross said. “You still have to learn to be an effective coach. Bryan’s been at this a few years now, he’s had the fortune coaching for some good coaches being around some good people I’m pretty confident that he’ll be a nice fit for the Dolphins defense.”
Finally, Cox got a chance to play for three of the best coaches in modern NFL history: Don Shula, Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick. As an overachieving player and a student of the game and coaching ranks, it appears Cox has the perfect pedrigree to be a great addition to the Dolphins coaching staff in 2011.
For more on Cox, check out all of Jeff Cross’ thoughts on his former teammate here.
The opinions, analysis and/or speculation expressed by The Finsiders Blog represent those of individual writers, and unless quoted or clearly labeled as such, do not represent the opinions, policies or desires of the Miami Dolphins organization, front office, coaches and executives. Writers' views are formulated independently from any inside information and/or conversation with Dolphins officials, including the coaches and scouts, unless otherwise noted.