Benching of Reggie Bush raises questions about Joe Philbin's approach

Dolphins coach says he treats all players "the same," regardless of history

How will the Dolphins play at this Thursday's game against the Buffalo Bills?

DAVIE – Jimmy Johnson famously said he didn't treat all of his players the same.

If Emmitt Smith or Michael Irvin made a mistake, it would be dealt with differently than if a rookie committed the same gaffe. That's because they had built up enough equity and faith to earn a free pass from time to time.

Joe Philbin, as we saw again Sunday with his curious treatment of Reggie Bush, is no Jimmy Johnson.

More like Don Shula, at least when it comes to their disdain for fumbling. (See: Smith, Sammie.)

When I cited Jimmy's oft-stated philosophy Monday and asked the current Dolphins coach how he viewed that issue, Philbin made a small joke and quickly moved on.

"I think Pat Devlin is a teacher's pet," Philbin said of his third-string quarterback, "but other than Pat, everybody else is the same."

That's a potentially dangerous approach for a rookie head coach in the modern NFL for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is locker-room dynamics.

Bush, despite being here only a season and a half, has clearly established himself as one of this team's most popular, effective and admirable leaders.

He showed that again after this 37-3 embarrassment against the Titans, owning up to his lost fumble and refusing to criticize Philbin for levying an in-game punishment.

Bush, playing out an expiring contract, said he didn't deserve to go back in the game immediately after his first-quarter fumble set up the game's first score.

While Philbin never specifically called Bush's six-series absence a "benching," he made it clear he's not a big fan of fumbling. At the same time, he admitted Bush has been a pleasure to coach.

"He's professional," Philbin said. "He's a pro. The guy shows up, works hard, practices hard, is competitive. He's very, very professional."

As such, he's just about the last player on this team who should be slapped down to send a larger message.

Unfortunately, Bush also has fumbled three times this season, losing two of those in the past three weeks.

Apparently, this was enough to convince Philbin he should go without his only legitimate home-run threat for the rest of a nightmare first half.

Even Richie Incognito missed only a few plays after slamming Colin McCarthy's head into the ground, an admittedly "dumb penalty."

There was no apparent crackdown on Karlos Dansby for dropping his second interception in as many weeks.

Or on Davone Bess for a rare dropped pass.

Or on Jabar Gaffney for pulling up short on a slant route or Marcus Thigpen for foolishly letting a punt roll for 20 yards.

Yet Bush kept standing on the sideline – watching, waiting and wondering.