Tony Sparano is officially out as Miami Dolphins head coach and the search is on to find his replacement. The names are already being thrown out there from a multitude of levels ranging from former head coaches to coordinators to college coaches. Of course, there are a number of candidates that could serve well, but the Dolphins’ front office has expressed interest in getting someone with experience.
That may not rule out the coordinators of the NFL, though, as some of the top coordinators have gone on to become some of the top head coaches in the game. Here’s a detailed look at some of the coaches that could, and should, be looked at as the Dolphins begin their search for their next head coach.
Former Head Coaches:
Bill Cowher – The former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach has been a hot name that has come up every time there has been a coaching vacancy since he left the Steelers. During his 15-year tenure with the Steelers, Cowher has accumulated an overall record of 161-99-1 including playoff games. He won the Super Bowl in 2005 with the Steelers after an 11-5 season and a second place finish in the AFC North. The 54-year old has been coaching in some nature since 1985, starting with the Cleveland Browns as a special teams coach before taking over as the secondary coach in 1987. In 1989, he moved on to the Kansas City Chiefs where he was the defensive coordinator until 1991. The following year he took over as the Steelers head coach and went on to win over 62% of the games he coached in. Along with his Super Bowl victory, he’s also won the AFC Championship twice, the AP NFL Coach of the Year, and the Sporting News NFL Coach of the Year twice.
Jeff Fisher – Fisher is the former head coach of the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, where he spent over 16 seasons with the team. Over that time span, he accumulated an overall record of 147-126. He spent his college playing time at the University of Southern California as a defensive back and some professional playing time with the Chicago Bears before his leg was broken on a tackle by none other than Bill Cowher, ending Fisher’s playing career. He took over as a defensive assistant with the Bears the next year and continued through the ranks. His coaching career has spanned 5 total teams including the Bears, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, and Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans. Fisher has held titles as assistant, defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach. He mutually parted ways with the Titans in January, 2011 and has stated that he is open to listen to any teams looking for a coach now.
Jon Gruden – Gruden has been involved in some sort of coaching capacity since 1986, when he was just 23 years old. He began as a graduate assistant at the University of Tennessee before moving on to be quarterbacks coach at Southeast Missouri State. He continued to work through the ranks as positional coach or assistant until 1995 when he became the offensive coordinator of the Philadelphia Eagles. His tenure with the Eagles earned him a spot as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 1998 where he spent four seasons and compiled a 40-28 record. In 2002, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded their 2002 and 2003 first round draft picks, 2002 and 2004 second round draft picks and $8 million in cash to the Raiders in order to have Jon Gruden as their head coach. Gruden then led the Buccaneers to the 2002 Super Bowl in which they won 48-21 over the Raiders. His overall record as a head coach is 100-85 to go along with the Super Bowl win. He’s been considered a very strong offensive mind at the NFL level.
Rob Chudzinski – Currently the offensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, Chudzinski has been widely considered as one of the best offensive minds in the league today. He’s held the tight ends coaching position for three different teams at both the professional and collegiate level with the University of Miami, the Cleveland Browns and the San Diego Chargers. He’s also been the offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, Cleveland and now for the Panthers. He has the Panthers currently fifth in the league for yards per game at 399 and 11th in points per game with 24.1. He’s helped rookie quarterback Cam Newton to a very impressive season with 4,154 total yards and 28 total touchdowns through the air and on the ground. Chudzinski is just the kind of mind that teams may need if they’re looking for a fresh face for their franchise.
Pete Carmichael Jr. – Carmichael has actually been chased by the Dolphins multiple times already and rightfully so. Since 2006, Carmichael has been with the New Orleans Saints as quarterbacks and passing game coordinator, then took over the offensive coordinator title in 2009. His offenses have been some of the most consistent in the league and operate at a high power. He hasn’t been the full-time play caller in New Orleans, though, as that duty has belonged to Sean Payton for the most part. However, Carmichael is highly praised by those that work with him for his ability to get the offense ready for games. This year, the Saints are first in yards per game at 447.8 and second in points per game with 31.9. Carmichael is widely respected for his work with quarterback Drew Brees, who’s been very stellar since joining the Saints in 2006.
Vic Fangio – Fangio is in his 25th season as a coach in the NFL. He’s currently the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers, the fourth team he’s held the same title with. Previously, Fangio has been defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts and Houston Texans, most recently being the special assistant to the head coach with the Baltimore Ravens. This year, Fangio has turned around the struggling 49ers, propelling them to a +21 turnover ratio and first in points allowed per game at 14 and fifth in total yards allowed per game with 305.1. Fangio has brought out the best in his players, especially rookie linebacker Aldon Smith who has compiled 10.5 sacks for the 49ers this season. Fangio is the perfect candidate for a team with a 3-4 set-up and he could be very successful as a head coach.
Chuck Pagano – Currently serving as the defensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, Pagano has had a long career in coaching, including 10 years in the NFL. He’s spent time with multiple collegiate teams and the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and Ravens in the NFL. He’s helped the Ravens defense rank in the top five in points allowed, total yards allowed, passing, and rushing yards allowed per game this season. He has linebacker Terrell Suggs at 13 sacks so far this season and has his team with 45 total sacks. His impressive impact on a defense that has been near the top for a long time has been a great feat. Suggs would even go as far as saying Pagano "sucks" just to keep other teams with a head coaching vacancy from taking a look at him, that’s the kind of respect he gets from his players.
College Head Coaches:
Les Miles – The first name to come up when considering possible head coaching candidates from the college level has to be Miles. His overall coaching record is 103-38 including 6-3 in Bowl Games. He spent some time in the NFL, coaching the Dallas Cowboys tight ends from 1998-2000. He won the 2007 BCS National Championship after going 12-2 and capped it off with the 38-24 victory over the Ohio State Buckeyes. This year, he has the undefeated LSU Tigers in another National Championship game, this time against the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Kirk Ferentz – The current Iowa Hawkeyes head coach has been called upon multiple times with rumors surfacing over the past several years that he would be making the jump back to the NFL level as a head coach. Prior to joining Iowa, Ferentz was the offensive line coach for the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens from 1993 till 1998. Since becoming head coach of the Hawkeyes in 1999, Ferentz has compiled an overall record of 108-86 including a 6-3 record in Bowl Games. He’s been a hot topic name for NFL head coaching positions for multiple years, but many believe he’ll stick with Iowa.
Chip Kelly – The mastermind behind the fast-paced, high-powered offense of the Oregon Ducks, Chip Kelly has the confidence from former NFL head coach Tony Dungy that he should be considered at the NFL Level. Kelly has never spent time at the professional level, being either a positional coach or coordinator for multiple institutions until becoming head coach at Oregon in 2009. Since that time, he’s compiled a 33-6 record, but has gone 0-2 in Bowl Games. He’s known for his hurry up offense that keeps opposing defenses on the field and worn down. However, many question if his kind of gameplan would work with the speed of the defenses in the NFL.
The Dolphins have their work cut out for them in their newest coaching search. Since the legendary Don Shula left in 1995 after 25 years with the team, the Dolphins have gone through 5 full-time head coaches and are on their second interim head coach in Todd Bowles. The list including Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron and Tony Sparano have compiled an overall record of 122-118 over the course of the past 16 years.
By Brandon Williams
Brandon Williams is the blogger at Sports Reviews and has been writing freelance for 10 years.