Note to Jeff Fisher and select members of the football media: get over yourselves already.
Less than 24 hours after Fisher made his big decision last Friday afternoon to spurn the Miami Dolphins and take the St. Louis Rams' head-coaching position, a number of stories started popping up on the Internet, suggesting that the Dolphins were losers for once again failing to land the biggest head-coaching name on the market; losers for not giving in to Fisher's terrorist-like demands and granting him final say over all player personnel decisions; and losers for failing to be a more desirable destination than St. Louis. Adding insult to injury, a certain media outlet (heretofore known as the "Player Haters Ball") on Friday and Saturday featured several segments with under-qualified talking heads wondering why Dolphins owner Stephen Ross couldn't close the deal with Fisher.
Twelve months after Ross' failed campaign to hire Jim Harbaugh as head coach, Fisher's rejection of Miami basically put the Dolphins back in the role of NFL laughing stock--a franchise that is indeed fit for losers.
Except the Dolphins shouldn't be a laughing stock right now, and they certainly shouldn't be considered "losers" for balking at Fisher's steep demands. The way I see it, Jan. 13, 2012, will one day be looked at by Dolfans as the date when Ross finally removed his team from the path of mediocrity and committed to placing the Dolphins on the road toward becoming a successful franchise in-tune with the current pass-heavy state of the NFL. By ultimately refusing to give in to a coach who would've given the Dolphins the same things they've had for much of the post-Marino era (a conservative approach to play calling, an obnoxious mustache, etc.), Ross finally matched his actions with his rhetoric and showed that his chief priority isn't to reel in big coaching names and settle for whatever they accomplish, but to instead build a long-term winner and bring Lombardi Trophies to Miami.
Several stories published in the wake of Fisher's decision have consisted of some pretty strong myths and a lot of downright illogical reasoning. At this point, I'd like you to put on your beret (if you have one) and join me in going all Mythbusters on these shoddy columnists.
The Player Haters Ball on Friday pretty much teed off on Ross mere hours after Fisher's announcement, criticizing the Dolphins owner for "whiffing" on the coaching candidate who many (you know who you are) considered to be the best on the market. Jeff Fisher is the best available head coach? The guy who took over for fired Houston Oilers head coach Jack Pardee in 1994 and proceeded to spew out 16-and-a-half seasons of mind-numbingly-average football, including just six seasons with more than eight wins? That's your best coaching candidate ... and we missed out on him?
In all seriousness, "most well-known coach available" would've been a more accurate description of Fisher. The guy went 8-8 five times in Houston and Tennesse, and I guess I am just looking for a head coach who is more than just a slight improvement over the previous Dolphins coaches who brought Miami plenty of 6-10 and 7-9 seasons. And the Titans' drafts during the Fisher era were ultimately average, too, which brings me to my next point ...
Myth No. 2: Stephen Ross should have given Fisher the power of final say over personnel decisions
It has been reported by several media outlets that Fisher, likely scarred from his time spent with Titans owner Bud Adams, wanted to have final say over all Dolphins personnel decisions (other reports suggest that Fisher simply wanted the power to veto general manager decisions). Worse yet, several pundits thought Ross actually made a mistake by not going over general manager Jeff Ireland's head and granting that level of power to Fisher (which would've resulted in Fisher essentially becoming Ireland's boss).
Final say over personnel matters? Our head coach would be making those decisions? No, thanks. That's the kind of power you give to Bill Belichick or Bill Cowher--guys who have proven time and time again that they have a strong understanding of front office structure and a keen eye for talent. Fisher, however, hasn't proven that he's a great talent evaluator, and it's generally a bad idea anyway to blend the coaching and front office factions in any particular regime unless you are absolutely positive a head coach can thrive in that dual-role position. And given Fisher's fondness for the "run now, ask questions later" style of offense, it's a big question mark as to whether or not he would've attempted to acquire the splash players that Dolphins fans are clamoring for right now (more on this in a moment). Consider this bullet dodged, Dolphins fans.
Anyone who disagrees with the sentiment that Fisher would've given Miami more of the same conservative and borderline generic play calling should probably consider this bit of news: The Fisher-led Rams are set to hire former New York Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Get ready for The Greatest Show on Turf 2.0, Rams fans.
Anyway, if Fisher had wanted a legitimate say in personnel matters, perhaps that could've been negotiated. It's understandable that Fisher, coming off of his experience with Adams, didn't want to be on the outside looking in as he was while in Tennessee; however, the fact that he wanted control of the whole enchilada in Miami was an utter deal breaker. Credit Ross for not giving in to Fisher's demands on this one.
Also, when did Fisher suddenly become the next Ozzie Newsome?
Myth No. 3: The Rams' roster is superior to the Dolphins'
In what alternate universe is this claim actually true? A gun-shy quarterback, relic backfield, underachiever offensive line, wasteland receiver corps and horrific defense (led by defensive end Chris Long, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis and ... well, just those two guys) surely trumps a Dolphins squad that has a capable veteran quarterback, loaded backfield, strong offensive line (with the exception of Marc Colombo, of course), physical receivers corps and a young, hot-shot defense. One article even stated that the Rams are in a better position because they have Rodger Saffold at left tackle, while the Dolphins have Jake Long, who has been battling injuries as of late. Such a great point. That's why Saffold will likely be at right tackle next season after the Rams draft a new blindside protector.Give me a wheelchair-ridden Jake Long over just about any left tackle in the NFL.
Then there's the Dolphins' quarterback issue, which was raised several times by the media during Fisher Watch 2012. Look, Sam Bradford is a gifted signal caller with tons of promise, but he was torn to bits early and often during the 2011 season ... to the point where he played like he wanted no part of St. Louis' offense. Gone were the stunning accuracy and pocket poise that Bradford put on display during his 2010 rookie season, and there's no telling when his swagger will return. Bradford's a better option than Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore, but he's not necessarily blowing away the Miami signal caller at this point.
Sure, Fisher could quickly turn the Rams around with some key acquisitions, but that team went 2-14 for a reason: they're terrible. Contrast their situation with the Dolphins, who might've been a 10-6 team this year had they not shlubbed their way through the lockout last summer, and it's clear that the Dolphins, not the Rams, are the team with plenty of upside.
What's next for the Dolphins?
As fate would have it, the playoff teams currently employing Dolphins-approved coaching candidates (New Orleans, Green Bay and Denver) all lost this weekend, which means Ross and Co. can immediately move on from the Fisher fiasco and continue looking for the head-coaching candidate who is the best fit in Miami. Chicago Bears special teams coach Dave Toub, Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin and Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer have all interviewed for the Dolphins position, and it's likely that Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and New Orleans Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. will join that list sometime this week. Names such as Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski and Green Bay assistant coach Winston Moss have also been tossed around.
Regardless of who the Dolphins choose as head coach, it's a safe bet that the team won't have to wait two weeks to receive confirmation from that candidate.