The Miami Dolphins are making a methodical, in-depth search for their next offensive coordinator. They are looking for the man who best compliments the offensive scheme envisioned by head coach Joe Philbin, and they are talking to everyone they can to make sure they find not just a guy, but the right guy. They are doing everything right.
Wait! Two of the guys who have been interviewed are now taking jobs elsewhere! Hire someone! Anyone! Pull the trigger! Get an offensive coordinator! It doesn’t matter who, just get someone!
Dolphins fans, and the media as well, are so prone to immediate mood swings, that yesterday was a bad day. Both Bill Lazor and Ben McAdoo decided to become the offensive coordinators with other franchises, and it’s immediately time to panic. The Dolphins, praised for doing the research and looking into each possible candidate, spreading a vast net and trying to get the best guy just a few days ago, are suddenly moving too slowly and allowing candidates to get away.
Or, maybe they are allowing people they are not sure about get away. Maybe Lazor and McAdoo are not the guys Philbin decided he wants to be his primary offensive assistant. Maybe those guys were set on working for their new bosses more than with Philbin. Reports say McAdoo came to Miami with the New York Giants offer already on the table and all but signed; he gave a courtesy interview to his old boss, but he knew he wanted the Giants. So, what were the Dolphins supposed to do? What could they do?
Several teams this year have seen offensive coordinators depart this year, or new coaches brought in and an offensive coordinator quickly followed. The San Diego Chargers immediately promoted quarterback coach Frank Reich to offensive coordinator when Ken Whisenhunt was hired by the Tennessee Titans. The Washington Redskins hired Jay Gruden this year and the Cincinnati Bengals immediately filled their offensive coordinator position with Hue Jackson. Jim Caldwell joined the Detroit Lions and Lazor was slotted as his offensive coordinator later that same day. Gruden was able to add Sean McVay immediately. Whisenhunt had John McNulty in place within hours of being hired. Yet, in Miami, there’s not an offensive coordinator nine days after firing Mike Sherman. Panic!
There’s a big difference in every one of those situations and the situation in Miami. The Dolphins fired their offensive coordinator. Their offense was not working, so they removed the man responsible for it. Why promote the quarterbacks coach to the offensive coordinator when he would likely run the same offense you just fired your offensive coordinator for running? San Diego liked the offense Whisenhunt was running, so they promoted their QB coach. The Dolphins didn’t like the offense Sherman was running, so Zac Taylor does not get promoted.
Add in that Taylor is Sherman’s son-in-law, and you probably have an even clearer reason why he is not now being promoted into the position.
The Bengals were able to immediately fill their offensive coordinator with a former head coach who is part of Marvin Lewis’ coaching tree. He served with the Bengals as the team’s wide receiver coach from 2004 to 2006 before leaving the team to join the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive coordinator, and ultimately as the Oakland Raiders head coach. But, with Jackson needing to return to the coordinator level and Lewis needing a coordinator, it was an immediate fit and one that did not take interviews. Jackson knows Lewis’ offensive system and will come in not looking to change things. The Dolphins want change, the Bengals don’t. They hired a guy who is a product of the head coach’s system.
Gruden moved to the Redskins, where tight ends coach Sean McVay was promoted to the offensive coordinator position. He was already in place with the Redskins, and he was the wide receivers coach for the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League in 2009. Any guess who the offensive coordinator was for the Tuskers in 2009? Jay Gruden. So, Gruden joins the Redskins who have his former assistant coach on their staff already, and promotes him to offensive coordinator, since he knows the offensive system Gruden wants to run.
Ken Whisenhunt was hired by the Titans and turned back to his former staff when he was the Arizona Cardinals’ head coach. McNulty was his wide receivers coach in 2007 and promoted to quarterbacks coach in 2012 before being let go when Whisenhunt was fired. Now, Whisenhunt is back being a head coach, while McNulty, who was the quarterbacks coach under Greg Schiano in Tampa Bay last season before the team fired Schiano this offseason, was a free agent. Whisenhunt’s offense resulted in him returning to the head coach level and he has hired a former assistant coach who knows his system and will continue to run that type or system in Tennessee.
Jim Caldwell left the Baltimore Ravens’ offensive coordinator position to become the Detroit Lions’ head coach. Clearly, he had Lazor on his short list of potential coordinators, likely looking for the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback coach to work the same magic with Matthew Stafford as he did with Nick Foles this year. This may be the one hire that the Dolphins lost a man they may have wanted, but they initially interviewed Lazor on January 10, and had no further known contact with him since. Why panic that the Dolphins lost out on a guy that they did not seem overly motivated to get?
Everyone now seems to be pointing to former Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak as the guy for Miami. However, the two sides have only “spoken,” with no interview conducted. Of course, that could change at any time, but so far, there is nothing official that says the Dolphins are crazily pursuing Kubiak either.
Personally, I like the idea of Kubiak to Miami. He has a track record of working with quarterbacks, including 1994 as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach with Steve Young and 1995-2002 as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Denver Broncos and John Elway. He runs a West Coast Offense system, plus he runs the ball. Kubiak could be a good fit for the Dolphins, assuming he and Philbin mesh.
But, there is nothing that says the Dolphins have to hire someone today. If they do, great. If they don’t, they will keep looking. Maybe the guy they covet is on the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, or Seattle Seahawks staff, and they are waiting until those teams are not in the Playoffs any more, or are on the bye week for the Super Bowl. There are 32 offensive coordinator positions open in the NFL. There are plenty of people who will take the job if and when it is offered. The Dolphins are doing exactly what they need to do to try to have success.
Rushing to hire someone simply so they can hire someone will not get the right person in Miami next year. Making sure you get the search right, that you find the guy who best fits the situation, and fits with the rest of the staff will make the team better. Don’t panic over hearing names come and go. In the end, the Dolphins will get the guy they feel best fits the team. If that’s Kubiak, Taylor, Kyle Shanahan, or someone who is not even on the radar right now, hiring him today or waiting until tomorrow does not change anything but when the team can get a playbook. No matter when it is, there will be plenty of time for Tannehill and the rest of the offense to learn the new system.
For now, read who is coming in to Miami and keep up with the search. But don’t panic when you hear a name get hired somewhere else. Obviously, the fit was not right. Let’s hope the Dolphins hire based on finding the guy, not a guy.