'Tis the season for rumors. The Miami Dolphins appear destined for another season of sitting at home during the playoffs. It is the annual end of the season for the Dolphins, who last ventured into the postseason in a one-and-done cameo following the 2008 regular season. As this year begins to wind down, the Dolphins are technically still in playoff contention, but they would need a miracle on top of a miracle in order to make it this year.
Without the playoffs, head coach Joe Philbin may soon find himself out of work.
The conventional wisdom has Miami owner Stephen Ross renewing his pursuit of Jim Harbaugh, the coach he wanted in 2011 before hiring Philbin in 2012. Harbaugh has outstayed his welcome with the San Francisco 49ers, and will likely be available this offseason. What if Miami fires Philbin, but cannot lure Harbaugh out of California, a place his wife is believed to want to stay?
According to the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson, there is no set Plan B. That does not mean one will not materialize, it just means that, on December 15, with two games to play and a coach still in place, the team is looking at one possibility.
It also could mean that the Plan B option is currently employed by NBC or ESPN, either as an analyst or as a Monday Night Football broadcaster. Jackson says Dolphins owner Stephen Ross holds both Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden in high regard, and would consider them for the coaching position, should it open and if they are interested. Dungy, who last coaches as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts in 2008, has made it clear he is going to stay retired and working for NBC.
Gruden, who is one of the top names in coaching searches every year, has also been out of coaching since 2008, when he was the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He, also, has indicated he wants to remain in broadcasting, but he is not quite as adamant about that as Dungy.
"I'm in a good place now. I've got a great team here," Gruden told the Green Bay Press Gazette last week. "(ESPN play-by-play announcer) Mike (Tirico) is a great guy. My boss has treated me great. The quarterback camp is a lot of fun in the offseason. We do eight or nine or 10, 12 shows sometimes. We spend a whole day and a half with these players. We have had a good response from the players and the agents. We aren't trying to tear them apart, but it keeps you close to the quarterback position."
When asked if he would ever coach again, Gruden replied, "I'm never going to say never to anything, so I'll just leave it at that."
Could that slight opening in the door be enough for Ross to step through and bring the Super Bowl winning coach to South Florida?
"You miss the games," Gruden explained when asked why he would consider returning to the NFL sidelines. "The scoreboard is what you miss. The thrill of victory. In some ways you miss helping players. You take a lot of pride in helping a guy do well. You feel part of helping a player or helping a team or helping an organization win. You miss that. The highs are high. The lows are low. Those are things you can't replace."
Harbaugh appears set as Miami's Plan A if they decide to replace Philbin. Gruden could soon become Plan B.
UPDATE: During Week 15's Monday Night Football broadcast, ESPN announced Gruden had signed a contract extension to stay with the company through their current MNF contract. He will not be returning to coaching this year.