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Who will coach the Dolphins in 2016? An updated list of candidates

The Miami Dolphins will have a new head coach when they start the 2016 season. Who could be in the running for the job?

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

When the Miami Dolphins fired head coach Joe Philbin in October, we put together a list of potential candidates to get the job in 2016. Two months later, we update the list to remove some people from consideration while adding some others. As we did with that original list, we cast a wide net around both the NFL and college football looking for viable candidates.

Personally, at this point, I think the Dolphins have to look for a head coach with prior experience at the head coaching position. Ideally, that is prior experience at the NFL level. Miami has repeatedly chased the up-and-coming coordinator or college head coach, and it has not worked for them. Successful head coaches in the NFL usually have been fired from a head coaching job once before they find their success. That is not a hard and fast rule, with several coaches being able to find success in their first time being hired for the position, but in general, a coach ends up being fired from his first job, goes back to being a coordinator, then works his way back into a head coaching job and does better the second time.

Who could be on the list for the Dolphins this year?

The Current Interim

Dan Campbell, interim head coach, Miami Dolphins

Campbell has made some changes with the Dolphins, but it is nearly impossible to completely overhaul a team in the middle of the regular season. He is currently 4-5 as the team's interim head coach. He probably is not quite ready to assume the head coach position full time, but he at least has to be a consideration at this point, earning an interview, and, if he finishes the year 7-5 or 6-6, he might make his case even better.

The Usual Suspects

Bill Cowher

He is comfortable being an analyst and does not seem eager to get out of that role. He has hinted in the past that he could, if the job were right, return to the sidelines, but the question is whether or not he would see Miami as the right job.

Tony Dungy

Very similar to Cowher, Dungy appears happy being a commentator more than he is itching to get back into coaching.

Jon Gruden

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross would love to make a splash with this hire, and Gruden is probably the biggest name that could be targeted this year. Having just signed an extension with ESPN for his role in the Monday Night Football booth, Gruden appears to be happy being an analyst, though his affinity to working with quarterbacks could at least entice him to take a look at the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill.

Recycled Head Coaches

Rob Chudzinski, special assistant/offensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts

Chudzinski spent one season with the Cleveland Browns as their head coach, going 4-12, before the Browns dumped him. He then took a position as the special assistant/associate head coach with the Colts before being named the offensive coordinator mid-season this year. He was seen as a up-and-coming option for the head coaching positions in 2013 and was  a consideration when the Dolphins hired Philbin in 2012 for his work as the Carolina Panthers offense in 2011.

Todd Haley, offensive coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers

Haley has head coaching experience, spending a three-year stint with the Kansas City Chiefs. He has second offensive in the league with the Steelers averaging for 400 yards of offense a game, with the fifth ranked passing offense (284.4 passing yards per game) and the ninth ranked rushing offense (120.1 yards per game). The Steelers are fifth in points scored this year, averaging 26.5 points a game. He took the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl when he was their offensive coordinator, and he is positioning the Steelers, after a slow start and some drama between he and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, to be a great team as well (assuming they make the playoffs). Haley is the opposite of Joe Philbin, fiery, in-your-face as compared to the mellow persona of Miami's former coach, which could bring the same type of aggression and passion that Campbell is trying to instill in the team this season.

Hue Jackson, offensive coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals

Jackson is picking up steam among Dolphins fans as a favorite to land the job, and he may be among the top candidates by the time the season is officially over. If Jackson can keep the Bengals offense running with A.J. McCarron under center instead of Andy Dalton, it will be saying something about his coaching ability. Jackson only had one year with the Raiders as their head coach, going 8-8 that season.

Eric Mangini, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers

The 49ers are a mess this season, but the ties between Mangini and  Dolphins Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum will continue to have his name floated as a potential head coach for Miami. He has a 33-47 career record as a head coach, spending three years with the New York Jets and two years with the Cleveland Browns.

Doug Marrone, offensive line coach/assistant head coach, Jacksonville Jaguars

Marrone will be an interesting candidate to watch this offseason. He left the Bills, utilizing a three-day out option he had, then received his entire 2015 salary from the Bills. He seemed to expect to either receive a raise from the Bills, having just led them to their first winning season in 10 years, or walk into another head coaching job somewhere else in the league. Instead, he landed as the assistant head coach and offensive line coach for the Jaguars. His performance with the Bills will make him a head coach candidate, but will teams shy away from him for the odd way he walked away from the Bills?

Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots

McDaniels is going to receive a lot of consideration around the league this year, especially as the Patriots continue to throw player after player into the lineup as injury replacements, and continue to be the top team in the conference. The Dolphins considered him when they hired Philbin. McDaniels spent a year-and-a-half as the head coach in Denver before being relieved of his duties there. The strong ties to Bill Belichick and the Patriots organization could keep McDaniels from wanting to take a head coaching position in the AFC East, but the Dolphins could want to keep him.

When we did this listing last time, Richard Hill from Pats Pulpit gave us a better look at the possibility of McDaniels becoming a head coach next year. I've included that again here.

Josh McDaniels is ready to be a head coach again, but he's going to wait for the best opportunity. He had a chance to take a job each of the last two offseasons, but he didn't like how team management interfered with the football operations (Browns in 2014, 49ers in 2015), so he passed. He knows that he'll have to do a great job with his next gig, or else he might never be a head coach again.

McDaniels failed in Denver because he approached the job like he was the next Bill Belichick. He hadn't earned the right to call the shots, and to ship away the team's best quarterbacks and wide receiver. He lost the respect of the team and it was all over. Since his fall from grace, McDaniels has been able to self reflect and he understands where he went wrong.

"[I learned] the people that you work with and for are so important to you," McDaniels said to the crowd at the Super Bowl media day. "Your ability to not only to set the path, but to also be a great listener - I've said that numerous times now. That's an important part of being a leader, listening to the people that are around you.

"I think, sometimes, when you're young, you don't really understand that the same as when you go through experience like that. It was a great learning experience for me. I think I'm a better person, a better father and a better coach because of all the adversities and all the challenges that I've gone through and I hope I can continue to get better in all those roles going forward."

If McDaniels is true to his words and has become a better manager, he'll be a great option at head coach. He's regarded around the league as the best coordinator on either side of the football and he just put together one of the greatest postseason runs in NFL history. He's flexible with his game calling, he's shown an ability to adjust on the fly, and he understands how to maximize the value of each one of his players.

Hopefully that skill set will transfer when he has control of a full roster.

Jim Schwartz

Schwartz is another head coach candidate who Dolphins fans have discussed a lot this year, specifically as an option for the defensive coordinator position when Kevin Coyle was fired. Schwatrz reportedly turned down the job because he wants to be a head coach. He has a 29-51 record after five years with the Detroit Lions.


Teryl Austin, defensive coordinator, Detroit Lions

Ndamukong Suh has not been the completely dominant force he was in Detroit. Miami could look to fix that by making Suh's defensive coordinator his head coach. Austin was considered for head coaching positions last year, but ended up returning to the Lions. This year, he should be among the top candidates, and Miami should be included in the interested teams.

Adam Gase, offensive coordinator, Chicago Bears

Gase, at 37 years old, is young. In comparison, Dan Campbell is 39 years old and is considered young for the job. Gase, however, has been looked at a few times over the past few years for a head coaching job, and has even turned down ones he did not feel fit his vision. He will eventually become a head coach, and will likely be among the top candidates this offseason.

Ben McAdoo, offensive coordinator, New York Giants

McAdoo will probably be on the fringe of the head coaching possibilities for Miami this year. He will likely get some interest from some teams, but the Giants are not exactly lighting up the league this season. McAdoo was considered a possibility to move form the Packers tight ends coach position over the to the Dolphins when they hired Green Bay offensive coordinator Philbin, but there seems to be an understanding among Packers coaches that, if they are hired to be a head coach, they will not use the Packers coaching staff to build their new staff. McAdoo was promoted to quarterbacks coach for the Packers, then offensive coordinator for the Giants. He is a name who could pop up, but may not be among the top finalists..

Sean McDermott, defensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers

McDermott has been a defensive coordinator for five years and has built a strong defense for the Panthers. He is not a top "known" name out there, but he could be a sleeper option for some team, especially one that needs to find a better way to use the talent on their defense.

John Pagano, defensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers

Chuck Pagano seems to be falling out of favor around the league, and especially in Indianapolis right now, but his brother John seems to be getting into the discussion of head coach candidates. The Chargers have had a bad season, but Pagano could overcome that if he interviews well. Another sleeper candidate.

Frank Reich, offensive coordinator, San Diego Chargers

Again, the Chargers have had a bad year, but Reich is seen as an up-and-coming coach in the league. The former quarterback could relate to players in a similar way that Campbell has in Miami, where they know he has been there and done it on the field. How will owners and team executives view this season with the Chargers compared to last season?

Kacy Rodgers, defensive coordinator, New York Jets

The Jets are in playoff contention thanks to a strong coaching performance from some former Dolphins assistants. Jets head coach Todd Bowles was the secondary coach/assistant head coach/interim head coach for Miami in the Tony Sparano era, and, when he was hired by the Jets this offseason, he grabbed Miami's defensive line coach, a coach who stuck through the change from Sparano to Philbin, in Rodgers to be his defensive coordinator. It might be early in his coaching career for Rodgers to get a head coaching position, but in the incestuous entity that is the AFC East, would it be a surprise?

Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills

The Bills are falling off as the season continues, but Roman could still be a consideration. His offenses have performed well most of the time, though the 2014 San Francisco 49ers' offense is a red flag on his resume. If Roman can turn Tyrod Taylor into a really good NFL quarterback, could be get Ryan Tannehill to take the next step?

Rob Ryan, defensive coordinator, New Orleans Saints

Rob Ryan versus Rex Ryan, twice a year? Sounds like a very Ryan family move. Rob would fire up the Dolphins and continue to build the physical, aggressive personality that Campbell is trying to find in a team that was built for finesse. The Saints defense was bad this year, and Ryan was fired in November, which makes it less likely he will get a head coaching job this year, but he is a name and he has shown that he can build good defenses most of the time. He probably has to get another defensive coordinator job before he really is a threat to land a head coaching job, though.

Mike Shula, offensive coordinator, Carolina Panthers

If you want a young Don Shula to be the head coach of your football team, Mike Shula is the closest you will get to it. He does have head coaching experience, albeit at the college level before he was fired so Alabama could hire Nick Saban from the Dolphins. There's no way of knowing if Mike would consider coaching the team where Don is...well, the Don. He would bring back a key name in the history of the Dolphins. Would he be able to bring with him the success the Panthers are having this year?

In School

Jim Harbaugh, head coach, Michigan

Stephen Ross has said he is not interested in Harbaugh, mainly because Harbaugh is at his beloved Michigan, but that will not stop the two from being linked at some point. Harbaugh will likely want to spend at least a few more years at Michigan before jumping back to the NFL.

Gus Malzahn, head coach, Auburn

Malzahn has turned down the NFL before, but he would be an intriguing option for a team looking to speed up an offense. Malzahn is known for his hurry-up, no-huddle scheme, and the NFL has seen some of that work its way up to the league. Miami was supposed to bring some of that type of scheme to their system under fired offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Could they convince Malzahn, who won the BCS National Championship and AP Coach of the Year in 2014, to make the move?

Brian Kelly, head coach, Notre Dame

Kelly, like Malzahn, has said he does not want to be an NFL head coach. Under Kelly, Notre Dame has returned to a top level team. He probably will stay in college, but he could be a consideration.

Nick Saban, head coach, Alabama

The rumors of Saban getting tired of Alabama continue, with the coach preferring to take over a team and build it into a championship. His past failure at the NFL level - with the Dolphins - could eventually lead him to try it again at the professional level. Speculation has him potentially looking to do it this year if Alabama wins the National Championship. The chances of Saban jumping back to the NFL to coach the same team which he abandoned last time are extremely slim, but he could be a "name" coach Ross would like to grab.

David Shaw, head coach, Stanford

Shaw has not indicated a desire to leave Stanford, but he is a talented coach who Miami could try to at least interview. If Shaw can be sold on Ryan Tannehill's potential, the pairing could be great. It might take some money from Ross to finish the deal, but when has that been an issue for Ross?

Kevin Sumlin, head coach, Texas A&M

Sumlin will once again become a name in the coaching candidate circles this offseason, though he does not seem to be looking for a chance to jump to the NFL. There is speculation among Aggies analysts that Sumlin's success there was based solely on Johnny Manziel, especially after quarterback after quarterback transfers away from Texas A&M, but Sumlin is still viewed as a potential head coaching candidate for the league.