The Miami Dolphins will end the 2015 season on Sunday, January 3 at approximately 4:00 PM EST. Within a week or so of their season officially ending, the Dolphins would like to have their next head coach in place, or at least close to it.
With that in mind, it is important for the Dolphins to finish the season strong. That's because they will have a lot of competition in regards to job openings around the league. We already know the Tennessee Titans job will be open, which will be tough competition. They have a good, young quarterback in Marcus Mariota and have some young playmakers around him. A new coach will also most likely have the opportunity to bring in a new general manager.
Here are the other jobs that will likely be open at the end of the 2015 regular season: Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, and San Francisco 49ers. The good news here is that none of these jobs are desirable. The Browns are an absolute mess, with an owner who gets involved in everything. Additionally, they have a huge talent void and don't appear to be getting better anytime soon. The Lions, at first glance, may seem attractive. But their ownership situation isn't clear and their front office isn't exactly looked up on favorably around the league. This is one that coaches will steer away from if they have other choices. The 49ers are similar to the Browns in terms of meddling ownership who can't get out of their own way.
The jobs that have a good chance of being open are the Indianapolis Colts and San Diego Chargers. The Colts are an ideal team because they have a stud young quarterback in Andrew Luck. Their defense is on the rise and they have a good core of playmakers on the offensive side of the ball. They need to get younger in some areas but the nucleus is there for a coach to build a foundation upon. The Chargers have Philliip Rivers and a load of playmakers on both sides of the ball. The only thing that would possibly make a candidate hesitant is if they move to the Los Angeles area. Otherwise, I believe this job is more attractive than Miami.
Of course, you always have the surprise teams who fire their coaches. This year, it could be the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. Of course, this all depends on how the rest of the season plays out for these respective teams.
Let's face it. The Dolphins don't have a lot of talent. I believe, as well as people close to the situation, that this is at least a two-year re-build with it more likely being three years before the team is competing on a consistent basis. They have quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but there are still questions about him. Their secondary is depleted and they have a gaping hole at the middle linebacker position. Their defensive line, although somewhat perceived as a strength, is riddled with injuries and Oliver Vernon will likely leave via free agency because as Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported, they are not close to agreeing to terms on a new contract.
With all this in mind, the fact is that the job in Miami is not as attractive as some Dolphins' fans think it is. That's why they need players who are going to be here for a few years to step it up the last three weeks of the regular season.
If you say it doesn't matter and none is watching, think again. You would be foolish to think that head coach candidates haven't already started writing down a list of teams that may be open. In fact, I can guarantee you that candidates have already started studying teams they may be interested in pursuing. That means that they will also be watching these teams the last three weeks of the regular season.
The Dolphins need guys like Bobby McCain and Tony Lippett to step up and put some good things on tape. They need Jay Ajayi to run hard and prove that he can be a part of what could be a lethal 1-2 punch with Lamar Miller (more on him in a bit). They need Billy Turner and Dallas Thomas to show improvement so the new head coach doesn't need to worry about the offensive line too much in his first season in Miami. Walt Aikens and Michael Thomas need to prove their worth in the defensive backfield.
Finally, they need Tannehill to be consistent over these last three weeks. Despite what some people are saying, he played well against the New York Giants. Yes, he had an overthrow to Jarvis Landry at the end of the game that would have otherwise sealed it. But, the game could've and should've been over much earlier because his receivers dropped at least two touchdown passes in the first half. If Tannehill can remain consistent and have a strong outing these next three weeks, it will go a long way towards helping their case when they are trying to lock in on their next head coach.
Going back to Miller real quick. It was reported by Andrew Abramson of The Palm Beach Post that he hasn't been approached by Miami executives yet in regards to a contract extension. However, Dolphins Insider Simon Clancy, who is a contributing writer to Sports Illustrated, New York Times, Sun-Sentinel and more, said on Twitter this week that Miller's representatives have been approached about a new contract and something would have to go very bad for a deal not to be made before the end of the season. So yes, it appears something will get done before Miller hits free agency, which is obviously good news.
Losing the last three games will no doubt give Miami a higher draft pick. However, when a coach is choosing teams, their deciding factor won't be that high draft pick. It will be the foundation of a roster that they believe they can build upon over a long period of time and win on a consistent basis. If the younger players do well and if Tannehill plays well, the wins will come by themselves and will help the Dolphins when it comes time to hire their next head coach.
This column was written by Matthew Cannata. Follow him on Twitter! Follow @FinsInsider