The Miami Dolphins are currently three interviews into the process of finding their next head coach, with several more to go. The team has already spoken with former NFL head coaches Mike Shanahan and Mike Smith, as well as Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. The team is scheduled to meet with Buffalo Bills assistant head coach Anthony Lynn today, Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase Thursday, and Dolphins interim head coach Dan Campbell on Friday. The team is also working to schedule an interview with Jacksonville Jaguars assistant head coach Doug Marrone, and have requests for interview in for New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson. Every day, it seems more names get added to the list.
As the list of candidates for the Dolphins' vacancy continues to grow, it is probably a good time to review the rules for interviewing coaching candidates from other teams. There are three types of teams in consideration at this point: Non-Playoff teams, Playoff teams with a bye, and Playoff teams without a bye. Each type has its own set of rules, and another set of rules for any follow-up interviews.
Candidates like Shanahan and the recently resigned Tom Coughlin, who are not currently employed by a team, are free to interview without any restrictions on time and place.
(Editor's Note: Thanks to David Fucillo of Niners Nation for providing us with the basis for this article.)
Coaches on a non-playoff team can interview at any point once the regular season ends. An assistant coach under contract for the 2016 season must be granted permission to interview with another team if the interview is for a head coach position. A team can deny interviews for an assistant coach under contract interviewing for a non-head coach position.
Playoff teams with bye
Coaches on the top two seeds in either conference can interview with another team during the week of their bye. That would apply to McDaniels and Patricia as coaches currently on Miami's radar, as well as potential additions like Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott. The interview must take place in the city of the assistant's current team, and that first interview must take place during the wild card round bye week. If the Dolphins do not interview someone from the Patriots, Panthers, Denver Broncos, or Arizona Cardinals this week, they would have to wait until the team is out of the Playoffs.
Playoff teams without bye
Coaches on teams playing wild card weekend cannot interview during the week of the wild card game. If a team loses, the "non-playoff teams" rules listed above apply. If a team wins, their coaches must be allowed to interview the week leading up to the divisional round games. The interview must take place in the city of the assistant's team, and the team can decide which day they will allow their assistant coaches to interview for head coach positions. The first interview must take place during that divisional round week.
If a team wants to conduct a second interview with a candidate whose team keeps winning and earns a spot in the Super Bowl, the team must wait until the bye week of the Super Bowl. They can conduct a second interview with the candidate (team permission needed) in the week after the conference championship game. Once the team arrives in Santa Clara for the Super Bowl, interviews cannot take place.