Every week, across the SB Nation NFL team sites, we are being asked a theme question for a Wednesday group discussion. This week, the question was, Which assistant coach on your team most likely to become a future head coach?
The Miami Dolphins have struggled this season - though thank goodness we finally got to see a great game with the team playing a full 60 minutes on all three phases of the game and beating the Denver Broncos. Typically, struggling teams do not see their assistant coaches get poached for a head coaching position. Miami might have an exception to that rule.
Associate Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator Darren Rizzi could be a target for teams looking to find a passionate coach who seems to expect perfection from his players. We have all seen Rizzi’s faces on the sidelines as something on special teams does not go as diagramed, and he clearly will let a player know when he is not executing properly.
Rizzi joined the Dolphins in 2009, under then head coach Tony Sparano. He has stayed with the team through the Joe Philbin era and now into the Adam Gase regime. He was thought to be the leading candidate to become the interim head coach when Philbin was fired during the 2015 season, but Dan Campbell was moved up from the tight ends coach position instead. Miami then promoted Rizzi to the “assistant head coach” position, a job that was then turned inot the “associate head coach” role under Gase.
Rizzi has college head coaching experience, working as the New Haven top coach from 1999 through 2001, then taking the Rhode Island head coaching position for the 2008 season.
The Dolphins special teams under Rizzi seem to always find ways to make plays. Whether it is Michael Thomas making a key tackle, Terrence Fede blocking a kick, or Cody Parkey executing an onside kick, they seem to be able to come up with a play when needed. Rizzi is a big part of all of that.
Would a team look to Rizzi as a possible head coaching candidate? In a league of offensive minded coaches having the easiest path to the top job, a special teams coordinator is usually well down the list of targets, but Rizzi could be a different type of coach for a team looking to shake things up.