In a surprise move Monday morning, the Miami Dolphins fired head coach Brian Flores, moving on to a search for a new head coach just three years after hiring Flores. The Dolphins are coming off their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2002 and 2003 and, with their Week 18 win over the New England Patriots, they completed their first season sweep of their AFC East rivals since 2000. The move really came as a surprise Monday morning.
As the Dolphins start to look for their next head coach, a few names immediately pop to the top of the list. Flores came to Miami after serving as the de facto defensive coordinator for the Patriots. Miami’s defense is the strength of the team - even if they struggled to prove that at times this year. Would the Dolphins look to add another defensive-minded head coach to keep the defense growing into an elite unit? Or will they look to add an offensive mind to build that side of the ball?
I am completely speculating, but my guess is the Dolphins are going to be looking to find an offensive coach who can build the offense and balance the team. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross indicated on Monday that a decision on the future of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa - and any potential pursuit of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson - would be left to the new coach. Tagovailoa is only two year into his NFL career, so finding a coach who can get the most out of Miami’s 2020 first-round pick makes a lot of sense.
Who is available? Here are some potential candidates, leaning heavily toward offensive coaches:
- Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs - It seems like every offseason is the year Bieniemy will become a head coach, and every offseason he is passed over. Is this really the offseason it finally happens? Could it be in Miami?
- Doug Pederson - After a year out of coaching in 2020, could the former Philadelphia Eagles head coach - and former Dolphins quarterback - be Miami’s target? He brings with him a Super Bowl pedigree, and, like Bieniemy, comes from the Andy Reid coaching tree.
- Jim Harbaugh, head coach, University of Michigan - The Dolphins have openly courted Harbaugh in the past, but it does not sound like they are going to make that move again. Ross, an alumnus of Michigan, said on Monday that he is not going to be the person to take Harbaugh from the school. There will likely still be speculation, but it does not seem like this is the direction Miami is looking - at least early in the search process.
- Kevin O’Connell, offensive coordinator, Los Angeles Rams - It seems like whoever is the guy standing near Rams head coach Sean McVay is the guy everyone wants to hire. O’Connell is that guy this year after the Rams were again a top-tier offense as they brought in Matthew Stafford. O’Connell was the Washington Football Team offensive coordinator in 2019 before moving to the Rams in 2020.
- Byron Leftwich, offensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The former first-round selection of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2003 worked his way from a quarterbacks coach with the Arizona Cardinals in 2017 to become the Buccaneers offensive coordinator in 2019. He is expected to interview with the Jaguars for their head coaching position.
- Joe Lombardi, offensive coordinator, Los Angeles Chargers - All the debate of whether the Dolphins should have selected Justin Herbert over Tua Tagovailoa could take an interesting turn if the Dolphins were to grab Herbert’s offensive coordinator. Could Lombardi push Tagovailoa to reach his potential?
- Kellen Moore, offensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys - You do not typically see a coordinator hang around through a head coaching change, but Moore did that when the Cowboys changed from Jason Garrett to Mike McCarthy. Dallas’ offense is top tier every year and is built with a strong offensive line to protect Dak Prescott and open holes for Ezekiel Elliott. That seems like exactly what the Dolphins could use.
- Josh McDaniels, offensive coordinator, New England Patriots - There is speculation every year that McDaniels will make the move back to being a head coach, and he remains with the Patriots every year. In his 21 seasons as an NFL coach, three of them have not been in New England (2009-2010 as the Denver Broncos head coach and 2011 as the St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator). It feels like he is positioned to take over the Patriots whenever Bill Belichick retires. He probably is not going anywhere, but there will be speculation again this offseason.
- Joe Brady - The Carolina Panthers fired Brady in December, but it kind of felt like a panic move by Matt Rhule to find a scapegoat for the struggles of the team. Brady should be in demand this offseason, either as an offensive coordinator again or as a head coach.
- Brian Daboll, offensive coordinator, Buffalo Bills - Daboll has a ton of experience with different head coaches, having served on staffs with the New England Patriots, New York Jets, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, and the University of Alabama. He developed Josh Allen into a top-tier quarterback and could be asked to lead the development of Tagovailoa in Miami.
- Nathaniel Hackett, offensive coordinator, Green Bay Packers - Could Aaron Rodgers’ offensive coordinator come to Miami and develop Tagovailoa?
- Todd Bowles, defensive coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers - the first defensive candidate on the list, Bowles served as the Dolphins assistant head coach and secondary coach (and interim head coach) from 2008 through 2011. He had a stint as the New York Jets head coach from 2015 to 2018, but after three years with Tampa Bay, he should be in line for another head coaching job. Could the Dolphins look to bring him back to Miami?
- Matt Eberflus, defensive coordinator, Indianapolis Colts - Expected to interview with the Jaguars this offseason and should be an in-demand candidate this offseason.
- Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator, Dallas Cowboys - Moore is higher on this list because he is on the offensive side of the ball, but Quinn might be the better candidate. He has head coaching experience and he has turned the Cowboys defense into a beast.