The Dolphins lost their defensive coordinator on Wednesday when the Denver Broncos announced the hiring of Vance Joseph as their new head coach.
Though the Dolphins finished 29th in the league in defense and allowed more yards than any Dolphins team in history, Miami’s players respected Joseph and viewed him as highly competent and flexible.
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Dolphins linebackers coach Matt Burke is expected to be named Miami’s new defensive coordinator, barring something unforeseen. The Miami Herald has reported in the past several days that Burke is the front-runner. NFL Network reported it as definite.
Burke has never been a defensive coordinator before but is highly respected. He has served as the linebackers coach for the Detroit Lions (2009-13), Cincinnati Bengals (2014-15) and the Dolphins this past season.
Before that, he was an assistant at Bridgton Academy, Boston College and Harvard and a defensive assistant for the Tennessee Titans.
Coach Adam Gase, asked Wednesday why Joseph was ready to become a head coach, said: “Well, he's done a great job with our players. I can speak to that first-hand. He took so much off my plate where I never had to worry about anything with the defense. He really did a great job with all of those guys in the room. He did a great job directing those guys. And he made my life a lot easier than probably what it could have been.
“There was a big trust factor there with me. Once he was hired, I knew that side of the ball was good to go. I was able to focus on what I was able to do, with some of the things we wanted to change between [team executives] Chris [Grier], Mike [Tannenbaum] and myself. And being able to focus on the offense. That was really the one thing that I loved about being able to get him into the building was I knew he was going to be able to handle that side of the ball. He brings a leadership quality that you really love about him. He has such a great personality, such a strong personality that Alpha type personality. He demands a lot from players and they give him everything they have. Just to have a guy like that on the other side of the ball worked out for us well.”
Defensive tackle Earl Mitchell said he has never worked with a defensive coordinator who was better at making in-game adjustments.
Safety Michael Thomas said on Monday that if Joseph left for a head coaching job, the team hiring him would get “a real one, somebody who will prepare guys well, have great schemes.”
Linebacker Kiko Alonso said the Dolphins would miss Joseph’s “mentality, bringing that energy every day. His competitiveness is unbelievable and rubs off on his players.”
Gase sounded very much inclined on Wednesday to keep a 4-3 defense.
“I'm not really going to look into putting our players in a situation where every spring, we're looking to change a whole bunch of things,” he said. “We'll always look to improve as far as what we're doing.” We'll always go back, evaluate and figure out what's best for that next season. But one of the things we had discussed when I first got this job was, 'let's make sure that this is our defense,' as far as the Miami Dolphins. And the same thing with the offense and the special teams.
“We wanted to lay down a foundation, build off that foundation, so our players aren't coming in every spring saying, 'What's the new terminology? What are we doing here?' Our players, we want to make sure they come in and understand already that they have a section of the playbook already down because they've been here before. That's our starting point right there. We'll see what's going to happen in the next week or two."