On the eve of the NFL playoffs, Stephen Ross and Chris Grier spent the day shuttling between cities that are home to the AFC’s top seeds.
After meeting with Brian Flores, the Patriots’ de facto defensive coordinator, in New England on Friday morning, they jetted to Kansas City to sit down with Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.
Of course, the Dolphins’ owner and football czar would much prefer visiting one of those cities next weekend as a winner in the wild card round.
But losses in their final three games sealed the season and Adam Gase’s fate, and so here we are again, with the Dolphins searching for their ninth coach, including interims, since the turn of the century.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Seven names have now emerged as candidates: Flores, Bieniemy, Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, ex-Titans coach Mike Munchak, Cowboys defensive assistant Kris Richard and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
Allen, who went 8-28 in three seasons as the Raiders coach before reviving his career in New Orleans, will meet with Ross and Grier on Saturday. Rizzi, who has been endorsed by a bunch of current and past Dolphins players including Jason Taylor, Jarvis Landry and Xavien Howard, interviews Monday. That’s when Fangio, whose Bears host the Eagles on Sunday, reportedly will as well.
The Dolphins cast a wide net, considering candidates of different ages (Richard is 39, Fangio is 60), coaching philosophies and backgrounds.
But there is one common trait, according to people inside the building:
They’re all no-nonsense, serious men, which is an essential characteristic since the Dolphins are about to get really young, really fast.
The team’s philosophy has changed, basically overnight. Call it want you want — reset, rebuild or tank job — but the Dolphins know they’re not going to win in 2019, and perhaps not in 2020, either.
But they want to lay the foundation for sustained success. The right coach is a must.
“I think some of you that have followed us kind of know a little bit of my background and what I believe in,” Grier said on Monday. “Those people that have mentored me over the years and I’ve talked to them, there’s kind of a way I believe in building a football team and going forward, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Think Bill Parcells. Think Pete Carroll. Think Bill Belichick. Think Nick Saban.
And think his dad, Bobby, who was the Patriots’ vice president of player personnel in the 1990s. The senior Grier constructed the Patriots roster that reached the Super Bowl in 1996.
Serious men, all. And successful ones, too.
So it’s no surprise, then, that Flores and Bieniemy were the first two interviewed by Miami. There’s no fluff with either.
The Dolphins have noticed. And they have plenty of company.
Bieniemy, who despite his title does not call plays in Kansas City, agreed to meet with four teams this week: the Dolphins, Jets, Buccaneers and Bengals.
The former star running back (he finished third in the Heisman voting in 1990) coached at Colorado, UCLA and for the Vikings before landing with the Chiefs in 2013. He has helped Reid craft one of the league’s most explosive, creative offenses, led by first-team All-Pro quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
“He’d be an awesome head coach,” Mahomes told reporters this week, according to USA Today. “He has that mind-set, work ethic and determination you need to be a head coach in this league and I know he’s had the interest, but you know he will still be 100 percent in on what we are doing here. He would be an amazing coach and I am excited I still have him here right now for this playoff run.”
The Dolphins’ offense needs work, for sure. But the defense might have been even worse in 2018, allowing the most yards in franchise history.
Flores surely presented his plan to fix it Friday morning, when he met with Ross and Grier.
Flores, who also met with the Packers, has spent his entire coaching career with the Patriots, most recently as the team’s defensive play-caller.
Flores, 37, is a true success story, escaping the hardscrabble Brownsville area of Brooklyn to earn a scholarship to play linebacker at Boston College.
While playing in the NFL was not in the cards, he impressed Bill Belichick enough to earn a job first in the Patriots’ scouting department and then their coaching staff.
Last year, he replaced Matt Patricia as New England’s defensive coordinator in everything but title, helping a talent-deficit unit rank seventh in points allowed (20.3 per game).
Miami Herald sportswriters Armando Salguero and Barry Jackson contributed to this report.