Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen made his pitch to Stephen Ross and Chris Grier Saturday, becoming the third would-be coach to interview for the team’s vacancy.
The word on the lips of many observers when the news broke Friday: Why?
Why did Ross and Grier grant a forum to Allen, who failed pretty spectacularly in his first go-round as a head coach?
Allen went 8-28 in two-plus seasons with the Raiders, and while he has rehabilitated his reputation in New Orleans, it still seems like an unusual choice. The Dolphins are the only known team with interest in Allen.
So again, why?
Perhaps Ross is following the advice of a high-profile former employee.
The belief around the league is Allen was recommended to Ross by Jeff Ireland, the ex-Dolphins general manager and architect of the Saints roster that earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Yes, the same Ireland that Ross fired five years ago.
Ireland and Ross were always an imperfect fit during the former’s six seasons as Miami’s general manager. Wayne Huizenga hired Ireland along with Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano in 2008, Huizenga’s final year as Dolphins owner.
Ross assumed ownership the following season, and two years later, he was already ready to move on from Sparano. Ross, with Ireland on-board, flew to California to surreptitiously interview Jim Harbaugh for the job Sparano still held.
Then, the plan fell apart. Harbaugh chose the 49ers, and word of the meeting was made public. The relationship between Sparano, who passed away last year, and Ireland was never the same again. And Parcells reportedly was not happy with Ireland’s lack of loyalty to Sparano, and they had a falling out as well.
Ireland’s turn in the Dolphins tempest came two years later. In 2013, he wasted enormous cap space and the No. 3 draft pick on a bunch of players who made very little impact; Ross canned him after the season.
Five years later, Ireland has a good chance to win a Super Bowl as the Saints’ assistant general manager and Ross is looking for his third permanent coach since Sparano.
And yet, behind the scenes, Ireland appears to still have sway with Ross.
Ireland and Allen have worked together in New Orleans since 2015, and under the latter’s stewardship, the Saints defense has improved from 27th in 2016 to 17th in 2017, and ranked 14th in 2018.
Allen seems to be a long shot to get the job. He is one of at least seven candidates the Dolphins have targeted as potential replacements for Adam Gase, who was fired Monday. (Gase, it should be said, is a man in demand. He is set to interview for the Packers’ opening and has already met with the Cardinals and Jets.)
Ross and Grier on Friday met with Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. ESPN first reported that Kris Richard, a Cowboys defensive assistant, will interview with the Buccaneers, Jets and Dolphins Sunday.
Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi will get his chance to present his plan on Monday. And Vic Fangio and Mike Munchak are in the mix as well, although Munchak seems likely to land in Denver.
The Dolphins are already behind the pace they set in their last coaching search. In 2016, they hired Gase the Saturday after the season ended, but this seems like it will take more time. More than half of their candidates are in the playoffs, meaning they are off limits until their seasons end.