By this time next week, the Dolphins will probably have a coach — either officially or unofficially.
This is the week of the great winnowing, as the eight NFL teams in need of a coach hone in on their top targets, and make contingencies if their first pick says no.
And while all four of the men who interviewed with Stephen Ross in recent days cannot be hired until their seasons end — possibly as soon as this weekend, but also possibly not for another month — handshake agreements can happen at any time.
Who will it be?
Still too early to tell, but we can apparently scratch one name off the list: Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
NFL Network first reported Monday that, despite requesting an interview and doing their due diligence, the Dolphins decided against a formal interview.
Fangio could be hired at any time, as his Bears were eliminated late Sunday when ex-Dolphins kicker Cody Parkey clanged a game-winning field-goal attempt off the upright and crossbar.
But the Dolphins instead seem focused on five candidates: Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Patriots de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores, Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard and Darren Rizzi, who has run Miami’s special teams since 2010.
Rizzi will meet with Stephen Ross and Chris Grier at some point this week. And then, expect an offer to be made to someone, either formally or informally.
Ex-Titans coach Mike Munchak was also believed to be a candidate, but that chatter has died out in recent days — not surprising, considering he is said to be the front-runner for the Broncos job.
Rizzi, like Fangio, could be hired at any time.
But the other four candidates are off limits until their teams are bounced from the playoffs. In this weekend’s divisional round, the Chiefs host the Colts, the Cowboys visit the Rams, the Patriots face the Chargers and the Saints tangle with the Eagles.
Then, there’s the ultimate wild card: Ravens coach John Harbaugh, who has one year remaining on his contract.
Ross’ admiration for both John and his brother Jim Harbaugh is no secret, and while hiring either is unlikely, one cannot rule out the Dolphins trading for the former Super Bowl champion.
Harbaugh didn’t exactly close the door on possibly coaching elsewhere in 2019 when he spoke with reporters after Baltimore’s playoff loss to the Chargers Sunday.
“I don’t believe so,” he said, according to NFL Network. “There’s a Bible verse that says, ‘make no oath.’ ... We’ll see what God has in store, but I have every expectation of being here as long as the Ravens want me here. .... I do believe that’s what they want”