Armando Salguero

Miami Dolphins coach candidates share trait that’s been a total failure for team previously

Grier: The ultimate goal is to win Super Bowls and championships and be a consistent winner,

Chris Grier, the Miami Dolphins GM discusses his goals during a press conference at the Dolphins' training facility in Davie, FL
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Chris Grier, the Miami Dolphins GM discusses his goals during a press conference at the Dolphins' training facility in Davie, FL

Look at the Miami Dolphins list of potential head coaches and you can see something of a pattern in it.

Eric Bieniemy? He would be a first-time NFL head coach.

Darren Rizzi? He would be a first-time NFL head coach.

Vic Fangio? He would be a first-time NFL head coach.

Brian Flores? He would be a first-time NFL head coach.

Kris Richard? He would be a first-time NFL head coach.

Mike Munchak is the only known head coach candidate the Dolphins have with previous NFL head coach experience.

And the trend within the Dolphins’ list begs a question: Why are you doing this again?

Because the Dolphins’ most recent head coaches started this trend. And it didn’t go well.

Nick Saban was a first-time NFL head coach. Failed after two seasons.

Cam Cameron was a first-time NFL head coach. Failed after one season.

Tony Sparano was a first-time NFL head coach. Failed by his fourth season.

Joe Philbin was a first-time NFL head coach. Failed in his fourth season.

Adam Gase was a first-time NFL head coach. Failed after three seasons.

All of them left the Dolphins with losing records.

The three winningest coaches in team history each coached in the NFL previously -- Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt. And while all had their challenges during their time in Miami, all succeeded to degrees we haven’t really seen from the first-timers in that those guys went to the playoffs in consecutive years.

All the experienced head coaches also left Miami with winning records.

Look, I’m not saying all first-time head coaches are bound to fail. The Philadelphia Eagles won a Super Bowl last February with a first-time NFL head coach.

But for the Miami Dolphins it has not worked. The Dolphins either fail to identify the right guy, or don’t wait long enough for him to develop, or hire that first-timer because they can find no one better to take the job.

I’ve covered all of Miami’s first-time head coaches. All of them.

And the common theme to them all is they don’t see the exigent need for an elite (not solid or good, but elite) quarterback until it is too late.

Saban didn’t see it until after his first season, failed to land Drew Brees his second season, got dejected and left.

Gase tied himself to Tannehill. And although he was going to move on from Tannehill this offseason if he’d been retained, three years with Tannehill doomed him.

Philbin also tied himself to Tannehill and wanted to move on from him after two years but wasn’t allowed to do it so he also was doomed -- not to mention the guy wasn’t a leader.

Sparano was great with Chad Pennington his first year out of sheer luck because of Pennington’s connection to Bill Parcells. But then Sparano tied himself to Chad Henne and that was the end of the road.

Cameron had a solid plan in that he brought in a veteran to be his bridge quarterback in 2007 and also drafted a youngster in the second round for the long term.

The failure there was that bridge QB Trent Green, who had suffered concussions previously, continued the trend in Miami. And youngster John Beck was a draft bust.

Good strategy. Terrible execution.

These guys, all of them, didn’t know what they didn’t know. They all had big egos and thought they knew exactly how to proceed.

And, with zero exceptions, they really didn’t know.

All of them, with the exception of Cameron, admitted to me in private moments after their first season that they weren’t fully prepared for what being an NFL head coach entails off the field -- in dealing with personnel people, player egos, discipline of players and assistants, and some in cap structure.

It wasn’t new to them. But it was bigger than they anticipated.

(Cameron, by the way, thought he was always the smartest man in the room and never realized during his one year how many self-inflicted wounds he suffered.)

The alarming thing is that knowing their own history and their past inability to identify successful first-time head coaches who can hit the ground running, the Dolphins continue down this well charted path of past failures.

The Dolphins are now ignoring their past mistakes and risking a repeat.

It boggles the mind.

And this: I am not saying the Dolphins must hire an second-time head coach.

What I’m asking is what is the major malfunction with at least talking to them?

Why no interest in Chuck Pagano?

Or Jim Caldwell?

Or Marty Mornhinweg?

Or Josh McDaniels?

Or Mike McCarthy?

(Well, the last two wouldn’t take the Dolphins job anyway, so I get that. It’s below them, honestly.)

But why not widen the possibilities to guys who have, you know, done this before and are more prepared for what is about to happen?

The cynics will call these guys “retreads.”

Bill Belichick was a retread and won five Super Bowls.

Pete Carroll was a retread and won a Super Bowl.

Andy Reid was a retread and has the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Tom Coughlin was a retread and won two Super Bowls.

Jon Gruden was a retread and won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay.

Gary Kubiak was a retread and won a Super Bowl in Denver.

And this: Don Shula was a retread.

Armando Salguero has covered the Miami Dolphins and the NFL since 1990, so longer than many players on the current roster have been alive and since many coaches on the team were in middle school. He was a 2016 APSE Top 3 columnist nationwide. He is one of 48 Pro Football Hall of Fame voters. He is an Associated Press All-Pro and awards voter. He’s covered Dolphins games in London, Berlin, Mexico City and Tokyo. He has covered 25 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, and the Olympics.


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