The Dolphins began the search to replace dismissed coach Adam Gase on Monday by requesting an interview with New England Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, a league source confirmed.
Miami also asked for permission to interview Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy (according to Yahoo) and Steelers offensive line coach and former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Munchak (according to CBS).
Fangio, 60, has been the Bears’ defensive coordinator since 2015 (he overlapped with Gase for one season in Chicago) and also has served in that role for the Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers and Stanford University. He has never been a head coach, but his Bears defense is third in the league in yards permitted this season. Denver also wants to interview him.
Bieniemy, 49, a former NFL running back, began his coaching career as the Vikings’ running backs coach in 2006 before joining the Chiefs in the same job in 2013. He was promoted to offensive coordinator in January. Tampa Bay and the Jets also want to interview him.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
Munchak, 58, was a nine-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman and coached the Titans to a 22-26 record in three seasons before being fired. He has been Pittsburgh’s offensive line coach since 2014. Cleveland and Green Bay have also reportedly asked to interview him.
Flores, who is black, is well regarded and interviewing him would also fulfill the league’s Rooney Rule of interviewing at least one minority candidate for a team’s head coaching job.
Flores, 37, began his NFL career with the Patriots in 2004 and has served a variety of roles there, including pro scout, special teams assistant, safeties coach and linebackers coach.
He was promoted to defensive coordinator before the start of this season and New England’s defense ranks 21st in the league in yards permitted and seventh in points permitted.
A Brooklyn native, Flores was a linebacker at Boston College from 1999 to 2003, but an injury prevented him from pursuing an NFL career.
Flores is credited with substituting Malcom Butler in the closing seconds of Super Bowl 49. On an NFL Films video, Flores can be seen yelling “Malcom Go.” Butler would then intercept Russell Wilson to clinch the Patriots’ victory.
Denver and Cleveland also have asked permission to interview him.
The Dolphins can interview Flores but not Fangio this week, because the Patriots aren’t playing next weekend but the Bears are.
ROSTER TURNOVER LIKELY
With owner Stephen Ross disclosing the franchise will move away from signing older players in favor of young veterans — mixed with draft picks — several veteran Dolphins are at risk.
The Dolphins are expected to cut defensive end Robert Quinn (saving $12.9 million against the cap), defensive end Andre Branch (saving $7 million, with $2 million in dead money) and receiver DeVante Parker ($9.4 million cap savings).
The franchise also is expecting to release or trade Ryan Tannehill, resulting in a cap savings of $13.2 million or $18.7 million, depending on the timing. A new quarterback will be pursued.
And defensive tackle Akeem Spence ($2.5 million cap savings) and guard Ted Larsen ($1.9 million) also stand at serious risk.
But Ross’ disclosure of a new approach in roster building also creates doubts about whether the Dolphins will re-sign unrestricted free agents Frank Gore and Cameron Wake. It also puts in doubt the Dolphins future of receiver Danny Amendola, a favorite of Gase who would have a $6 million cap hit if he’s on the team, no hit if he’s not.
Among other veterans, decisions loom on guard Josh Sitton, safety T.J. McDonald and potentially others.
Cutting Sitton, who sustained a season-ending injury in the opener, would result in $5 million in savings and a $2 million dead-money charge. Cutting T.J. McDonald would save only $1.4 million in cap space with $4.6 million in dead money; $3.6 million of his $5 million salary is guaranteed.
Three other veterans who could be discussed: If Miami cuts receiver Kenny Stills, who had just 37 receptions this season, Miami could save $6 million in cap space but have $3.7 million in dead money with a post-June 1 designation. Cutting linebacker Kiko Alonso, with a post-June 1 designation, would save $6.5 million against the cap with a $1.8 million dead money charge. He was 10th in the NFL in tackles with 121.
Cutting safety Reshad Jones is not realistic because $11.1 million of his $13 million salary for 2019 is already fully guaranteed.
The Dolphins have $21 million in cap space, including $6.6 million in carryover space, but can clear out considerably more with many of the aforementioned moves.
The Dolphins will pick 13th in April’s draft.
Players listed 12 to 18 on ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper’s Big Board of draft-eligible prospects: Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams, Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Mississippi offensive tackle Greg Little, Florida outside linebacker Jachai Polite and Oklahoma receiver Marquise Brown.
The only quarterback expected to go before the 13th pick is Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, if he decides to turn pro.
▪ The 2019 schedule has been firmed up, with dates and times to be announced in April. In addition to home games against AFC East rivals New England, the Jets and Buffalo, the Dolphins also will play host to Baltimore, Cincinnati, the Los Angeles Chargers, Philadelphia and Washington.
Besides road games against the Patriots, Jets and Bills, the Dolphins also play 2019 road games at Pittsburgh, the Giants, Cleveland, Dallas and Indianapolis.
▪ Though Dolphins players weren’t made available after Gase’s firing, receiver Albert Wilson weighed in on Twitter in support of Gase: “A full year I could of shown how much of a genius he was!”
▪ The Dolphins declined to say if any assistant coaches had been fired. But the new coach, along with Grier, will decide the new coaching staff, and defensive coordinator Matt Burke appears unlikely to be retained. Some assistants could accompany Gase if he lands another head coaching job.
▪ Ross denied an ESPN report that Gase was asked to give up power to decide the 53-man roster.
While Ross and Grier sat at the podium during the Dolphins’ news conference, three people sat in the front row: president Tom Garkinkel, Ross friend and businessman Bruce Beal (who has first right to buy the team if Ross sells or dies) and Dolphins executive Dan Marino.
Here’s how Ross explained the decision to fire Gase and the team’s new philosophy in roster building.