Barry Jackson

This is what NFL people are saying about the top Miami Dolphins coaching candidates

A six-pack of Dolphins notes on a Thursday:

With Patriots de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores and Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard having both impressed the Dolphins in their head-coaching interview process, I solicited opinion from some non-Dolphins NFL people about both coaches over the past two days.

The feedback was decidedly positive.

One agent who has had multiple clients play for Flores said: “I’ve gotten nothing but rave reviews from my guys about him. He’s highly respected and guys love him. Smart, organized, diligent. He gets the player perspective. He’s not an ego-manic, not a control freak. Very balanced on the sidelines in his demeanor.”

Another agent said his clients have told him Flores is “detailed” and smart.

Another NFL official said a player told him years ago to keep an eye on Flores as an up-and-comer in the industry.

One agent with clients who have played for Richard say he’s energetic in the mold of his former Seahawks boss, Pete Carroll, and likeable but all business. (Carroll fired him in Seattle, where Richard did good work as defensive coordinator, for reasons never fully explained.)

“Players love how real he is,” said a third prominent agent who has had clients play for Richard. “Smart and energetic and honest.”

The Cowboys would love to keep Richard and their public comments this week – while obviously expected to be positive – were downright effusive.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said: “If someone’s smart enough to hire him as a head coach, he’s going to dominate.”

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli, an NFL coach since 1996 and former Lions head coach, told Dallas reporters this week: “To me, he’s a head coach, he just hasn’t been hired yet. But he is a head coach. That’s what he is. He’s a head coach. We’re just waiting for him to get the right job.”

Cowboys corner Byron Jones told ESPN: “When he talks to you and you listen to his words, you understand this guy is going to be destined for greatness. This guy knows how to connect with the players.”

Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith told ESPN: “First day I met him, you could tell there was something different about him. The tenacity he brings. The love for the game. The love for his men that he’s teaching. Getting a chance to learn a lot from him, much more beyond football. He definitely has a purpose within athletics but beyond athletics as well.”

With the way Flores and Richard impressed the Dolphins, it’s going to take a home-run interview from Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi to have a real chance at the job.

Rizzi has received a ton of public praise from players, but one person close to the process warned against overstating the importance of that to owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier.

One Dolphins player said Rizzi shouldn’t be considered merely a special teams coach because Adam Gase gave him considerable game day responsibilities.

Gase is expected to try to take some Dolphins assistants with him to the Jets — many remain under contract to Miami, so permission would be needed - but reportedly won’t take Matt Burke as defensive coordinator. The Dolphins, though, are expected to have a new defensive coordinator next season.

Gase was 5-1 against the Jets and 18-24 against everybody else.

One player said when he saw Gase after he had been fired, he was smiling and happy, giving the impression that he would find a head coaching job elsewhere. And he ultimately did.

The Dolphins, to this point, have opted not to give Mike Tannenbaum’s old title of executive vice president/football operations to anyone. Grier is running the football operations department — enjoying the authority previously given to Tannenbaum — but is retaining his general manager title position.

If someone is added to the front office, he would very likely report to Grier.

While some past Dolphins football executives weren’t universally liked by players, players have a positive impression of Grier and how he interacts with them.

Found it amusing that among four national mock drafts released this week, all have the Dolphins taking quarterbacks, but four different ones, at No. 13: CBS with West Virginia’ Will Grier, SB Nation with Missouri’s Drew Lock, Sporting News with Duke’s Daniel Jones and Bleacher Report with Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, who is expected to enter the NFL Draft (according to the San Francisco Chronicle).

Many evaluators have Grier and Lock as second-day picks, and Jones projected to go later than Miami’s pick. Murray would be interesting if available.

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