Barry Jackson

Why Rizzi and Dolphins are parting ways. And Flores makes six more hires

Dolphins notes on a Tuesday:

▪ The Dolphins are parting ways with special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, one of the team’s most well-regarded assistants, according to a league source.

As ESPN’s Field Yates reported, Danny Crossman will replace Rizzi as Dolphins special teams coach.

According to a source, the Dolphins did not want Rizzi to return as special teams coordinator because Brian Flores wanted to move in a new direction. And Rizzi decided he wasn’t interested in returning because he was rejected in his bid to become the team’s head coach.

Rizzi is in advanced stages of conversations with another team.

Meanwhile, Flores firmed up five more hires. According to ESPN, he’s hiring George Godsey as tight ends coach and Karl Dorrell as receivers coach. According to Sirus XM’s Alex Marvez, Flores is hiring Pat Flaherty as offensive line coach.

And according to a Miami Herald source, Flores has indicated he plans to retain defensive backs coach Tony Oden and running backs coach Eric Studesville.

Meanwhile, ESPN reported that dismissed former Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke is joining the Philadelphia Eagles as a top aide to defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.

Crossman was the Bills’ special teams coach since 2013 but was fired after last season. He previously was the special teams coach for Carolina and Detroit.

Godsey was the Patriots tight ends coach in 2012 and 2013, where he worked with Flores. He was the Houston Texans’ offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016 and the Detroit Lions’ quarterback coach in 2018.

For Dorrell, it will be his second stint as the Dolphins’ receivers coach — a role he held from 2008 through 2010. He also was the Dolphins’ quarterbacks coach in 2011. Dorrell was the Jets wide receivers coach the past four seasons and previously was the head coach at UCLA from 2003 to 2007 (going 35-27) and offensive coordinator at Vanderbilt, Colorado and Washington.

Flaherty previously served as tight ends coach for the Redskins and Bears and coached the offensive line for the Giants (2014-15), 49ers (2016) and Jaguars (2017-18). Flaherty, 62, was fired by the Jaguars on New Year’s Eve.

Other Dolphins assistant hires include offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea (the Patriots’ receivers coach); defensive coordinator Patrick Graham (previously Green Bay’s linebackers coach); associate head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell (previously the Colts and Lions head coach), linebackers coach Rob Leonard (previously Giants outside linebackers coach) and defensive line coach Marion Hobby (formerly in that job with the Jaguars).

The Dolphins will have three former offensive coordinators on their staff — Caldwell, Godsey and Dorrell — but O’Shea (the new offensive coordinator) isn’t among them.

▪ Don’t underestimate the Rizzi loss. According to the Dolphins’ website, “since Rizzi was promoted to special teams coordinator in 2011, the Dolphins lead the NFL in punt blocks with 11 and are second with 22 overall blocks,” behind only Oakland’s 23.

And under Rizzi, the Dolphins were one of only two NFL teams in 2018 with both a punt return and a kickoff return for touchdowns.

The Dolphins had four successful onside kicks in 2017, believed to be the most in NFL history.

Also, the Dolphins finished in the top half of Rick Gosselin’s annual Dallas Morning News special teams rankings in each of Rizzi’s first seven seasons running Miami’s special teams.

The Dolphins largely have deferred to Rizzi on draft decisions involving punters and kickers, and Rizzi made a smart choice by recommending Jason Sanders instead of other more highly touted kickers in last April’s draft. Sanders finished his rookie season 18 of 20 on field goals and 35 of 36 on extra points.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick praised Rizzi’s work with the Dolphins special team units.

“They’re good at everything,” Belichick said of the Dolphins’ special teams before their December game. “Obviously, they lost [Jakeem] Grant but they’ve got [Kenyan] Drake on kickoffs and they’ve used [Kenny] Stills back there. Obviously, he’s an explosive player on punts. They have a good rush scheme — punts and field goals. Even a lot of forces on their punt returns are tough with [Senorise] Perry, [Brandon] Bolden. They do a good job of covering. They play good situational football. Pretty much every week they do a good job.

The Boston Globe’s Ben Volin offered some insight on O’Shea during a very good feature in which he explained how the Patriots coaching staff prepares for a game.

Besides being the Patriots receivers coach, O’Shea also served as the red zone coordinator.

Volin notes the Patriots teach the game plan via PowerPoint, video presentation, or walk-throughs. Each week is different.

“We often change the way we present our information, because we never want anything to be stale,” O’Shea said. “We feel like what works best is when our players can actively be involved and when we teach them that, we ask a lot of questions, we want a lot of answers. It’s a very enjoyable part of our process.”

Because the Patriots don’t want their players overwhelmed, they distribute the game plan to players in stages. They give them the first- and second-down plan on Tuesday night, the third-down plan on Wednesday night.

“We just feel like that works best for the players, being able to learn the volume of information and limit the amount of stuff we give on a daily basis,” O’Shea said.

And the Patriots continue to adjust the game plan throughout the week, making some changes as late as Sunday morning.

“The hay’s never in the barn for us,” O’Shea told Volin. “We’re constantly going to try to gain an edge. If there’s a play that we add late in the week that’s going to help us in the game, we’re not afraid to do that. And our players are very good with their ability to adjust.

“We feel like we can make a difference,” O’Shea added. “It’s kind of a process, one that I really enjoy watching — from us actually in the film rooms, putting it in the game plan, having ideas, and then those ideas coming together and communicating to the players and the players go out and execute it. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of our job.”

O’Shea, incidentally, has a South Florida connection. His father Michael was the trainer for Howard Schnellenberger at UM from 1979 to 1985, during the time UM won its first national championship.

As Houston’s trainer, O’Shea helped save cornerback D.J. Hayden’s life from an injury that is 95 percent fatal and more often seen in explosions or war casualties and never in athletics competition.

Nearly six months after his injury, surgery and rehabilitation, Hayden was taken with the No. 12 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Chad O’Shea was a quarterback at the University of Houston in 1994 and ‘95. He was only a young kid when his father worked for Schnellenberger at UM.

“Chad was around,” Schnellenberger said last week. “I didn’t run into him very much. I called Michael last year to offer condolences about the death of his wife.”

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