Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Dolphins need experienced coach who doesn’t come with training wheels

Miami Dolphins new general manager Chris Grier poses with executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum at the team’s training facility in Davie, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.
Miami Dolphins new general manager Chris Grier poses with executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum at the team’s training facility in Davie, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2016.

This is the eighth time since 2004 that the Miami Dolphins have hung out a Help Wanted sign for a new head coach, including full-time hires and interim promotions. And not once has that sign read, “Experience required,” or even, apparently, “Experience preferred.”

Dave Wannstedt was the most recent Dolphins hiring who arrived having been an NFL head coach before and, for all of his faults, I would note that Wannstedt also was on the sideline here when the Dolphins last won a playoff game.

Since then, the parade of Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, Todd Bowles, Joe Philbin and Dan Campbell has had only this in common: None had ever done the job Miami was hiring them to do.

All arrived with training wheels in terms of being an NFL head coach.

All arrived with high hopes and no proof.

It is time to break the inherent gamble of that trend.

I appreciate the bravado of various Dolphins administrations thinking they were smarter than everybody else and were discovering The Next Great Head Coach, mining the college level or bestowing a first big break upon some NFL assistant. But how has that worked out, exactly?

The parade of failure is why the latest men in charge — executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and new general manager Chris Grier — stood before the gathered media Monday at the club’s Davie headquarters, in the latest post-mortem to a seventh straight season out of the playoffs, and vowed the latest thorough search for the latest next coach.

Just like all of those other times.

Tannenbaum said no possibility would be left unconsidered, to the degree that, after mentioning he’d recently spoken with mentor Bill Parcells, Tannenbaum quickly added it was not to interview him for the job opening.

I like that Tannebaum is casting a wide net to find the best man, but the emphasis should be on experience.

The Dolphins met with former Falcons coach Mike Smith on Monday. That’s good.

Unemployed former Super Bowl champion Mike Shanahan is interviewing for the job Tuesday. That’s good.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is on Miami’s radar. That’s good.

So is former Bills coach and current Jaguars assistant Doug Marrone. That’s good, too.

All have been NFL head coaches. Maybe the Dolphins are finally coming around to the idea that’s pretty important.

For that reason I’d interview recent Eagles coach Chip Kelly, and I might also consider newly unemployed Giants coach Tom Coughlin. And I’d very aggressively explore whether the Saints and Sean Payton might part ways. If reports are true that New Orleans would trade the rights to Payton for a second-round pick, I’d make that deal in about half a heartbeat. Payton remains the home-run get this winter.

I can’t blame the Dolphins for also exploring guys who have not been NFL head coaches — and Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase seems a particularly hot commodity in that category — but the lesson learned in Miami that past 10-plus years is that experience should be the starting point and preference in this job search.

No matter who is hired, it better be a great hire, a coach who sees Miami back in the playoffs in 2016.

Owner Stephen Ross enjoys no patience from Dolphins fans. Tannenbaum enjoys no benefit of doubt. The newly promoted Grier gets no honeymoon.

“The talk of dysfunction within this organization is over,” declared Grier on Monday. Then, as if addressing Dolfans directly: “We will earn your trust back both on and off the field.”

Grier expressed unequivocal support for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, saying, “He’s our guy. We can win with Ryan. We can do a lot of things to help him get better.”

Tannenbaum called the Dolphins “a young team with a lot of key cornerstones,” adding, “I think our window [of opportunity] is right here.”

Clearly, these guys are smart enough to know the NFL is a worst-to-first league, one of quick turnarounds, that slow building is a thing of the past, and that Dolfans are done with blind faith and demanding proof.

Miami will have the No. 8 overall pick in the April draft, but, long before that, this franchise needs to find the perfect fit and make a great hire for its next head coach.

Hopefully the sign out front will read, “Experience preferred” this time.

Better yet: “Experienced required.”

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at and follow on Twitter @gregcote.

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