Quick Slant: (Way Too Early) Head Coaching Short-List for 2016
While there is plenty of hype around Dolphins’ interim head coach Dan Campbell, fans will accept that the team’s options are open for the 2016 season. Miami will be an attractive landing spot, and it could be the team’s best chance to haul in a stellar head coach. Who could the candidates be for next season, and how could they help turn around the Dolphins’ fortunes.
It is currently too early to predict who will be available as head coaching candidates following the 2015 season. The process also always includes names that nobody could ever have guessed, and especially for Miami is usually full of twists and turns. While we don’t want to write off Dan Campbell, it is important to keep serious candidates in mind as you watch the NFL season unfold. This list is not a prediction, or a definitive ranking. This is a group of coaches that I feel should warrant serious looks from the Miami Dolphins and other teams should they search for a new head coach following the conclusion of this season.
Hue Jackson (OC- Cincinnati Bengals):
Jackson has never been given a fair shot. Not once has he been given the proper time and circumstances required to establish oneself as a successful head coach in the NFL. He went 8-8 in his first year with the Raiders and was fired. I propose that the Miami Dolphins be the team to give Jackson his shot.
Hue Jackson is another coach with NFL experience who is a known motivator. Players want to go to war for him, and he will do the same for them. Jackson is also an experienced play caller. His current system in Cincinnati is thriving, and Jackson has unleashed Andy Dalton and AJ Green on opposing defenses. This tandem is on a complete tear, and Jackson has implemented a successful two-back system with Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Currently, Hue Jackson has the Bengals’ offense thriving, and his combination of experience and leadership skills make him a great potential head-coaching candidate.
Adam Gase (OC, Chicago Bears):
Last offseason Adam Gase was one of the hot head-coaching candidates. He was one of the minds behind Denver’s offense during Peyton Manning’s stretch with the team, and is known as an offensive innovator around the league. The upside to Gase (including his age at 37) is obvious. The problem is what has happened in Chicago so far this season. He followed his head coach John Fox to the job with the Bears, but has been unable to bring any success to their offense. This could be largely due to personnel, but Gase should have jumped to a head-coaching job last year.
A bad season in Chicago does not change the fact that Gase is a strong-candidate due to his playcalling ability and schemes. The question remains as to whether Gase’s success was due to Peyton Manning, or if Gase was a key piece of Manning’s performance even at such an old age. We will not know until he is given a fair chance as a coach in his own right.
I say fair because having to start Jay Cutler really just isn’t.
Matt Patricia (DC- New England Patriots):
Patricia has been the Patriots’ defensive coordinator since the 2012 season. He has spent those four years in New England learning from the best coach in the business, and has been a part of both the offensive and defensive staffs. Patricia was an offensive line coach for the team’s 2004 Super Bowl win. He became the linebackers’ coach in 2006, and then in 2011 became the safeties coach. Before the 2012 season, Patricia was named Belichick’s defensive coordinator after spending two seasons running the unit as a defacto coordinator under Belichick. There are two massive upsides to Patricia. First, his previously stated experience on both sides of the ball makes him versatile and multi-dimensional. The second reason is the potential of bringing up great coordinators. When signing staff, head coaches rely entirely on the tree from which they originated. Patricia could work the Belichick tree to bring strong coordinators to Miami.
The main question now is how difficult it will be to lure Matt Patricia away from the Patriots. Currently he is projected as a head coach candidate for 2016, but there is still plenty of time for him to decide he wishes to stay in New England. It is impossible to get any information out of the fortress of doom in Foxboro, so we will just have to wait and see if Matt Patricia is willing to interview for the Miami Dolphins’ head coaching position.
Kyle Shanahan (OC, Atlanta Falcons):
Look at what the Atlanta Falcons have done so far this season. This is what happens when talent meets coaching. Julio Jones and Matt Ryan have been on an absolute rampage, and it is because Ryan has all of the authority he could ask for at the line of scrimmage. Shannahan could bring this system to Miami and change Ryan Tannehill’s entire career.
The Dolphins need a system that allows for as much quarterback control as possible. Miami needs someone who will allow Tannehill to feed off of the talent within the team’s receiving corps, and who can work to establish a run to complement the passing attack. Shanahan also could be our best shot to develop DeVante Parker, as he could use Parker in a similar mold to how he uses Julio Jones (I am not comparing the two, settle down). Right now, I think the Miami Dolphins need an innovator. Shanahan has been given an unfair rap so far in his career (partially thanks to his father), and could be just what the Dolphins need to help maximize the talent on the offensive side of the ball. Hiring a strong defensive coordinator would be imperative here, as Shanahan has no experience on that side of the ball, but the promise he has shown on offense could more than make up for his discrepancies in other phases of the game.
Jon Gruden (Not Currently Coaching):
Don’t even start.
Chuck Pagano (HC, Indianapolis Colts):
The Indianapolis Colts have been one of the league’s most disappointing teams early this season. The team has barely beaten the Jaguars and Titans, and is 2-2. Andrew Luck has been beaten and battered, and the defense is undermanned. So, it makes sense that the Colts would view Chuck Pagano as a hot seat coach. The problem is that the Colts’ struggles are not his fault.
Pagano’s issues in Indianapolis are not entirely his fault. The team has struggled in the draft, and despite a few positive moves they have largely been unable to bring in talent for Andrew Luck. Their defense is made almost entirely of aging veterans or free agent signings, and their offensive line is a mess. The team gave up a first round pick for Trent Richardson, and selected Jack Mewhort in the second round, who has been a relative disappointment. Bjoern Werner has also struggled with the team, leaving no serious edge rushers. They also went into this season assuming to get a boost from veterans Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, both of which seem to have let age catch up with them. A poor effort in 2015 could result in a sweep of the front office and coaching staff in Indy, which would make Chuck Pagano a very interesting candidate for head coach.
The Wildcards: Sean Payton & Dan Campbell
Rumors have been swirling about Sean Payton’s potential availability after this season and the fit he would have with Miami given the Bill Parcells connection with Stephen Ross. I do not believe there is much truth to these rumors, as I see almost no situation in which Payton is not coaching the New Orleans Saints in 2016. He would obviously be my first choice, and would be a perfect fit if available, but I wouldn’t recommend getting your hopes up.
Dan Campbell could obviously coach well enough to hold onto the job in Miami. It will be a very tall order, starting out at 1-3 with the toughest portion of the schedule still to come. If Campbell can get the team to the playoffs, or even bring them to a 9-7 record, I see it as a strong possibility that Campbell can keep his job as the Dolphins’ head coach.
It is too early to know anything. Will Dan Campbell keep the job? Will Matt Patricia want to stay with New England as the defensive coordinator? Will the Falcons offense fall apart, costing Kyle Shanahan a chance at a head-coaching job? Nobody knows. This list is an early projection of potential candidates. I can promise that not everyone from this list will become a head coach, and that Miami will interview plenty of candidates I did not discuss here. However, it is never too early to take a preliminary look at who we could look towards to lead the team in 2016.
Now, all that we can do is wait and see.