Coaching Carousel (Pt. 1): Pros & Cons of Candidates From the First Wave of Interviews

The Miami Dolphins have officially begun the search for a new head coach. They are at a crossroads with new GM Chris Grier, hired from within to work with Mike Tannenbaum, but nobody currently chosen to coach the football team that the two will put together.

Grier and Tannenbaum will be more capable of working together than Tannenbaum and Hickey were because Grier knows what he is getting into. Hickey was hired to have control of the team, including signings, but Grier knows that he will essentially be a head scout/analyst while reporting to Mike Tannenbaum, who will pull the trigger on all decisions.

Now, who will those two select to be tasked with coaching the team assembled by Miami’s two football architects? Stephen Ross, Tom Garfinkel, Matt Higgins, Mike Tannenbaum, and Chris Grier will all be forced to weigh the pros and cons of candidates who will make their cases to be the next leader of one of the NFL’s most storied franchises. 

Teryl Austin (Defensive Coordinator, Detroit Lions):

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Many feel that Teryl Austin is simply being brought in on Tuesday to satisfy the team’s Rooney Rule requirement, which states that each team must interview an African American candidate when seeking a new head coach. However, Austin is uniquely qualified for the Miami job, and is an interesting figure in creation of Detroit’s defense. 

Pros: 

  • Experience in Several Organizations:

Austin has served as an NFL defensive coordinator for just one season, but his experience prior to that is what makes him so unique. He has been a defensive backs coach in the league since 2003, with the exception of 2010, during which he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. Austin also played defensive back for Pitt, and was a three-year starter.

Austin has worked with premier organizations, including the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Ravens. The Lions were most likely his first stop, of which he experienced large-scale dysfunction.

  • Experience with Ndamukong Suh: 

Teryl Austin was able to coach Suh in Detroit. This is a very attractive element of decision for Miami, as Suh is a major part of the team’s plans going forward.

Just as they will ask candidates how they feel about Ryan Tannehill, they will ask how they feel about Ndamukong Suh. We can expect a resoundingly positive answer from Austin to these inquiries.

Cons: 

  • Inexperience in High Ranking Positions

Austin has only spent three full seasons as a defensive coordinator (one at UF, and two in Detroit). Often, coordinators work for 5-10 years before receiving the call up to a head coaching position. Those three seasons are not enough to warrant head coaching looks with full confidence.

Verdict: Not Ready

Teryl Austin has a bright future in the NFL. He has been a solid leader for the Detroit defense, which has ranked 2nd in the NFL in 2014. However, they were in the bottom half of the league in 2015 for total defense.

Overall, Austin will be a good candidate for the future, but he is not currently ready to be an NFL head coach.

Doug Marrone (Asst. Head Coach/OL, Jacksonville Jaguars): 

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Marrone debuted with the Buffalo Bills as their head coach in 2013, and promptly led them to a 9-7 record. However, after a losing season the following year, he left Buffalo thanks to an out in his contract.  

Marrone is an interesting candidate with a deep coaching background, which leads us to believe he could be a very solid option for Miami.

Pros:

  • Past Head-Coaching Experience:

The Miami Dolphins have not hired someone with head coaching experience at the NFL level in years. The team has expressed interest in a candidate with experience at the highest level, as Stephen Ross is looking for a “culture change”.

Doug Marrone has been a head coach in college and in the NFL. He was the Syracuse head coach from 2009-2012, and the Buffalo Bills’ head coach from 2013-2014. 

  • Experienced as a Player:

Doug Marrone was actually a member of the Miami Dolphins in 1987, and a member of the Saints in 1989. This experience as a player is often coveted by those seeking a coach, as it makes it easier for them to relate to players and provides a unique perspective on the game.

  • Expertise on the Offensive Line:

Marrone is an offensive line specialist. This season, he served as the Jacksonville Jaguars’ assistant head coach and offensive line coach. Prior to his head coaching work at Syracuse, he served as a professional and collegiate offensive line coach from 1993-2005. In 2006, he became the Saints’ offensive coordinator, and helped construct the team that would go on to win a Super Bowl while he was at Syracuse.

The Miami Dolphins need help on the offensive line, and they need it badly. Marrone has expertise in that area, and would be able to work closely with the organization to help coach and select linemen that will be able to protect Ryan Tannehill.

Cons:

  • Lack of Excitement:

Hardcore football fans would probably find enough to be happy about with Marrone, but Stephen Ross is looking for a home run. Yes, Marrone has head coaching experience, but he’s no Sean Payton. The Dolphins will in all likelihood look for an exciting candidate, which Doug Marrone is not.

  • His Struggles as a Head Coach:

No, the Buffalo Bills were not well-off from a personnel standpoint when Marrone got there. However, he regressed in his second year coaching, going from 9-7 to 6-10. Yes, he has head coaching experience, but does that experience help, or hurt Marrone’s case?

He also was not particularly successful in college, going 25-25 in the ACC, which is not an overly powerful conference.

  • His Exit from Buffalo: 

While we are not in a place to judge the character of another individual, the decision to leave Buffalo after his second year was curious. Marrone exercised an out in his contract, and left the Bills high and dry. Yes, they ended up signing Rex Ryan, but it was not a move that spoke to Marrone’s loyalty, or commitment to turning around the culture in Buffalo. He saw a chance to leave, and took it.

There is no way to know the full scope of the circumstances surrounding Marrone in Buffalo, but quitting on your team is surely not a good look for him as a head coach.

Verdict: Not Our Guy

While Marrone is a solid candidate, he is not the type of coach Stephen Ross is looking for. Miami wants a big name, and someone who can incite excitements in the fan base. Marrone is not that candidate. He also has a troublesome history in his time as a head coach, both at the collegiate and NFL levels.

Adam Gase (Offensive Coordinator, Chicago Bears):

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Adam Gase has been on the NFL’s radar for years. He is an incredibly young coach, who has been able to learn from Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Now, the question remains if Gase is ready for an NFL head-coaching gig.

Pros:

  • Youth:

Adam Gase would fit the bill of an exciting candidate partially thanks to his youth. He is 37, which would make him the NFL’s youngest head coach.

  • Ability to Work with Ryan Tannehill:

Gase is a quarterback specialist. He worked for years with Peyton Manning in Denver, which is really just as much (if not more) of a learning experience for Gase as it is for Manning. He then followed John Fox to Chicago, where he was tasked with working on Jay Cutler. While the Bears’ record did not reflect great strides, Cutler did improve in some key areas, which obviously shows positively on Gase’s ability as a coach.

Gase is also known to allow quarterbacks to operate with freedom at the line of scrimmage. This is something that the Dolphins have not afforded Tannehill, which many feel is necessary for him to jump to the next level. Gase would bring a new offense in, and would play a huge role in shaping Ryan Tannehill.

  • Will Be Easy for Front Office to Work With

Gase is not a team architect. He is far too young to be the type of coach that works heavily to construct a team in terms of personnel. He is an X’s and O’s specialist.

In the new Dolphins’ structure, Mike Tannenbaum has all of the power. He is going to be holding the reins to this franchise, meaning that the next head coach will have to be okay with that. Gase is a likely candidate that will be fine with Tannenbaum calling the shots upstairs as long as he can implement the schemes and strategies he wants on the field.

Cons: 

  • Was it Manning, Or Gase that Created Success in Denver?

Nobody will know the answer to this question until Gase becomes a head coach. Jay Cutler did improve this season, but Gase was not able to help lead the Bears to a winning record. That being said, it is impossible to tell who was responsible for Gase’s high level of success in Denver.

The scary thing? We asked the same questions about Joe Philbin, coming from the Aaron Rodgers offense in Green Bay.

  • Lack of Ability to Recruit a Staff:

Gase’s youth hurts him in this area. He has not been around the NFL for a very long time, and he does not have the connections that allow teams to recruit high-level coordinators.

The Miami Dolphins need a coach that can bring in coordinators, as the staff will be just as important as the head coach moving forward. Some have reported that Gase could be ready to bring in high-level coordinators, but I feel it takes a veteran coach to truly reel in the top notch talent for OC and DC.

Someone as young as Gase would certainly struggle recruiting older and more veteran coaches to help run the team in Miami.

Verdict: Solid Hire, Would Be Risky

Gase is a young and exciting coach. If the Dolphins want to move forward and try to take a chance on the next brilliant young mind, Gase is their best bet. However, his lack of head coaching experience and the uncertainty regarding the source of his success (was it more on Manning than himself) makes him a very risky hire. It is somewhat reminiscent of the Josh McDaniels hire in Denver several years ago, in which people were unsure if the young coach was successful on his own merit, or if it was just thanks to Brady.

Overall, he would be a solid guy for the job in Miami, but the team might want to go with a more veteran coach who can recruit coordinators to help coach this team.

Mike Shanahan (Super Bowl Winning Head Coach in Denver):

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(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Mike Shanahan is one of the league’s more polarizing figures. While he was a Super Bowl winner in Denver, his history with power struggles and conflicts in Washington make him a risky candidate.

Pros: 

  • Experience:

If they want someone with true experience, Shanahan is the Dolphins’ best option. He has been a head coach in the NFL for a total of almost 20 seasons, 13 of which were spent in Denver, where he won 2 Super Bowls.

He also was a Super Bowl winning offensive coordinator with the San Francisco 49ers.

  • Ability to Hire a Staff:

Whether it is his son Kyle Shanahan, or another option, Mike Shanahan is the best chance Miami has to assemble a dynamite staff. He has been in the league for decades, and has the connections needed to bring the proper coaching talent into Miami.

  • His History of Confidence in Ryan Tannehill:

When the Washington Redskins drafted RGIII, the team’s owner pulled the trigger. Behind the scenes, Shanahan was lobbying for Tannehill.

He would be the best option to come in and create a positive situation for Miami’s quarterback. If he were to get the job, it would mark a clear intention to turn Tannehill into a true franchise quarterback.

  • Ability to Develop Running Backs & Offensive Linemen:

Shanahan has a strong history with running backs. He helped turn Terrell Davis into a star, and more recently made Alfred Morris into a 1,000+ yard rusher. He would be able to do some incredible things with Jay Ajayi, and could help incentivize Miller to return.

He also has a history of helping fix offensive line issues in a creative fashion. Shanahan would likely be the team’s best bet at a cheap, quick fix for protection that could help Ryan Tannehill.

Cons:

  • Age:

Mike Shanahan is 63-years old. He also struggled in his last destination. The Dolphins have reportedly been looking for a young option, but Shanahan’s experience and pedigree could help override his age.

  • Power Struggle in Washington:

Considering Dan Snyder is known to be one of the tougher owners to work with in the NFL, Shanahan struggled mightily in Washington after RGIII was drafted.

The Baylor product was clearly forced on the experienced head coach, which he did not like. He began a series of actions that showed a clear resistance towards the organization, and a lack of interest in continuing in Washington due to the actions of Snyder and those around him.

Mike Tannenbaum and Mike Shanahan are clearly individuals who cherish power. That being said is it possible that the Dolphins could be entering a hostile situation by bringing in Shanahan to work with Tannenbaum. That will have to be a concern moving forward in this process.

  • Dolphins Aren’t a Win Now Team

When a veteran coach of Shanahan’s age is hired, it often is a win now situation. The Dolphins are not ready to win now, and should be worried that Shanahan’s age means that he will not be around long enough to build up the team into a winner, see the project through, and then lead them to victories.

The question remains if Shanahan wants to wait several years to coach another winning group.

­Verdict: Solid Option, Would Help Win Now

The Miami Dolphins’ search for a homerun candidate could lead them to Shanahan. He has a great history in this league, and has the pedigree needed to help lead a team. His ability to work with Tannehill, Lamar Miller, and the offensive line, all make him very attractive as a candidate.

Among this first wave of interviews, he is probably the best option (either he or Gase). However, as playoff teams are eliminated, candidates who have solid experience could emerge,.

Outside of that concern, Shanahan could be a good coach, who knows how to develop a winning team. He should receive thorough consideration from the Dolphins’ front office.

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Reports will continue from thedeependmiami.com as the next wave of coaching interviews are announced, and as we receive news as to who the Miami Dolphins express interest in going forward.

Expect articles of this format to be posted when more coaches’ teams are eliminated from the playoffs, and have interviews scheduled with the Dolphins.

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