NFL Nation: Coach firing analysis

After Sparano: Next steps for Dolphins

December, 12, 2011
In the past, NFL teams waited until the Monday after the season to announce their head-coaching firings. It’s called Black Monday.

When the Dolphins jumped into the mix by firing Tony Sparano hours after Todd Haley was let go by Kansas City, it was an indication how the shortage of head-coaching talent forced owner Stephen Ross to make a bold move. Ross didn’t want to fall behind other AFC teams looking for head coaches and reached out to close friend Carl Peterson to help run the Dolphins' operation.

The plan to hire Peterson is an indication the Dolphins will reach out to Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher to start. Gruden is expected to stay with ESPN. Despite his good relationship with Peterson, Cowher might be reluctant to go to the Dolphins for several reasons. Cowher wants front-office control, big money and a top quarterback. The Dolphins have Matt Moore as their quarterback, which wouldn’t attract Cowher. Money might not be a problem, but power is a problem. The team is expected to keep Jeff Ireland as its general manager, and that might be enough to prevent Cowher from being a candidate. That leaves Fisher as a top candidate.

Teams in the hunt for coaches know there are three price tags for coaches. You can get your Cowhers and Fishers in the $7 million-a-year range. If you find the right college or former NFL head coach, he might go for $5 million a year. First-time coaches go for close to $3 million.

By firing Sparano on Monday, Ross is hinting he might be willing to pay top money to get a coach. He worries about the empty seats at home games. Now that pro basketball is back, the Dolphins take a back seat to the Miami Heat, so hiring a big name is important for marketing the team. Because Peterson is an aggressive recruiter and salesman himself, the Dolphins won’t be shy about going for the big names.

Firing Sparano now also gives Peterson and Ireland a chance to evaluate interim coach Todd Bowles, who had been the secondary coach. According to sources, Bowles had become more involved with the defensive play-calling over the past month. The Dolphins also played their best football over the past month. If Bill Parcells were running a team, sources indicate Bowles would have been a person he considered hiring as head coach.

Another name to watch is Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Peterson reinvented the Chiefs and sold out Arrowhead with Brian’s father, Marty Schottenheimer, as Chiefs head coach.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for

Ferentz or McDaniels in mix for Chiefs?

December, 12, 2011
Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli can’t gamble in trying to come up with the replacement for Todd Haley, who was fired Monday morning as head coach.

That’s why he likely will hire someone he knows. The easiest answer will be the hardest sell. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is a close friend of Pioli’s and would be his first-round draft choice, but Ferentz is reluctant to leave the college ranks. NFL general managers have long believed that Ferentz could be successful in the NFL because he was a former NFL offensive line coach. NFL friends and admirers have taken runs at Ferentz without success for years. Pioli may find the same resistance, so if that doesn’t work, he must have alternatives.

[+] EnlargeJosh McDaniels
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonJosh McDaniels could be a candidate to replace Todd Haley as Kansas City's head coach.
While this may sound strange, the next-best fit would be former Denver Broncos head coach and current St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels failed in two seasons as an NFL head coach, mostly because he was young and was given too much personnel power. In Kansas City, Pioli picks the players. Because he and McDaniels worked with Bill Belichick in New England, the fit couldn’t be better.

When McDaniels was in Denver, one of the first things he thought about was acquiring current Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who took over for an injured Tom Brady and had an 11-5 season in 2008. Once that story became public, though, it ruined his relationship with Jay Cutler, the Broncos’ quarterback at the time. McDaniels ended up trading Cutler to the Bears for Kyle Orton and draft picks.

Hiring McDaniels would reunite him with Cassel and give him a chance to grow the offense. It’s also not out of the question for the Chiefs to re-sign Orton, whom they picked up on a waiver claim.

Getting McDaniels also would allow Pioli to keep Romeo Crennel as his defensive coordinator.

If Pioli can’t sell a McDaniels hire, he might turn to Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien or perhaps Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable, the former Raiders head coach.

Haley was an offensive coordinator who was given a chance at his first head-coaching job. This time, odds favor Pioli hiring a man who has been a head coach before.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for