Monday, January 2, 2012
Dolphins begin coach search
ESPN.com news services
MIAMI -- Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland began the team's search for a head coach Monday by interviewing Todd Bowles, who was interim coach for the final three games after Tony Sparano was fired.
"Steve Ross and I have a plan in place that is designated to ensure that we identify and interview an outstanding set of candidates for the head coaching position," Ireland said in a statement. "That search has begun and there is no designated timetable. ... Steve and I are excited to embark on this process, and we are confident that it will result in the selection of an outstanding individual who will return the Dolphins to their longtime status as one of the most successful teams in the league."
Next on the Dolphins' list after Bowles is former Titans coach Jeff Fisher. One league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter that Fisher will interview for the position within the next 24 to 48 hours.
Miami will also talk to Chicago Bears special teams coordinator Dave Toub, a league source confirmed to ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson, and the New York Daily News reported the Dolphins are interested in interviewing New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.
An original hire of Bears head coach Lovie Smith in 2004, Toub's special teams units annually rank near the top of the NFL.
"Dave has been here every day that I've been here, so I think it's pretty safe to say that I kind of like what he does and he likes it around here," Smith said Monday. "But in the same sense I know that Dave has goals too that he would like to get accomplished. And every coach on our staff, especially coaches who have been on the staff for eight years, you would like to see them take another step. I know one of the things Dave would like to do is someday be a head football coach and hopefully he has that opportunity some day."
The Dolphins would prefer to hire someone with NFL head-coaching experience, such as Fisher, who coached the Oilers and Titans for 17 years and led them to a Super Bowl. Ross is drawn to celebrities and apparently willing to spend big, but competition will be stiff thanks to a slew of vacancies around the league, including all three Florida teams.
The status of the franchise has also declined dramatically in recent years. The Dolphins have reached the playoffs only once in the past decade, and they've endured three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the 1960s.
This season Miami lost its first seven games, then played much better and beat the New York Jets on Sunday to finish 6-10.
"Our ultimate goal was to make it into the playoffs and make some noise there, so that's disappointing," Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall said. "Hopefully we can take some of this momentum we've had in this second half and run into next year flying."
Some situations are more appealing than the Dolphins, who have been plagued by instability. The next coach will be Miami's seventh since the start of the 2004 season.
The ongoing search for a franchise quarterback is another issue. Newcomer Matt Moore played well after Chad Henne was sidelined by a season-ending right shoulder injury, but with a top-10 pick in the April draft, Miami will be tempted to draft a QB.
Henne, a free agent this offseason, said Monday his shoulder is healing well and he would like to remain with the Dolphins. Given Moore's emergence, that's unlikely.
"I love being down here, and hopefully I get another opportunity," Henne said. "If not, I'll try my luck elsewhere. Obviously I want to be a starter, and I feel I can be in this league."
Heading for retirement is NFL active sack leader Jason Taylor, who decided to call it quits rather than try to break in yet another new coach. Among those certain to return is Reggie Bush, who reached the 1,000-yard rushing milestone for the first time in his first season with Miami.
The Dolphins had trouble with pass protection and pass coverage. Blowing late leads and losing close games became bad habits. Those issues will all be addressed by a new coach, but Bush believes the team needs only few tweaks, not major renovations.
"The chemistry is there. The foundation is laid out," Bush said. "I think whatever coach they bring in will fit right in, and I think we'll be fine."
Information from ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson and The Associated Press was used in this report.