Free agency doesn’t begin for another month but already, the Miami Dolphins are the media leaders in this years drive for talent. No, the didn’t land a player, the landed a coach. Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan. Yes, it’s already been covered but it’s also still being talked about.
Mike Nolan previously was the Denver Broncos DC but his split from the Bronco’s has reportedly centered around HC Josh McDaniels’ dislike of the constant blitz packages that Nolan liked to use. McDaniels wanted them scaled back and maybe that was a reason for the late season Broncos’ slump.
Prior to that, Nolan was the SF 49’ers HC and the last NFL HC to wear a suit and tie on the sidelines. A throwback to the Tom Landry days and a direct honor to his father, highly respected coach Dick Nolan. The NFL fined Nolan for wearing the suits on gameday and not wearing licensed merchandise instead. Nolan fought it and was allowed to wear the suit only a few times a year.
The Dolphins are sitting in Alabama this week coaching the South team for the Senior Bowl. Joining the Phins staff only a week ago, Mike Nolan is getting a hands-on view of his draft prospects. He and the rest of the staff are pouring over stats behind closed doors, watching eagle-eyed, every snap, hanging on the words coming out of a players mouth, watching, listening, learning. Using every ounce of the information to get a head-start on draft prep.
The NFL Combine is the showcase event for college athletes but it doesn’t showcase a players willingness to practice. It doesn’t show how a player will practice when he is on the field. Doesn’t show his preparedness or how he goes about getting prepared, and it doesn’t show a prospective team whether that player will be respectful and receptive to a coaches criticism. The Senior Bowl, to some extent will. Which is why that teams, regardless of whether they coach the game or not, have staff in Mobile, Al.
The Phins will take a long hard look at the defensive side of the ball thanks to needs on the team, a 26 ranked defense, and the addition of Mike Nolan. Nolan and HC Tony Sparano will look through the garbage and dissect guys like Terrance “Mount” Cody a 345 pound two down NT and the other big NT Dan Williams. Sparano already publicly stated that Cody needs to “shed some pounds” for Sparano’s taste. Don’t buy it.
This however is about Nolan. Nolan comes to Miami with a high-profile and is well respected in the coaching ranks. Still, he won’t have an easy job in Miami but he will have a staff and a GM that will be willing to get him some products to work with. Either through free agency or definitely in the draft. Which makes the Senior Bowl that much more interesting.
Nolan was a gift to the Dolphins after being spurned by both Al Groh who stayed in the college ranks and by Keith Butler who stayed in Pittsburgh to coach the Steelers LB’s. A weekend later and the Dolphins were being hailed rather than scorned. The team that let Nolan go? The Broncos? Well, they themselves are still looking for a defensive coordinator.
Rumored to be a lock destination for former NE Patriot DC Dean Pees, young HC Josh McDaniel, another Bill Belichick offspring, lost Pees to the Baltimore Ravens. Pees will join John Harbaugh to coach to the Raven LB’s. Hmmmm, chance to coach in the “Mile High City” as a DC or coach outside the nation’s capital as Ray Lewis‘ coach?
What it comes down to is this. The Dolphins and Mike Nolan are sitting in Alabama getting first hand looks at prospective athletes while the Broncos are sitting in the stands or talking under the bleachers trying to find their next DC. In a season that hasn’t yet ended, the Dolphins have already got a solid start on the next one. What happens next is up to them.