The Miami Dolphins have an interim head coach for the first time since 2004 when Dave Wannstedt quit mid-way through his four win season. Tony Sparano will take the remaining portions of his contract into the off-season until the job offers come his way. He is the first to fall in Miami but won’t be the last. From top to bottom, a coaching shake-up is on the way.
Interim head coach Todd Bowles is a Dallas man brought in by the Bill Parcells, Jeff Ireland, and Tony Sparano regime. He will be gone at seasons end shortly after the next head coach is named. Brian Daboll was hired this past off-season and despite a more charismatic and exciting offense, he too will be looking for work. On the defensive side of the ball, has shouldered quite a bit of blame for the slow 2011 start and it’s more than likely enough to see him seeking employment elsewhere.
It was reported at the end of last season that Nolan had requested out of his contract, he was denied. With a new head coach on the way, it has to be expected that Nolan will get his wish in 2012. From the DC to the OC to the AHC, it will trickle down. New coaches bring their own camps. They bring their own playbooks and philosophies. Doesn’t matter if you are a seasoned coach like a Jon Gruden or a Bill Cowher or a new up and coming coach like a Rob Chudzinski. If you are going to fall on the sword you do it with the people you trust.
It’s the guys at the bottom that have the best chance at retention. The guys who coach positions or assist with those coaches. They are the young coaches in the league, still impressionable, still able to mold into the likes of that coach. Plus they have the pulse of the players and can assist the new coaches with the idiosyncrasies of the players themselves. They are the names you don’t know now and won’t know next year.
As the ball rolls downhill, players too will find themselves looking for work unexpectedly. For the Miami Dolphins players of 2011, the last three games is officially a tryout for next year. What will happen to guys like Paul Solia and his franchise contract of 12 million? Will the next Miami Dolphins run a 3/4 defense? Will they run a 4/3 or a hybrid of the two? It is notable because big contract players could be on the outs if they don’t fit that system.
As fans, and as media covering the team, we all tend to look at the coaching vacancy and legitimately ask who will fill it, but that’s narrow minded thinking. The bigger picture is much more interesting. The Dolphins may end up being another 4-9 team next year at this point but they will be different in most other regards. The style of offense is set to change and if Stephen Ross has any say, he will be convinced by the interviewee who describes his all out “exciting” attack on opposing defenses.
A lot can be said about Stephen Ross but he has invested stadium money into the stadium to make the game day experience for the fan the best it can be. He trusted the product on the field to guys named Bill Parcells and Tony Sparano and now will step in to put fans back into the Sun-Life Stadium seating. Apparently Ireland is not responsible for the mess on that side of the business. He will return.
The Dolphins will enter the off-season in search of answers and solutions and hope that in the process they can leave the questions behind them. Unfortunately that won’t be the case until the team takes the field in September of 2012 for their first game in that new direction. What happened on Monday was simply the first change to fall on the Miami Dolphins. The biggest changes are yet to come.