The Miami Dolphins are in search of a new head coach. I know, it’s so yesterday’s news already. Over the next few weeks, we will take a look at the coaching candidates that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross will have to sift through to find the thumbprint coach that will put Ross’ name on the franchise. From the college ranks to the studio coaches and from the studio to the sidelines where up and coming coordinators patrol, the next Miami Dolphins head coach is out there.
It rings like a reality show. Ross and his affliction to the celebrity lifestyle may want to consider a “Survivor” type audition. I kid of course. What is not out of the realm of possibilities is that the HBO returning series, “Hard Knocks” may very well make a play in Miami this off-season. No, no rumors or little birds sitting on my shoulder, just a feeling. The task for Stephen Ross is far more than just looking for a coach to turn the franchise from doormat to perennial contender. This is his first move to put his stamp o the team.
With the decision to keep Jeff Ireland…for now (no NFL team fires their GM in the middle of the season), Ross has turned the team from the one he inherited to his own. With a growing list of candidates, Ross will turn to Ireland and close personal friend Carl Peterson to help make that decision easier. Today, we start with the big rumored candidate. Brian Billick.
Brian Billick was, until recently, an under the radar candidate. Lost behind names like Fisher, Cowher, and Gruden. In the eyes of Ross, he still may be. That hasn’t stopped the flow of information and speculation coming from the media. In particular, NFL Networks Mike Mayock who predicted last night that Billick will be the next head coach of the Dolphins. In addition, while other candidates are quietly sitting back and waiting, Billick himself may have thrown his own hat into the ring.
Speaking on the NFL Network earlier this week, Billick was asked if anyone had contacted him regarding their open positions. He denied having contact with anyone but it was clear that he would love to get back into coaching and that Miami is a premier franchise. Something he offered in another interview yesterday. The remarks he made on NFLN seemed more towards Stephen Ross than a general Q&A session.
Billick spoke about the new NFL being a “General Manager league” and that coaches needed to have a very good relationship with the GM. That the two needed to work together with a common goal and a clear plan. He called it a marriage. Clearly it was an offering to both Ross and Ireland that there was interest. Is Billick the right guy? That is a question that remains and won’t come with an easy answer.
Why Brian Billick would fit with the Dolphins:
Billick worked very closely with another young GM in Ozzy Newsome while with Baltimore. He understands the relationship between GM and HC and if Ross does truly intend to keep Jeff Ireland, having a coach who knows how to work closely within that structure will bode well for maintaining continuity. Nothing will put a team down quicker than a coach and GM who can’t and won’t see eye to eye or work to realize that goal. It could be argued that Sparano and Ireland fell into that latter category.
Despite the fact that Billicks‘ Baltimore Ravens were known for their vaunted NFL leading defense, the reality is that Billick himself is an offensive minded coach. He served as the Minnesota Vikings OC for several years and led the Vikings to a then record offensive NFL season. His transition to Baltimore, offensively, wasn’t as easy. Yet he won a Super Bowl with a much inferior QB, riding the coattails of his defense.
Billick was fired from the Ravens after posting a 5-11 season that came on the heels of an NFL leading 13-3 record the year before. Billick immediately went into the broadcasters booth and has been there since. Four years removed from coaching. Billick possesses a natural ability to lead and motivate. He is meticulous in his preparation and that transfers onto the field.
Billick is a coach who immediately commands respect from his players. He is fair and unwavering at the same time. In Miami, he would find the right coaches to turn the Dolphins talented defense into one of the best in the league, the Baltimore Ravens current defense still has Billicks’ print on it. Offensively, his ability to open up an offense would give the Dolphins a new look and deploy a combination of power running with a downfield threat as well.
Billick is also used to coaching winners. He knows how to coach against them as well. His annual foes? The Pittsburgh Steelers twice a year and dates with Indianapolis and New England in the playoffs. Billick is a winner and he can win with less than stellar talent. Miami may pose the best opportunity for him to get a top rated blue chip QB, something he never had in Baltimore. In addition, his ability to motivate his team could turn the Dolphins around quickly.
Will Billick sell seats?
This is a big question. The Dolphins need a coach who will not only inspire and motivate the players into a winning mentality but he needs to motivate the fans back into the seats to support the team. Billick won’t command the same reaction as a Bill Cowher. Ticket sales won’t go through the roof if he is hired but they should increase. The real question becomes will his name alone bring non-season ticket holding fans to the gates on Sunday’s? For Billick, that will depend on whether or not the team finds a QB to go with him. Billick alone won’t bring them in until the team starts to win underneath him.
Why Billick should not be the next Miami head coach.
In Baltimore, the team never was able to turn the corner offensively but not for a lack of trying. Under Billick the team failed to land a franchise QB, something that Dolphins fans are all too familiar with. Derek Anderson was taken in the 6th round and didn’t make the team. They drafted Kyle Boller and Chris Redman as well as Troy Smith. Other names that started at the position for the Ravens, Elvis Grbac, Randall Cunningham, Trent Dilfer, and Steve McNair. In Miami, that is something that Dolphins fans will not wait around to develop.
No NFL coach in history has won a Super Bowl with two different teams. Not Don Shula, not Bill Parcells, and not anyone else. Billick has won his Super Bowl, defeating the NY Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. Billick may possess the desire to coach again but it’s questionable if that fire still lingers to truly drive him to the Super Bowl. Some would argue that Billick still has business left unfinished and that he shouldn’t have been fired following the 5-11 season. Still, very few coaches or players continue to hold the same desire and drive to win it all once they have won it the first time. Sure, they want to win it, it’s why the play or coach, but there is a deep guttural desire, almost primal, when you are pursuing something you haven’t had.
Billick was never able to turn his offense into a juggernaut, something that in the AFC East is a must when contending with New England. In Baltimore he never reached the same success he had in Minnesota. In Miami, fans don’t want a grind it out offense that eats up clock, they want an offense that will put a lot of points on the board. Is Billick going to be able to return to what he did with the Vikings or utilize a team more in line with his Baltimore days?
Jeff Ireland is a big question here as well and how he and Billick would work together is a big factor. No one knows for sure yet what Ireland’s view of the Miami Dolphins is and what kind of team it should be but he has displayed the desire to get players in at key positions that would make the offense better, straying from the Bill Parcells mode of operation. It could bode well for a guy like Brian Billick who knows how to make an average offense good and a good offense great (in Minnesota).
Billick is 85-67 in nine years as a head coach in the NFL. 5 and 3 in the playoffs with one Super Bowl victory. On the surface, Billick seems like he could be a solid choice for the Dolphins but approaching 60 years of age, how much longer does he want to grind out 80 hour work weeks? Billick, on the surface, does not appear to be one of those coaches who will up and leave if the team isn’t turned around. He comes with a far less boisterous ego than say a Jon Gruden. His ego is that he knows he can coach and has confidence in himself.
Billick may be one of the better coaching candidates for the Dolphins. He may not bring them to a Super Bowl but he can turn the attitude of the team from losing to winning and make them very tough mentally and physically. Billick isn’t a guy who accepts mediocrity or poor play and he won’t be a coach who make mental errors on the sidelines either. Something that a young first time HC will do.
Another benefit with Billick is that fans won’t have the same expectations as they will for a guy like Bill Cowher who can only succeed by taking the team to the big game. Billick will have the time to build the team from where it is now into something much better without overhauling the entire organization.
Is he the best choice? Probably not. Is he the worst choice? Far from it.