Jeff Fisher was courted by Carl Peterson yesterday in Miami. He will fly to St. Louis to hear what the Rams have to say and then, if nothing changes, he will make his decision. So Miami, specifically Stephen Ross…waits. While all this was going on yesterday, Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com reported that while Peterson is involved in the Fisher talks, he is not involved in the other coaching interviews.
Speculation from LaCanfora is that if Fisher joins Miami, Peterson will as well and if he doesn’t that Peterson won’t. He pointed out that while Peterson was wining Fisher, Jeff Ireland, who met with Fisher as well, is spearheading the “other” candidates and Peterson is not involved. It appears that Stephen Ross is utilizing Peterson to show stability to a top named coach. It was reported earlier that Peterson was the one who spoke with Jon Gruden.
Unfortunately for Ross, and presumably Peterson, it appears that Fisher may be more inclined to join the Rams. Marvin DeMoff, Fisher’s agent is the father of St. Louis Rams COO, Kevin DeMoff. Having your agent be the father of a possible employer doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a foregone conclusion that Fisher will join the Rams, however, there is no hiding what Miami offered and no reason to believe that the Rams do not already know what that offer is. In addition, the connection between Fisher and both DeMoffs puts Fisher in a position of familiarity, something he would have none of in Miami.
Truth be told, Fisher was rumored to the Rams long before the final game ended last Sunday. The fact that Fisher is no longer, as far as we know, still speaking with the Dolphins only means that the Rams are still in play. It’s time for Stephen Ross to move beyond Jeff Fisher…at least start looking.
The one name that surprises me the most is Brian Billick. Billick has not been mentioned for any of the head coaching vacancies…at least not on the interview schedule level as it were. Billick made clear his intentions a month ago that he would be interested in returning to coaching and made it clear that he did in fact want to. While teams like Miami talk with Fisher and Jacksonville talks with guys named Mularkey, Billick quietly sits and waits. Even in Kansas City they are scheduled to meet with Joe Philbin of Green Bay. Perhaps something in league circles is keeping Billick off the sidelines?
Stephen Ross must tread careful in his approach. Losing Jeff Fisher as his coach isn’t a slam on the franchise and shouldn’t be presented as one. Fisher joining Miami is a long shot as it is. That does not mean that Ross should turn around and hire the first guy that comes through the door. The team is meeting with Dave Toub the special teams coach for the Chicago Bears but that is only doing their due diligence. It is an even longer shot for Toub to join the team as an HC.
Names that have not been mentioned? Rob Chudzinski of Carolina. Pete Carmichael of the Saints. The aforementioned Joe Philbin of Green Bay. The Dolphins are going after the top name on the market but have yet to explore, openly at least, the top names on the first time HC list. The bigger question is will any of them sell tickets?
Miami fans really don’t know where to look for a new HC. The big name guy hasn’t worked out…Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban, Bill Parcells (as football czar). Hot coordinators didn’t work out…Dave Wannstedt and Cam Cameron. Neither did the up and coming line coach from Dallas. So do you go name or do you go nameless?
The thing for Ross to remember here is that a name might sell tickets to kick off the season but winning is the only recipe that will keep them there. Jeff Fisher has the name but six winning seasons in 16 years won’t get him any passes from Miami fans who expect an immediate turnaround. Rob Chudzinski may not sell tickets out of the gate, but give him a young QB to work with, something he has done with Phillip Rivers and Cam Newton and the team could become an offensive elite unit…thus selling seats down the road.
When Stephen Ross was introduced prior to the Dolphins season finale he was booed loudly. He simply hasn’t won over fans on almost any level. His presence seems so much more business than friendship. Wayne Huizenga was a beloved owner and he failed miserably at almost every turn in the coaching decision. Do you want to know how time turns the tide of opinion? Huizenga was loathed early in his ownership career, specifically for the handling of Don Shula with Jimmy Johnson. Then again allowing Dave Wannstedt to toss Dan Marino to the curb. Yet over the years, and dismal seasons, Mr. H. is revered for trying.
Ross has the black-eye of Harbaugh still on his face, yet if he had landed him and Harbaugh turned this team around like he did with the 9′ers, no one would questioning his skill set. This coaching search will not only define Stephen Ross as an owner but will also go a long way in turning the fan base opinion of him around. Make the right choice and the team starts winning and competing and the word “Playoffs” means more than “more time to spend with the family”. If he chooses wrong, the fan backlash will be so soured that he may never get them back.
Imagine if Ross hires a top named coordinator and that coordinator fails. In three years, maybe four, we go through this again and chances are Ross then goes for the top gun big name. Imagine if he goes for the big name now, like Jeff Fisher. In three or four years it’s unlikely that Ross would fire that HC, instead opting to give it one more year. In which case we are right back to square one.
Everyone has an opinion on who should be the next HC but in reality, only Stephen Ross needs to get it right. And he needs to get it right the first time around. That “right” is right now.