Can Dolphins Cambpell change coaching staff?


The question of this upcoming Miami Dolphins off-season has centered on the search or possible search for a new head coach. Fan polls have shown a large group of supporters for Dan Campbell to retain that job. If Campbell is hired as the full-time coach at season’s end, other questions will begin to be added to the equation and none of those questions are greater than those that concern his coaching staff.

Campbell has done a really good job at getting this team turned around. Yes, they are still 3-2 under Campbell and yes they were blown out by New England and Buffalo but the Dolphins are playing stronger, more physical, and they look far more prepared for their opponents. To be honest, the first four weeks of the season looked as though the Dolphins were playing in pre-season contests with no game planning of any kind.

In the last five games the Dolphins have looked like they were prepped to play the team they have been facing. Even the blowout loss to New England didn’t fully get away from the team until the 4th quarter and only after the defense started to break down and the offense became sluggish. Until that quarter the Dolphins were in reasonable distance to keep the game close or even perhaps come back and win.

Campbell is an exceptional motivator and the players love his attitude. The team respects his coaching approach where he letting the players make plays and use their talents instead of relying solely on a system that doesn’t always function. An issue clearly seen defensively against the run and with Ndamukong Suh’s performance through the first few weeks.

What Campbell lacks however is experience. That experience could be a problem at season’s end if he is retained. For the rest of this article we are going to jump forward in time and go under the assumption that Campbell is hired as the full-time coach and the interim tag is removed.

Campbell faces a lot of new issues in front of him. The first thing he needs to do is change the coaching staff. We will start on the offensive side of the ball.

Bill Lazor has proven one thing if nothing else, he isn’t ready to be an offensive coordinator. Lazor has called some very good games but they are far too inconsistent. His biggest problem is that he is not innovative. Offenses need to evolve and yet the Dolphins offense isn’t. Many want to blame Tannehill or even the offensive line and to some degree that would be fair in both situations but those problems only tend to mask the larger one. The play calling.

Good coaches, not average coaches but good coaches, work to the strengths of the players they have on the roster. Lazor expects his players to elevate to his play calling. If the offensive line can’t pass protect, then you roll your quarterback out and create space and throwing lanes. If they can’t run block, you use your quarterback’s ability to run to open the running game. Instead, we see Tannehill in the pocket and we see him stay there most of the time.

On defense we see less of an issue only because Lou Anarumo is new to the job himself. Yet we are seeing the players being put into better position to make plays and there is a definite lack of talented depth on that side of the ball. Despite this, the defense has improved in many areas compared to the first four weeks. It makes you wonder if better talent at key positions like linebacker and cornerback would make a difference. The same can not be said on offense where talent and depth at every position but the offensive line is good.

More from Dolphins News

Campbell is going to be faced with the challenge of fixing both sides of the ball. It may only be a matter of new defensive players that would make the defense great. In that case you could argue that Anarumo should be considered for the job in 2016. Offensively that isn’t the case and Campbell is going to have to make a decision on Lazor’s future.

When a new head coach is hired it goes without saying that there will almost certainly be new assistant coaches. These coaches tend to pull from a wide range of coaching talents that inevitably come from previous experience with those coaches. In Campbell’s case he has none. Not one. Campbell is in a rare position here. He can’t pick up his phone and call a former coach he worked with because they are all pretty much still on the team now so if he decides to make changes to his staff, where is his pool of options?

A big talent that will be discussed at season’s end is former Lions head coach and Bills defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. Schwartz apparently turned down an offer from the team when Campbell was hired. It was reported then that his desire is to become a head coach again. Would the Dolphins try to get Schwartz to Miami if Schwartz isn’t hired as a head coach at season’s end? Would Schwartz accept?

While Schwartz is intriguing it’s not as glaring a need on defense given the teams play recently under Anarumo. Offensively it’s a different story. Lazor isn’t cutting it and while many, including myself believed that Lazor was strapped by Joe Philbin, he isn’t any longer and the offense still isn’t progressing under this system. Again, where does Campbell turn to fix that if Lazor is let go at season’s end?

Internally the Dolphins don’t have any up and coming coaching candidates that could be promoted. If Campbell opted to stay in-house I’m not sure which coach would be the right coach. Perhaps he can put Al Saunders in that position. It may be his only option. It will be very difficult to get a solid OC in Miami. But there is good news.

If Campbell does enough to keep the job in 2016 it will be because the team is performing well enough to make that happen. In the NFL coaches are always looking for advancement and Campbell is a very likeable person and coach and the fact that he will more than likely allow his coaches full reign over the units could go a long way in luring a top or up and coming coach to Miami to fill holes.

A key for Campbell, should he stay, is the Senior Bowl where he will have his first chance to really talk with other coaching prospects that could fill his staff. Remember this is not his staff, it’s Joe Philbin’s. How well he can impress others could determine who comes to Miami and fills what positions. Regardless it will be a tough task and he will need to make decisions on the current coaching staff before he moves forward seeking others.

It can be done, how well it can be done is another issue. Of course Campbell does have Mike Tannenbaum who has a lot of NFL connections with coaches so it’s very likely that Tannenbaum will play an integral part in what happens to this coaching staff if changes are made. It’s still a little ways away but it’s something that Campbell will need to deal with. If of course he is retained.