First time coaches a big problem for Dolphins


The Miami Dolphins have had coaching problems for so long it’s become a part of their history. Too many first time coaches has led to this issue and it’s a big problem in Miami.

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Since Dave Wannstedt resigned at the bye week in 2004 the Dolphins have not had a single head coach with NFL head coaching experience. Not one. And this is a problem. Does it solve the issues with the team? Of course not. Does it fix the linebacker, offensive line, and secondary issues? Not one single bit. It doesn’t change the culture of the locker room either. But there is something to be said about a coach who has been there and done that.

Following Wannstedt the Dolphins went all in with Nick Saban who has been the most experienced head coach since 2004. Yet he had never coached at the NFL level as a head coach. For time he coached as the defensive coordinator in Cleveland with Bill Belichick. His first head coaching job came with Miami. Saban didn’t fail as much as he quit. The NFL wasn’t for him. He missed recruiting and coaching young men who needed direction not grown men who were already set in their ways. In Miami he had far less control over his players than he did at the college level.

After Saban left the Dolphins went cheap. Cam Cameron was a previous OC but not a head coach. His one and done season vacated the front office and brought in Bill Parcells. Not as the coach. He hired an offensive line coach. Tony Sparano was a lot of things but while in Miami his teams seemed more prepared and tough than they have been since his departure. Obviously his leaving opened the door for Joe Philbin.

All in all the last four head coaches for the Dolphins had a combine ZERO years of experience as an NFL head coach. That has spanned 10 seasons. Think about that, 10 seasons, four different head coaches and two interim head coaches…who for what it’s worth, had no head coaching experience either.

Hiring a fresh face with the right drive is important for any franchise and adding a first time head coach can work, sometimes. More often than not it fails. For the Dolphins to assume that they can hire four consecutive is a bit of risk the Dolphins are paying for now.

With the off-season now two weeks away from being official, the Dolphins will once again head to the coaching pool to look for a new man to run their team. There will be names like Mike Shula on that list. And there will be ones like Hue Jackson and Sean Payton on that list too. Miami has failed in previous attempts to land experienced coaches. Will they fail again this off-season? If the internet rumors are true, Stephen Ross is going to throw a lot of money at someone to make sure that doesn’t happen.

What makes this off-season interesting is the number of first time head coaches that are ready to step up into a bigger role. You can read about twenty coaches, new and experienced here. The thing that makes the Dolphins coaching hires so questionable is who they went after to begin with.

Nick Saban was a no-brainer. It didn’t work out for the Dolphins and hindsight is probably something Wayne Huizenga wishes he could have had at the time of the hiring. Looking at the other three coaches, you have to wonder what the men in charge were thinking. Cam Cameron was an up and coming head coaching candidate. He had been with the San Diego Chargers as their OC for four seasons and it was easy to think he could take the next step. Again, hindsight is always 20/20.

Then came Tony Sparano. This was a Bill Parcells selection and it almost felt as though Parcells wanted a “yes” man in control of the team that he was in control over. Parcells hired Dan Henning to run the offense and Paul Pasqualoni to run the defense. Tony Sparano was the caretaker. He was an offensive line coach with little experience. Jeff Ireland, the hired “GM” had as much experience in his job as Sparano did. None of it worked out and Parcells backed out leaving responsibility for the mess he began on someone elses shoulders.

What is amazing through all of this is the fact that Stephen Ross has hired only one head coach since becoming the owner. Joe Philbin. Philbin wasn’t an up and coming head coach. He was the OC of a fantastic Green Bay team where the game plan and offensive play calling was done by the head coach. Philbin was really another caretaker, an assistant. He was an offensive line coach prior to that.

So here we are again. Another off-season with head coaching in question. Do the Dolphins go after the next big thing or do they go for the retread with fire left in his gut? Do they go with someone older or younger? Hue Jackson has been there. He coached the Raiders in a horrible situation one worse than Miami’s and he failed. He learned. He moved on. And now he is ready for another shot. He is a perfect fit for what the Dolphins want to do. But will he want to come to the Dolphins  and work for an organization whose front office appears to the public as a train wreck?

Sean Payton gets a lot of mention as well but Payton is under contract and if the Dolphins trade draft picks for a coach who really has already won the Super Bowl and may not have that same drive for success and no Drew Brees, would he want to come to Miami with a shortage of draft picks? Would he want to come to a team who has so many holes to fill and not enough cap space to fill them?

If the experienced coaches want back in, they may find Miami a tough sell simply because there is too many questions surrounding the team. This leads to an inexperienced coach who may not have the knowledge to build the team. Thus setting it back further.

The Dolphins off-season is going to be a critical one from coaching search to a possible GM search to player contracts and so on. It has the potential to be one of the busiest off-season in team history and one that needs to be done right. If not, this same off-season will repeat in another three seasons.