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The breakdown of the Dolphins coaching seach

The Dolphins are quietly conducting a coaching search.

The club has made no public move to cement the future of their football operations but that does not mean things are stagnant behind the scenes, as ownership has already contacted two potential coaching candidates, according to multiple NFL sources.

The Dolphins in recent days reached out to former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher to gauge his interest in becoming the coach, according to a source close to Cowher. But the team's conversations with Cowher included a scenario in which he would have final say over the organization but also retain general manager Jeff Ireland and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.

Cowher, apparently not comfortable with that setup because he wants autonomy over assistants, personnel and the hiring of a GM, has backed away from the Miami job at this time as a result. He is out of the Miami picture at this moment but that remains a fluid situation.

Another source indicated this morning that the Dolphins have made initial and preliminary contact with Jim Harbaugh's camp and that more conversations are expected in the coming hours and possibly days with the Stanford coach. Harbaugh, who authored Stanford's 12-1 season and their 40-12 defeat of Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl, has been in South Florida for over a week.

The Dolphins have had no official meetings or talks with Harbaugh per se. But having such discussions is apparently the plan, a source said. The story was first reported by NFL.com.

There is no certainty that Harbaugh will be hired by Miami, however.

He is perhaps the hottest college coach in the nation now and his pro-style offense is appealing to any NFL team looking to upgrade on offense -- a description the Dolphins fit. But that makes Harbaugh a candidate for jobs in San Francisco and Denver and at his alma mater, Michigan.

The 49ers are an apparent quality of life fit because they are 21 miles from Harbaugh's current address. But the 49ers seem intent on completing the hiring of a general manager first so that may hinder their attempt to land Harbaugh.

The Broncos are now guided, in part, by former quaterback John Elway, a Stanford graduate. Like a contingent of Dolphins employees, Elway was also on hand Monday night as Harbaugh's team did its work against Virginia Tech.

Michigan is a fit because Harbaugh played there and was a candidate for the job in 2002. But Harbaugh didn't land the Michigan job that year so his allegiance to the Wolverines may not be as solid as it once was. Ironically, Ross is a Michigan alumnus and major contributor but could be the reason Michigan doesn't land its prized candidate.

Harbaugh seems to fit what Ross apparently is searching for -- a name-coach that promises offensive fireworks that excites fans. But chasing Harbaugh is not without difficulty in that he would also have to agree to work with Ireland and keep Nolan, whom Ross seems intent on keeping at this point.

Two other possibilities are Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden.

The Tennessee head coach has not been told by owner Bud Adams if he will be retained or fired. If he is fired, Fisher is a respected name that could attract Ross. The situation in Tennessee has no timetable for finding resolution.

Gruden, working for ESPN on their Monday Night Football broadcasts, is perhaps the most expensive candidate on the market. Because he is scheduled to be paid $5 million by Tampa Bay in 2011 and makes approximately $2 million from ESPN, he would be looking for a deal that could exceed $8 million. It is also not known if Gruden would be willing to work with Ireland.

And all the time, the Dolphins are keeping current coach Tony Sparano on hold. It is now clear he is the fall-back position.

While Sparano is still on the job, the team is also conducting a search.

Ownership is seeking what it believes is an upgrade. And failing to find one, will bring Sparano back for his fourth season as Miami's coach. His record in three seasons is 25-23 with a playoff appearance in 2008 and back-to-back 7-9 records the past two seasons.


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Heck, why not go ahead and reach out to Don Shula while we're at it. Maybe that will take care of the "curse" that seems to surround this team. ( I'm kidding, of course ), but I think it'd be cool if he ever did want to coach again. That would put some butts back in the seats.


First of all we're not buddies. Second of all Joe went all nuts on me last night. The simple question I asked him, after he criticized Sparano for messing up the offence for straight years was 'how did they improve the offence last off-season'. He starts going on about Pat White, and Turner and Harline. He didn't answer the question. That was the year before. I was making the point that you can't blame them for messing up the offence because they didn't address it last offseason. They brought in Marshall, and Jerry and Berger was supposed to be backup. White and anybody else he talked about had nothing to do with last off-season.

Posted by: Craig M | January 04, 2011 at 06:36 PM

This contuines to show why you are a mopron. Not only did I address the Marshall trade & the o-line rebuild IN 4 RESPONSES TO YOU, I made note of the 2009 crew as well. You miss EVERYTHING. I even posted the convo in this thread you tool! LMAO Opinions aside Craigy, yo're blind as a bat & dumber than a 2x4. I could care less about your opinions. You seriously need therapy & prescription glasses.

As for your opinion, you can blindly continue to ignore the fact that they have tried to retool the offense every year LMAO

I think Harbaugh is the best choice.
I certainly don't think Cowher, Gruden, or any other head coach is better then Sparano.
Harbaugh brings a young perspective to the team, which may be just what the Dolphins need.
Shula was the youngest coach, when Joe Robbie

I agree with most of the sentiment here. Let Cowher decide what GM he wants. Ireland may have helped improve the defense, but I honestly give Mike Nolan most of that credit. I can see fighting to retain Nolan, but Ireland? PLEASE TELL ME THIS ISN'T GOING TO BE THE REASON WE MISS AN UPGRADE AT HEAD COACH!

I agree with the last write in... Parcells is a bum. Ireland seems like a "patsy" for Parcells. Tony is an offensive line coach, and after seeing this offensive line, i just don't know. Definitely get rid of the whole Parcells regime. Was a big mistake. Pat White, etc. Pay the money and get Cowher or Gruden to overhaul. Nolan can stay. Harbaugh has a great defensive coordinator in Fagio. Need someone that can draft talent. Fish have been a disaster in the draft.

>since no one believes you can get a good QB after the 5th pick).
Correction. One person, me.

I've read many comments and most of you have strong arguments about who should coach the Dolphins in 2011. As a diehard Fins fan for the past 33 yrs, I have never seen the Fins quit until this year- I watched every game and that Lions game was bad, but the Pats game was even worse. Tony Sparano must be fired yesterday and I think the best coach for the long-run is Harbaugh. He's a fiery, offensive minded coach- will fit well with Nolan. Second choice is more mediocrity. We have to re-rebuild and pay Harbaugh well- he is the best choice.

Diehard Dolfan Mick, every coach after Shula has been a quitter!!!! This current team DID quit on their coach in spite of their accolades. Harbaugh can be molded and forced to accept Ireland and Nolan. I think, (my stupid opinion) fire Sparano and Ireland. They and the Parcells experiment has failed! Hire Cowher, let him pick his GM and the rest of his crew. That way you can hold one man accountable. Otherwise you have the issue,
"Well, I'm the HC, but you picked the GM and he picked the draft and you picked the DC and he's not getting the defense together.... etc. You get Cowher, let him run the show and hold one man accountable. This is a multi-year project!!!! Just my opinion....

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