« December 2011 | Main | February 2012 »

72 posts from January 2012

January 17, 2012

Dolphins onto second round interviews

The Dolphins are making progress in their effort to hire a head coach -- at least they seem closer to getting there.

The club yesterday made the pivot away from some candidates and is "on to the second round" of interviews, I've been told by the club.

I am looking for confirmation this means no new candidates will be added to the current pool although I believe that to be the case. I have been told several candidates have been cut from the process -- one of them being Chicago Bears special teams coach Dave Toub, who was the first candidate to interview for the job.

Toub was told Monday he was no longer being considered for the job. He re-signed with the Bears today.

An NFL source tells me Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has also been cut from consideration.

So what does this mean?

It means the next Dolphins coach will be selected among the following group: Todd Bowles, Joe Philbin, and Mike McCoy.

Philbin, the Green Bay offensive coordinator, will interview again on Wednesday. McCoy, the Broncos offensive coordinator, will interview again Thursday. I am trying to confirm when Bowles will get his second interview, assuming it is not happening today.

[UPDATE: I should have mentioned this earlier, but Philbin is clearly eager to have the job. There were questions about his emtional state following the drowning death of his 21-year-old son last week. There were questions whether Philbin would be willing to relocate his family. He is willing to relocate his family, a source close to Philbin told me.]

All the interviews will be in New York, where owner Stephen Ross is spending the next couple of days.

Falcons hire Nolan as new defensive coordinator

Mike Nolan has been hired as the Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator, the NFL team said moments ago.

Nolan leaves the Dolphins after two seasons as their defensive coordinator.

Nolan's defense was sixth in the NFL in fewest points allowed in 2011 after finishing 14th in the category in 2010. The move obviously leaves the Dolphins without a defensive coordinator even as the team is continuing to search for a head coach.

Yes, the coaching talent is leaking in Miami.

Nolan is a very good coach. The only way this is not viewed as a significant loss is if the Dolphins hire a defensive minded head coach such as Mike Zimmer. Zimmer, the current Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator, would run the 4-3 defense if he comes to Miami.

The Dolphins are and have been a 3-4 defense under Nolan.

The Falcons have been a 4-3 defense.

If the Dolphins, however, hire say Mike McCoy as their head coach, this is clearly a loss for the franchise. Yes, it will be painted as McCoy, an offensive coach, should get the right to hire his own staff. But let's face it, no one McCoy gets is going to be as experienced as Nolan and probably won't be as good.

I'm not, however, surprised Nolan is gone. He was disappointed the Dolphins didn't at least interview him for the vacant head coach job after Jeff Fisher turned the team down. The man has pride.

The argument could easily be made Nolan has more credentials than several of the assistant coaches the Dolphins have interviewed for the head coach vacancy.

The absence of a good QB option hurts on field, off

Jimmy Johnson wanted to get back into coaching in 1996 and he wanted to do it in Florida so he looked around the landscape of possible jobs and weighed the Tampa Bay Bucs and Miami Dolphins. In Tampa, he had more cap room, a budding great defense with youngsters Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, and the promise of a new stadium.

In Miami, Johnson saw Dan Marino.

Johnson picked the Dolphins. And he did it primarily because he believed Marino could get him to the Super Bowl quicker than anyone on the Tampa roster playing quarterback at the time could. Johnson figured he could build a team around the quarterback easier than find the quarterback to build the team around.

Yes, he was wrong because Marino would soon begin his decline.

But a team's quarterback situation was important for more than one reason all the way back then -- even before the NFL became a lubricated lightning strike league where teams can score four touchdowns in four minutes of playoff action as New Orleans and San Francisco did last weekend.

Fast forward to 2011. The Dolphins lost out on hiring Jeff FIsher a few days ago. And on Monday there was this in Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column in Sports Illustrated quoting Fisher:

"From day one, when I began this process after the season, I felt Miami and St. Louis were my best options. I did my research. I looked at every team that had an opening. I looked at the personnel on each team, I looked at the owners, I looked at the cap situations, and I narrowed it to two. Not Marvin. Me. Marvin didn't push me. I am convinced he was completely objective.''

Fisher went on to say at the start of the process he was interested in a team that had a good owner and good quarterback, and he felt St. Louis had the best combination of both.

I'm not going to replay the Fisher fiasco. That's done.

But the lesson from that missed opportunity is that aside from hurting the team on the field, aside from keeping the team perpetually playing a secondary role to NFL teams that do have quarterbacks, the Dolphins decade-long inability to land even a good quarterback has come to roost off the field as well.

We've seen glimpses of how the QB situation has driven the direction of the franchise before.

Nick Saban quit after 2006 when he realized he made a terrible mistake in his chase of a quarterback and that mistake was probably irreparable, thus killing his chances to win soon, thus making life in the NFL miserable.

The 2004 Dolphins were terrible because Ricky Williams quit days before the season, that is true. But if they had a great quarterback instead of the terrible Jay Fielder-A.J. Feeley competition that was never settled, they might have overcome the disaster of that season.

The one season the Dolphins did kinda sorta solve their QB woes -- 2008 -- also gave the team its most successful season in years. Chad Pennington was great and the club won the AFC East.

Knowing this history, knowing how the quarterback situation has repurcussions on and off the field, how can anyone rightly say that the status quo is good enough?

It is not.


January 16, 2012

Judge the information with a grain of salt

Don't believe everything you read. Don't believe this blog, the websites, the pundits or so-called insiders on ESPN, NFL Network or other networks, either. Take it all in with a grain of salt when it comes to this Dolphins coaching search.


If you've been paying attention you've noticed a lot of good people have been feeding you a lot of bad information.

At this time last week, the NFL Network had a report up all day that Jeff Fisher was about to take the Dolphins coaching job. How'd that work out? I was told Fisher would decide by last Wednesday, but he didn't come in with a decision until Thursday. (The decision was leaked Friday.) Other local publications have been off the reservation as well, with one reporting Fisher never spoke to the Dolphins once his decision was made.

In truth, he called Jeff Ireland personally and told the Miami general manager he wasn't coming.

And then this: Over the weekend every network reported one candidate or another had a great interview with Miami. ESPN and FOX have said Joe Philbin wowed the Dolphins. NFL Network said Mike Zimmer blew the team away.

If these guys were so awesome, how come the interview process continues, with Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on the interview schedule within the next couple of days? How come the team still wanted to hire Jeff FIsher?

All I'm saying is this so-called inside information comes from one of a couple of sources: the agents representing the coaches -- the ones the Dolphins tell not to speak to the media -- or Jeff Ireland or one of his Dolphins minions. All of them have an agenda. The agents want to drum up good tidings for their clients. Ireland and the Dolphins want to make it seem like this search is going exactly as planned without hiccups and that all the candidates they've indentified are the most incredible leaders since Patton.

The truth is all the candidates the Dolphins have so far interviewed either didn't make the playoffs or got bounced from the playoffs by teams and coaches staff that apparently did better work. No one on any of the NFL's top four teams -- New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots or Baltimore Ravens -- has interviewed for the Miami coaching job.

Think about that: Those four are the NFL's best teams this year as defined by the fact they have reached the furthest point in the season still alive for a Super Bowl title. And not one coach on those most successful teams has been reported to be on Miami's radar. Amazing.

Meanwhile, reports that defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is bound for one place or another have to be met with a grain of salt, too. Nolan is indeed a valuable coach. And he is on the radar in New Orleans and Atlanta. But he's valuable in Miami as well. And he's under contract. And no one is asking to interview him for a head coach vacancy.

So the Dolphins can hold him back until they are certain he will or won't be on their staff. If the Dolphins give the job to an offensive coach such as say, a Philbin or McCoy, the chances are good they'd like to retain Nolan. If Zimmer, a defensive coach who likes the 4-3 and not the 3-4, gets the job, the chances are Nolan will go elsewhere.

The only caveat to Nolan staying is his state of disappointment over not being interviewed for the Dolphins head coaching job. I hear Nolan is not too happy about the apparent snub. And so the Dolphins might be forced to let him go because no one wants an unhappy employee.

But I doubt the Dolphins are so dumb as to allow Nolan to cruise on down the road without them first knowing which direction they're going. So as to the reports Nolan is on the radar in New Orleans and could be hired soon ...

Take the information in but judge it by what you see. Plus, I still believe his more likely landing spot is Atlanta.

January 15, 2012

On Tebow, believing and beating Tom Brady

I covered the playoff game between the Broncos and Patriots Saturday and while this is a Dolphins blog, allow me to discuss with you something we rarely get to talk about on a Dolphins blog -- the playoffs.

Coming out of the thumping of the Broncos by the Patriots it's clear to me that while Tom Brady continues to play at his current level, the Dolphins have little chance of winning the AFC East unless they find their own franchise quarterback. I'm not talking about finding a nice quarterback or a fair quarterback or caretaker. I'm talking a Top 10 QB is necessary for Miami to compete with the Patriots.

Otherwise Miami is merely playing for second place in the division.

Coming out of that game, it struck me as odd one comment I heard in the press box from a journalist. Mocking the fact the Broncos were getting shredded, he turned to another writer and asked mockingly, "Where's Tim Tebow's God tonight?

Obviously, Tebow is a man of faith and he delivered an impassioned speech to his teammates before the game that was taken straight out of the Bible. It didn't work.

But does that diminish the power of faith?

I say not.

I say without faith we have nothing.

Now, some people put their faith in God. Some people put their faith in their abilities. Some put their faith in the greater group, as Vince Wilfork said following the game. But faith was at work all over the field last night.

Believing is important is important in sports. You cannot succeed unless you do not believe.

Today on Sportscenter the analysts discussed Tebow's future. It was interesting to hear their take -- even known Tebow hater Merrill Hoge who clearly has allowed his dislike of Tebow's game to blind his analysis.

The topic that came up was whether Tebow be the Broncos QB going forward. Tom Jackson made a troubling statement about Tebow when he wondered aloud if "Tebow's fansbase" would allow Denver President John Elway to make a change.

"Tebow's fanbase," seems odd phrasing to me. It makes the group sound like some cult or something. It makes them sound like drones that approve of everything Tebow does regardless of those actions. 

I'm a Tebow fan. I make no apologies for that because I like his approach off the field and appreciate his winning ways on the field. I identify with the fact Tebow's unorthodox. I love that he's gritty. And after he took a 1-4 team and helped it get in the playoffs, I cannot deny he wins.

But I'm not blind and I don't think "Tebow's fansbase" is blind. I'm not the spokesman for that fanbase, but allow me to tell you what I think Tebow's fanbase will allow, Tom Jackson:

They'll allow a legitimate quarterback competition for the right to start.

They'll allow the winner of that competition to have as much support as possible.

They'll allow for the idea that Tebow's mechanics are not very good, but mechanics can change and improve with coaching -- just ask Aaron Rodgers -- and in a lockout offseason, Tebow didn't get that coaching.

Tebow's fanbase understands that the guy they root for is not a complete player. But he's only 16 games into his NFL career. That's a bit early to throw up your hands and say, "Tebow's got no chance to improve, or Tebow absolutely positively cannot be a good NFL quarterback."

The statement is idiotic.

Perhaps you disagree. That's fine. It's America. But if you disagree, tell me how it is Drew Brees got two years of struggles knowing he would never be taller than 6-foot and a national outcry didn't ensue. Tell me how it is Mark Sanchez was awful his rookie season but the folks in New York thought him capable of improving because he went to the playoffs with his team?

No one said Sanchez needed to go after that terrible first full season as a starter. How is it that Tebow similarly takes the Broncos to the playoffs and he doesn't get the same room for growth?

Look, Tim Tebow is not Tom Brady. Nowhere close. Brady played Goliath to Tebow's David Sunday and Goliath clearly won. But I cannot discount Tebow's growth potential. I cannot discount that he was in a playoff game last night. And I cannot discount the fact that when the Broncos bring in competition for him next year, he just might do what he's been doing for a long time going back to college.


The combination coach is probably wishful thinking

Dolphins fans are desperate. And they're starting to reach for anyone and anything that might give them hope. So I'm getting e-mails suggesting different coaches would be a great idea as long as, you know, they bring someone else in tow.

They want Joe Philbin as long he gets Matt Flynn.

They want Mike Zimmer to run the defense as long as he brings Todd Haley to work on the offense.

They want Dave Toub if he can convince Devin Hester to come home.

While I hope not, you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. Major disappointment.

The fact is Philbin had a good interview. A club source says he impressed. But there are questions whether he would be in position to move his family following the death of his 21-year-old son last week. His emotional state is uncertain to the point no one knows how it would affect his candidacy for the job.

And to believe he definitely can bring Flynn with him is a fairy tale.

Let's just say it right now: The Green Bay Packers are not stupid. They are likely not going to let a commodity such as Flynn simply walk out the door in free agency without trying to get something for him first. That means they may franchise him. Or they may put a transition tag on him. I predict there is no way the Packers just let Flynn go for free.

And, by the way, Flynn won't be free even if he costs no compensation. He's going to his next team to start, not to compete to start. And he's going to cost starter money. He is the 2012 version of Kevin Kolb. I'm not saying he won't perform once he gets to his next team. I am saying it is going to cost a mint to sign him and probably cost draft picks to get him away from the Packers on top of that.

I heard the idea floated Saturday that Zimmer is headed to the Dolphins because he is familiar to Jeff Ireland and he's a good coach and he also had a solid interview in New York last week when he met with the Dolphins.

But Zimmer has no more experience putting a staff together than you and me. So he might need some help with running the offense, which suggests perhaps Haley would be a fit.

It is plausible, I guess.

Haley's agent is also Jeff Ireland's agent. I'm sure the idea has been floated for Haley to get an interview of some sort. But if the only job available is an offensive coordinator gig, the thinking among league people is that Haley probably would be most comfortable returning to the Arizona Cardinals.

And that's assuming he's not going to the New York Jets.

The point is Haley has options.

If this sounds pessemistic, please rethink that. It is reality. Maybe lightning strikes and the Dolphins can get Zimmer and Haley or Philbin and Flynn.

But lightning hasn't really been striking on the Dolphins' behalf a lot lately.

January 14, 2012

Jeff Ireland's position with Dolphins stronger than ever

Jeff Fisher is going to coach the Rams now. Fine. So the Dolphins lose in that chase. Owner Stephen Ross is left with a black eye because it's the second time he tries to land a coach and fails. So he loses, too. Dolphins fans wanting the certainty of having a tried and experienced head coach also lose.

So the winner in all this?

Jeff Ireland.

Ireland has emerged from a 6-10 season and a coach search in which the team's leading candidate went elsewhere more powerful than ever. Ross picked Ireland while dispatching Tony Sparano. He picked Ireland over Carl Peterson -- because he said Peterson would not join the team to oversee it and Ireland. And Ross picked Ireland over Fisher, keeping the GM as the unquestioned decision-maker over the club while stiff-arming Fisher's desire to have that power.

Jeff Ireland won.

Recognizing this, I asked Ross about Ireland Friday and the owner's words were glowing:

“I think he’s done an outstanding job of creating the team we’ve put on the field the last four years. We’ve got a lot of capability going forward, and I believe we will win moving forward. He has a passion about it. I enjoy working with him. He’s ambitious. He’s bright. He’s a very good GM.”

Ireland's foundation is stronger now than it has ever been. He is stronger than when he answered to Bill Parcells. He is stronger than when he and Sparano were in the proverbial cone of uncertainty after the 2010 season. He is even stronger now than he was in the spring of 2011 when he got a contract extension.  I've been telling you for some time that Ross truly does appreciate Ireland. But now there's tangible proof Ross prefers Ireland to a star head coach wanting power over personnel.

Ireland wins.

What I'm thinking about the Dolphins coach search

Some thoughts on the Dolphins and their search for a coach:

1. They failed to land Jeff Fisher, the top candidate they wanted, and that is now two times that owner Stephen Ross identifies a coach he truly wants and fails to land him.

2. When I texted with a couple of Dolphins sources Friday afternoon after the Fisher news came out, their tone was of legitimate loss. There was a tone of disappointment, even anger in their words. Then I spoke with Ross and he stressed he's not disappointed. He spoke of finding a coach that 'hopefully will be in the hall of fame." So did the Dolphins pivot from their true feelings to spin mode? Of, course they did! They were disappointed, folks. No doubt about it. This failure to land Fisher is as much a loss as either game played again the Patriots during the season. It was a defeat.

3. Speaking of the message and the ability to communicate, I am seriously wondering the Dolphins' ability to do that even in the most intimate and what should be the most transparent venue -- within their walls, behind closed doors, during their sealed interviews. Ross told me in no uncertain terms that when Fisher came for his visit, he explained to the coach that Miami's philosophy is to have the head coach and the general manager work in a collaborative effort. Ross said the coach and GM must have a "partnership" and Fisher and he "had conversations that set forth the parameters of how the organization would be run and Jeff understood those and had no problem with it." But one very highly placed source close to Fisher called this morning and insists Fisher never agreed to anything like that, never indicated he was comfortable with that setup, and "the ultimate proof I'm telling the truth is [Fisher] will be the Rams coach and not the Dolphins."

So was Ross speaking a language Fisher didn't understand or vice versa? Did these folks spend hours together interviewing and when it was all done, they still didn't get what the other wanted or expected?

4. I think these next two paragraphs from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speak poorly of the Dolphins:

"According to sources familiar with the negotiations, Fisher actually informed Rams owner Stan Kroenke sometime Thursday that he wanted to be the next head coach of the Rams.

"Because the contract hadn't been finalized, the Rams kept things quiet and even planned to continue their interview process. But Miami owner Stephen Ross kept pushing and pushing to land Fisher. Growing impatient, the Dolphins informed the Fisher camp they needed an answer Friday or they were going to move on in their search."

I cannot account for the paragraphs factually although the writer, Jim Thomas, is well-respected in journalism circles and has a reputation as a no-nonsense, solid reporter. So if true, I'm left shaking my head that the Dolphins would not be cool enough to play out the process. It seems dumb to pressure a candidate they're trying to land, and look nervous compared to the cool approach by the Rams. The Rams! The Dolphins made the Rams look laid-back, cool and under control! The Rams!

That doesn't speak well of the Miami approach, especially considering they could have continued on with their interviews with no problems anyway. Makes Miami look dumb.

5. Ross told me the process between Miami and Fisher was "sincere." He volunteered it. I'm glad he's comfortable. But I personally -- nothing to do with the Dolphins or what they're saying -- cannot get past the idea Fisher used Miami a bit. I have no proof of it. But it the possibility lingers for me. 

6. So what now? Ross told me interviews will continue but that coaches they are eyeing are in the playoffs today. Obviously, that includes coaches on the staffs of the 49ers, Packers, Saints, Giants, Patriots, Broncos, Ravens, and Texans. I would hope Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Baltimore defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, Saints OL/running game coach Aaron Kromer, Green Bay assistant head coach Winston Moss, and Giants defensive coordintor Perry Fewell all deserve a look.

7. I understood that neither Todd Bowles nor Mike Nolan had much of a chance to be the Dolphins head coach while Jeff Fisher was out there. But he's not out there anymore. The Dolphins should re-think the idea of Bowles, who went 2-1 against three division foes at the end of the season. The Dolphins should consider interviewing Nolan, whose defense recovered from a terrible season-opener against New England to post decent numbers, for the head job. Nolan was head coach in San Francisco and it didn't work out. But to not even get an interview? Really?

Follow Armando Salguero on twitter.

January 13, 2012

Jeff Fisher picks Rams over Dolphins

Jeff Fisher has decided to join the St. Louis Rams as their head coach, The Miami Herald has confirmed through various club and NFL sources.

Fisher seemed headed to the Dolphins throughout the day Wednesday but intense negotiations with the Dolphins, particularly club owner Stephen Ross on the power structure of the organization could not be resolved so Fisher opted to go to St. Louis.

According to an NFL source close to Fisher, Ross was not willing to give Fisher power over the entire football operations, including veto power of decisions by general manager Jeff Ireland.

[Update 1: A club source tells me Fisher never requested full authority over the Dolphins. Source says club's understanding was that Fisher and Ireland would work together, agreeing mutually on personnel.]

Obviously, given the contradictory stories coming from the Dolphins and the source who is in the Fisher camp, the two sides were apparently not speaking the same language here. Either that or someone is fibbing.

That leaves the Dolphins, who hoped to lure Fisher to become their coach, scrambling to recover from yet another disappointment following a season filled with disappointments.

Fisher, through representatives, informed the Rams he had picked them to succeed the fired Steve Spagnulo. Fisher is expected to sign a contract by the weekend. Contract details remain sketchy.

Fisher's also informed the Dolphins he would be going to St. Louis and thanked the Dolphins for considering him. Fisher spoke with Ireland directly. The Dolphins interviewed with Fisher last week and were hoping to make him the 10th coach in the franchise's history.

So where does this leave the Dolphins?

The team must quickly rebound and continue a search for a new coach. The club has already interviewed Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Chicago special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

The Dolphins are expected to expand their coach search. Among the candidates are former Texas Tech coach Mike Sherman, current Carolina offensive coodinator Rob Chudzinski, New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

The club contends, through sources, that Fisher's decision is not a blow.

This, of course, is part wishful thinking, part spin meant to protect the club's reputation. The truth is the Dolphins have sunk from a franchise that once could lure practically any candidate -- Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban, Bill Parcells -- it chased away from other suitors.

In this case, the Dolphins find themselves placing second in a two-team competition to a St. Louis franchise that could be on the move from its current city in the span to three seasons, a club that has been one of the NFL's losingest franchises for nearly a decade.

Dolphins coach search generally on right track

Suppose for a second that the worst happens. Suppose Jeff Fisher picks the Rams over the Dolphins. What next?

Obviously, the Dolphins will move on. They'll continue to search for the 10th head coach in their storied history among a list of candidates little-known to the common fan.

No, that doesn't sound like a great Plan B.

But take heart because at least the Dolphins search for a star head coach also seemingly has identified the right people out of the list of so-called lesser lights. Consider that today the Cincinnati Bengals granted permission to the Tampa Bay Bucs to interview defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.

Well, Zimmer is on the Dolphins radar. He interviewed this week. The Dolphins had Mike Mularkey on their radar but he was hired as the Jacksonville Jaguars head coach. The Dolphins interviewed Todd Bowles and he is on the Oakland Raiders radar. Obviously the Dolphins want Fisher and so do the Rams.

The Dolphins may eventually show interest in Mike Sherman and he has already interviewed in Tampa.

The point is the Dolphins aren't operating completely off the reservation here. Their search has identified candidates that have also been identified by other teams. I grant you Miami's search has also included a couple of guys that have drawn no interest elsewhere -- Chicago special teams coach Dave Toub and Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin. (There were reports the Chiefs wanted to interview Philbin but I have not been able to confirm the interview ever happened.)

And yes, the Dolphins have looked away from a couple of guys -- most notably Carolina's Rob Chudzinki, Green Bay's Dom Capers and Winston Moss -- who have drawn interest elsewhere.

But my expectation is if Fisher goes to St. Louis, Miami's list will expand and could include Chudzinski, who has interviewed in Jacksonville, St. Louis and will talk to Tampa Bay.

So I have a comfort level that thinking other teams know something the Dolphins do not is not an accurate representation of what is happening.

If the Dolphins miss out on Fisher, I hope Miami's wide net gets wider still. I hope Moss gets a loook because, as someone told me recently, he seems to be made of the same kind of stuff that Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin is made of.

Meanwhile, I feel comfortable the Dolphins are generally on the right track.


The Fisher negotiation can be complex

Another day, another round of negotiations between Jeff Fisher and the Dolphins. And Jeff Fisher and the Rams.

And, I suppose, Jeff Fisher and his heart.

I cannot comment on the tug-of-war Fisher is having in picking either the Dolphins or the Rams. I don't know what's inside Fisher's mind or heart and he's not calling or texting or e-mailing to tell me -- yet.

I do know the way this will go is when Fisher, through his agent, has finished negotiating with one or the other team, he will inform the team he picks he'd like to work for them. And then that team will offer him the job as their next coach.

The team that does not win this Fisher tourney will continue searching for answers and have the plausible deniability of saying it never offered Fisher the job. But, really, who are we kidding?

These negotiations intrigue me in that they are not necessarily about money going to Fisher. They are about money to hire a coaching staff, which is important because Fisher is reportedly constructing an experienced and expensive one. (He has invested quite some time the past couple of days compiling a staff.)

The talks are also about power. And that's where Dolphins fans wanting Fisher should be worried.

The Dolphins, you see, have a general manager in place. And that GM, Jeff Ireland, currently has power to pick talent. But Fisher wants the power to have final say over his talent. So some way, somehow, the Dolphins have to find a way to massage the situation so that Fisher doesn't feel like the players he's going to have are being dictated to him.

The Rams don't have this problem because they currently don't have a general manager and aren't expected to hire a GM until Fisher has made a decision. And if Fisher goes to St. Louis, he will almost definitely have veto power over the general manager not to mention over the general manager's personnel decisions.

This doesn't mean Fisher doesn't like Ireland. I hear the opposite is true in that he likes Ireland and respects his work. This simply means Fisher doesn't want to be dictated to by Ireland. And so this has to be negotiated so it is acceptable to everyone

Unfortunately for the Dolphins that may not be the end of the power tug-of-war.

Fisher, you should know, had two defining issues while with the Tennessee Titans and they haunt him to this day to the point he doesn't really want to repeat them:

First, he had to juggle a franchise move from Houston to Memphis to Nashville that cost him a couple of seasons, cost him a competitive advantage, a fan base and home field advantage, cost him and his coaches life issues that he doesn't want to repeat should the Rams move from St. Louis.

The second defining issue that bothered Fisher in Tennessee was owner Bud Adams dictating personnel decisions to him. Adams basically forced Fisher to pick Vince Young although the coach didn't want to go in that direction. And while it seemed like the right move for a couple of seasons, ultimately it not only failed but indirectly led to Fisher's separation from the team. This is an issue for the coach. And so he wants to make sure neither Stan Kroenke in St. Louis nor Stephen Ross in Miami are going to be telling him which players he has to draft or sign or keep or cut.

Both these issues have to be negotiated and I suppose the team that comes closest to Fisher's stance will ultimately have a major advantage in getting the coach. It's not an easy situation for either team.

The Rams probably cannot guarantee Fisher they will never, ever, ever move. The truth is they might move if the dome where they play is not improved to the team's satisfaction. And so Fisher, knowing the possibility exists he might have to relive a franchise relocation, probably wants certain assurances to make that experience feel less like the root canal without novacaine that it felt like before. I don't pretend to know the specific details of this but -- speculating here -- it probably involves cost of living increases for his coaches and staff, it probably includes certain guarantees on the kind of facility the club would move into. I can't pretend to know how the sides will massage this.

The Dolphins don't have relocation issues and so that's a major advantage. But the club does have structure issues. Fisher probably wants some assurance from Ross that he won't dictate to him like Adams dictated to him. This is legitimate because, you'll remember, it was Ross who shut down the Kyle Orton trade possibility and got involved in the attempt to convince Mike Brown to trade Carson Palmer to the Dolphins. So can Ross promise he'll never dictate to Fisher? I have no idea. It has to be negotiated. No such negotiation probably has to happen with Kroenke, who is an avowed hands-off owner.

Obviously there are other issues that have to be overcome before Fisher picks a team, gets an offer, accepts the offer, signs a contract and takes control. Yes, it is complicated.

That's how things are when you have two teams that lately aren't known for having all their ducks lined up neatly in a row.

Follow me on twitter.

January 12, 2012

Fisher search leads national pundits to question Fins

Even as Jeff Fisher continues to ponder what team he will coach and what team's owner will be his new boss, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is taking it on the chin from national pundits that obviously don't hold him in high regard.

The latest to take a swipe at Ross is Foxsports.com and FOX-TV NFL insider Jay Glazer, who today held a live chat on the website he works for and was asked his thoughts on Ross.

"I think he is a great businessman but doesn't know what he doens't know when it comes to the NFL," Glazer said. "He has no idea the type of effect many of the things he does has. I wouldn't say he's a meddler and he definitely wants to win but he's done some things behind the scenes that has had many inside the league scratching their heads. Going to interview Jim Harbaugh last year while Sparano was still emplyed was ridiculous."

This comes only one day after Peter King of NBC's Sunday Night Football over America and the entire Earth not to mention the inner Planets, was asked on twitter what is the general perception of the Dolphins organization (Ross/Jeff Ireland) around the league?

"Proceed with caution," King answered.

Glazer and King obviously agree.

No deal yet on Jeff Fisher

Regarding the only topic anyone wants to know anything about right now:

Jeff Fisher is still not the Dolphins' coach. Or the Rams' coach.

He was scheduled to make his decision on either the Rams or Dolphins on Wednesday. I do not know if he did that. My sources got suddenly vague at one point, refusing to tell me if negotiations were underway on a contract or not.

All I could get out of one was this: "No deal done."

I did ask about the NFL Network story that said Fisher was close to a decision and leaning toward the Dolphins. Dolphins didn't know anything about that. So if Fisher is close to deciding or has decided, I cannot tell you.

Fisher has been speaking with both teams (either directly or through his representation) over the past few days -- apparently to get clarificcation on certain issues.

It is interesting this has not happened yet because it shows that neither organization -- neither the Dolphins nor Rams -- is a slam-dunk in Fisher's mind. Both have positives aspects. Both have negative aspects.

Understandable since both have been strangers to the playoffs most of the past decade and as for playoff wins? Zero.

Follow me on twitter for the up-to-the-second news feed.

January 11, 2012

Fisher expected to decide which team he'll coach today

I believe today will be a franchise defining day.

Jeff Fisher, who has been weighing whether to take the head coach job in Miami or St. Louis, is expected to make a decision which team, if either, he would like to work for in 2012. Let me be more clear: I am not reporting Fisher will be named coach of either team today.

I am reporting that, according to one source that thus far has been spot on, the coach is finalizing his choice of teams today. Following that decision, I am supposing here, Fisher will tell his agent which direction he's going and negotiations will get going on a contract and various other details.

I do not know what Fisher's decision will be. But it's obvious that whatever he decides will define the direction of both the Dolphins and Rams for years to come.

The winning team will be regarded to be hiring the hotest, most experienced coach on the market. That team will get a head coach who is going to piece together a star-studded coaching staff. That team's credibility will get an instant boost without even one game under the new coach being played.

The team that loses the Fisher sweepstakes will be regarded as having to hire a secondary choice. That team will be rightly seen as having lost out. That team will have to answer to its fan base questions such as, "What is it about you that was deemed to be lacking in this derby.'

It's entirely possible the team not getting Fisher gets a coach that some day in the future does better work than Fisher. But that won't be the narrative now. The narrative now will be that the losing team, well, lost out.

So how do I know Fisher is scheduled to choose today. Well, since the start of this entire saga I've gotten half a dozen e-mails from people claiming to be close to Fisher or his family or his closest friends. One of these people has provided rock-solid information. And that person tells me today is the day he was told Fisher is making his call.

We'll see what happens. I'd expect something to leak before the end of the day is over and definitely by tomorrow as to where Jeff Fisher is going.  


Tony Sparano headed to the NYJ

I asked a very wise football man on Monday if Tony Sparano could work for Rex Ryan.

"I don't see why not," he said, already knowing Sparano was headed to the Jets as their new offensive coordinator. "Tony and Rex are a lot more similar than anyone knows. It can work."

We'll get to see because the former Dolphins head coach has been hired to replace Brian Schottenheimer as the J-E-T-S offensive coordinator.

I know, I know ...

Fist pump!

The Jets will now have at least two former Dolphins coaches in Sparano and Mike Westhoff. If Sparano follows Westhoff's approach, he'll view every game against the Dolphins as a personal vendetta. He'll try to add wrinkles and gadgets that will make the Dolphins wish they'd never fired him.

I know, I know ...

Many of you are surprised Sparano would be the play-caller. He called plays in Dallas in 2006 and run plays in 2007. When Sean Payton went to New Orleans, he wanted to take Sparano with him as the offensive coordinator. The move was blocked by Bill Parcells, who kept Sparano in Dallas.

Many of you believe Sparano to be a classic ground-and-pound kind of guy. And that's probably right. He is a run-first coach. It's an undeniable part of his DNA. But perhaps that's what the Jets want because they used that formula plus great defense to make it to the AFC championship game two consecutive years in a row.

This year, the Jets opened up the offense a bit more and failed to make the playoffs. Ultimately, Sparano's success in New York will depend on the very same thing his success in Miami depended on: The quarterback. Period.

Now that he's working for the Jets, I'm certain Sparano will be no local favorite. But I still respect Sparano. He'll bring some class to the Jets organization.

Heaven knows they needed it.

January 10, 2012

Reason Mularkey won't interview with Dolphins

Mike Mularkey has been named the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The coach interviewed with the Jaguars Tuesday and was scheduled to interview with the Dolphins at some point this week -- probably starting Wednesday and leaking into Thursday -- but his representative has contacted the Dolphins and told them Mularkey won't make it to the interview.

He's got a new gig in Jacksonville, beating out Carolina offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski, interim coach Mel Tucker and Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, all of whom interviewed for the job.

Mularkey, a Fort Lauderdale native, was on the Dolphins radar based on his work as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator the past four years. It was interesting that he was on the radar at all because the Dolphins fired Mularkey as their tight end coach in January of 2008.

Dolphins general mananger Jeff Ireland and then football czar Bill Parcells made that decision. And Ireland was key in getting Mularkey scheduled to meet with the Dolphins.

Mularkey was considered a strong candidate in case leading candidate Jeff Fisher did not accept the Miami job. Fisher has not yet made a decision.

Can I be honest, here? I'm glad Mularkey is going to Jacksonville. While I recognize the Dolphins valued his work in Atlanta, and liked the fact he had head coach experience in Buffalo, the truth is he seemed underwhelming to me as a candidate.

Mularkey will likely be solid, and consistent and all that. But if his history is an indicator, he'll also be bland and unspectacular. Yes, he'll work hard. But getting to the playoffs and winning in the postseason requires more than than hard work.

Mularkey had a very talented offense in Atlanta. They scored a lot of points in the regular-season. But the Falcons have been 0-3 in the postseason under Mike Smith with Mularkey as the offensive coordinator.

Last weekend against the Giants, the Falcons offense was shut out. And as I have written previously, during Mularkey's two-year stint in Miami -- the first of which in 2006 he served as the offensive coordinator -- the Dolphins were unsuccessful on offense. Miami averaged only 16.3 points per game in 2006 under Mularkey.

Regardless, I wish coach the best. If he is given excellent talent, he will likely develop that talent into successful regular-season records. Will that translate beyond the regular-season?

He now gets to prove whether it does or does not.

Connecting dots on RG3 declaring for the draft

Robert Griffin III is today telling Baylor coach Art Briles he will declare for the NFL draft in April, according to Chris Mortensen of ESPN.

That's not a surprise in that RG3 as he's known has already earned his undergraduate degree in political science, already won the Heisman Trophy, already put the Baylor program on the national stage again, and is likely to the second quarterback drafted.

It all makes sense but there's more to it than that.

RG3's decision has an indirect effect on the current head coach search being conducted by the Dolphins and Rams in that the No. 2 pick St. Louis holds suddenly became more valuable.

With RG3 in the mix, the Rams may have increased their options for trading the pick to a quarterback-hungry team for multiple first round picks. The Rams may also suddenly have a viable new option for picking a new quarterback if the prospective head coach or general manager is not completely sold on Sam Bradford.

And so Jeff Fisher, who is weighing which team gives him his best chance of building a winner as quickly as possible, can absolutely consider the chances of adding multiple draft picks for that second pick into the whole equation.

That is a potential boon that St. Louis may have at its disposal that Miami will not.

Fisher probably will not base his decision on how valuable the No. 2 overall pick is, but he probably has considered that pick on some level. And that pick just got more valuable. Furthermore, the fact RG3 now figures as a possibility has to give anyone considering the Rams significant reason to believe working for the Rams is suddenly a more attractive proposition.

All that aside, let me say this about RG3: I am not scout. I am not expert on personnel matters. But I am quite certain the gifts this young man brings to the table will make him a success in the NFL.

Yes, RG3 needs to tighten up his footwork because he gets into the bad habit of throwing off his back foot a lot -- partly because his arm is so strong. But he is simply too intelligent, too athletic, too accurate as a passer, and too much of a solid citizen to do anything but succeed in the NFL. I'm not saying Griffin III is another Cam Newton or Andy Dalton who will have instant success in the NFL.

But he will be able to start in the NFL for someone right away next year. And he will be a very good player in the NFL eventually.

Raiders fire Jackson and ripple effects felt here

The Oakland Raiders have fired head coach Hue Jackson.

The possibility was discussed right here last week and as such, one of the candidates former Green Bay personnel man turned Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie is going to consider for the vacancy is Green Bay assistant head coach Winston Moss.

ESPN is reporting McKenzie will also consider Packers secondary coach and former Steelers safety Darren Perry ...

.... notice any names missing?

Where's the interest in Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin?

Yeah, not so much.

Look, different teams are interested in different coaches. The Dolphins are most interested in Jeff Fisher and that is where their search starts and ends until he makes a decision (with several people now telling me he's leaning toward Miami).

After Fisher the Dolphins have indeed cast a wide net, including offensive, defensive and special teams assistants. Tampa Bay has cast a vastly different wide net, interviewing a couple of candidates of little interest to Miami, such as Marty Schotteneimer. Every team is different.

But the fact the Raiders are now run by a Packers guy, the fact that Packers guy probably knows the inner workings of the Packers better than the Dolphins, and the fact the Packers guy is looking at several other Packers guys but not Philbin, suggests a couple of things to me:

Perhaps if the Dolphins want to start getting results like the Packers, or looking like the Packers, they should maybe interview Moss or even Perry. I'm not saying the Dolphins should absolutely hire Moss and Perry, but this movement out west should cause the Dolphins to think long and hard why Moss isn't on their radar but is so prominent on the radar of a former Packers guy.

Moss, by the way, is from Miami.

Report says Kelly on Dolphins radar -- but no!

Let's begin this morning by crushing an erroneous report:

KEZI-TV in Eugene Oregon is reporting this morning the Dolphins have "contacted Chip Kelly's agent regarding the team's head coaching position."

Kelly is the very successful and much heralded head coach of the Oregon Ducks, which makes this sound plausible. Problem is it's not true.

A high-ranking Dolphins source tells me the idea the Dolphins have contacted Kelly in any way is "not true at all."

So that's that.

I will say, Kelly has an interesting take on playing offense. The Ducks run a play every 13 seconds and do it out of a spread formation with a twist. The twist is the Ducks are ultimately trying to get to down-hill running mode.

I will also say, Kelly has zero NFL head coach experience. Kelly's offense may not necessarily translate to the NFL.

January 09, 2012

Zimmer expected to interview with Dolphins Tuesday

In 2003 the Nebraska Cornhuskers were looking for a head coach and decided Mike Zimmer should be that man. For reasons I'm not completely clear about, Zimmer turned the job down.

He continued working with the Dallas Cowboys under then coach Bill Parcells and showed himself a versatile coach. He always ran the 4-3 defense, most notably under previous Dallas coach Dave Campo, but when Parcells came aboard, he wanted to run the 3-4.

And Zimmer did that with little trouble. Parcells retained him as the defensive coordinator which says something of Zimmer's versatility and the respect he commanded. When Parcells departed Dallas in 2007, Zimmer also left.

He went to Atlanta under Bobby Petrino. Yeah, that didn't last. Petrino literally quit on the team before the season was over and the entire coaching staff was left hanging.

The Bengals hired Zimmer in 2008 to be their defensive coordinator.

To sum up how Cincinnati players feel about Zimmer, all I have to say is that players gave him the game ball when he coached the week his wife passed in October of 2009. The Bengals beat the Ravens 17-14 that week.

Zimmer backs his players and he doesn't mind doing it in the face of apparent pressure. In the preseason after the Bengals' defense laid an egg against Detroit in a 34-3 loss, Zimmer was disappointed and upset. But a day after the game, after watching film, he was put on the spot by owner Mike Brown about the unit.

In that tough moment Zimmer put himself on the line and told the owner something he probably didn't expect to hear: He told Brown he believed in his players and promised they'd be pretty good in 2011, which hardly seemed possible at the time.

The Bengals, despite the defection of cornerback Jonathan Joseph, did just fine. They were ninth in the NFL in points allowed this season. (The Dolphins were tied for sixth, which makes you wonder why Mike Nolan isn't being interviewed but that's another matter.)

So now Zimmer, at age 55, is on the head coaching radar. He's reportedly interviewing with the Dolphins on Tuesday and is also expected to interview other places this week. His dream to become a head coach is alive.

"It's still alive, but sometimes you get frustrated over the course of time,'' Zimmer told Sports Illustrated recently. ""I go back and think about what they said about Tony Dungy and guys like that. You kind of wonder sometimes, like what else can I do? What does it take? You wonder why some guys get interviewed or get a job over you, but you just end up going with it, and still keep hoping for that opportunity to run your own team.

"All I can do is say, 'Here's what I've done, this is my track record, and this is my reputation as a coach.' I'm a coach who can get a good nucleus of guys and make them into a good team, I think."