If you want to get a clue who will be the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins, even as the interviews are ongoing, think quarterback and defense. In that order.
Simply, the Dolphins want to hear from the men they are interviewing for the head coach job how they propose to fix quarterback Ryan Tannehill and how they will address a defense that has been regressing in many regards for four years despite vast resources spent on the unit.
And as I look at the list of candidates the Dolphins have and are scheduled to talk to during this search, I can see men that should have great plans for one half of that question.
The problem is it's a two-part question.
I assume Mike Smith, a former defensive coach, had ideas about what to do with the Miami defense. I assume Detroit Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who coached Ndamukong Suh before the defensive tackle came to Miami, had a plan for the defense. I assume on Friday when Doug Marrone interviews for the job, he will have a great plan for the defense because he's going to hire Jim Schwartz as the defensive coordinator.
(Schwartz also coached Suh in Detroit and has a great reputation around the NFL as a fine defensive coach).
On the flip side, I'm fairly certain Chicago Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase impressed when he spoke about what he'd do with and for Tannehill. I'm quite certain the Dolphins know Mike Shanahan helped John Elway get from being a great quarterback with no Super Bowl success to a Super Bowl champion and he made Robert Griffin III look pretty good his rookie year. (Shanahan probably had to explain what happened the following year).
I am certain when the team interviews Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson on Sunday, he'll point to his work with Andy Dalton and, depending on what happens in the Wild Card playoff game, what A.J. McCarron did in the playoffs.
Frankly, I have no idea how Dan Campbell and Buffalo running back coach Anthony Lynn addressed or will address the two issues.
I know this about Campbell: He can command a room. So he'll do that when he meets with the search committee at the Dolphins facility Friday. It's his home turf, so he should be comfortable. But he has no chance to get this job unless he comes into the room with the names of two highly experienced and impressive candidates he can say he will surely hire as his offensive and defensive coordinators. Without those two names, Campbell has no chance. With those two names and a degree of certainty he can get them, Campbell will have a shot.
Lynn is a mystery to me. And please assign that to my ignorance about the candidate rather than a lack of credibility for the coach. My bad. Not his.
Anyway, if you comprehend the paragraphs you've just read, you quickly get the picture that none of these candidates comes to the interview room with strengths both on offense and defense.
The coaches with offensive backgrounds can say they'll fix Tannehill.
The coaches with defensive backgrounds or, in Marrone's case, a candidate with a great defensive coordinator waiting in the wings, can say they have the answer for the defense -- and their $19 million-a-year investment in Suh.
But who is going to do the crossover trick?
Will Marrone, a former offensive lineman and OL guru, have the right QB coach or OC in his bag of tricks?
Did Gase, a QB whisperer, put forward an experienced and proven defensive coordinator candidate?
Was Shanahan open enough to admit he might hire his son Kyle to run the offense and did he come with a solution to the defense?
What's Hue Jackson's answer on defense?
The man with the best two answers should have a great chance of being the next coach.
Oh, by the way, this is what I was told would happen before the interviews began. The Dolphins have failed miserably on this front before. You'll recall that when Joe Philbin was hired, everyone assumed it meant he would be able to energize a comatose Dolphins offense and serve as the mentor to the next quarterback because, after all, he came as the offensive coordinator at Green Bay and the man who helped Aaron Rodgers become Aaron Rodgers.
And then he got to Miami. And the media asked him questions. And we learned in the span of about an hour that Philbin wasn't really the mastermind behind the Green Bay offense because that was head coach Mike McCarthy. And we further learned Philbin wasn't really the mentor for Rodgers because that was the quarterback coach up there.
Philbin freely admitted this stuff. It was no secret.
And yet, he got somehow got hired by the folks doing the interviews who must have known they needed to address the offense and the QB situation.
The folks doing this set of interviews are different in some regards than the previous set of folks. Some people are holdovers. Some are not. You better hope the new folks have the issues the Dolphins need to address on the agenda during these interviews. I've been told they do.