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The next two most important assistant coaches Adam Gase must hire

The Miami Dolphins have announced the hiring of six coaches, including head coach Adam Gase, so obviously more work needs to be done to fill the staff. (If Nick Saban were the head coach, it would mean 20 or so more coaches are about to get hired).

And the offers and contracts and all that will take care of themselves soon enough.

But Gase must do a couple of very important things to make sure he has that strong staff the Dolphins promised the new coach would add once he was hired. Gase needs a really strong defensive line coach. And Gase needs a veteran, experienced, hopefully former head coach, assistant head coach or advisor.

Those are the next most significant hires the Dolphins must make to their coaching staff.


The great defensive line coach is a must because the Dolphins have built their defense along the defensive line. The Dolphins need that line to be among the best in the NFL and live up to the armored car's worth of money they have invested in the unit. Oh, yeah, and the Dolphins need someone who can stand up to Ndamukong Suh and let him know he's a player, not the guy who runs the place.

What I'm saying is the Dolphins need to find an outstanding coach like Kacy Rodgers. Rodgers, now the New York Jets defensive coordinator, was respected and beloved by his players in Miami from 2008-14. He developed talent during his seven years as the DL coach. He developed Cameron Wake into a premier pass rusher and good-enough edge defender. He developed Olivier Vernon to the solid degree he's reached. He developed Paul Soliai from an immature and lazy kid to a try-hard house-sized guy. He developed Derrick Shelby from an undrafted free agent to a pretty good reserve player worthy of significant snaps.

But with Rodgers gone in 2015 the Dolphins didn't get great play from the jump from players like Wake, Vernon or Suh. Indeed, all three were missing in action the first two to three weeks of the season. And there were other issues.

Suh never had anyone on the coaching staff stand up to him until Dan Campbell became the interim coach and earned the player's respect. And Suh, always a self-starter who is motivated, got much, much better after that. But he never corrected things that apparently were detail issues his position coach is supposed to address.

Consider that Suh led the NFL in offsides, encroachment and neutral zone penalties with 20. He showed a penchant for it early on and it never got fixed, costing his team 100 total yards. That's on the defensive line coach as much as the player. 

Suh is only one player the next Miami defensive line coach must attend to. Wake will be 34  in a few weeks and open to reworking his contract with the Dolphins to stay on the team -- assuming that's what the team wants. But he's coming back from Achilles surgery. And that return from injury combined with his age raises questions whether he'll have the same explosion off the ball. If he does, great. If he doesn't, he's going to need a great coach to help him find some moves or perhaps refine techniques to keep him viable.

Vernon, meanwhile, is unsigned for 2016. Do the Dolphins put a franchise tag on him? Perhaps a transition tag? If they decide that cannot let him walk, they are going to be investing heavily in the player, with "heavily" being defined in the $13-$15 million per year range. Worth it?

The next defensive line coach has to take this 25-year-old and help him take the next step because he's not really quite there yet. Let's face it, Olivier Vernon is good. But for $13 million per year the Dolphins need him to be great.

And did I mention Jordan Phillips will be entering his second season after showing promise his first year? Phillips is still a project because he seemingly stopped growing and improving late in the season for some inexplicable reason. This cannot be the developmental arc of a second-round pick.

And so the defensive line coach is going to be a huge deal.

The wily veteran coach is necessary as well because the head coach is not a wily veteran coach. Sorry, that's not a knock. That's a fact.

Gase needs a sounding board. He needs a counselor. Gase needs someone who has seen and solved problems he is about to face for the first time. Monitor the hires going forward. You should see someone of great experience being hired. If someone with those credentials is missing, this staff is incomplete no matter how well put together the team says the staff is.

Look, Don Shula had Bill Arnsparger. And Carl Taseff. And Monte Clark. He counted on these veteran guys.

And he is Don friggin' Shula!

Bruce Arians, perhaps the coolest coach in the NFL, is in his 60s. But when he got his shot to be the Arizona Cardinals head coach, he hired Tom Moore to be on his staff because Moore has forgotten more football than most humans could ever learn. And Moore and he pitch ideas and thoughts about their team to each other apart and away from staff meetings.

Arians is wise enough to get someone like that, you don't think Adam Gase needs that?

By the way, I don't pretend to know what the relationship is between Gase and New Orleans assistant head coach and linebackers coach Joe Vitt is other than to know Vitt is Gase's father in law. But if it is a close relationship, if there is trust and friendship beyond the obvious, perhaps Vitt could be a fit for the counselor job.

Monitor the looming hires. It should be interesting.

But the defensive line coach and the veteran, experienced consigliere? Those two are the most important hires yet to be made.