Tony Sparano Firing: 10 Possible Replacements for Dolphins Head Coaching Job

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaContributor IIDecember 12, 2011

Tony Sparano Firing: 10 Possible Replacements for Dolphins Head Coaching Job

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    At 4:45pm on December 12, 2011, Stephen Ross came up to the lectern and announced that Tony Sparano was no longer the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

    For many Miami Dolphins fans, this was news that was a long time in coming, two months too late for some, 11 months too late for others, and for a select few as much as two years. 

    Other Dolphins fans lament the situation, stating that Sparano is a good man and a good coach. I can't dispute the first fact, but the second one is why we're in this position. 

    I wish Coach Sparano, who I'll admit I've done my fair share of ridiculing in the past, nothing but the best in his future endeavors, whatever they may be. I met him in training camp earlier this season and he couldn't have been nicer. He'll wind up on his feet coaching somewhere next season, whether it's in college or as an assistant in the NFL

    But now is the time to look forward for the Miami Dolphins. Even though there's three games left in the season (all of them division games with two of them on the road), its obvious that the focus is more on 2012. 

    Here's my look at potential candidates for next head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Todd Bowles

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    AGE: 48

    RECORD: N/A (First Head Coaching Job)

    Previous Jobs: Secondary Coach, Dallas Cowboys (2005-2008); Secondary Coach, Miami Dolphins (2008-2011); Interim Head Coach, Miami Dolphins (2011-present)

    MILESTONES: Technically (due to his interim status) the first African-American Head Coach in Miami Dolphins history. 

    PROS: Bowles has been around the team since the current administration came in. Knows the personnel in place and has a good relationship with general manager Jeff Ireland (who Miami is unfortunately keeping). 

    CONS: This is his first head coaching job at any level, which could hurt him at times. On top of that even though the Dolphins will consider him for the job at the end of the season (especially if Miami finishes well and most importantly beats the New York Jets on 1/1/12), will fans be excited by this hire or will they look at Bowles as just an extension of Tony Sparano?


    Bowles being named interim head coach is the smart thing to do. He's looked at as an up and comer in the NFL and in fact was interviewed by the Dallas Cowboys last season for their head coaching job prior to them deciding to take the interim tag off of Jason Garrett. While Garrett got the job, Jerry Jones might be second guessing that decision and would've likely reached out to Bowles again this off-season. 

Joe Philbin

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    AGE: 50

    RECORD: No Head Coaching Experience

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Offensive Coordinator, Green Bay Packers (2007-present); Offensive Line Coach, Green Bay Packers (2006); Tight Ends Coach/Assistant Offensive Line Coach, Green Bay Packers (2004-2005); Assistant Offensive Line Coach, Green Bay Packers (2003); Offensive Line Coach, Iowa (1999-2002); Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Harvard (1997-1998); Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Northeastern (1995-1996); Offensive Line Coach, Ohio (1994); Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line Coach, Allegheny College (1990-1993); Offensive Line Coach, United States Merchant Marine Academy (1988-1989); Offensive Line Coach, Worchester Polytechnic Institute (1986-1987); Graduate Assistant, Tulane (1984-1985).

    Milestones: Offensive Coordinator of an offense that so far this season ranks first, ranked ninth in 2010, third in 2009, fifth in 2008, and 4th in 2007. Yes, the season his team won the Super Bowl was his lowest ranked offense. Oh yeah, his team won the Super Bowl last season and are favorites to repeat this season. 

    PROS: Still fairly young, has a proven track record as an offensive line coach as well as offensive coordinator, two huge areas of need for Miami. 

    CONS: No NFL or College head coaching experience.

    Philbin seems like he'd be a good NFL coach, however one has to wonder if the performance of his offensive units might have a lot to do with the fact that his teams head coach Mike McCarthy is himself a great offensive coach, as well as the fact that his two quarterbacks have been Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers

    I already suggested this as my preferred candidate. Will the Dolphins listen?

Jeff Fisher

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    AGE: 53

    RECORD: 141-116 (including playoffs, where he's 5-6)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans (1994-2010); Defensive Coordinator, Houston Oilers (1994); Defensive Backs Coach, San Francisco 49ers (1992-1993); Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams (1991); Defensive Coordinator/DB Coach, Philadelphia Eagles (1886-1990); Defensive Assistant, Chicago Bears (1985)

    Milestones: 1999 AFC Championship. Until he parted ways with the Titans on January 27, 2011 he was the longest tenured Head Coach in the NFL.

    PROS: A proven coach who has gone to the post-season six times in 17 years, including three division championships.

    CONS: Despite coaching for 17 seasons (really 16 and a half) has only made it to the Super Bowl once.

    In fact, three of those six playoff years the Titans were one and done. Plus at times it looked like the Titans had quit on him last season.

    However that could be attributed to the fact that sometimes you reach a point in a working relationship where it is best for both parties to part ways. Right now the Titans look decent and have an outside shot of contending for the AFC South, this isn't a knock on Fisher, just an acknowledgement that it was right for the Titans to let Fisher go.

    In the same vein, it could possibly turn out to be the best thing to happen to Jeff Fisher to have parted ways with Tennessee, then take a year off to decompress away from the NFL Head Coach life style.

    Turning 54 in February, Fisher is still relatively young and still has plenty to prove. It might only be a stop gap lasting for five seasons, but Fisher doesn't seem like the Parcells type to leave the job incomplete. He might come in with a team of young assistants including one he'll groom for the job when he feels he's done. I'd feel very good about Jeff Fisher becoming Miami Dolphins head coach.  

    However the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins will most likely have Jeff Ireland as general manager. Will Fisher want Ireland as his general manager? If not, then don't count on him being the next head coach of the Dolphins.  

Mike Shula

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    AGE: 46

    RECORD: 26-23 (at University of Alabama, however due to NCAA infractions his record is officially listed as 10-23)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Quarterbacks Coach, Carolina Panthers (2011); Quarterbacks Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars (2007-2010); Head Coach, University of Alabama (2003-2006); Quarterbacks Coach, Miami Dolphins (2000-2002); Offensive Coordinator, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1996-1999); Tight Ends Coach, Chicago Bears (1993-1995); Coaches Assistant, Miami Dolphins (1991-1992); Offensive Assistant, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1988-1990)

    Milestones: So far has done a good job of getting Cam Newton up to the speed of the NFL game. 

    PROS: Very young, very hungry coach who was considered for the job as Dolphins head coach in 2007 before the job went to Cam Cameron. Has worked well with young quarterbacks, especially mobile athletic quarterbacks. While his time at Alabama was marred by scandal and while he only had one 10-win season, most of the time he was cleaning up a mess left by former Alabama head coach Dennis Franchione. While he might not have recruited many of the players that won a National Championship for Nick Saban in 2009, he did lay the groundwork for that team before being let go in 2009.

    CONS: With that being said about his struggles with Alabama having to do with cleaning up a scandal and mess left behind by his predecessor at Alabama, it's still worth noting that Shula's tenure with the Tide was fairly uneventful. 

    Mike Shula would be a nice hire for the Dolphins because he does have the name recognition and did grow up in South Florida. However this would be a long shot for a myriad of reasons, namely the fact that his tenure as a head coach at Alabama is mainly looked at as a failure. 

    Something to consider, Stephen Ross' comment at the press conference on Monday afternoon:

    ""I'd like to find a young Don Shula if that's possible

    What if "the next Don Shula" is Mike Shula?

Brian Schottenheimer

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    AGE: 37

    RECORD: No Head Coaching Experience

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Offensive Coordinator, New York Jets (2006-present); Quarterbacks Coach, San Diego Chargers (2002-2005); Quarterbacks Coach, Washington Redskins (2001); assistant coach, University of Southern California (2000); assistant coach, Syracuse University (1999); assistant coach, Kansas City Chiefs (1998); assistant coach, St. Louis Rams (1997)

    Milestones: His offenses have been to two AFC Championship games. 

    PROS: Very young, has so far proven to get the most out of the least on offense.  

    CONS: No NFL or College head coaching experience. Coaches the Jets as of right now. Already turned down the Dolphins twice (2007, 2008). 

    Schottenheimer likely turned down Miami the first two times to stay with the Jets because he felt he wasn't ready to be a head coach at the time. It is likely he might feel differently now. He will definitely get a call from whoever is named Miami's new general manager at the end of the year. 

    However if the Dolphins decide to go that route, they might want to hear from some Jets fans and their opinion on Schottenheimer first. 

    According to one Jets fan friend of mine who for this story shall be named #oomf, well, let this serve as a cautionary tale for Stephen Ross:

    I'd be fine with it, because I don't think he'd be a good head coach. Would end up like a Todd Haley or Jack Del Rio.

    His problem as a coordinator is over-thinking things. And that's going to compound exponentially if he were made head coach.

    Yikes! While Ireland and Ross will likely interview him, I'd say to pass on him. It will be a better pass than Mark Sanchez has ever made in his career. 

Gregg Williams

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    AGE: 53

    RECORD: 17-31 (as coach of theBuffalo Bills)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Defensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints(2009-present); Defensive Coordinator, Jacksonville Jaguars (2008); Defensive Coordinator, Washington Redskins (2004-2007); Head Coach, Buffalo Bills (2001-2003); Defensive Coordinator, Tennessee Titans (1997-2000); Defensive Assistant, Houston Oilers (1990-1996), Graduate Assistant, University of Houston (1988-1989).  

    Milestones: Won Super Bowl XLIV with the Saints. . 

    PROS: Runs an aggressive defensive strategy that has accentuated his players talents. 

    CONS: See record with the Bills. 

    Williams would be a safe bet as Dolphins coach, not too big of a name, not too expensive; but odds are, he's not someone the fanbase will get behind. 

Rob Chudzinski

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    AGE: 43

    RECORD: Never been a Head Coach

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Offensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers (2011); Tight Ends Coach, San Diego Chargers (2009-2010); Offensive Coordinator, Cleveland Browns (2007-2008); Tight Ends Coach, San Diego Chargers (2005-2006); Tight Ends Coach, Cleveland Browns (2004); Offensive Coordinator, University of Miami (2001-2003), Tight Ends Coach, University of Miami (1996-2000)

    Milestones: Won a National Championship as Offensive Coordinator at Miami.

    PROS: Young offensive coach who's known for coaching up Tight Ends both in college (Bubba Franks, Jeremy Shockey, Kellen Winslow) and in the pros (Kellen Winslow, Antonio Gates, Jeremy Shockey, Greg Olsen). 

    CONS: No Head Coaching experience. 

    Chudzinski mainly made my list because he's a University of Miami guy and because of his skills as an offensive coordinator in working with tight ends. He might not be ready for a head coaching gig just yet but look out for him. 

    Now, look at what Chudzinski has done in Carolina with Cam Newton. Brilliant. Now don't the Dolphins have a decent shot of grabbing a quarterback who could come in already somewhat better than Cam Newton with his same skill set? 

    If Chudzinski does with Robert Griffin III what he did with Cam Newton, that would be a Dolphins team everyone could get behind. 

Chris Petersen

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    AGE: 47

    RECORD: 72-6

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Boise State University (2006-present); Offensive Coordinator, Boise State University (2001-2005); Wide Receivers Coach, Oregon (1995-2000); Quarterbacks Coach, Portland State (1993-1994); Quarterbacks Coach, Pittsburgh (1992); Wide Receivers Coach, UC Davis (1989-1991)

    Milestones:  2x Bear Bryant National Coach of The Year (2006, 2009); Bobby Dodd Coach of The Year Award (2010); 2007 Fiesta Bowl Champion (the Statue of Liberty play); 2010 Fiesta Bowl Champion (pictured above). 

    PROS: Few coaches have done more with less. Along with his predecessor Dan Hawkins transformed Boise State into a mini-College Football power and perennial BCS buster. Still very young and likely hungry to prove himself in a place where the only way you're shut out of a chance for playing for a championship is if you can't lead your team there. 

    CONS: Never been an NFL head coach. Never coached in the NFL period. Since he's only been a head coach at Boise State, somewhat skeptical as to how he'd handle the media scrutiny that comes from being an NFL head coach, especially in a place like Miami where NFL reigns supreme.

    Petersen has courted offers from other schools and turned them down to stay at Boise. Odds are he'd do the same when an NFL team comes calling. However an innovative offense along with a reputation for teams that are well disciplined would help his case as an NFL head coach.  

    Petersen would likely be Ireland's choice if he had his druthers. By bringing in Chris Petersen, Ireland would be able to focus on drafting an offensive lineman (likely Matt Kalil at right tackle) and then in round three or four pick Kellen Moore and can use the excuse that "Moore has familiarity with Coach Petersen and already has his trust" or something to that effect. 

Rob Ryan

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    AGE: 48

    RECORD: N/A (never been a head coach at any level)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Defensive Coordinator, Dallas Cowboys (2011); Defensive Coordinator,Cleveland Browns (2009-2010); Defensive Coordinator, Oakland Raiders (2004-2008); Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots(2000-2003)

    Milestones: Grew up with Rex as his twin brother and managed to not be too annoyed by him. In all seriousness though, has coached some decent defenses.

    PROS: A young, hungry head coach who's had yet to prove himself in the NFL.Very energetic and possesses the sense of humor of his brother and father (former Bears Defensive coordinator and former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan.) Being Rex Ryan's twin brother could be a pro.

    CONS: Only top-5 defenses he's ever coached was with the Patriots and in 2006 with Oakland, although currently his Dallas squad ranks fourth in the league. Rex Ryan's twin brother, could be a major con as well.

    Two Ryans, one division. For some, this would be a dream. For others, a nightmare. 

    Take a heated rivalry and now add the sprinklings of a sibling rivalry and at the very least Miami has one Monday Night Game scheduled per year.

    Now here's a few juicy things to consider:

    Next season could very well be a make or break season for Rex and the Jets. What if their last game is against Miami for a playoff berth. Could we be looking at a scenario where Rob beats Rex, in the process getting Rex fired?

    Secondly: earlier this morning I asked a few Cowboys-fan friends of mines what they thought of this potential three-way trade that I wouldn't put past Jeff Ireland to attempt:

    Indianapolis gets: Dallas' 2012 first, third, and sixth round pick along with Miami's 2012 second round pick. 

    Dallas gets: Peyton Manning and Miami's 2013 second round pick. 

    Miami gets: Tony Romo and Indianapolis' 2012 sixth round pick. 

    I think this trade is more possible than you would expect since Jeff Ireland wouldn't have to give up a first rounder, the Cowboys don't trust Romo, and Indy wants more draft picks and wants to trade Peyton. 

    Why bring this up now? Well even though they're on opposite sides of the ball, it would help Rob Ryan out just a bit to have someone he's familiar with under center. 

    Plus it gives Jeff Ireland a chance to bring in more Cowboys rejects. 

Mario Cristobal

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    AGE: 41

    RECORD:  24-37 (While at FIU, he's never coached in the NFL)

    PREVIOUS JOBS: Head Coach, Florida International University (2007-present); Tight Ends and Offensive Linemen coach, University of Miami (2004-2006); Tight Ends and Offensive Lineman coach, Rutgers (2001-2003); Graduate Assistant, Miami (1998-2000)

    Milestones: Took FIU to their first bowl game, which they wound up winning (2010 Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl).

    PROS: Young disciplined player's coach who knows the South Florida Area well. His Cuban-American background is also a plus as it would help in the community. Has proven he can build and lead. 

    CONS: No NFL Head Coaching experience. 

    Let's go back to one of Stephen Ross' quotes from Monday's announcement.

    "I'd like to find a young Don Shula if that's possible

    Mario Cristobal reminds me of a young Don Shula.

    Watch the Beef O' Brady's Bowl (or whatever it's called) and you'll see what I mean. Cristobal is tough on his players but at the same time firm. 

    He also like to run a spread offense where the quarterback has the option to either run or pass on each down. Now this would certainly be effective in the NFL with a certain Heisman winning quarterback that Miami should draft if he's available. 

    There are other benefits for at least interviewing Cristobal. He was born and raised in Miami and is a Cuban-American, in fact he's the first Cuban-American head coach in college football and would make the same history in the NFL. Not only would he fulfil the Rooney Rule, but more importantly it would benefit the Dolphins with the South Florida Community. 

Wait! Hold the Phone! Where's Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden?

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    Sorry to disappoint those who expected those two gentlemen on this list but didn't, but I don't expect any of them in Miami this season. 

    If I were a gambling man I'd say that next season at this time, Cowher and Gruden will be involved in coaching rumors from other teams, as their employers will be CBS and ESPN respectively. 

    Jeff Ireland being here will do that. Stephen Ross wants to keep Ireland around as Dolphins General Manager, while both Cowher and Gruden will likely want their own personnel men in there. 

    If you really want the break down on these two, go back to page one of the slideshow and click on either of the two previous slideshows I've done on this subject. Believe me, nothing about either of these two men have changed one bit since then. 

    But Miami hiring any of them: pie in the sky. 

    Expect the Dolphins to go the younger and unproven route with Jeff Fisher being the lone exception. In due time, that will be better for the team anyways. 

    Thank you for reading. And after writing three slideshows like this in the span of 12 months, may I go another 20 years without writing another one of these.