Dolphins franchise must have united approach
MIAMI — It’s been 27 years since the Miami Dolphins have been to the Super Bowl. Their last appearance was Super Bowl XIX, in 1985.
The Dolphins haven’t been to an AFC Championship game since the 1992 season. That’s 19 years.
Keep those long, agonizing droughts in mind as the Dolphins search for a new head coach.
Keep this in mind, too: They have to get this one right.
That’s why the Dolphins nervously watch the Jeff Fisher Sweepstakes unfold. Because whether or not the Dolphins get Fisher, the former Tennessee Titans coach — he’s deciding between Miami and the St. Louis Rams, and reports say he’s leaning toward the Rams — they have to get the right guy.
The Dolphins need direction.
It’s been a long time since this franchise has had a successful head coach. Since Don Shula left after the 1996 season, no coach has had what you would consider overall success. Not Jimmy Johnson, Dave Wannstedt, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron nor Tony Sparano. Saban and Cameron never made the playoffs, and Johnson, Wannstedt and Sparano never won more than one playoff game.
Worse, in the past decade, the Dolphins have turned up their nose at an embarrassing treasure of Super Bowl-winning riches. In 2004, they interviewed, but declined to hire, Ted Thompson, Green Bay’s general manager; they opted instead to stay in-house with Rick Spielman. In 2006, they passed on New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees in free agency, opting instead for Daunte Culpepper. And in 2007, they interviewed, and declined to hire, eventual Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin; the Dolphins hired Cameron.
Think about that for a second: Thompson, Tomlin and Brees could have been together in Miami.
That’s why you have an angry fan base. The Dolphins had to buy remaining tickets to lift the local TV blackout for five of the eight home games.
In pursuit of its new coach, Miami has interviewed Fisher, Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, Miami interim head coach Todd Bowles and Chicago special teams coach Dave Toub. Atlanta offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey and Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will also reportedly interview.
But Fisher, a seasoned veteran, is thought to be the Dolphins’ favorite. Everyone else is regarded as a first runner-up, at best.
Fisher, who coached the Titans/Oilers for 17 years, represents stability. And that’s what this franchise needs.
In the past four years Miami has changed what are arguably the six most important and high-profile positions in the organization:
— Owner (Stephen Ross from Wayne Huizenga in 2008, deal completed in January 2009)
— Personnel guru/top decision maker (general manager Jeff Ireland from Bill Parcells in 2010)
— Head coach (vacant job from Tony Sparano firing and interim coach Todd Bowles in 2011)
— Offensive coordinator (Brian Daboll from Dan Henning in 2011)
— Defensive coordinator (Mike Nolan from Paul Pasqualoni in 2010)
— Quarterback (Matt Moore in 2011 from Chad Henne from Chad Pennington)
That’s six crucial changes, and they weren’t all made with the same direction, toward the same goal.
It’s been a grinding, unfocused, disjointed housecleaning of sorts that’s had the franchise stuck in mediocrity, going from 11-5 in 2008 to 7-9 in 2009, 7-9 in 2010, and 6-10 this past season.
The Dolphins have to get the head coach right, and they have to keep building.
The goal, whether it’s stated publicly or not, should be to win a Super Bowl in four years.
Get the right head coach.
Decide on the right offensive coordinator.
Decide on the right defensive coordinator.
Maybe Ireland is the general manager/top decision-maker. Maybe not. Whatever. Get the right guy. Roll with it.
Get the right quarterback.
Come up with a philosophy, a style. Passing team? Fine. A 3-4 defense? Good. Do it. Preach it. Recruit to it. Draft picks, free agents, trades, assistant coaches. Everything and everybody should be working within that philosophy, that style, toward a common goal: Win a Super Bowl in four years.
Think it can’t be done? Green Bay was 6-10 in 2008, two years before it won last year’s Super Bowl.
New Orleans was 7-9 in 2007 and 8-8 in 2008. It won Super Bowl XLIV after the 2009 season.
The New York Giants were 6-10 in 2004 and 8-8 in 2006. They won the Super Bowl after the 2007 season.
Clearly, each of those teams has a better quarterback than the Dolphins — Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, Brees in New Orleans and Eli Manning in New York. And they have better players. And a better coach.
Miami can’t change all of that by, say, the end of the month. But it can take a step in the right direction by finding the right head coach, whether or not his name is Jeff Fisher.