After Monday’s firing of head coach Tony Sparano, the Miami Dolphins have begun searching for their eighth head coach in team history. Eight coaches over forty six seasons is not an outrageous number. However, that number is a bit skewed due to the fact that Don Shula, the winningest coach in franchise history, served twenty six of those years as the team’s head coach. As a result, in the sixteen year period since his retirement, the Miami Dolphins have now had five (not including two interim: Jim Bates and now Todd Bowles) different head coaches come and go. That is obviously problematic and part of the reason why the Dolphins have gone from a top-class organization to a more or less laughing stock.
Stability is the key to winning in the NFL. A head coach needs to be an individual that players (and fans alike) know will outlast everyone else on the team. For example, if you look at the Steelers or Patriots, is there any doubt that Mike Tomlin or Bill Belichick will be with their respective teams in the next five years? Sure, stranger things have happened but, barring anything unforeseen, you know that these two men will be leading their teams for years to come.
The Miami Dolphins need stability in the worst way. They have not had any since Shula was the head coach. There is one head coach available who brought stability to his former team as he coached them for more than fifteen years. His name is not Bill Cowher. It is Jeff Fisher.
In just his third full year as head coach, the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee. Moving a team to a new city is arguably the greatest sign of instability in sports. Yet Jeff Fisher rose to the challenge and gave the Titans organization much needed constancy as he coached the team for sixteen full seasons in total, with fourteen of those being in Tennessee.
Jeff Fisher is who the Miami Dolphins need to hire as their new head coach.
Here is why:
1) He brings stability. You cannot hammer home this point enough. As it has been mentioned, the Miami Dolphins franchise desperately needs it. In the NFL, you simply cannot have head coaches who are looking over their shoulders with the players knowing it (like Tony Sparano). If a trusted coach like Jeff Fisher was named head coach, there would be no question as to who is in charge.
2) He is a proven winner. Sure, Fisher may have never won the Super Bowl as a head coach but he came perhaps just one yard short of that goal in Super Bowl XXXIV. While with the Titans, he won four divisional titles and took his team to the playoffs six times in all.
3) He has not won the Super Bowl as a head coach which means he is still hungry. Other possible candidates like Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher have won a Super Bowl and, in the case of Cowher, resigned a year after doing so. Everyone’s goal in the NFL is to win the Super Bowl and they will not rest until they reach that achievement. Fisher is no different.
4) He has only been out of the game for one year. With all of the changes that the NFL constantly goes through, this is huge and, if anything, understated. Fisher has also made it clear that he wants back in. There comes a time when the game passes you by and that may be the case for the other two main candidates (Gruden and Cowher) as they have been out of the NFL for a while now. You do not have to worry about that with Fisher.
5) He is still young. Fisher is fifty three years old and will be fifty four when next season rolls around. He has plenty of years ahead of him.
6) He is a former coach. The Dolphins have now had three coaches in a row that were first time NFL head coaches. How has that worked out for them? And, while he is a former coach, he is definitely not a retread like a Norv Turner or Eric Mangini.
7) He could use a change of scenery. Sometimes when you stay somewhere too long, complacency sets in. Change can be good.
8) He is a “young Don Shula” in a way. On Monday, owner Stephen Ross said that is what the Dolphins are looking for in their next head coach. Look at their backgrounds: both played cornerback in the NFL, both were defensive coordinators before being head coaches, both became head coaches at a very young age, both lost in the Super Bowl with their first team. It is kind of eerie.
Like anything, there are always reasons not to do something and, to be fair; those need to be included, as well.
Here they are:
1) He has a 5-6 playoff record and has not won a playoff game since 2003. This also means that he has a playoff record of 2-4 outside of the year that the Titans went to the Super Bowl. For a franchise that has not won a playoff game since 2000, that record may be a tough pill for Dolphins fans to swallow.
2) He has never used a 3-4 defense in his career. The Dolphins personnel is better suited for a 3-4 defense and a switch to a 4-3 would be very counterproductive. For a defensive coach like Fisher, this issue may be problematic.
As you can see, the reasons why completely outweigh the reasons why not.
One last thing:
The biggest problem in the coaching search is owner Stephen Ross. After what he pulled last offseason with his courtship of Jim Harbaugh while Sparano was still head coach and things like “Gator Day” when Tim Tebow and the Broncos visited Sun Life Stadium, why would anyone want to work for him?
If Ross really wants to do what is best for the Miami Dolphins then he needs to do two things: hire Jeff Fisher and stay away.