The Miami Dolphins are down to two head coach candidates: San Francisco 49ers Offensive Coordinator Mike McDaniel and Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Kellen Moore. Both will interview this week, with rumors swirling that outside candidate Jim Harbaugh is potentially making a return to the NFL.
Going into this offseason, Miami had two focus points for potential candidates. Those are offensive minds and leaders who have been head coaches before. Thus, they went into their initial interviews with four offensive coordinators/assistants and three defensive minds with experience.
Strengths and Weaknesses
It was clear Miami’s offensive focus needed to be a priority. The last time Miami had a top 10 offense was in 1995. Since then, they have been the epidemy of mediocrity on that side of the ball, in need of change.
On the other hand, Miami boasts an opportunistic defense with elite potential. Down the stretch, Miami was one of the league’s best units, placing 16th in points after their horrific start. Once they found their stride in aggressive cover-0, they mustered an eight-game win streak. If Miami’s new head coach can bring in a coordinator who can maximize his players, it seems hard to believe that Miami can’t repeat this defensive success.
Through the process of narrowing it down, they have come down to Moore and McDaniel. Both are quick risers in this league and are expected to hold a head coach position shortly.
First Year Candidates
Both are top-end football minds, each with their own set of skills. Moore has made his money in maximizing a lethal passing Attack, while McDaniel has helped revolutionize the run game with Deebo Samuel and company. Unlike Miami, each scheme ranked top 10 in yards, with Dallas coming in first in 2021.
While neither have the experience Miami was looking for at the beginning of their search, they both bring high potential this offense hasn’t yet seen.
However, there is an outsider candidate who posseses both of those traits.
Although nothing has been confirmed, Miami has been rumored interest, and the connection with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is strong.
Harbaugh brings both elements, having substantial experience on offense and at the helm as HC.
It remains to be seen just how interested Miami is in Harbaugh, or vice-versa, but he brings exactly what they’re looking for and has experience at the highest levels.
As I explained in my previous article, Harbaugh turned around a 49ers team needing leadership. Behind his job as the head man, they were able to go 11-4-1 in 2012 and make the Super Bowl.
Since then, he had two more winning seasons and is now at the University of Michigan, which just made the College Football Playoff.
Now, he will be flown out by the Minnesota Vikings for an interview, which may mark a return to the NFL that would interest Miami.
Although, even if Harbaugh doesn’t end up being the guy, the other two candidates bring answers to Miami’s needs.
For a team that has struggled to run the ball, each coordinator led top 10 rushing offenses.
The next Miami Dolphins Head Coach must be able to maximize talent.
McDaniel’s scheme comes mainly through zones and pulling blockers, with strong linemen upfront providing significant gaps. San Francisco has also harped on the importance of receiver blocking, which has led to an abundance of big plays. Their use of Deebo Samuel in the run game has shown an ability to maximize their players.
Under Kellen Moore’s play-calling, Dallas has done much of the same in maximizing talent. With Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, their two-headed monster has given the league major trouble. They have used a variety of misdirection plays and power to do what’s best for their backs and big guys upfront.
The Bottom Line for the Miami Dolphins Head Coach
After firing Brian Flores, many in league circles were shocked. Miami possessed a top-end defense and was a game away from making the playoffs in two straight seasons. However, the issues were apparent.
They were among the least explosive units in the league and had four coordinators in three years. Behind a defense that consistently held them in games, Flores never put together a unit that could score enough to win big games.
When Flores was fired, many were worried about another defensive-minded head coach, and the issues were clear. It was difficult to upgrade, and it would fail to address Miami’s most significant need.
However, Miami has done what the fans have wanted. Their two finalists are former offensive coordinators with the potential to bring the change we’ve demanded. Their outside candidate in Harbaugh, although unlikely, would also get the experience many have clamored for.
Although we have questioned many of their recent moves, it seems Miami is moving in the right direction with this search. Only time will tell, but it seems this is the best-case scenario for the Miami Dolphins and their search for a head coach.