Earlier today the Buffalo Bills announced that defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier plans to take next season off from coaching. It’s weird timing as we’re already at the end of February, the NFL Draft combine is starting, and most of the top coordinators have signed elsewhere. However, there are still some great options for the Buffalo Bills, if they decide to bring someone else in.
Bills Defensive Coordinator: Top Candidate
Al Holcomb – Bills Senior Defensive Assistant
Al Holcomb is the early media frontrunner for the position. He brings history with McDermott as he was the linebackers coach in Carolina when they went to Super Bowl 50.
Buffalo recently hired Holcomb as their senior defensive assistant to bring a different point of view, and his connection with McDermott could help him become the person to fill this role. Holcomb has championship experience and fits McDermott’s system, making him the top option for many.
Other Options for Bills Defensive Coordinator
Jim Leonhard – Former NFL Player and Coach at Wisconsin
Jim Leonhard is a former Bill who ended up on the roster after going undrafted. After his playing career, he joined the staff at the University of Wisconsin. He worked his way to defensive coordinator of Wisconsin a year later, and was the interim head coach this past season.
He went 5-3 as a head coach, but announced he was leaving Wisconsin at the end of the season. It’s possible he could return to coaching for the right opportunity. Buffalo could try to bring him ‘home’.
Eric Henderson – Rams Defensive Line Coach and Run Game Coordinator
With Sean McVay already having a big coaching tree, there’s always speculation for coaches in his organization to leave for a better position. Eric Henderson is no different. He’s had the chance to call plays for the Rams in the preseason, and has had high praise from McVay.
Henderson was described as “aggressive” by the Rams head coach, and that’s a trait many teams want in their coordinator. His experience working with a talented group of players and coaches could draw some attention from the Bills.
Aden Durde – Former Player and Cowboys Defensive Line Coach
Another former player, Aden Durde would come from one of the top defenses in the NFL. He helped lead a defensive line in Dallas that was tied for 3rd in sacks and tied for 2nd in adjusted sack rate. The Bills could look to bring him in to help the pass rush that dropped from 4th to 29th without Von Miller.
Durde could be exactly what they need to get the young pass rushers going and take pressure off the secondary and linebackers.
I know what you’re thinking, “what do you mean ‘no one’?”. Well, there’s a chance that the Bills decide to keep their staff exactly as it is. Going into the 2023-24 season without a defensive coordinator isn’t the worst option for Buffalo.
With Sean McDermott being a defensive-minded head coach, he could take full control of the defense. If they believe Frazier will return as their coordinator at the end of the season, they could opt to go in this direction.
Following the conclusion of their season against the Patriots, the Miami Dolphins made a shocking move to fire head coach Brian Flores. This comes off of two straight winning seasons, a feat Miami hadn’t achieved since 2002-2003.
It wasn’t all perfect for Miami, however. Amid trade rumors for Deshaun Watson, Miami lost seven straight, setting themselves behind for a playoff run. This came in what was described as a power struggle, where Flores and general manager Chris Grier disagreed on the future of the team.
Along with front office disagreements, it seemed that the relationship had soured with certain players, specifically on offense, a unit Flores had struggled to build.
Since firing Flores, Miami has requested to interview seven head coaches, who all have diverse skill sets. Young offensive minds such as Brian Daboll, Kellen Moore, Mike McDaniel, and Thomas Brown are contrasted with veteran defensive coaches in Dan Quinn, Vance Joseph, and Leslie Frazier. Miami seems to have two distinct paths they may take at HC, and each candidate is intriguing in their own way.
Miami Dolphins Head Coach Candidates: Offense
The current favorite for the job of Miami Dolphins head coach, per BetOnline, is Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Over the last two years, his play-calling has led to a top-five offense, finishing number two in 2020.
However, his most impressive achievement has been his role in the development of Josh Allen.
Coming into the league from Wyoming, Allen was looked at as a raw athlete with a big arm who struggled at the technical points in his game, such as accuracy and reading defenses.
Through working with Daboll, however, Allen was able to make the necessary steps in becoming an elite passer.
Along with an extensive resume, Daboll also has a connection to Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who he worked with as Alabama’s offensive coordinator in 2018. Although, that connection may not be what it’s cracked up to be.
In the only year they were together, Tagovailoa was only a freshman, and the backup to Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Furthermore, it may be dangerous to tie a young quarterback who lacks the raw talent of Josh Allen to a coach who heavily relies on athleticism and a rocket arm in his scheme.
Daboll may make sense with his choice of quarterback, but tying him to Tua would be a mistake.
The youngest candidate Miami has requested to interview, Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is only 33 years old, but is already turning heads across the league.
In only his second year under Mike McCarthy, Moore’s creative play-calling has been a subject of praise. Although Dallas has so many weapons, Moore has balanced his offense and used them to their strengths. Dallas leads the league in overall yardage and has amassed over 2,000 on the ground.
The primary concern with Moore, however, is his lack of experience. He’s only been a coordinator for four years, and many question whether he’s ready to lead a team.
Along with that, some believe much of his success comes from the surplus of weapons on Dallas’ offense. While I understand the concern, his playcalling and sequencing have been beyond top-notch, so it shouldn’t worry fans much.
The fan-favorite amongst Miami’s interview requests has been San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel, and for good reason. McDaniel and head coach Kyle Shanahan have constructed one of the most intricate rushing schemes in the NFL. Their use of misdirection in their zone-heavy run scheme has made them one of the league’s most productive units.
The most exciting part of San Francisco’s scheme, however, might be the use of receiver Deebo Samuel. Samuel has moved all around the field, being productive at receiver, while also effective on the ground.
Like Moore, his lack of experience is of some concern, but in a different way. Although he has been around the league since 2005, he has never called plays. He has, however, been a major part of constructing the game plan and sequencing, per Shanahan and his players.
Miami is the only team to request an interview with McDaniel thus far, so it will be interesting to see how he fairs against their other candidates.
Another candidate who will participate in his first interview with Miami is regarded as potentially the “next Mike Tomlin”.
Rams running backs coach Thomas Brown has a history of success, working with an elite backfield in college that consisted of Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
In coming to the NFL, he also helped revitalize Michel’s career, following his trade to the Rams.
This definitely contrasts with Flores, who dedicated no first-round picks or significant cap space to the running back position.
He doesn’t follow the “offensive guru” trend of McDaniel or Moore, but has made players around him better, and seems to follow the “leader of men” role. His lack of experience in major roles is a bit concerning, but he’s quickly rising up the ranks of potential candidates.
Miami Dolphins Head Coach Candidates: Defense
Miami’s defensive candidates have significantly more experience than their offensive counterparts, and that starts with Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
Quinn has led an opportunistic Cowboys defense, similarly to Flores in Miami. Leading the league in turnovers, their unit puts ball-hawking cornerbacks like Trevon Diggs in the best position to succeed. It’s easy to envision how Miami’s cornerbacks, especially Xavien Howard, would fit in well in his system.
Much as he did in Atlanta, it’s very possible that Quinn could also bring in a good offensive staff. However, his previous head coaching experience has mixed results. While the Falcons made the Super Bowl in 2016, Quinn only finished 43-42 as the man in charge. He brings a presence and leadership, along with a strong defensive pedigree, but his inconsistency may be hard to ignore.
The next defensive-minded candidate has recent ties to Miami. Current Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph was Miami’s defensive coordinator under Adam Gase, before taking a job in Denver as a head coach.
Joseph went 11-21 as the lead man in Denver, with an offensive unit that struggled to find consistency, similar to Brian Flores. They also weren’t as opportunistic in his final season, where Denver only managed to snag five interceptions.
Inconsistency is a clear issue with Joseph’s scheme, but it definitely looks better in Arizona, making it understandable as to why Miami may look to give him another shot.
In requesting their interviews, Miami chose to reach out to both Buffalo Bills coordinators. Seeing how strong of a team they are twice a year, it only made sense to interview Daboll and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Frazier, like the other two defensive candidates, leads another turnover-centric unit. Buffalo is third in turnovers this year, along with being first in yards allowed. Their ability to pressure the quarterback while holding up in the backend has been impressive, and Frazier’s scheme is a large part of that.
However, like the other candidates, Frazier has struggled as a head coach. In four years in Minnesota, Frazier went 21-32-1, appearing in the playoffs in 2012. Although, his most recent head coaching job was nearly a decade ago, and his scheme has definitely been refined since then.
Frazier brings much of the appeal of Daboll in his ability to bring over more Buffalo assistants, and his defensive prowess could be able to replicate Flores’ success.
The Bottom Line
The Miami Dolphins have brought in seven unique head coach candidates to interview thus far, but there are some trends. The offensive minded coaches follow a similar mold, having a lack of experience, offset by how quickly they’ve risen up the ranks.
The defensive minds, on the other hand, each have previous head coaching experience, and they lead very strong, opportunistic units.
Whether fans believe it or not, it seems that Miami has a blueprint of what they want their head coach to represent, and it will be interesting to see how these interviews play out in the coming weeks.