Coaching job draws interest of top coaches
Sources said coaches Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren and Mike Martz -- all Super Bowl winners -- could be interested in the Dolphins' opening.
BY JASON COLE
While speculation regarding the next Dolphins coach has revolved around up-and-coming candidates such as Louisiana State's Nick Saban and Charlie Weis of New England, more experienced leadership might be available as well.
Sources close to head coaches Mike Shanahan of Denver, Mike Holmgren of Seattle and Mike Martz of St. Louis have said those coaches would be interested in the Dolphins if their coaching situations don't work out this season.
''You're talking about one of the premier franchises in the NFL and an owner [Wayne Huizenga] who gives his coaches the freedom to do pretty much anything they want,'' a source close to Holmgren said. ``It's a great situation. One of the best in the league.''
This is hardly the first time top-level coaches have cast a longing eye toward the Dolphins. In the mid-1990s, Jimmy Johnson made it well-known he wanted to succeed Don Shula, and he tacitly undermined Shula toward the end of Shula's run as coach.
Likewise, before joining Dallas last season, Bill Parcells was interested in the Dolphins job. Parcells made no overtures to Huizenga at the time out of respect for Dave Wannstedt, who resigned Tuesday after the team's 1-8 start.
''The history of the Dolphins really appealed to Parcells,'' a source close to Parcells said last year. ``He would have loved to work for the same franchise Don Shula ran. The tradition is great, and he loved the talent they had on defense.''
On Tuesday, Shanahan's name was linked to the Dolphins in a report by NFL Network's Adam Schefter, a former Broncos beat writer for The Denver Post who is close to Shanahan and Denver owner Pat Bowlen.
The scenario Schefter laid out was that if Shanahan, who got a contract extension from Denver last offseason after a dalliance with the University of Florida, fails to make the playoffs or win a playoff game, he could be on the outs with Bowlen. The Broncos have not won a playoff game since the 1998 season, when they won the second of back-to-back Super Bowls with quarterback John Elway.
Shanahan, who co-authored a book with Schefter, said Wednesday he was flabbergasted by the report and that Schefter had not discussed it with him before it aired.
Said Shanahan: ``I think what [Schefter] was saying, after listening to it, is that if Pat wanted me to go and things didn't work out, that I would have to go find a job somewhere and it might be Miami. That's what it sounded like to me.''
HOLMGREN AND MARTZ
Similarly, Holmgren and Martz are under pressure to produce after their organizations extended themselves to hire them. Holmgren, who led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title in 1996, is in his sixth season with Seattle after being given what was then the highest-paying coaching contract in NFL history.
As for Martz, he and St. Louis president John Shaw have had an increasingly tense relationship. Martz was offensive coordinator for the Rams' Super Bowl champions in the 1999 season and was promoted after the season to replace Dick Vermeil.
Martz led St. Louis to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season, losing to New England, but the Rams have been inconsistently successful under Martz.
The important element to all three coaches: strong offensive backgrounds. One of Dolphins management's top offseason priorities is to rebuild the offense after a season of chaos on that side of the ball.
Beginning with the departure of former offensive coordinator Norv Turner in January, the Dolphins offense has been in constant flux. Much of that has been uncontrollable, such as Joel Collier's illness that led to the Chris Foerster's promotion, and the retirement of Ricky Williams.
Some of it has been controllable, such as the decision to trade for quarterback A.J. Feeley and then keep Jay Fiedler, which created competition and controversy. There also was the decision to remake the offensive line with so many young players.
But will a high-profile coach be called in to fix the problems? There might be a couple of hold-ups. First, Huizenga seemingly has become more reluctant to hire coaches who have won Super Bowls elsewhere. Weeb Ewbank is the only coach in NFL history to win championships with different teams.
Before the 2003 season, Huizenga, who saw Johnson quit twice during his tenure with the Dolphins, said one of the things he liked most about Wannstedt was that he hadn't won a Super Bowl as a head coach. Theoretically, that made Wannstedt hungrier to win one.
The second issue might be general manager Rick Spielman, whose personnel decisions have been questioned around the NFL. The perception of Spielman could change if the Dolphins offense improves drastically in the second half of the season. But coaches such as Shanahan and Holmgren have had extensive personnel power and likely would want their own person in a GM-type job.
On Thursday, Huizenga, through team president Eddie Jones, said nothing will stand in the way of getting the best coach possible, even if that means dismissing Spielman.