Every Black Monday has a surprising NFL coach firing. After the 2021 NFL season, the Dolphins obliged by dismissing Brian Flores after only three seasons.
Flores’ teams didn’t make the playoffs, but Miami finished 10-6 and 9-8 the past two seasons despite a ton of transitional roster issues. He looked like a bright star from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, but now the former Patriots defensive coordinator, only 40, will be looking for a new job.
Meanwhile, the Dolphins will jump on the process of replacing hire. Here are the best candidates to help owner Stephen Ross compensate for a questionable and somewhat rash decision:
Dolphins’ best coaching candidates
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach (age: 58)
Despite early reports to the contrary, there’s no way the Dolphins make this move unless they had some kind of idea how they planned to upgrade over Flores, pairing someone new with retained GM Chris Grier. It also cannot be ignored that Ross is a big Michigan man, with the school of business named after him. Ross is a billionaire used to getting what he wants, and if he wants Harbaugh, he can pull out the biggest Brinks truck to personally drive him from Ann Arbor to South Beach.
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator (age: 41)
Leftwich makes sense for the other non-Tampa Bay team in Florida, Jacksonville, as he used to be a successful first-round quarterback of the Jaguars. But he also could be a strong influence on strong-armed Tua Tagovailoa after operating well under mentor Bruce Arians and colleague Tom Brady.
Doug Pederson, former Eagles head coach (age: 53)
Pederson is making the rounds one year removed from Philadelphia. He’s this year’s Mike McCarthy, a one-time Super Bowl winner available after a year off to refresh. He is a well organized former quarterback with good offensive acumen, which also would be good for Tagovailoa.
Joe Brady, former Panthers and LSU offensive coordinator (age: 32)
Brady did wonders with Joe Burrow in college before he was taken No. 1 by the Bengals and took off as a second-year QB from Tagovailoa’s 2020 draft class. Brady should have been retained as a rising star in Carolina, but like Flores, there was an internal conflict of interest. He also has great experience under Sean Payton in New Orleans.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator (age: 52)
Bieniemy is overdue for a coaching hire and part of the reason is that he’s been needed to coach in the playoffs all the way through the Super Bowl the past two prime years with Patrick Mahomes. He is another strong hire with boosting Tagovailoa in mind.
Demeco Ryans, 49ers defensive coordinator (age: 37)
Ryans, a former star linebacker with the Texans, had a strong season navigating through his unit’s injuries replacing Jets coach Brian Flores. San Francisco is one of the strongest second-level teams, which is a need for the Dolphins. He’s a players’ coach with good pedigree and can keep up the master motivating of Flores.
Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator (age: 33)
Moore has delivered a terrific explosve attack with Dak Prescott and he can also tap well into Tagovailoa’s upside and commit with Grier to further upgrade the weapons. Moore, like Brady, is very young, but is mature beyond his years with his smarts and organization.
Jerod Mayo, Patriots inside linebackers coach (age: 35)
Would the Dolphins turn back to their Patriots connection with Grier? If they do, Mayo is Bill Belichick would be latest young rising pupil that isn’t his son Steve. Mayo has the potential to be as effective as Mike Vrabel is for the Titans.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator (age: 46)
Daboll was the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator in 2011 and has experience under former Dolphins coach Nick Saban at Alabama and also has branched off into the Belichick tree. His complete body of work with Josh Allen says he should get a shot running a whole team. Stealing him to work with Tagovailoa isn’t a bad plan.
Mike McDaniel, 49ers offensive coordinator (age: 38)
McDaniel, a Yale graduate, is Kyle Shanahan’s right-hand schemer, much like Packers coach Matt LaFleur and Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. He is a bright young start with a little more seasoning than Brady and Moore, which should appeal to Ross someone to attach with Tagovailoa.