We wanted firings, we got firings, and now it’s strictly on-the-job training for Dolphins staff

 

Let’s suppose for a minute that you’ve never heard of the Miami Dolphins or any of the names associated with the franchise. Follow along for a moment and see if the real-life scenario I paint suggests a strong finish to a bad season.

Miami Dolphins offensive cooridnator Bill Lazor at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on September 13, 2015.  (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Former Miami Dolphins offensive cooridnator Bill Lazor at FedExField in Landover, Maryland on September 13, 2015. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Start with an interim head coach who worked exclusively with the tight-ends unit until recently and is in his fifth season as a full-time NFL staffer.

This man fires both of his coordinators and replaces them with a couple of guys who are in their fourth years in the league. One of them, the new playcaller, is 32 and originally got a pro coaching job because his father-in-law brought him in.

The other, the team’s defensive coordinator, got his chance in the NFL through a friendship with the team’s previous head coach, the one whose firing started this whole midseason game of musical chairs.

Now when the current head coach, the interim, needs advice on tough personnel decisions like this, he can go to the executive vice president of football operations, who has been up and down with a handful NFL teams and until taking on this particular front office job was working as an agent.

Other sources of guidance for the young head coach?

Well, he could talk to his general manager, who tries hard but probably won’t be here next season, or his assistant head coach, who until a couple of months ago was the special-teams coordinator.

Oh, and there’s always the team owner, who acts more like a star-struck fan than a boss when it comes to football matters and seems always to want somebody else to make the call on who runs the team and how.

Put it all together and what have you got? A staff so inexperienced that nobody would be satisfied to place an expansion franchise in its charge, much less a respected organization that has been around for 50 years.

There’s no use worrying about it now, of course. Now doesn’t matter anymore.

How could it, given the real-life scenario we’ve just reviewed?

Every firing the Dolphins have made this season has reduced the team’s experience level when it comes to coaching and advanced the notion that making it up as you go along is a sound strategy.

Ross wouldn’t be rich if he ran his other business operations this way.

Ross never would have been in position to buy a team or a stadium or a fractured fantasy in the first place.

Once-proud Miami Dolphins have become the Raiders in every way that counts

So now it’s Dan Campbell in the soup.

So now the Miami Dolphins, once among the proudest and most reliable organizations in the NFL, have become the Oakland Raiders.

Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68), celebrates with tight ends coach Dan Campbell after defeating the Atlanta Falcons during their NFL game Sunday afternoon, Sept. 22, 2013, at Sun Life stadium in Miami Gardens.(Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)
Former Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito (68), celebrates with former tight ends coach Dan Campbell, now the team’s head coach, after defeating the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 22, 2013. (Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)

Check that, the Raiders are 2-3 at the moment, better than Miami’s record, and the boss in Oakland is Jack Del Rio, not a stupendously successful head coach but one with a decade of NFL experience in the job.

Compare that to the Dolphins, who with the worst kind of timing have chosen their golden 50th season to go all the way back to square one.

Miami’s head coach, temporarily or otherwise, is Campbell. In five seasons beyond the coaching intern stage, he has worked exclusively with Dolphin tight ends. His head coaching mentors have been Tony Sparano and Joe Philbin. Sounds like a guy who needs all the help he can get in setting up a winning program, so here goes.

For an assistant head coach, a right-hand man, the team has handed Campbell special-teams coordinator Darren Rizzi.

For a defensive coordinator he gets Lou Anarumo, who was in the coaching game for 20 years before making the step up to the NFL.

For help in fixing the offense Campbell keeps coordinator Bill Lazor, who to this point has been grasping at straws, with the bonus of Al Saunders in a consultant’s role. Saunders is 68 and a former NFL head coach but this doesn’t seem the stage of life where he’s willing to spend every day at practice and every game in headphones.

They don’t call them consultants for nothing.

[Steve Spurrier was a furious sideline force, more like a basketball coach]

[Jordan Spieth’s spectacular season was pretty much average for Tiger of old]

Of course, there’s a lot of hollering right now about getting tougher and pitting teammates against each other in practice and, as Campbell put it at his introductory press conference, taking this thing to where “it’s all about being primates again.”

If that doesn’t sound like the Raider way, what does?

Here is a shocking numbers, and made all the worse by the fact that Miami was ruled for 26 seasons, and very well, by Don Shula, the NFL’s all-time winningest coach.

Over the last 10 years, beginning in 2006, the Dolphins have had six head coaches, interims included. Only one team has had more coaches over that period. That would be seven. That, naturally, would be the Raiders.

Look now at the list of teams coached by one man over the last 10 years. It’s a stable group, like the Dolphins once were. New England, Green Bay, the New York Giants and Cincinnati.

All right, maybe you don’t think the Bengals are that great of an NFL brand name but, hey, who in South Florida has the right to look down on any other market now?

Bottom line, the Dolphins have really ripped the cord on anything that used to make them special and are caught in a free-fall that could last for years.

The Philbin years might actually start looking good after a while, just as the Dave Wannstedt years do now.

This franchise is going backwards after half a century.

Now comes the scrounging for other team’s properties. Instead of Joe Robbie throwing a first-round draft pick into the pot to get Shula from the Colts, it’s Stephen Ross toying with the idea of robbing Sean Payton from the Saints.

Might as well buy a Raiders jersey now. They’re interchangeable.

Whatever that Dolphins logo once stood for has been reduced to a fresh smear.

What if Jeffrey Loria owned the Miami Dolphins?

You know what would happen if Jeffrey Loria owned the Miami Dolphins, right?

Joe Philbin would have been toast a long time ago, probably after losing back-to-back games to the Bills and Jets to miss the playoffs in 2013.

092811 (Allen Eyestone/The Palm Beach Post) MIAMI GARDENS, FL Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria listens to New Florida Marlins manger Ozzie Guillen.
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria listens to Ozzie Guillen at the Sept. 28, 2011 introduction of the former Miami manager. (Allen Eyestone/the Palm Beach Post)

That would have started a wild hunt for an emotional leader with long, long experience turning teams around. Think Jack McKeon with the Marlins. And for the Dolphins, hey, why not Dick Vermeil? Yeah, that’s it. He’s only 78.

Of course, if the results didn’t satisfy Loria, and nothing ever does for long, it would be time to find a brash and quotable celebrity who runs the team his way and doesn’t care what anybody else thinks and gets fans excited about all the crazy things that might happen.

Ozzie Guillen filled that role for the Marlins. As for the Dolphins, are you thinking what I’m thinking?

Sure, Loria would have to go with Mike Leach, the 23rd-century playcaller with the 17th-century pirate obsession. He’s the fourth-highest paid coach in the Pac-12 and has a 7-20 conference record at Washington State so it’s likely that he’s gettable.

After that blows up, Loria would tear down the whole thing. Start over with a discount roster. Hire a Mike Redmond type to work with the young kids and establish some stability.

I’m thinking Chad Pennington here. A real pro, one who loves the game and would be willing to patiently work with anyone who feels the same way. Heck, Chad has only been out of the game since 2012, and it took four shoulder surgeries to make him retire.

[Great stinkbombs in the history of home openers by Miami’s pro franchises]

[Hey, somebody’s got to be No. 25, so Gators will take it, gladly]

[The comeback of Chris Bosh is as much mental as physical]

Problem is, none of these approaches comes with much of a guarantee. If there is success, it will take a while to build it. That’s a problem for Loria, who fired Redmond without a solid backup plan in place and quickly turned to general manager Dan Jennings to run the Marlins.

The results have been fairly predictable. Jennings is scraping to the end of the season with hopes of keeping his winning percentage above .400. Even if he does, he’ll have a lower success rate than Redmond did overall. Lower, in fact, than any Marlins manager ever has.

All the same, you see where this is going.

If Loria were the owner of the Dolphins, he would fire Philbin right now, three games in, and turn to his front office for a new leader already on the payroll.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new head coach of the Miami Dolphins, general manager Dennis Hickey.

Played safety at Tulsa so he knows the game. Scouted for years and ran the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ personnel department so he knows the players. Moved aside when Stephen Ross brought Mike Tannenbaum aboard in January as the Dolphins’ Executive Vice President of Football Operations, so he knows how to keep his head down and take orders.

Of course, there’s a chance that might not work out, either, which means that the Dolphins would be diving right back into the pool of coaching candidates.

While you’re screaming for Stephen Ross to make a change right this second, from Philbin to anybody with a whistle and a pulse, consider this.

Isn’t one pro franchise in constant chaos enough for this market?