Look past Brady to bottom of depth chart and you’ll see what makes Belichick so Super

Whenever something goes right for the New England Patriots, everybody says, well, that’s Bill Belichick for you.

Playing angles that other coaches don’t see. Getting more from particular players than anyone else has. Digging deeper and demanding more, so that man on the roster or on the staff either owns a vital role in the franchise’s continuing success or he is quickly replaced.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JANUARY 29: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots arrives at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for Super Bowl LII. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Oh, and if I don’t mention that on occasion Belichick and his team have been caught cheating, somebody out there is going to say I left something out of his personal toolbox, so there’s that, too.

The point is that while we’re all focusing on Tom Brady and his singular contributions to all those Super Bowl titles, Belichick is working so far behind the scenes and doing it so well that most of it never gets noticed.

For instance, Belichick spent a fifth-round draft choice on a long snapper in 2015. That may not seem like such a big deal, but Brady was a sixth-rounder when he came to the Patriots from Michigan in the 2000 NFL draft.

For that matter, Danny Amendola, whose two fourth-quarter touchdown catches completed New England’s comeback win over Jacksonville in the AFC title game, wasn’t drafted by the Patriots or anyone else when he came out of college in 2008.

So for Belichick to use a fifth-round pick on a specialty item like long snapper, well, it had to mean something. And it does. Joe Cardona is a highly-disciplined guy who played college football at the U.S. Naval Academy. He will play in Sunday’s Super Bowl, just he played in the last one, only after receiving permission to reschedule his weekend duty with a Navy reserve unit.

Belichick grew up around Navy football and graduated from Annapolis High School. His father, Steve Belichick, was on the football staff at the academy forever, coaching special teams and producing some of the most detailed and useful scouting reports anyone has ever seen.

Those are the reports that the future Patriots coach studied and absorbed as soon as he was finished with his homework. Those are the influences that would lead Belichick to prize the minute details of snapping and kicking and punting so highly, and to call Cardona personally in 2015 to let him know that New England had used the 166th overall pick on a specialty player like him.

Only a handful of Navy athletes have been selected in the history of the regular NFL draft, not much more than a dozen. Roger Staubach and Napoleon McCallum are the best known.

As for long snappers in general, Cardona was believed to be only the fourth in history to be drafted by an NFL team at the time he joined New England. Since Belichick made such an unusual priority of that position, however, a long snapper has been selected in the sixth round of the last two drafts, one by Detroit and one by Pittsburgh.

None of this will ever matter to anybody watching Super Bowl LII on Sunday unless there is a bad Patriots snap on a kick, and I’m figuring there won’t be. Cardona can be trusted to come through. He’s a Belichick guy and has been from the start.

We could jump all over the Patriots roster and find other names that explain why this team is so great.  You get the picture. There’s a coach here who know what he wants – consistency, reliability and a high football I.Q. – and he never compromises.

Yep, that’s Belichick for you.

[Dan Mullen promises national title for Gators but doesn’t say when]

[Who knew Hoffman was bound for Cooperstown when Marlins traded him?]

[Nothing remains for LeBron to do except giving it a try as player-coach]

A dream night for Jakeem, but not without the familiar frustrations

Jakeem Grant finally caught a touchdown pass on Monday night, the first of his NFL career, and people are still mad at him.

Because the guy is 5-feet-7 and 169 pounds, everything Jakeem ever does is going to be magnified, if that makes any sense. To me, it’s a wonder that he’s even in the league. Speed and elusiveness got him here as a specialty player, of course, but being so different means that he always is going to try a little too hard, too.

Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jakeem Grant catches a touchdown pass over New England Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler in the third quarter at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on December 11, 2017. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

There was a play in Monday’s 27-20 upset of New England, for instance, where Jakeem decided not to return a punt but couldn’t keep himself from standing way too close to the bouncing ball as it settled to a rest. What was the point of that, when touching it would have made it a live ball? A New England player even took the opportunity to shove Grant toward the ball while everyone was just standing around and watching it on the ground.

Very poor instincts for a player who has returned 41 punts and 38 kickoffs in his career.

Two other spotlight moments from Monday night introduced a whole new category of exasperation for Jakeem the Dream.

The first was a spectacular leaping grab for a 25-yard touchdown over Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, the hero of Super Bowl XLIX for his interception at the goal line with 20 seconds remaining. Jay Cutler made the ball a 50-50 proposition and Jakeem hauled it in for a 20-10 Miami lead. Not only was it Grant’s first career touchdown catch, it was his fifth NFL reception period.

In the fourth quarter, however, Jakeem had everyone gasping, Miami and New England fans alike, with a dropped ball that could have gone for a game-clinching touchdown bomb. Cutler put the ball on Jakeem’s fingertips, just slightly beyond comfortable reach, but instead of a transformational, two-touchdown night it turned into a major downer. Grant, who had trouble with drops last year as a rookie, said in the locker room that he reached out his arms too soon instead of running through the ball and catching up to it more easily.

I tried to cut the kid a little slack on Monday night, tweeting that because the ball didn’t arrive in perfect stride and required a stretch on the dead run it should not be classified as a truly horrendous drop. Many of the responses to that opinion were similarly sympathetic, signaling that tons of people are pulling for Jakeem to succeed, but here is one that probably resonates with most of you.

“C’mon dude, an NFL player should make that catch!”

Bottom line, Jakeem made himself available by sprinting past Butler and into the clear but failed to finish the play. At that point of the game, with New England on the ropes, it was the one play that everybody would have gone home talking about on Monday night, not only as Cutler’s fourth touchdown pass but as a Mark Duper moment for Jakeem.

Credit Adam Gase with finding ways to utilize Grant in this game, even lining him up in the backfield a time or two. You’ve got to find things that Bill Belichick and Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia haven’t planned for, and who game-plans for Jakeem?

I still wonder, however, if the former sixth-round draft pick will be on the Dolphins roster next season. Might as well keep using him as much as is practical in the final three regular-season games to explore all the possibilities.

One thing is for certain. With Jakeem Grant, a gadget player with the ongoing mission of becoming a reliable wide receiver, it will never be boring.

[It’s OK to start wondering again if Tiger Woods will play in Honda Classic]

[Bobby made FSU seem a dream destination but Jimbo? Not so much]

[Before Richt became available, UM interviewed Schiano and Mullen]

A little candy to treat Dolphins fans who are sick of seeing the Patriots always in the Super Bowl

 

This time of year can be tough on Miami Dolphins fans, now 43 years removed from

1973 file photo. Don Shula.
Don Shula in 1973. (Post file photo)

the last NFL championship in franchise history, and that frustration goes double when the New England Patriots are back in the Super Bowl again.

As a public service to the South Florida market we offer these proofs that it was not always this way (Patriots ruling the AFC East and, too frequently, the world) and it will not stay this way forever (in theory, at least).

  • Between 1964-75, the Boston/New England Patriots experienced a 12-season postseason drought. The Dolphins’ longest stretch without a playoff game is seven seasons.
  • During the sad period of Patriots history listed above, the Dolphins won a couple of Super Bowls, posted the only perfect season in NFL history and ran up a 13-6 record against the Pats.
  • Between 1963-82, the Patriots qualified for just four playoff games and lost them all. The last loss in that string was a first-rounder to Miami in 1982, and the Dolphins went on to play in the Super Bowl that year.
  • The Dolphins are 16 years without a postseason victory at the moment, but there’s still time to put one on the board before reaching the Patriots’ franchise worst drought of 21 years between 1964-84.
  • Three times in their history the Patriots have owned or shared the worst record in the NFL – 1970, 1990 and 1992. That has happened to Miami only once (2007).
  • The Dolphins lead the all-time series with the Patriots 53-50, playoffs included.
  • The Dolphins own the longest winning streak in the series, with nine straight victories over the Patriots between 1989-93. The Patriots have never won more than seven in a row against Miami.
  • The Dolphins have the most lopsided victory in the series, 52-0 in 1972.
  • When Tom Brady joines the Pro Football Hall of Fame one day, he’ll still be outnumbered by Bob Griese and Dan Marino.
  • Bill Belichick may have 262 career victories but he’s still 85 short of Don Shula.

 

Conclusions? This makes me feel a little bit better about the faulty concept that everything always goes New England’s way, and a little bit worse that it took so much work to find these Miami advantages.

Trust me, it does no good to dig further. Stop here, before counting up division titles, Super Bowls and such, and before recognizing that Shula was 65 when the Dolphins pushed him out of the way for Jimmy Johnson. Belichick is 64 and still working on his trophy case.

[Here’s a Miami Heat upset crazier than Monday’s win over Warriors]

[Gators fall a touchdown short of college football’s scoring average]

[Wondering if Dolphins’ No. 22 draft slot is haunted]

A quiz on 4 head coaches in NFL’s Conference Championship round

 

Four head coaches still have a chance to win the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

It’s easy to imagine that guys like these stood out from the start, that the skills necessary to reach this pinnacle of NFL competition had people scrambling to hire them instantly, promote them quickly and then shower them with whatever was needed to keep them on staff.

Here’s a little exercise, though, to demonstrate how much scrapping there really is on the way to the top of this profession. I’ll offer a note or two about each of the head coaches in next weekend’s conference championship games and you can try to figure out which personal history fits which man.

The choices, in alphabetical order, are Bill Belichick, Mike McCarthy, Dan Quinn and Mike Tomlin.

  1. He slept on a bunk in the empty freshman locker room at William & Mary while working as a volunteer assistant coach. Got his first paid coaching job at Virginia Military Institute when his fiancée, who just happened to be the head athletic trainer there, helped set up a meeting. His first coordinator’s job was at a FCS school that since has dropped the sport.
  2. Got his first job in the NFL because his father, a respected scout and assistant coach at Navy for more than 30 years, arranged a face-to-face meeting with one of the league’s head coaches. “He was willing to work ‘round the clock for nothing and learn everything he could about the game,” that head coach said years later. In truth, the basic gopher job paid more than nothing. It paid $25 per week.
  3. Worked as a college graduate assistant without benefits during his first two years in coaching. Jumped around to four different schools in his first six coaching seasons. Two of those seasons were spent at a Div. I Independent that regularly scheduled “body-bag” payoff games against Miami, Georgia, LSU, Virginia Tech and the like in order to fund the athletic department.
  4. During his early days as a graduate assistant coach at a major university, he worked a toll booth on the Pennsylvania Turnpike as a second job. Because it was the graveyard shift and because few cars exited or entered at the rural interchange he was assigned, he brought playbooks along and studied all night without much interruption.

Rather than give the answers right here, these photos hopefully will require you to scroll down a bit and think a little, too, before getting them.

New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the final minutes of the game against the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 3, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick during the final minutes of the game against the Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida on January 3, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers calls a play in the first half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX – JANUARY 15: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Green Bay Packers calls a play in the first half during the NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on January 15, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 14: Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn reacts against the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA – JANUARY 14: Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn reacts against the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome on January 14, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin speaks a news conference after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. The Steelers won 18-16. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin speaks a news conference after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, Jan. 15, 2017, in Kansas City, Mo. The Steelers won 18-16. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Answers: A) Quinn; B) Belichick; C) Tomlin; D) McCarthy.

Quinn later was on the Miami Dolphins’ staff under Nick Saban and was Will Muschamp’s defensive coordinator at Florida.

Belichick’s first job was personal assistant to Ted Marchibroda of the Baltimore Colts.

Tomlin got his first opportunity at VMI with help from Quinn, who had previously known him at William & Mary.

McCarthy was a grad assistant at the University of Pittsburgh during his toll-booth days, and he had already spent two seasons as a G.A. at Fort Hays State in Kansas.

[Steve Shepherd, Dave Lewter join Florida Boxing Hall of Fame]

[Bob D’Angio was king of close calls during great Forest Hill run]

[Keeping Jimbo was biggest news for FSU since hiring Jimbo]

Dolphins still kicking themselves over blocked field goal at Seattle

The New England Patriots are 1-0 and the Miami Dolphins are 0-1 because of the kicking game.

Miami Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks has a field goal attempt blocked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cassius Marsh (91), left, in the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
SEATTLE – Miami Dolphins kicker Andrew Franks has a field goal attempt blocked by defensive end Cassius Marsh in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 12-10 loss to the Seahawks. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

At Arizona last Sunday, the Cardinals’ Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal try in the final minute. The snap was low, disrupting the timing of what already was a difficult kick, and the Patriots escaped with a 23-21 victory.

Of course, Bill Belichick had his special teams all buttoned up for the season opener, not because Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski were missing and absolutely everything had to go right but because Belichick is a details guy, no matter the occasion.

That’s how you wind up with Stephen Gostkowski being named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and that’s how the Patriots have an early edge in the AFC East standings over Miami and everybody else.

Gostkowski made all three of his field goal tries, including one from 53 yards, plus a couple of extra points. That last part really counts, too, now that the NFL has pushed conversion kicks all the way out to 33 yards.

As a bonus, New England’s defense got the benefit of Gostkowski’s excellent kickoffs. The Cardinals’ average starting position after kickoffs was their own 18-yard line.

To recap, Patriots good in all areas of the game. Patriots good, period. Year after year.

Darren Rizzi, the Dolphins’ assistant head coach and special teams coordinator, knows all of this. He also knows how badly his unit cost Miami in Sunday’s season-opening loss at Seattle.

When Cassius Marsh got a hand up to block Andrew Franks’ field-goal try in the fourth quarter, the Dolphins blew a chance to tie the score at 6-6. They also blew an opportunity to score following a fumble by Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson at the Seattle 36. In a game where the Miami defense was hit hard by injuries and generally gassed by being on the field too long, this was particularly demoralizing.

[Dolphins’ most recent playoff season started out 0-2, so simmer down]

[Anthem protest by some Dolphins players unwelcome on 9/11 or any other day]

[Nate Silver’s vaunted prediction teams sees a last-place finish for Dolphins]

Should Franks have gotten that kick up quicker? Did he attack it too casually, recognizing that the distance was shorter even than an extra point? Did the Miami kick-protection team get a little sloppy on its blocking? Any or all of these could apply, and any or all of these could crush the Dolphins’ chances of pulling off an upset at Foxborough, where every point is precious.

For that matter, Franks only got 16 field-goal tries in 2016, making 13 of them. The way Miami often struggles to move the ball, there simply are no opportunities to waste in any game. On Sunday, Franks made one from 41 yards but got blocked on a gimme. Ugh.

On the plus side at Seattle, Miami rookie Jakeem Grant showed what an unpredictable and potentially explosive return man he can be. A couple of times he was thrown down like a rag doll on punt returns, which certainly can happen to a 5-foot-7 man in a Godzilla-sized NFL. On the opening kickoff of the second half, however, Grant caught the ball in the end zone and shot 45 yards to the Miami 41-yard line.

The Dolphins didn’t do anything with it, going three-and-out and calling out Matt Darr for one of his seven punts. That won’t do, either, but Grant will have Gostkowski working hard on Sunday to keep kickoffs in the corners or out of sight.

It’s all part of the kicking game, and it’s why the AFC East standings already look the way they do. Frustratingly familiar.

With Jimmy Garoppolo at QB, Patriots listed as rare opening-day underdogs

 

Quite a double-header for Dolphins fans on Sunday, with Miami kicking off its 2016 season at 4:05 p.m. in Seattle and then the New England Patriots at Arizona immediately following on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, right, hands off to New England Patriots running back James White, left, during an NFL football practice, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hands off to running back James White during practice in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Forever I thought that Tom Brady would beat the Deflategate rap, or at least that he would be able to postpone his four-game suspension long enough to play in September. But here it is, a New England game without Brady, and it will be the same next week when the Dolphins go to Foxborough.

How Jimmy Garoppolo does in Brady’s absence is anybody’s guess.

If you want mine, I think he will do fine in his first NFL start.

Whether that’s good enough to win at Arizona remains to be seen, but If the kid wasn’t up to the assignment, Bill Belichick would have seen it long ago and starting working with someone else on an emergency plan.

Garoppolo was a second-round pick in 2014, perfectly suited to be groomed as Brady’s backup. Even in short duty the last few years he is 20-for-31 passing with a 64.5 completion percentage and a quarterback rating of 91.9.

Ryan Tannehill threw three interceptions and lost a fumble in his first start as a Dolphins rookie in 2012, earning a 39.0 rating. It would be wishful thinking to expect that Garoppolo will struggle in the same way. He’s no rookie and he’s been a special project of Belichick’s all summer.

All the same, the NFL gave both Miami and New England brutal opening trips and Garoppolo’s start surely plays into the fact that Las Vegas is listing the Cardinals as six-point favorites over the Patriots.

According to Boston.com, a website created by the Boston Globe, the Patriots have never been bigger underdogs in the Belichick era for a season-opening game.

Whatever Garoppolo does Sunday may give Miami fans hope going into next week’s showdown at Foxboro or it may underscore the challenge facing Adam Gase in his first season as Dolphins head coach.

[It’s a soft opening for Tiger Woods’ return, and that’s a smart move]

[Six good reasons why the Ravens signed Devin Hester this week]

[Remembering what happened to Dolphins’ last emergency starter at center]

Need any more help getting ready? Well here’s a quote from Arizona coach Bruce Arians, who likened Garoppolo to a young Tony Romo in his pregame comments.

“Jimmy’s an excellent athlete,” Arians said. “A very accurate passer. Having been in the system, in that system especially, for the number of years he’s been there, he’s watched (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) come up with game plans and understands what they’re trying to do. But he’s a very good athlete. You have to defend his legs as much as his arm.”

Certainly makes things more interesting, but if Brady’s backup can get the Patriots two wins out of four, Miami is still going to have a hard time staying up.

 

 

Check out some of the top NFL head coaches who started out younger than Adam Gase

 

Maybe Adam Gase, 38, isn’t so young after all, based on a longer view of NFL history and some of the game’s most successful coaches.

We all know that Don Shula was 33 when he became the head coach of the Baltimore Colts in 1963. That caused quite a stir, especially since he replaced Weeb Ewbank, 23 years his senior.

Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase, right foreground, watches the players perform drills during practice at the team's NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016, in Davie, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
DAVIE – Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase watches the players perform drills during practice at the team’s NFL football training facility, Monday, June 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)

A few other quick promotions didn’t work out so well, with Lane Kiffin at the top of the list. He was 31 when hired to coach the Oakland Raiders. Raheem Morris and David Shula were both 32 when they were handed NFL teams. Their combined record adds up to 41-98.

Here, though, is proof that it’s always the right time to find the right guy, no matter what is printed on his birth certificate.

The following coaches worked their first seasons as NFL head coaches at the following ages.

33 – Don Shula, John Madden

35 – Jon Gruden, Mike Tomlin

36 – Tom Landry, Mike Shanahan, Hank Stram

37 – Chuck Noll

38 – Paul Brown

39 – Bill Belichick

40 – Bud Grant

41 – Joe Gibbs, Tony Dungy

42 – Bill Parcells

Of course, patience is a factor in letting young coaches grow into their roles.

Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season with the Dallas Cowboys and didn’t post a winning record until his seventh year.

Belichick and Noll needed four years to field their first winning teams.

[As training camps open, do you know where former Dolphins coaches are?]

[Gase faces toughest schedule among first-time NFL head coaches]

[Confident Jim McElwain is remaking Florida Gators again]

Gruden won pretty quickly at Oakland but got fired anyway. Then he went to Tampa Bay and won a Super Bowl.

Since Stephen Ross has a reputation for giving his head coaching hires more than enough time to turn the corner, Gase at least has a fighting chance.

Most interesting in relation to Gase’s rookie season with the Dolphins is the fact that only two of the big names listed above had any previous head coaching experience.

Parcells had one 3-8 season as coach of the Air Force Academy.

Grant won four Grey Cup titles as head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers before the Minnesota Vikings hired him, and he was 30 on the day he ran the show at his first CFL game.

Of course, it’s all up to Gase to show what he can do personally in this particular circumstance, but we probably won’t be focusing in on his age much longer.

Tony Sparano was 47 and Joe Philbin was 51 when they were hired to coach the Dolphins. Being older and supposedly wiser didn’t make champions of them.

If Dolphins can find a coach as tough as Shula was, I don’t care how old he is

 

Sometimes I wish Don Shula had continued his NFL career in another market, just to prove to former Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga and a greedy new generation of Miami fans that 9- and 10-win coaches don’t grow on trees.

Of course it would have felt all wrong seeing the franchise’s Don, the ultimate Dolphins’ winner, running some other organization. Shula didn’t have to be washed up at 66, though.

[Latest on the Miami Dolphins coaching search]

Nick Saban is 65 as he goes for another championship at Alabama and most any pro or college team anywhere would blow up the budget for a chance to benefit from whatever is left in his tank.

Former Dolphins coach Don Shula hugs ex-quarterback Earl Morrall before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium (then Dolphin Stadium) on Dec. 16, 2007. The team celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Perfect Season that year. Joe Rimkus Jr. / MIAMI HERALD
Former Dolphins coach Don Shula hugs ex-quarterback Earl Morrall before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at Sun Life Stadium on Dec. 16, 2007. The team celebrated the 35th anniversary of the Perfect Season that year. Joe Rimkus Jr. / MIAMI HERALD

There’s something of a revival for seasoned coaches these days, and I’ve got to admit it makes old turkeys like me feel good. As the game evolves, smart coaches do, too, or at the minimum they collect the most innovative minds available to head up their staffs.

Take a look at the four teams that earned first-round byes this year. Half of them are coached by 63-year-old men. One of them, Bill Belichick, has been doing this forever. The other, Arizona’s Bruce Arians, was handed his first full-time NFL head coaching gig at 60.

So far, so good. Arians is 34-14 with the Cardinals. He’s been to the playoffs twice in three seasons and before all of this he went 9-3 as the interim head coach at Indianapolis during Chuck Pagano’s illness.

The average age of the 12 playoff coaches is just a smidge under 55, with Seattle’s Pete Carroll (64) and Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer (59) helping to push it up. Overall, there are five NFL head coaches 60 years and older.

Zimmer’s story is similar to Arians. He had a solid reputation from two decades in the league but didn’t get his first his chance as a head coach until two years ago. In fact, he had been passed over so many times that the competition between him and six younger coordinators for the Vikings’ job barely even felt like it was worth his time and energy.

“I almost didn’t go (on the second interview with Minnesota),” Zimmer said. “I was so disappointed. It was like, ‘Why even do this?’ It was to that point I figured I was getting too old. I thought, ‘Forget this.’ ”

Mike Shanahan, 63, surely doesn’t feel that way. He’s interviewed with the Dolphins and would like a crack at running the 49ers, too.

To me, it’s a matter of whether a guy is capable of collecting wins, not whether he’s collecting social security.

[When’s the last time UM, FSU and Gators all lost their bowl games in same year?]

[Bill Belichick’s primer on how long it takes a new coach to fully install his program]

[Mark Richt’s culture change from Georgia to Miami expressed mathematically]

For that reason, I would say go ahead and cast the net wider, Stephen Ross, if you’re serious about changing the culture in Miami. What you’re looking for is something like Shula had with the Dolphins, a culture built on doing whatever it takes to win. Switching from conservative offense to the electric jolt of Dan Marino was included in that, and that revolution came in Shula’s 21st season as an NFL head coach.

Call Tom Coughlin, 69 and suddenly out of work, to see if he’s willing to push on until the age of 72, like George Halas did in Chicago and Marv Levy did in Buffalo. And while you’re at it, why not gauge Mike Holmgren’s interest in rejoining the league? He’s 67 and reportedly is giving the San Francisco opening a cursory look.

Doesn’t mean that the 49ers would want Holmgren, but really, are the Dolphins in any position to disregard any coach who’s been to three Super Bowls with two different teams and shows even the slightest inclination to do it again?

Dick Vermeil won a Super Bowl at 63, for crying out loud, and he coached Kansas City to a 10-6 season at 69.

The more I think about it, Shula could have been good for another five years and some other franchise would have been smart to talk him into trying.

Four of his last six Miami teams made the playoffs, and that supposedly was while the game was in the process of passing him by.

Bill Belichick’s primer on how long it takes a new coach to build a foundation for winning

Don’t know who the Miami Dolphins are going to roll out as their new head coach, but it will happen soon and fans will expect a lot from him.

Well, maybe the best way to say that is fans will expect a lot more than they’re getting now.

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 01:   Tom Brady #12, team owner Robert Kraft, and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots celebrate with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ – Tom Brady, team owner Robert Kraft, and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots celebrate with the Vince Lombardi Trophy after defeating the Seattle Seahawks 28-24 to win Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, 2015 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

How realistic is that?

Bill Belichick provided some clues on that last week when asked how long it took him to insert his full  program in New England. His answer was four years, from 2000-03, and that answer comes from a man who had previously been a head coach in Cleveland, with all the learning opportunities that came with that project.

Here is the transcript of Belichick taking on a follow-up question. Did it take a couple of years in New England because of the personnel decisions he had to make?

“No,” Belichick said, “just because of everything.

“You have to change the culture. I mean, normally one coach is different from the previous coach. You don’t see a lot of ‘Whoever the first coach is, the second coach is kind of the carbon copy of the first coach,’ or ‘the third coach is kind of a carbon copy of the second coach.’ I mean, you rarely see that.

“The coach that comes in usually has a different philosophy than the coach that left, so you have to try to implement that philosophy. That means you’re going to turn over a high percentage of the roster because the players that the other coach had don’t fit the new philosophy, so a lot of the players are going to have to change in part because of the philosophy and probably in part because of the scheme. Those role-type players, now that role is not needed in the new scheme and a different role is needed, so you get different players, and then just getting your team acclimated to doing things the way that the philosophy of the new program.

“You’re going to have to go through a lot of tough situations – tough games, tough losses, tough stretches in the season, whatever it happens to be, to build that up over time. It doesn’t happen in training camp. I mean training camp is training camp, but those games don’t count. Even in the early part of the season, you might have some tough games, but it’s not like playing in January, playing in December. It takes some time to go through that.

“I don’t think there is any shortcut to it. I know there are a lot of other people in the league that think there is, that after two weeks all of a sudden everything is going to change dramatically, but I’m not really part of that, I don’t buy into that.

“So, I mean we won in’01. In ’02, we had a lot of issues. ’03 – that was a good football team. ’04 – that was a good football team. ’01 wasn’t the best team, but that team played the best, so we won. But I think we saw in ’02 more of probably overall where the ’01 team was. Just the ’01 team played great when they had to in critical situations in big games and that’s why they won. You can’t take anything away from them. They deserved it because they were the best team. But it wasn’t the case in ’02.”

Keep in mind, Belichick is talking about a period during which the Patriots won three Super Bowls in four years (2001, 2003 and 2004) and still he felt limited by circumstances from installing his entire program the way he wanted in terms of seamless continuity. We’re talking about a perfectionist and we’re talking about one of the best coaches ever in this league.

Whoever takes on the Dolphins job won’t be as good and won’t be as successful but he will run into all of the issues Belichick speaks of here in the transitional phase. What Miami needs is someone who can survive that transition period, and not just another place-holder who can’t outlast the pain of two or three more years of mediocrity or losing, with all  the criticism and fan discontent that goes with that.

I don’t pretend to understand everything Belichick says or knows, but this is about as expansive and insightful as the guy gets with the media. Might as well learn something from it.