After much promise in the beginning, Adam Gase has been let go by the Dolphins after a 23-26 run over just three seasons. Quarterback issues, which he was brought in to fix, proved to be an Achilles heel and, even with some highs like beating the Patriots a few times, there were simply too many times the team melted down just when you thought they were turning a corner.
Now the onus is on general manager Chris Grier to cement his tenure with the club and find a new head coach that can finally get the team over the hump. Owner Stephen Ross likely won’t spare any expense in trying to lure a big name but it will take more than money to get Miami back on track.
Who could wind up replacing Gase? Here are 12 candidates to watch that could be the next Dolphins head coach:
The NFL assistants
Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator
An easy name due to his prior head coaching experience and work within the division. Probably would take a lot of convincing to go up against Bill Belichick twice a year but still highly respected for his work on offense. Would be just the splashy type of name that could get everybody in South Beach fired up though.
Brian Flores, Patriots defensive coordinator
Been in New England for a long time in a variety of roles and is very highly regarded. He’ll be a trendy under-the-radar name but could fit as a stabilizing force in Miami. He’s young at just 37, but would bring energy and relate well to young players.
Vic Fangio, Bears defensive coordinator
His age works against him but South Florida is home to plenty of successful sexagenarians. Just about everywhere he’s gone the defense has been stout and he’s learned from some of the best around. He’d get a good endorsement from the owner’s pal, Jim Harbaugh, and could bring along an up-and-coming OC to take care of the other side of the ball.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
Likely to be in hot demand thanks to the performance of the Chiefs this year and the success of Matt Nagy in Chicago. He’s a veteran coach who still is plenty young and has the benefit of speaking as a former player with nine years in the league. The Andy Reid coaching tree has done much better than the Bill Belichick tree and Bieniemy seems like the next guy up.
Dan Campbell, Saints tight ends coach
Campbell is going to be up for a lot of gigs on the back of what he did as the interim guy in Miami a few years ago so perhaps a potential reunion is in store. While he might not be the organization’s first choice, he’s certainly the right CEO type that could work and would have no problem bringing in accomplished coordinators to complement what he can do with a roster.
Zac Taylor, Rams QB coach
One of the up-and-comers in the league, he figures to be one of several of Sean McVay’s assistants to get a look at a top job. He’s familiar with the Miami brain trust from his stint as OC back in 2015 and he’s only enhanced his resume by bringing along Jared Goff out in Los Angeles.
Kris Richard, Cowboys DB coach
Richard won a Super Bowl with Seattle and played a big role in the turnaround of Dallas’ defense this season. He’s got the right personality for the role and has interviewed to be a head coach before. Many think it’s only a matter of time before he moves into the big chair and the Dolphins could be an excellent fit.
Matt Eberflus, Colts defensive coordinator
Not on the radar for many until this season, he’s done a terrific job in taking the Colts from one of the worst defenses in the league to one of the best. Solid background in the league could be ready to take the next step.
The college coaches
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Harbaugh won 44 games with the 49ers and if he does decide to return to the league, you can bet that Stephen Ross will do everything to make sure that he’ll be wearing a Dolphins logo. The two share plenty of Michigan ties and even if Ross wants the coach to be leading the Wolverines to glory for many years to come, the franchise at least has to inquire.
The ex-head coaches
Mike McCarthy, former Packers head coach
Not often you can bring a Super Bowl-winning head coach off the street. He’d be a home-run hire in terms of bringing much-needed cache to the organization and could help figure out the quarterback position for the first time in ages.
Jack Del Rio, former Raiders head coach
Did good work for several years up the road in Jacksonville and led the Raiders to the playoffs just two years ago before being run out. If head coaching experience is valued, he’ll get some interest from a number of clubs and could help shore up the Dolphins’ defense.
Chuck Pagano, former Colts head coach
Took Indy to the playoffs several times and had a very good rep on defense from his work as an assistant. Would need to come in with a clear plan on offense but a veteran who knows the rigors of the AFC would be a big plus.
— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.