There weren’t many head-turning decisions on Black Monday around the NFL but one surprising name that wound up on the chopping block was Brian Flores exiting after just his third season in South Florida. While this year started off about as bad as you could think, a late winning streak and signs of life out of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led many to think that he would be back and plenty capable of going over the .500 mark on the career record tally.
Alas, ownership decided to go in a different direction amid reports of conflicts with the front office, leaving an organization wondering where exactly do the Dolphins go from here after the unexpected opening? There’s a wealth of options in play, a young roster just scratching the surface, and the lure of winning down in South Beach to set up one of the more interesting searches the league has seen recently. Who could be in the running in Miami? Here are a few names general manager Chris Grier could take a look at.
Dan Quinn, Cowboys defensive coordinator
Quinn spent two seasons as the Dolphins DL coach back in the day so he’s aquatinted with the organization even if things are much different nowadays. His energy and ability to connect with players would be a good fit in the area and his prior head coaching experience in taking a team to the next level look like an excellent potential fit with the opening.
Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator
If he’s good enough for Patrick Mahomes, certainly he’s good enough to take Tua to the next level, right? He carries a gravitas having been a former player who won at all manner of stops over the course of his coaching career too. He’s interviewed quite a bit over the past few years but the situation in Miami seems perfect for his blend of off-field motivation and on-field creativity.
Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator
No stranger to these division rivals, Daboll has won back-to-back AFC East titles and come through Miami to get them. It might work against him slightly that he’s another former Patriots assistant but he’s sprouted his wings enough in the past that it shouldn’t be an issue. Plus, the last time he was around Tua, the pair won a national title and was joyfully hugging it out.
Mike McDaniel, 49ers offensive coordinator
Another in the long assembly line of young offensive minds that love a good zone scheme, McDaniel could get a few looks this cycle after helping guide San Francisco back to the playoffs despite a weekly agent of change hitting the QB room. The former Yale grad has worked his way up the ladder and seems like the next of his peers to get a look at the top job.
Byron Leftwich, Buccaneers offensive coordinator
There’s been plenty of discussion about Leftwich in connection to the Sunshine State’s other vacancy but perhaps the more intriguing situation in South Florida would be more tempting to the former first-round QB. He’s earned lots of praise for his work in Arizona and Tampa and would probably get a good recommendation sent to ownership from Tom Brady and company up the road.
Todd Bowles, Buccaneers defensive coordinator
Bowles has actually been the Miami head coach before, going 2-1 back in 2011 as the interim option after Tony Sparano got fired midseason. He’s transformed defense and culture at pretty much any stop he’s been at and is among the most beloved DCs in the league.
Jerod Mayo, Patriots linebackers coach
Flores’ hiring largely worked in the first place, so why not go back to the well again with a Patriots assistant many are tabbing as the next head coach to come out of Foxborough. The former top-10 pick and Rookie of the Year has been a mainstay in the division and somebody accustomed to what Miami does well and what they do not. It would be taking another chance on inexperience but he has everything you you’re looking for in the next up-and-comer.
Former Head Coaches
Doug Pederson, former Eagles head coach
The former backup QB spent several stints with the Dolphins back in the day and has an obvious connection to Dan Marino, who remains influential in the building. He’s got a personality that is not for everybody but knows how to develop an offense and a young signal-caller.
Bill O’Brien, former Texans head coach
Miami traded so much with the Texans over the years O’Brien was in charge that they had to admire what kind of team he could get ready to play on a weekly basis. His work at Tua’s alma mater this year won’t go overlooked and would be a credible, veteran option the franchise could opt for.
Jim Harbaugh, Michigan head coach
Let’s face it, there’s one name that popped into everybody’s mind as soon as the Dolphins announced a head coaching change. While owner and fellow Wolverine Stephen Ross shot down initial speculation, if Harbaugh were dead set in exiting the college ranks however, we’re sure Miami would put on the full-court press to lure him South and make the big splash that the franchise needs in that part of the country.
— 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.