Five days after the end of the regular season, there are still eight vacancies for NFL head coaching jobs. And, the two biggest questions are who and when will make the first move on their new hire? And, will that move start a “domino effect” of other teams hiring their coaches.
In the case of both the Bucs and the Dolphins, they have familiarity with replacing coaches, including recently. Both the Glazer family, the Tampa Bay owners, and Stephen Ross, the Dolphins owner, have each fired and hired at least two coaches in the last five years.
So obviously, they understand the urgency of trying to hire your guy before someone else (in this case seven other franchises) hire him first.
A further wrinkle in this year’s process is that the Browns and the Packers fired coaches earlier in the regular season and were already conducting interviews before the season was over. Interestingly, neither of them have hired a coach as of Friday afternoon.
So, there has been a constant information update of teams doing interviews, but thus far, no one has taken the plunge with a new head coach.
There is also one more factor in this annual timeline and that is: the NFL generally frowns upon teams making a hire, once the playoff weekend has gotten underway. And that looming artificial deadline is when the Colts and the Texans kickoff Saturday afternoon just after 4:30 eastern time, the league does not want its playoff games being upstaged by coaching news until after the games conclude Sunday evening.
With that in mind let’s look at a couple of examples of what the Tampa Bay and Miami owners have done, recently.
For the Buccaneers three years ago, they had fired coach Lovie Smith three days after the season was over and Tampa Bay conducted a search interviewing candidates. However, we now know that all along the top choice was to retain offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter and promote him to head coach.
Koetter was drawing interest from other teams like the Eagles and the 49ers for top job interviews. The Bucs waited until after the first weekend of playoff games and then, made the hire official (above).
In the case of the Dolphins having fired Joe Philbin during the season in 2015, it was obviously a little different dynamic for Ross.
He had Dan Campbell, as an interim coach, and he was also able to interview other candidates before the season was over because of the vacancy. As it turned out, Ross and the Dolphins moved quickly and hired former Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase just six days after the season ended and just before the playoff games began on the first Saturday of that January 2016.
One more concern is: if you wait too long while the other teams are hiring coaches, the pool of assistant coaches shrinks greatly due to job offers from new teams and new situations.
Now, even though Tampa Bay Rays GM Jason Licht and the Glazers are interviewing assistant coaches this week, including the Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy, the belief is their top target is former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians.
It’s unknown at this point whether Arians does want to resume his coaching career at 66 years of age and with previous health concerns.
Buccaneer fans will remember that it took the Glazers almost six weeks to end up with Jon Gruden in 2002 and that was only after a blockbuster trade involving draft picks and eight million dollars going to the Raiders.
In their 2012 search, it took the Glazers almost a month before they settled on Rutgers college coach Greg Schiano, which was a two year disaster.
So, you have an example of it working out extremely well by taking your time and one, where it completely backfired by waiting.
Next, the Dolphins have also had an interview with Bieniemy and another one with Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores on Friday. Now, they are scheduled to talk to their own special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi soon, too. Still, they could be ready to make a “splash hire” with a bigger name coming out of nowhere, as well.
So, for now, we wonder which of the eight NFL teams will be the first to officially get their guy? And how quickly will the other ones follow suit make their moves and their announcements?
The coaching race is definitely on.
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