The search for a new defensive coordinator immediately began after the Miami Dolphins moved on from Josh Boyer in that role Thursday.
Boyer, despite having the excuse of losing several key defenders due to injury, never quite got the same out of the Dolphins defense as he did the previous two seasons when he could lean on ex-coach Brian Flores, who has a defensive background in his coaching career.
Current coach Mike McDaniel has a background coaching offense, so Boyer was essentially given the keys to the defense and came up short. His unit finished the 2022 regular season 30th in takeaways, 27th in pass defense, 24th in scoring defense and third-down defense and 18th in total defense.
McDaniel, after retaining Boyer as a holdover from Flores’ staff, will now be charged with making his own hire at defensive coordinator. He’ll likely look to find a coach who can present schematic versatility, whereas Boyer was often exposed as ineffective when his blitz packages became predictable.
The Dolphins will be required to interview at least one minority candidate as part of the 2020 expansion of the Rooney Rule to coordinator positions.
Candidates who are officially interviewing for the role will become known in the coming days and weeks, but here are some early names to keep an eye on:
This was the name that seemed to be at the top of the list when McDaniel was first hired in early February 2022, but Boyer was retained.
Fangio, who was head coach of the Denver Broncos from 2019 to 2021, instead became a defensive consultant for the Philadelphia Eagles this season, with his team competing in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.
Fangio has a lengthy resume as an NFL defensive coordinator: Chicago Bears from 2015 to 2018, San Francisco 49ers from 2011 to 2014 (a run that included deep playoff runs and even a Super Bowl appearance leading some great defenses), Houston Texans for their first four seasons in franchise history from 2002 to 2005, the Indianapolis Colts from 1999 to 2001 and the Carolina Panthers from their inaugural season in 1995 through 1998.
Before reaching the coordinator ranks, he was a longtime New Orleans Saints linebackers coach from 1986 through 1994. He also had stints as a defensive assistant for tough Baltimore Ravens defenses from 2006 to 2009 before coordinating the Stanford University defense in 2010 and following Jim Harbaugh to the 49ers.
Fangio, who turns 65 in August, also coached now-Dolphins edge defender Bradley Chubb during his time in charge with the Broncos.
Smith, turning 65 in May, would present another tenured defensive mind with previous head coaching experience.
He’s coming off a season of leading the Houston Texans, promoted from defensive coordinator and associate head coach in 2021.
Smith was the head coach with the Chicago Bears from 2004 to 2012, making a Super Bowl appearance in his third season with a top defense led by linebacker Brian Urlacher. He was then Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach in 2014 and 2015 before heading down to the college ranks and coaching Illinois from 2016 to 2020.
Before leading the Bears, he was defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams from 2001 to 2003, reaching a Super Bowl there, and was linebackers coach in Tampa from 1996 to 2000, where he coached a unit that included Derrick Brooks as that great Bucs defense began to sprout.
The 42-year-old Denver Broncos defensive coordinator is a fast riser in recent years and has even interviewed for the Panthers’ and Arizona Cardinals’ head coaching jobs, while being requested for interviews for other head coach openings.
If he doesn’t land a lead role, Evero would be a hot name to get lured to another defensive coordinator position.
Evero rose as secondary coach and passing game coordinator with the Los Angeles Rams in 2021, instructing a unit that included star cornerback Jalen Ramsey and that was a key cog in winning the last Super Bowl. He was safeties coach with the Rams four years prior, and he also previously held defensive assistant roles with the Packers and 49ers.
Like Fangio, Evero also has the connection with Chubb, coaching him the first half of 2022.
Joseph, who was Dolphins defensive coordinator in 2016, was just involved in Dolphins head coach interviews last offseason when McDaniel eventually landed the job, so there has been mutual interest of late.
Joseph’s successful season in Miami, which was the franchise’s last playoff appearance before qualifying for the postseason this year, led him to earn the Broncos’ head coaching role from 2017 to 2018. As the Chubb connections continue, Joseph drafted Chubb with the No. 5 pick in the 2018 draft.
After that brief tenure, Joseph, 50, joined the Cardinals. His defense took a step back in 2022 after ranking in the top 15 in points and yards the previous two seasons.
Back when Flores was hired in 2019, Richard, 43, was one of the candidates being interviewed for the head coaching job in Miami.
He was defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks from 2015 to 2017. When he was up for the Dolphins job, he was Dallas Cowboys defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator.
Richard then was defensive backs coach of the Saints in 2021 and was promoted to co-defensive coordinator this past season as he has worked his way back to coordinator ranks.
Before his first stint as DC, he coached the Seahawks secondary for five years as Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” was blossoming.
Desai, who turns 40 in April, seems to have a similar coaching and communication style to McDaniel. And, like McDaniel, he’s an Ivy League grad, earning a Master’s degree from Columbia University.
Desai reached the defensive coordinator rank with the Bears in 2021, but he wasn’t kept in Chicago through the transition from Matt Nagy to Matt Eberflus. The Bears defense also took a dive afterward.
Before becoming coordinator, Desai was safeties coach in Chicago from 2019 to 2020 and defensive quality control coach for six years before that.
He has one previous stint in South Florida. Among his college stops, he was assistant director of football operations at the University of Miami in 2011, the first season the Hurricanes were led by Al Golden.
Here’s a potential candidate with previous ties to both the Dolphins and McDaniel.
Kocurek, 44, was Miami’s defensive line coach in 2018 under Adam Gase and has since held the same role in San Francisco, overlapping with McDaniel over four seasons there.
McDaniel also has expressed how edge defenders and defensive linemen are his favorite positions in football, despite having an offensive background. We see what Kocurek has done with former St. Thomas Aquinas star Nick Bosa with the 49ers. McDaniel may want to bring him in, especially since it’s hard to imagine a run at San Francisco defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans as plausible.
Another name to watch with former ties to McDaniel with the 49ers is Aaron Whitecotton. He was assistant defensive line coach there and followed Robert Saleh to the New York Jets to shed the assistant label. Whitecotton has worked wonders up front in the Meadowlands, especially with standout defensive lineman Quinnen Williams, and why not jab at a division rival in the process?
It seems unlikely as the Patriots’ announcement last week that they are negotiating with the inside linebackers coach to keep him in New England long term makes it seem like the Patriots will surely be taking care of him.
The former New England linebacker, who will be 37 in February, even turned down a head coach interview with the Panthers, so it would be difficult to imagine him leaving for a defensive coordinator role within the division.
Alexander, who will turn 39 in June, was a rising defensive coach with Miami in 2020 and 2021 as defensive backs coach, and he took a greater role with the defense as a whole in the second half of 2021 when the unit got hot during a seven-game winning streak.
He took a year away from coaching. But would McDaniel want to reach back into the Flores era after just letting his former defensive coordinator go?
Anthony Campanile/Austin Clark/Sam Madison
If the Dolphins don’t go with an experienced hire or top candidate from the outside, could they promote from within?
It’s telling that McDaniel likes Campanile as linebackers coach, Clark as defensive line coach and Madison as defensive backs coach after the trio was not among the list of defensive coaches dismissed along with Boyer. Those out included outside linebackers coach Ty McKenzie, safeties coach Steve Gregory and assistant linebackers coach Steve Ferentz. Defensive assistant Patrick Surtain left on his own to become FSU secondary coach.
Campanile, 40, has the energy, charisma and communication skills to potentially lead a defense. Clark, 32, is an excellent teacher and has done great work with Christian Wilkins and Zach Sieler. Madison, 48, developed undrafted rookie Kader Kohou to the point of being a viable NFL starter in his first year out of Texas A&M-Commerce.
Source: Read Full Article