There always seems to be one surprise firing at the end of a given season. In this latest cycle, it was the Miami Dolphins, who had the NFL's collective jaw on the floor when word got out that they had fired head coach Brian Flores after three seasons. While there will be plenty of time devoted to that puzzling decision, the cord has already been cut and the Dolphins are now in the market for a new person to lead their team.
Below, we'll dive into a handful of candidates that could be of interest to Miami as it steps forward into this new era in the franchise's history.
Current job: Head coach, Michigan
This connection was made almost in lockstep with the news that Flores had been fired. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has fancied Harbaugh for years, dating back to when he tried to hire him from Stanford back in 2011 before Harbaugh elected to to sign with the 49ers. With Ross in the coaching market once again and Harbaugh's future at Michigan reportedly unclear, it doesn't take too much of a leap to say that this could be a possible marriage.
It should be noted, however, that Ross -- a University of Michigan alum and donor -- was asked about this possibility on Monday and he said: "I'm not going to be the person who takes Jim Harbaugh away from Michigan." That said, while Ross may not pry Harbaugh out of Ann Arbor; if his bags are already packed as he looks for another opportunity in the NFL, it wouldn't be surprising to see him try once more to sign him.
Current job: Offensive coordinator, Buccaneers
If the Dolphins want a more offensive-minded coach to succeed Flores (a former Patriots defensive coordinator), they could look in-state at Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich. He is one of the hotter names out there this hiring cycle and has helped the Tampa Bay offense hum as one of the better units in the NFL while coaching Tom Brady.
The Bucs led the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns this season, while also ranking as the No. 1 offense in the league in DVOA. In 2020, Leftwich's offense averaged 384 yards per game and 30.8 points (third most in the NFL).
If Miami is looking for someone with experience, however, and want to shy away from hiring another first-time head coach, Leftwich may not be the answer as he's only been the Tampa Bay OC for three seasons. Prior to that, he was the Cardinals quarterbacks coach from 2017-2018 and the interim offensive coordinator in 2018.
Current job: Offensive coordinator, Patriots
If the Dolphins want to dip their toe back into the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Josh McDaniels could be an option. Similar to Leftwich, McDaniels brings an offensive mindset to the table, but also has some head coaching experience from his days leading the Denver Broncos. McDaniels isn't as hot of a name as he's been in years's past, but is still a strong candidate in-waiting for some organization if he doesn't ascend to head coach in New England whenever Belichick elects to retire.
This season, McDaniels was able to have the Patriots offense produce at a high level with a rookie quarterback in Mac Jones under center. New England's offense ranked 9th in the NFL in DVOA and their 27.2 points per game average ranked 6th throughout the league.
Most recent job: Head coach, Eagles
If they want someone with a winning pedigree and can bring that culture to the locker room quickly, the Dolphins could look towards Doug Pederson. The former Eagles head coach took the year off after he was fired from Philadelphia at the end of last season. Pederson does have a strong resume to bring to the table as he is 46-39-1 as a head coach (regular-season and playoff) in his career and was able to help the Eagles to its first-ever Super Bowl title back in 2017. That year, Philly ranked No. 3 in points and No. 7 in DVOA in the NFL as the club went 13-3. Pederson also is a coach that should be able to help develop the quarterback position whether it is Tua Tagovailoa or whoever the organization decides will be the man under center going forward. After all, he did have Wentz playing at an MVP level prior to his injury back in 2017 and then coached Nick Foles up through a miraculous playoff run that resulted in a title. Not many other coaches have that type of background.