Ex-Miami Dolphins interim coach Dan Campbell talks to Colts, gets Bill Parcells’ endorsement

Dan Campbell. (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Even as the Dolphins parted with interim coach Dan Campbell after the 2015 season, there was no doubt they were letting go someone who’d be a head coach in the NFL someday.

That day might come this week.

The Indianapolis Colts, left at the alter by Josh McDaniels, planned a Thursday interview with Campbell, who already received an endorsement from an NFL heavyweight: Bill Parcells, according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.

Garafolo said Parcells has recommended Campbell to Colts general manager Chris Ballard.

Campbell’s ties to Parcells go about as far back as possible. As a student at Texas A&M, Campbell was assigned to do a research paper on leadership. His subject was Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach of the Giants and former head of football operations for the Dolphins.

“You can call me ‘Little Tuna,’ ” Campbell once said.

Dolphins fans will recall that Campbell took over when Joe Philbin was fired in 2015, leading the Dolphins to a 5-7 record and gaining huge support from players to be retained on a full-time basis. After the Dolphins beat the Patriots to finish that season, players chanted Campbell’s name to send a message to management.

“He gets it out of his players,” safety Michael Thomas said at the time. “Just to work hard, be intense, bring that intensity on game days, and it’s up to us to go out there and make the plays. That’s why it’s disappointing. We didn’t go out there and make the plays to help him out to get the job.”

In the end, the Dolphins hired Adam Gase, but even then, owner Stephen Ross said, “I love Dan Campbell.”

Campbell then headed to New Orleans to reunite with Sean Payton and serve as his tight ends coach/assistant head coach.

Despite the awkward nature of the coaching search, the Colts reportedly have several other candidates in mind, including Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier, Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich, Eagles QB John DeFilippo, Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub and Raiders offensive line coach Tom Cable.

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Dan Campbell’s season coaching Dolphins changed his career track

Former Dolphins coach Dan Campbell is on his way up. (Allen Eyestone/The Post)

LAKE BUENA VISTA—It’s an unusual path in the NFL to go from coaching tight ends to being the head coach, then returning to tight ends and starting the climb all over again. For former Dolphins coach Dan Campbell, that route has provided tremendous opportunities.

Miami put Campbell in charge after firing Joe Philbin four games into the 2015 season and he opened with back-to-back wins before ending up at 5-7 as interim coach. His three months in the head chair served him well, though, and he’s now an emerging offensive coordinator candidate in the league.

“I’ve been blessed,” said Campbell, who coaches tight ends for New Orleans and is part of the staff selected to coach the NFL in Sunday’s Pro Bowl. “Steve Ross and Mike Tannenbaum gave me the opportunity, and I’m forever grateful for that because it really opens your eyes to everything that goes on at that position.

“As a position coach, you don’t know all the ins and out and whats and whys, but when you’re the head coach, you get exposed to every bit of that. It only helps you. So to come back and be a position coach for the Saints, it allows you to look at the game a different way and you want to coach to help the head coach. In your head, you can put yourself in his seat and go, ‘Ah, I understand why he’s doing that.’”

The job as interim coach with the Dolphins was initially more difficult and extensive than Campbell realized, though he got a better handle on it as the season progressed. The biggest benefit, other than getting his name out there, was getting a better grasp of what his former and future bosses deal with on a daily basis. That’s enabled him to be a better assistant to New Orleans head coach Sean Payton.

“I don’t care who you are, if you talk to any first-time head coach, they can say all they want but they don’t know what they’re getting into,” Campbell said. “’There’s little things always popping up. I bet half of them didn’t realize you have to worry about the seating chart on the plane. You know what I mean?

“There’s all kinds of little things that happen, but I got more comfortable with it and by the end of the year I felt pretty good about what I was trying to do.”

Campbell, 41, said he is interviewing for the Vikings’ offensive coordinator vacancy Tuesday. He said being in a role that allows him to call plays has been a dream of his since the day he decided to become a coach.

He went to the Saints shortly after the Dolphins turned him down for the permanent job and went with Adam Gase instead. Sean Payton gave him the title of Associate Head Coach in addition to overseeing tight ends.

After six seasons with the Dolphins, who gave him his start as an intern in 2010 under Tony Sparano, Campbell landed with one of the best-run organizations in the league. Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis have been with New Orleans for a decade-plus, and the Saints were one of the best teams in the NFC this year at 11-5.

What he’s observed in New Orleans is a strong blueprint for him if he ultimately lands a head-coaching job.

“What Sean and Mickey have done out there is pretty phenomenal,” Campbell said. “You feel like everybody in that building is going the same direction and everybody is there to help the head coach have success, from the personnel department to Mickey to myself to the other coaches. It’s been good.”

[Dolphins WR Jarvis Landry bubbling with happiness as he heads toward free agency]

[Jarvis Landry believes Dolphins coach Adam Gase wants him back]

[Dolphins legend Don Shula asks for patience for coach Adam Gase]

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Dan Campbell on track to coach alongside Adam Gase’s father-in-law

Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt found qualities he liked in Adam Gase right from the start. It's why Vitt said Gase could marry his daughter. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Saints assistant head coach Joe Vitt found qualities he liked in Adam Gase right from the start. It’s why Vitt said Gase could marry his daughter. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Now that Dan Campbell is leaving the Dolphins to become assistant head coach of the Saints, you might think that closes the book on any possible connections between Campbell and new coach Adam Gase.

Sort of, but not quite.

The Saints haven’t officially named Campbell assistant head coach, perhaps because they’re trying to sort out how that affects the current assistant head coach, Joe Vitt.

That would be Joe Vitt, father-in-law to — yes! — Adam Gase.

Adam Gase. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
Adam Gase. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

Nola.com speculated that the Saints could make Campbell assistant head coach of the offense and Vitt for the defense.

Since Gase already has hired a defensive coordinator (Vance Joseph) and a linebacker coach (Matt Burke), it wouldn’t seem likely that Vitt is Miami-bound.

To say Vitt and Gase hit it off the first time they met is an understatement. During Super Bowl week two years ago, Gase, then Broncos offensive coordinator, told the story of how Vitt gave Gase his blessing to marry his daughter, Jennifer.

Adam and Jennifer had met at a golf tournament in Ohio three months before Adam met Vitt at the 2008 Senior Bowl.

Gase was having dinner with Saints coach Sean Payton, GM Mickey Loomis, Buffalo assistant Matt Sheldon and Vitt when the first three coaches left.

“I’m kind of like, ‘What’s going on here?’ ” Gase recalled at that Super Bowl. “So he gives me permission to marry Jen.”

That’s impressive for any guy, but what makes this especially noteworthy: “I didn’t even ask him,” Gase said.

“So I’m leaving the Senior Bowl, and I call Jen and say, ‘Hey, your dad gave me permission to marry you,’ and she goes, ‘What … you asked him?’ I told her no. I don’t know if it was too many vinos or what.”

Small detail, but Gase finally got around to proposing to Jennifer three months later.

“I was like, ‘I don’t have a choice now,’ ” Gase said.

Today, Adam and Jennifer have three children: daughter McKenzie and sons A.J. and Wyatt.

Adam made sure to thank Jennifer during his introductory news conference in Davie on Saturday, although she wasn’t there to hear it — she had to step outside momentarily because their youngest son was fidgety.

Ross: Tannenbaum to lead search; Campbell is a candidate

Ross
Ross

Mike Tannenbaum will have a prominent voice in selecting the Dolphins’ new coach and Dan Campbell will be among the candidates in a search that will begin “immediately,” owner Stephen Ross said in a letter to season-ticket holders Friday.

Ross also didn’t sugarcoat this season, labeling it “disappointing” that the Dolphins are 5-10 entering Sunday’s finale against visiting New England.

Prominent on everyone’s mind, however, will be where the Dolphins go from here. Rebuilding will not mean Ross will clean house and part with Tannenbaum, who has spent about a year as the team’s executive vice president of football operations.

“We are going to conduct a thorough process led by Mike Tannenbaum to select our head coach that will not be constrained by convention in our approach,” Ross wrote. “This search will be thorough and we will take it wherever we need to go.”

Campbell took over as interim coach after Joe Philbin was fired amid a 1-3 start.

“I appreciate everything Dan Campbell has done this season and he has earned the opportunity to be considered for head coach,” Ross wrote. “We’ve also identified several promising candidates and will begin work immediately.”

The Dolphins are bound by the Rooney Rule to interview at least one minority candidate.

Ross thought he had assembled the right pieces entering this season, including the signing of free agent Ndamukong Suh to a $114 million contract. Despite the presence of the former All-Pro defensive tackle, Miami’s run defense actually took a step backward this season.

“I had high expectations headed into this year and the on-field results have been disappointing … for you, our staff, our coaches, our players and alumni players and certainly for me,” Ross said.

Ross went on to applaud fans’ “unwavering” support in selling out home games and traveling well.

“I look forward with optimism to more celebrations in the future together,” Ross wrote.

Injury update: The Dolphins listed linebacker Jelani Jenkins (ankle) and center Mike Pouncey (foot/ankle) as doubtful for Sunday. Questionable are guard Jamil Douglas (ankle), tackle Ja’Wuan James (toe), receiver Rishard Matthews (ribs), defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (calf) and receiver Kenny Stills (thigh).