Ranking every Miami Dolphins head coach: You know who’s No. 1, but who’s No. 11?

Don Shula in Cleveland snow in 1978. (Bill Reinke / The Miami News)

I was talking with Alex Donno of WQAM-560AM on Thursday night when we somehow got onto the subject of the worst coaches in Dolphins history.

Alex asked whom I rated at the bottom but, being the kind of guy he is, blurted out my answer before I could beat him to the punch. If the phrases “fail forward fast” and “the entire Ted Ginn family” are dancing in your head, you think exactly like we do.

The exercise got me thinking on how I’d stack up all the head coaches in Dolphins history. Before getting to my list, a qualifier: You won’t find Adam Gase’s name here because I don’t think it’s reasonable to include him at this point. Call me a wimp, but after Year 1, everybody would have been in a rush to slot him as high as No. 2. After Year 2? Not so much.

Let’s give it another year, although I suppose if you gave me truth serum today, I’d probably say around No. 5.

Anyway …


Cam Cameron. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

11. Cam Cameron

(2007, 1-15)

Poster child for the NFL coordinator whose ceiling was just that. There’s a good reason Cameron was the shortest-lived of any Dolphins head coach excluding interims. Not only did he come within an eyelash of going winless, he often was clueless. During this dead end of a season, he insisted on going with Cleo Lemon at quarterback even though the only meaningful thing that could have come out of the year was some knowledge of whether second-round pick John Beck might be the long-term answer. We learned Beck wasn’t the solution, eventually. With Cameron, we already knew.


George Wilson

10. George Wilson

(1966-69, 15-39-2)

Kind of felt guilty slotting ol’ George this way. Luckily, I have a very forgiving nature. Nobody could have won with the roster he started with. Problem is, the Dolphins weren’t trending in the right direction even late in his tenure. The ’69 team went 3-10-1 with a lineup that included Hall of Famers Larry Little, Bob Griese, Larry Csonka and Nick Buoniconti, plus studs Norm Evans, Jim Kiick, Manny Fernandez, Dick Anderson and Bill Stanfill. Any wonder that when Don Shula took over in 1970, Miami flipped it around to 10-4?


Joe Philbin

9. Joe Philbin

(2012-15, 24-28)

Jeff Fisher, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher and Brian Billick were said to be on Stephen Ross’ radar. In the end, he went with Philbin, who had enjoyed success as the Packers’ offensive coordinator. Overlooked — far too much, as we soon learned — was that Philbin never called plays for Green Bay, so how much credit he deserved for its success was debatable. Less debatable is that he could never relate to players nor could they relate to him. A fine man, certainly, but not a fine head coach.


Todd Bowles.

8. Todd Bowles

(2011, 2-1)

He took over a 4-9 team for Tony Sparano and won two divisional games (over the Bills and Jets) but might have been most impressive in a Christmas Eve loss on the road, 27-24 to the eventual Super Bowl runners-up, the Patriots. Current coach of the Jets coming off back-to-back 5-11 seasons.


Nick Saban. (NFLPhotoLibrary)

7. Nick Saban

(2005-06, 15-17)

At last, the lightning rod. Some will be aghast his name didn’t come up sooner in this list, some, later. If you’re a control freak demanding that every little thing go your way, yet you’re OK with violating one of the basic rules of the game — don’t quit — you’re losing big points in my book.


Jim Bates. (Allen Eyestone)

6. Jim Bates

(2004, 3-4)

Similar to the Dan Campbell tale, Bates took over a sinking ship but managed a few bright spots along the way. None brighter than a 29-28 Monday night win over a Patriots team getting used to seasons ending with parades. Right after that one, Bates interviewed with owner Wayne Huizenga for the permanent gig, but everyone knew by then that Saban was Wayne’s guy.


Tony Sparano.

5. Tony Sparano

(2008-11, 29-33)

Ronnie Brown and the Wildcat. Chad Pennington, one of the great stopgap players in Dolphins history. Sparano made it all come together for a division title in ’08. Too bad he never could duplicate it. And those field-goal celebrations. …


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

4. Dan Campbell

(2015, 5-7)

It was a surprise when he was elevated from tight ends coach when Philbin was dumped after that debacle in London, but maybe it shouldn’t have been. Campbell has that “it” factor that inspires players. Isn’t that a huge part of being a head coach? Alex Marvez, a one-time reporter on the Dolphins beat, wrote this week how Campbell is next in line to be a head coach somewhere. Whichever organization makes that move will be glad it did.


Dave Wannstedt. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/Getty Images)

3. Dave Wannstedt

(2000-04, 43-33)

In a post-Marino world, Wanny took heat for a conservative style in which punts weren’t considered a bad thing. But when you have Jay Fiedler as your quarterback and Lamar Smith and Ricky Williams as your running backs, would you be airing it out? Besides, how many other guys on this list were over .500?


2. Don Shula

Just making sure you’re paying attention.

Jimmy Johnson. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

2. Jimmy Johnson

(1996-99, 38-31)

The groundswell to get him hired in Miami, thinking he could duplicate his success with UM and the Cowboys, didn’t quite pan out with the Dolphins. But he is one of only two Dolphins coaches to reach the playoffs three consecutive seasons.


Don Shula. (Allen Eyestone)

1. Don Shula

(1970-95, 274-147-2)

Shocking, I know.

 

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Miami Dolphins’ Jason Taylor picks Jimmy Johnson as Hall of Fame presenter

Jason Taylor was enshrined in the Dolphins Honor Roll in 2012. Next stop: Canton. (Bill Ingram/Palm Beach Post)

Jimmy Johnson selected Jason Taylor in 1997, and now, Jason Taylor is selecting Jimmy Johnson.

Taylor tweeted Monday that Johnson will be his presenter at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremony on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.

Johnson, then coaching the Dolphins, drafted Taylor with the 73rd overall pick in the third round in ’97.

Taylor called Johnson “the guy that believed in me from Day 1. He took a chance on an undersized defensive end and never looked back. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Responding on Twitter, Johnson called Taylor “1 of the most talented players I ever recruited or coached..He made plays that WON games!”

Taylor made it clear on Twitter that it wasn’t an easy choice.

“From the moment I found out I was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, everybody’s been asking me the same question: Who’s going to be your presenter?” Taylor said. “I really took my time with this decision. But the more I thought about it, the same name always goes to the top of the list.”

Tickets for the Enshrinement Ceremony are $40, $55, $65, $75, $99 and $175. Premium seats are $90; club seats are $175. Tickets may be purchased at www.ProFootballHOF.com/tickets or by calling 844-4HOFTIX (844-446-3849).

Taylor will be honored along with Morten Andersen, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Jerry Jones, LaDainian Tomlinson and Kurt Warner.

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Jimmy Johnson, on trying to hire Bill Belichick for Miami Dolphins’ staff: ‘He considered it’

With a twist here or there, is it possible Bill Belichick would have been entering Hard Rock Stadium this past season from the home tunnel rather than the visitors'? (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)
With a twist here or there, is it possible Bill Belichick would have been entering Hard Rock Stadium this past season from the home tunnel rather than the visitors’? (Bill Ingram / The Palm Beach Post)

Who’s to say what could have, would have and should have happened? Who’s to say that if things had panned out, maybe it would be the Miami Dolphins facing the Atlanta Falcons in Sunday’s Super Bowl? Who’s to say if people might be talking about the Miami Dolphins’ dynasty, rather than the New England Patriots’?

Because as the Patriots were beginning their courtship of Belichick, so was one other franchise: the Dolphins.

The year was 1996. Jimmy Johnson had just signed to succeed Don Shula as Dolphins coach and was assembling a staff. Though neither Johnson nor anyone high up in Miami’s front office had obvioius ties to Belichick, who had just been let go as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Johnson was intrigued about the possibility of adding Belichick to his defensive staff.

“We talked and he considered it,” Johnson told The Post via e-mail Monday.

Of course, those talks went nowhere.

Blame Bill Parcells.

Although Parcells would eventually run football operations for the Dolphins, at the time he was head coach of the Patriots and lobbied owner Robert Kraft to bring Belichick to New England as secondary coach. Parcells later brought Belichick with him as assistant head coach of the New York Jets for three years starting in 1997. But when Kraft was in the market for a head coach in 2000, he remembered the success Belichick had with New England’s secondary in 1996 and shrugged off warnings, rehiring Belichick.

Jimmy Johnson congratulates O.J. McDuffie for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. (Post photo by Scott Wiseman)
Jimmy Johnson congratulates O.J. McDuffie for a touchdown against the Indianapolis Colts. (Post photo by Scott Wiseman)

The Dolphins and Jimmy Johnson? Minus Belichick in ’96, they promoted longtime linebackers coach George Hill to defensive coordinator, which may have been the role Johnson envisioned for Belichick. Mel Phillips, another veteran Dolphins assistant, was the secondary coach.

The Dolphins ranked 17th defensively in 1996 and 26th the next season before five consecutive seasons finishing in the top six. Like the Patriots, the Dolphins needed a new head coach starting in 2000, but their pipeline steered them not back to Belichick but to Dave Wannstedt, a Johnson protege who’d joined the Miami staff in 1999 as assistant head coach.

Kraft recalled the events that led to his turning over the reins to Belichick in this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column by Peter King, who quoted Kraft, a part-time Palm Beach resident:

“I asked the defensive backs, ‘What has Bill (Belichick) brought?’ And they said he always put them in the right position to make plays.’ When Parcells left after the Super Bowl, we decided to clean house, and I met with Bill. Now, we had just started this era of the salary cap a couple years earlier, and to understand the salary cap was to understand value. The one thing he said to me when he left was, ‘You should sign Troy Brown. Great value there.’ I remembered that. Here was a guy on the other side of the ball, and Bill knew how important he was. And he turned out to be right.”

Belichick actually had agreed to become head coach the Jets in 2000 but abruptly shocked New York by quitting. Although Kraft and Parcells hadn’t been on speaking terms, Parcells phoned Kraft. Compensation was worked out between Parcells’ Jets and Kraft’s Patriots, and Belichick instead was headed to New England.

Although the hire today seems like a no-brainer, remember that Belichick had just one winning season in five years in Cleveland (which actually is more than most Browns coaches could say).

Furthermore, Kraft told King he was “getting killed” for considering Belichick, that people were saying “I was crazy for wanting Bill.” Even Kraft cringed when he looked at videos of Belichick’s news conferences in Cleveland, which offered the same warmth as those rendezvouses today.

Until then, the Patriots had largely been punching bags. All that followed in 17  seasons of Kraft-Belichick were 14 playoff appearances, 10 trips to the AFC title game, seven Super Bowl appearances (including this season) and four Vince Lombardi trophies.

Naturally, no one could say all that would have happened had Johnson succeeded in bringing Belichick southward. The NFL is filled with what-ifs — what if 26 teams had come to their senses in the 1983 draft and taken that quarterback from Pittsburgh before Miami was on the clock?

But it’s an interesting scenario since Kraft saw that Bill Belichick offered more potential when examined first hand than anything he could see from afar.

“I always felt we had a little bit of simpatico,” Kraft said. “It’s like a woman. A spouse. What’s right for me might not be right for some other man.”

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Ex-Miami Dolphins DE Jason Taylor named Hall of Fame semifinalist

Jason Taylor
Jason Taylor

Jason Taylor’s bid for entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has passed another test.

The Hall announced Wednesday night that Taylor, the Dolphins’ all-time sack leader, is among four first-year eligible candidates surviving the cut from 94 nominees to 26 semifinalists for the Class of 2017.

Taylor joins running back LaDainian Tomlinson, receiver Hines Ward and safety Brian Dawkins as players hoping to make it into Canton in their first year of eligibility.

Two more steps remain for Taylor to be included in the Class of 2017. In January, the list of semifinalists will be pared to 15 finalists before three are added to the mix from the Hall’s Contributors and Seniors Committees.

The final selections are made Feb. 4, the day before the Super Bowl in Houston. Four to eight members will be honored.

Whether it’s in his first year of eligibility or otherwise, Taylor stands an excellent chance of seeing his bust in Canton. He’s sixth on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 139 1/2, including 131 with the Dolphins. Every player ahead of him in sacks already is inducted: Bruce Smith (200), Reggie White (198), Kevin Greene (160), Chris Doleman (150 1/2) and Michael Strahan (141 1/2). In addition, the two players directly behind him have been enshrined: John Randle and Richard Dent (both 137 1/2).

Others under consideration include Fort Lauderdale’s Isaac Bruce, a receiver, ex-University of Miami running back Edgerrin James and ex-UM and Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson.

Among those who did not make the cut were Zach Thomas, Chad Johnson, Troy Vincent and Joey Porter.

The following is the complete list of 2017 modern-era semifinalists, including their positions, years of participation and teams. Also listed are the number of times and years that each individual has been named a semifinalist since this reduction vote was added to the Selection Committee Bylaws in 2004.

 

  • Morten Andersen, K – 1982-1994 New Orleans Saints, 1995-2000, 2006-07 Atlanta Falcons, 2001 New York Giants, 2002-03 Kansas City Chiefs, 2004 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2013-17)
  • Steve Atwater, S – 1989-1998 Denver Broncos, 1999 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2012-17)
  • Tony Boselli, T – 1995-2001 Jacksonville Jaguars, 2002 Houston Texans (injured reserve) | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2016-17)
  • Isaac Bruce, WR – 1994-2007 Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams, 2008-09 San Francisco 49ers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • Don Coryell, Coach – 1973-77 St. Louis Cardinals, 1978-1986 San Diego Chargers |(Times as a Semifinalist: 9 – 2005, 2010-17)
  • Roger Craig, RB – 1983-1990 San Francisco 49ers, 1991 Los Angeles Raiders, 1992-93 Minnesota Vikings | (Times as a Semifinalist: 9 – 2009-17)
  • Terrell Davis, RB – 1995-2001 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 11 – 2007-2017)
  • Brian Dawkins,S, 1996-2008 Philadelphia Eagles, 2009-2011 Denver Broncos |(Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2017)
  • Alan Faneca, G –1998-2007 Pittsburgh Steelers, 2008-09 New York Jets, 2010 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2016-17)
  • Chris Hinton, G/T – 1983-89 Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts, 1990-93 Atlanta Falcons, 1994-95 Minnesota Vikings |(Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2017)
  • Torry Holt, WR – 1999-2008 St. Louis Rams, 2009 Jacksonville Jaguars | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • Joe Jacoby, T –1981-1993 Washington Redskins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 7 – 2005, 2008, 2013-17)
  • Edgerrin James,RB – 1999-2005 Indianapolis Colts, 2006-08 Arizona Cardinals, 2009 Seattle Seahawks | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • Jimmy Johnson, Coach – 1989-1993 Dallas Cowboys, 1996-99 Miami Dolphins | (Times as a Semifinalist: 4 – 2014-17)
  • Mike Kenn, T – 1978-1994 Atlanta Falcons | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • Ty Law, CB – 1995-2004 New England Patriots, 2005, 2008 New York Jets, 2006-07 Kansas City Chiefs, 2009 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • John Lynch, FS – 1993-2003 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2004-07 Denver Broncos |(Times as a Semifinalist: 5 – 2013-17)
  • Clay Matthews,LB – 1978-1993 Cleveland Browns, 1994-96 Atlanta Falcons |(Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2012, 2017)
  • Kevin Mawae, C/G – 1994-97 Seattle Seahawks, 1998-2005 New York Jets, 2006-09 Tennessee Titans | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • Karl Mecklenburg, LB – 1983-1994 Denver Broncos | (Times as a Semifinalist: 6 – 2012-17)
  • Terrell Owens, WR – 1996-2003 San Francisco 49ers, 2004-05 Philadelphia Eagles, 2006-08 Dallas Cowboys, 2009 Buffalo Bills, 2010 Cincinnati Bengals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2016-17)
  • Jason Taylor, DE– 1997-2007, 2009, 2011 Miami Dolphins, 2008 Washington Redskins, 2010 New York Jets | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2017)
  • LaDainian Tomlinson, RB – 2001-09 San Diego Chargers, 2010-11 New York Jets |(Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2017)
  • Hines Ward, WR– 1998-2011 Pittsburgh Steelers | (Times as a Semifinalist: 1 – 2017)
  • Kurt Warner, QB – 1998-2003 St. Louis Rams, 2004 New York Giants, 2005-09 Arizona Cardinals | (Times as a Semifinalist: 3 – 2015-17)
  • Darren Woodson, S– 1992-2003 Dallas Cowboys | (Times as a Semifinalist: 2 – 2015, 2017)
  • The 2017 Senior Finalist is Kenny Easley (S – 1981-87 Seattle Seahawks). The 2017 Contributor Finalists are Dallas Cowboys Owner, President & General Manager Jerry Jones (1989-present) and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue (1989-2006).

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