Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dolphins announce full list of coaching changes

The Miami Dolphins have officially announced a laundry list of coaching changes—some already reported, some clarified, and some new all together.

Most of these have already been addressed previously on this site, but here is the full list of coaching changes and additions announced by the Dolphin today.

Darren Rizzi — Special Teams Coordinator

Though this really happened last October when the team fired John Bonamego, perhaps this is just the shedding of any "interim" tag as Rizzi officially gets the title of special teams coordinator.

Originally a tight end at Rhode Island (1988-91), Rizzi's coaching history includes stops at Colgate (1993, assistant), New Haven (1994-97, defensive coordinator), Northeastern (1998, special teams), New Haven again 1999-2001, head coach), Rutgers (2002-07, special teams), and Rhode Island (2008, head coach).

In 2011, Rizzi will be tasked with continuing the effective kicking and punting games as well as improving blocking and coverage units alongside new assistant special teams coach Dave Fipp.

Karl Dorrell — Quarterbacks

As I wrote about earlier today, Dorrell takes over as the Dolphins' quarterback coach after three seasons working with the wide receivers. He replaces David Lee, who has moved on to Ole Miss to be offensive coordinator.

A strandout receiver at UCLA, Dorrell has worked as a receivers coach at the college and NFL levels, as well as as an offensive coordinator and head coach in college. He has been a receivers coach for UCF (1989), Colorado (1992-93), Arizona State (1994), and the Denver Broncos (2000-02). Dorrell was also an offensive coordinator at Northern Arizona (1990-91), Colorado (1995-98), and Washington (1999), as well as the head coach of UCLA from 2002-07.

Despite never working specifically with quarterbacks before, Dorrell will attempt to help Chad Henne make progress as a starting quarterback and potentially groom any rookie the team brings in via the draft.

Steve Bush — Wide Receivers

Bush becomes a first-time receivers coach with the Dolphins, having spent the past three seasons as the team's offensive quality control coach. He replaced new quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell.

A defensive back at Southern Connecticut State (1978-81), Bush began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at his alma mater from 1982-83. He then served as the defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Springfield College from 1984-85.

Bush then became the defensive coordinator/linebackers coach at the University of New Haven for two seasons before working as the defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Boston University from 1988-89 alongside Tony Sparano.

After ten years as a high school head coach in the 1990s, Bush was a defensive backs coach at Syracuse from 2000-04 under former Dolphins defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, while also serving the final four years as the team's quarterbacks coach as well. Bush coached three more seasons at the high school level before joining the Dolphins in 2008.

Bush has never worked directly with receivers and actually has a much greater background on defense. The Dolphins have their stud No. 1 receiver in Brandon Marshall and a good slot guy in Davone Bess, but are still in search of that capable second starter.

Dave Fipp — Assistant Special Teams

Fipp becomes the Dolphins' new assistant special teams coach, filling a void left open since October when Darren Rizzi was promoted to special teams coordinator after John Bonamego's firing.

Fipp has a pretty extensive background on special teams and defense, as a safety at Arizona (1994-97) and first as a coach at Holy Cross as the special teams coordinator and secondary coach from 1998-99.

After a season as a graduate assistant at his alma mater in 2000, Fipp spent time at Cal Poly (2001, secondary coach; 2002-03, defensive coordinator), Nevada (2004, defensive coordinator), and San Jose State (2005-06, co-defensive coordinator; 2007, defensive coordinator).

Fipp then spent three seasons as the assistant special teams coach for the San Francisco 49ers from 2008-10 before being let go upon the arrival of Jim Harbaugh, who was ironically pursued by the Dolphins as well this offseason.

In San Francisco, Fipp was credited with helping develop a handful of Pro Bowlers on special teams, and will be tasked with assisting Rizzi in improving the Dolphins return blocking and coverage.

Ike Hilliard — Assistant Wide Receivers

An All-American receiver at Florida, Hilliard was drafted seventh overall by the New York Giants in 1997. He spent eight seasons with the Giants and four more with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, retiring following the 2008 season with career totals of 546 receptions, 6,397 yards, and 35 touchdowns.

After his playing career, Hilliard worked as an unpaid coaching assistant for the UFL's Florida Tuskers under Jim Haslett in 2009. He was promoted to wide receivers coach under new head coach Jay Gruden in 2010, helping the Tuskers to their second consecutive championship game appearance.

While I had initially passed along reports that Hilliard was a general "offensive assistant," and then later heard he would be the wide receivers coach replacing Dorrell, it turns out Hilliard will in fact hold the assistant wide receivers coach title under Bush.

Hilliard, who played receiver extensively in the in the NFL over the past two decades, will learn the finer points of coaching from Bush, and may actually be able to contribute more specific insight to the team's receivers than the position coach himself.

Tony Sparano, Jr. — Offensive Quality Control

Sparano, Jr. arrives after one season as an assistant defensive line coach for the UFL's Hartford Colonials under defensive line coach Ted Daisher and head coach Chris Palmer.

Prior to joining the coaching ranks in 2010, Sparano was a four-year letterman at the University of Albany, where he played in 35 games and totaled 64 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries as a defensive end. His younger brother, Andy, just wrapped up his senior season as a center for Albany.

Obviously, this is head coach Tony Sparano's son. But let's not freak out about favoritism, nepotism, and all that. First off, everyone in every business knows that it isn't what you know, but who you know when it comes to getting a job. If you had an in with an NFL head coach, you'd probably take advantage of it, too.

Secondly, it's important to remember that Sparano, Jr. is merely a offensive quality control coach. Basically, they do in-house scouting, compiling of statistics (player snaps taken, etc.), opposing team scouting, film study, and so on. Basically, they are like interns that assist with anything the staff needs.

That being the case, Sparano, Jr. isn't going to affect the outcome of any games as a QC coach, and odds are he has a pretty decent football background for a 24-year-old considering his father's résumé.


The most glaring thing to take away from these hires is the lack of experience and some odd fits that are apparently being made. You have a quarterbacks coach that hasn't coached quarterbacks; a receivers coach that has never coached receivers; and some guys extremely inexperienced at coaching altogether in Hilliard and Sparano, Jr. (Throw new tight ends coach Dan Campbell in that ground as well.)

Then throw in an offensive coordinator with a defensive background and very little play-calling experience (with practically none of it productive) in Brian Daboll, and this makes for what looks to be a very inexperienced and jumbled coaching staff.

It's interesting to note that this staff, compared to those from the previous three seasons, was assembled predominantly by Sparano rather than the higher-ups. After the Dolphins botched their attempts to replace Sparano earlier this month, they ended up giving him more control over personnel and his staff.

That's what makes the inexperience and odd formation of this staff all the more surprising. Many, including myself, believe that despite his extension through 2013, Sparano needs a big turnaround in 2011 to avoid being canned next offseason.

But this coaching staff looks a lot like one that is being built for the future, which obviously means Sparano is confident he can right the ship quickly with his hand-picked bunch.

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