Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dolphins announce more changes to coaching staff

New head coach Joe Philbin landed both of his coordinators last week, and this week brought news of more additions and changes to the Miami Dolphins' coaching staff.

As already reported, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi has been retained by Philbin, and joining him as Tony Sparano holdovers in Miami will be tight ends coach Dan Campbell and strength coach Darren Krein.

The team also added George Edwards as linebackers coach and Zac Taylor as assistant quarterback coach. This will be Edwards' second stint with the Dolphins, as he previously served as the team's linebackers coach from 2005 to 2009.

If the Dolphins' official website is to be believed, it appears other retentions could include David Corrao (defensive quality control/assistant linebackers), Dave Fipp (assistant special teams), Jeff Nixon (running backs), David Puloka (assistant strength and conditioning), and Kacy Rodgers (defensive line).

Noticeably absent from the website are pass rush coach Bryan Cox, assistant secondary coach Joe Danna, quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell, and offensive quality control coach Tony Sparano, Jr. It's possible some or all of these coaches have already been told they will not be retained. (Obviously, Sparano's son is the most likely to move on.)


George Edwards

Edwards began his coaching career with assistant jobs at Florida (1991), Appalachian State (1992-95) and his alma mater, Duke (1996). He then spent one year as the defensive line coach at the University of Georgia in 1997.

From there, Edwards took his first pro coaching job, serving as the Dallas Cowboys' linebackers coach for four seasons from 1998 to 2001. Although he was not in Dallas at the same time as Bill Parcells or Tony Sparano, Edwards' stint did overlap for two years with Dolphins' general manager Jeff Ireland, who was a scout for the Cowboys at the time.

After two years with the Redskins (2002 as assistant defensive coordinator/linebackers) and 2003 as defensive coordinator) and one season as the Browns' linebackers coach in 2005, Edwards joined Nick Saban's staff in Miami in 2005.

Edwards survived the departure of Saban in 2007 and the firing of Cam Cameron in 2008, becoming one of only two assistants to be retained under Sparano when the Parcells era began in 2008. He spent two years working as the inside linebackers coach for Sparano before taking the defensive coordinator role at the University of Florida, only to leave weeks later for the same job with the Buffalo Bills.

In two seasons as the Bills' defensive coordinator under Chan Gailey, never ranked higher than 24th in the league. The No. 26 defense in 2011, Edwards' unit struggled heavily and totaled just 27 sacks—fourth fewest in the NFL.

In Miami, Edwards replaces Bill Sheridan, who spent the past two seasons as the Dolphins' linebackers coach following Edwards' departure in 2010.


Zac Taylor

After transferring to the University of Nebraska in 2005, Taylor spent two seasons as the Cornhuskers' starting quarterback and guided them to two winnings seasons and an Alamo Bowl victory over Michigan (and eventual Dolphins' quarterback Chad Henne) in 2005. He threw 24 touchdown passes as a senior in 2006, leading Nebraska to the Big 12 Championship Game and the Cotton Bowl while being named the conference's offensive player of the year.

A bit undersized and lacking a great arm, Taylor's pro career came and went quickly. After going undrafted in 2007, he spent a few months on the Buccaneers' roster but was released before training camp, and later had a brief stint with the CFL's Winnipeg Blue Bombers, although he did not play.

Once his playing career was finished, Taylor joined the Texas A&M staff in 2008, serving a quality control coach under Mike Sherman. He then became a graduate assistant and eventually coached the tight ends.

Taylor, who is also the son-in-law of Sherman, will follow his father-in-law and the new Dolphins' offensive coordinator to Miami. It remains unclear if quarterbacks coach Karl Dorrell will be retained or if Taylor will be assisting a new coach.


Analysis

As it stands, it appears the Dolphins' staff looks something like this:
  • Head coach: Joe Philbin
  • Offense:
    • Offensive Coordinator: Mike Sherman
    • Quarterbacks: Vacant
    • Assistant Quarterbacks: Zac Taylor
    • Running Backs: Jeff Nixon
    • Wide Receivers: Vacant
    • Tight Ends: Dan Campbell
    • Offensive Line: Vacant
    • Offensive Quality Control: Vacant
  • Defense:
    • Defensive Coordinator: Kevin Coyle
    • Defensive Line: Kacy Rodgers
    • Linebackers: George Edwards
    • Assistant Linebackers/Defensive Quality Control: David Corrao
    • Secondary: Vacant
  • Special Teams
    • Special Teams Coordinator: Darren Rizzi
    • Assistant Special Teams: Dave Fipp
  • Strength and Conditioning:
    • Head Strength and Conditioning: Darren Krein
    • Assistant Strength and Conditioning: Joe Puloka

As you can see, the offensive staff is getting the most overhaul while the special teams unit and strength unit go untouched and a handful of assistants return under Coyle. This is to be expected, as Philbin is an offensive-minded guy and is going to have more of a hand in that side of the ball, so he's going to put more attention and value familiarity when building his staff there.

Edwards has fizzled as a defensive play-caller a few times now, but he's always been a solid linebackers coach and has gotten the best out of guys like Dexter Coakley, LaVar Arrington, and Channing Crowder. He and Ireland obviously go way back and his transition back to Miami should be pretty smooth.

Meanwhile, Taylor obviously benefits from being able to follow his father-in-law to Miami and certainly would have landed wherever Sherman (a finalist for the Bucs' head-coaching job) did. Still just 28, Taylor won't even be a full position coach as he's still just getting his feet wet in the profession.

All in all, it's difficult to really grade assistant coaching hires, because they are always experienced in their fields and it's hard to quantify just how much of an impact coaches have on players (especially naturally good ones).

The most important roles on the staff have already been filled and by Philbin's top candidates, so everyone else should fall in line and do well themselves.


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