Friday, January 27, 2012

Dolphins land Mike Sherman, Kevin Coyle as coordinators

If Miami Dolphins fans are to put their trust in rookie head coach Joe Philbin, they should also be happy that the new guy running the show landed his apparent top choices for both of his staff's coordinator positions.

Reports on Friday revealed the Dolphins had agreed to terms with former Packers' and Texas A&M head coach Mike Sherman as offensive coordinator and long-time Bengals' defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle as his defensive counterpart.

Sherman and Coyle will replace Brian Daboll and Mike Nolan, respectively. Nolan agreed to become the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator before Philbin was hired, while Daboll was not asked back to the Dolphins' staff and is rumored to be a candidate for the OC position in Kansas City under Romeo Crennel.

The Dolphins' coaching staff has already undergone a major overhaul under Philbin, as at least six assistants and likely more have been told they will not be back.

Interestingly, special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers are reportedly returning under Philbin, likely due to the outstanding production of their respective positions.

Mike Sherman

Philbin and Sherman go back about as far as you possibly can, with their first encounter coming at Worcester Academy (Mass.) in 1980 when Philbin was a student and tight end and Sherman was an English teacher and assistant football coach.

From there, Sherman served as a graduate assistant at Pitt (1981-82) before holding offensive line coach positions at Tulane (1983-84), Holy Cross (1985-87), Texas A&M (1989-93, 1995-96), and UCLA (1994), with an offensive coordinator gig sprinkled in at Holy Cross in 1988.

Sherman spent two seasons as the Packers' tight ends coach from 1997-98 before spending a year as the Seahawks' offensive coordinator in 1999. He became the Packers' head coach in 2000 and assumed general manager duties in Green Bay in 2001. Despite posting five straight winning seasons and four consecutive playoff appearances, Sherman was stripped of personnel control prior to the 2005 season and went 4-12 that year before being fired.

After spending two seasons with the Texans as assistant head coach, including the final year as offensive coordinator, Sherman returned to Texas A&M in his first collegiate head-coaching capacity. In four seasons with the Aggies, Sherman compiled a 25-25 record and 0-2 bowl record, with his best season coming in 2010 when the team went 9-4 and ranked 19th in the AP poll. Sherman was fired on December 1, 2011.

Although Sherman was immediately connected to Philbin as a potential offensive coordinator in Miami, he was recently considered the favorite for the Buccaneers' head-coaching job. When that job went to Rutgers' Greg Schiano on Thursday, Sherman was free to join Philbin's staff with the Dolphins.

Kevin Coyle

Coyle, 56, began his collegiate career as a defensive back at the University of Massachusetts in the mid-1970s. He then served as a graduate assistant at Cincinnati from 1978-79 and coaching assistant at Arkansas in 1980.

In 1981, Coyle served as defensive coordinator at U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, followed by four years as a defensive assistant at Holy Cross and five more years as the team's defensive coordinator, during which time Holy Cross went 49-5-1 as the winningest Division I-AA team in the nation.

Coyle's college coaching career continued for the next decade, with defensive coordinator stints at Syracuse (1991-93), Maryland (1994-96), and Fresno State (1997-2000).  At Syracuse, Coyle coached long-time Jaguars' and brief Dolphins' safety Donovin Darius.

For the past 11 seasons, Coyle has served as a defensive assistant for the Bengals, including the past nine as defensive backs coach. Since his promotion, the Bengals rank fifth in the NFL with 150 interceptions and has sent players like Deltha O'Neal and Leon Hall to the All-Pro team. The Bengals blocked Coyle from interviewing for the Eagles' defensive coordinator job last year.


There certainly won't be an adjustment period with Philbin's newest hires, as Sherman and Coyle both worked together at Holy Cross and Coyle has been close friends with Philbin for years now. It's been suggested that more familiar faces might follow, such as Jaguars' linebackers coach Mark Duffner and Aggies' quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley.

Sherman also brings with him inside knowledge of former Aggies' quarterback Ryan Tannehill, who is widely regarded as the No. 3 prospect in the draft at his position after likely top-10 picks Andrew Luck and Baylor's Robert Griffin III. Combined with Philbin's first-hand knowledge of Packers' impending free agent Matt Flynn, the Dolphins should be in good position to evaluate potential quarterback candidates.

I would expect some players will be disappointed that Todd Bowles is not returning to the staff, but Coyle has plenty of secondary experience and should alleviate any concerns rather quickly. He is expected to bring the 4-3 defense to Miami, which is a change I examined in depth earlier this week.

While every coach has had his share of struggles, it's hard not to like the experience Sherman and Coyle bring to the table. Each has success in their past, including head-coaching stints for Sherman and plenty of play-calling jobs for Coyle. The two should work well with Philbin and it's nice that the team didn't have to settle for anything other than his top choices.

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