Dolphins may be close to making coaching decision


Published: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 18, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

DAVIE — The Dolphins' search for a head coach to replace Nick Saban might conclude as soon as today.

Wednesday evening, the Dolphins brought in San Diego Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for his second interview, according to several sources. He became the Dolphins' fifth finalist.

Before Cameron arrived, his club announced in San Diego that head coach Marty Schottenheimer would return next season. That means Cameron won't be promoted and Schottenheimer won't be on the market.

The Dolphins, according to two sources, wanted to see whether Schottenheimer would be available for at least an interview if he were fired after Sunday's upset loss to the New England Patriots.

The Dolphins have been hoping to hire a coach before the conference title games Sunday, a timetable that was supported Wednesday by a comment attributed to Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey, another of the finalists.

A high school football player being recruited by Georgia Tech told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Gailey said he expects to receive word on his future "sometime around (today)."

Dolphins team president Bryan Wiedmeier said Tuesday night that Gailey, Cameron, former Atlanta Falcons coach Jim Mora, former Alabama coach Mike Shula and Dolphins defensive coordinator Dom Capers all were "still alive" in the coaching search.

Dolphins CEO Joe Bailey had previously said that the club would pare its list to five and then two before naming a coach.

While Gailey is considered a slight frontrunner at this stage, a source said, all the candidates will be carefully considered.

Gailey, 55, is the only candidate with all of the assets the Dolphins are thought to be seeking: NFL head-coaching experience (with Dallas) and a background on offense. He was the Dolphins' offensive coordinator in 2000 and '01.

Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino, according to two sources, wants the Dolphins to hire an offensive-minded coach and has spoken highly of Gailey in conversations with team owner Wayne Huizenga.

Mora, 45, was 26-22 in three seasons in Atlanta and took the Falcons to the NFC Championship game in January 2005 but was fired on New Year's Day. He was the San Francisco 49ers' defensive coordinator before joining the Falcons and is well versed in the 3-4 defense Capers favors.

Capers, 56, recently agreed to a three-year contract extension to remain defensive coordinator if he is not promoted. He was 48-80 in four years each with the Carolina Panthers and Houston Texans. Both were expansion teams at the time.

Shula, 41, was 26-23 in four seasons with the Crimson Tide before being fired and replaced by Saban. The son of Hall of Fame coach Don Shula also was offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1996 through '99.

Cameron, escorted by General Manager Randy Mueller, arrived at the Dolphins' training facility at Nova Southeastern University just before 7 p.m. Wednesday.

If the Dolphins follow the pattern they established with other head-coaching finalists, Cameron also will be interviewed today.

Cameron, 55, has been directing the Chargers' offense since 2002. The Chargers had the league's No. 4 unit this season and led the NFL in points per game.

Wiedmeier said Tuesday night that Cameron was impressive in his first interview.

"He's an outstanding football mind — probably one of the more innovative football minds in the game today," Wiedmeier said. "We've got a great deal of respect for him."

STEELERS

Russ Grimm sounded like a man who can't wait to coach Pittsburgh. He can only hope the Steelers agree he's ready to become only their third head coach in 38 years.

Grimm, a Steelers assistant for six seasons and their assistant head coach for three, met for six hours Wednesday during his second interview in a week with owner Dan Rooney, president Art Rooney II and director of football operations Kevin Colbert.

The length of the meeting suggests Grimm and the Steelers were discussing more than strategy and philosophy, and that they may have started preliminary talks about a contract. However, neither side would confirm that.

RAIDERS

Oakland brought in Southern Cal quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian for a second interview as the team intensified its search for a new head coach.

Other candidates who have interviewed for the job are Chargers receivers coach James Lofton, former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and Raiders defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.

FALCONS

Running back Warrick Dunn had arthroscopic surgery for a damaged shoulder that bothered him much of the season and should make a full recovery.

PATRIOTS

Safety Rodney Harrison was upgraded to doubtful for Sunday's AFC championship game at the Indianapolis Colts.

He had been listed as out with a knee injury before each of the Patriots other playoff games.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Cameron's only head-coaching experience was at Indiana University, where he was 18-37 from 1997 through 2001. He was quarterbacks coach with the Washington Redskins from 1994 through '96.

Cameron would have been a candidate to replace Schottenheimer if he had not survived the wrenching playoff loss and his poor relationship with General Manager A.J. Smith.

But Chargers owner Dean Spanos retained Schottenheimer, whose contract has one season remaining. Spanos said Schottenheimer turned down a one-year, $4.5 million contract extension with a $1 million buyout.

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