What Miami Dolphins DC Candidates Tell Us About Mike McDaniel’s Vision on Defense

The Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator search is broad, but one common thread seems to tie all the external candidates together.

With Tuesday’s news that the Buffalo Bills are promoting assistant Bobby Babich to defensive coordinator, that left just six known candidates to replace Vic Fangio as Miami Dolphins DC.

Those names, according to published reports:

  • Dolphins linebackers coach Anthony Campanile
  • Former Bills defensive coordinator and ex-Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier
  • Houston Texans linebackers coach Chris Kiffin
  • Dolphins outside linebackers coach Ryan Slowik
  • Ex-Chargers head coach Brandon Staley
  • Former Texans defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver

A Look at Miami Dolphins’ Defensive Coordinator Candidates

Even with Babich no longer an option, head coach Mike McDaniel has assembled a diverse set of candidates, both in identity and in influences.

But they all seem to have a common thread: They’re far more willing than Fangio was to bring an extra man in pass rush.

In 2023, Fangio blitzed just 21.5% of the time — the rate that was not only the sixth-lowest in the league but also far lower than what his potential successors averaged since Pro Football Reference began charting the statistic in 2018.

Of the six known candidates, three have been defensive coordinators in the NFL — Frazier, Staley, and Weaver.

All three had seasons where their team’s blitz rate ranked in the top 10. They like to get after the quarterback.

But don’t take our word for it. Take theirs.

“I played for Buddy Ryan, he was my defensive coordinator and Mike Ditka was my head coach,” Frazier told the Bills’ website in 2022. “They had an aggressive mentality. But, in particular, being an attack-oriented defense. And I’ve kind of tried to carry that message over with our players.”

Said Weaver, two years earlier: “The creativity part of defensive scheming is maybe one of my favorite parts about the job. You’ve got to love the chess match and trying to put the pieces in the right place, and get free runners, and hit the quarterback and do all of those things. That’s part of the beauty and schematics.”

So while the conventional wisdom has been that whoever McDaniel hires to replace Fangio will keep Fangio’s scheme largely intact, that might not necessarily be the case.

Certainly, Fangio’s influence looms large as the Dolphins choose his successor.

Staley cut his teeth in the NFL as the Bears’ outside linebackers coach. His boss that first year? Vic Fangio.

If McDaniel hires Staley or promotes Campanile or Slowik, expect to see a lot more of the two-high shell looks that are the backbone of Fangio’s influential system.

And certainly Frazier’s defense is more philosophically aligned with Tony Dungy’s Tampa 2 than Ryan’s Bear front.

KEEP READING: Ron Jaworski — Dolphins Players Who Criticized Vic Fangio ‘Did Not Want To Work’

Speaking of Tampa 2, Kiffin is the son of Monte Kiffin, who literally invented that defense, so two-deep is in his son’s blood. But he’s also coached Robert Saleh’s Wide 9 and Joe Woods’ Cover 3, so it would be premature at this point to predict what he would do as a defensive coordinator.

Weaver, meanwhile, is another offshoot of the Buddy Ryan coaching tree. He played and then worked for Buddy’s son Rex over a decade ago, and Buddy’s 46 Bear defense could not have been more different than Tampa 2.

As the 2023 NFL season comes to a close, the 2024 NFL Draft is on the horizon. Pro Football Network has you covered with everything from team draft needs to the Top 100 prospects available. Plus, fire up PFN’s Mock Draft Simulator to put yourself in the general manager’s seat and make all the calls!

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