Miami Dolphins’ Head Coach Search: Latest inside info on Vance Joseph, Brian Daboll, Mike McDaniel, and others

The Miami Dolphins' head coach search is in full swing, with Vance Joseph, Brian Daboll, Dan Quinn, and Mike McDaniel all in the mix.

If you’ve been following the Miami Dolphins’ head coach search, you’ll know that Vance Joseph, the former Denver Broncos head coach and current Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, is a candidate for the job. And from what PFN has heard from those in league circles, he is a legitimate option to take over in Miami.

However, there are several caveats to that — there may be a difference of opinion on Joseph between some Dolphins decision-makers involved in the head coach search. Additionally, other candidates are being considered, including Brian Daboll and Dan Quinn, but early indications are that each may be leaning in another direction other than Miami.

Brian Daboll a leading candidate for the Dolphins’ head coach position

While the Dolphins have been intentionally leak-free throughout their search process — one source told us that Grier wasn’t returning phone calls, which was out of character. PFN has been able to gather some intel from those on the outside.

At the beginning of the Dolphins’ head coach search, PFN was told by a source close to the situation that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross wants it to work with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and hopes the new head coach will maximize his skills. Thus, that source believed that Brian Daboll, the Bills’ offensive coordinator, would be a top candidate.

One source close to the New York Giants’ coaching search told us that Daboll would choose between the Giants and the Dolphins. While some close to Daboll believe he would lean Miami to reunite with Tua, another source told PFN that Daboll is conflicted because he would likely receive a better offer from the Giants and has some concerns about Tua’s ceiling in the NFL.

Daboll worked with Tua at Alabama in 2017 when he served as the offensive coordinator and when Tua was a freshman. Daboll doesn’t have much game experience with Tua, who appeared in eight games, throwing for 636 yards that year. But the longtime NFL assistant has seen him up close in the AFC East.

Could Mike McDaniel be an out-of-the-box hire?

The same thinking that has made Daboll a top candidate in Miami is why San Francisco 49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel has been in the conversation.

Many have been rooting for the Dolphins to hire McDaniel as Brian Flores’ replacement, citing his youth, energy, and ability to maximize the talent on the offensive side of the ball. They also point to him being an integral part of an explosive offense that ranked seventh in the NFL in total yards and 13th in total points.

And while 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan is heavily involved with the offense, many in league circles credit McDaniel for his creative play designs and ability to put players in the best position to succeed. Just how important is that to Shanahan and the 49ers?

One source told PFN when asked if McDaniel would be allowed to make a lateral move to another team (but with play-calling duties) that Shanahan would never allow it because he’s too valuable and important for what they do day-to-day and on game day.

So, is he a legitimate option for Miami? According to flight records for an aircraft owned by Related Companies (which is owned by Ross), the plane was parked at San Jose International Airport, just down the road from the 49ers’ training facility.

Was it to talk to McDaniel in person, other candidates, or simply a business trip? PFN has not been able to confirm. However, what we can confirm after talking to a source is that McDaniel interviewed well, and there appears to be a split decision on him between those involved in the interview process.

Is Vance Joseph a serious candidate for the Dolphins’ top job?

If the Dolphins don’t hire an offensive coach, PFN was told that Dolphins general manager Chris Grier prefers Quinn and Joseph — particularly if head coaching experience is a top criteria.

We won’t spend too much time on Quinn because it’s believed that he will reunite with Broncos general manager George Paton in Denver. And if that happens, along with Daboll choosing the Giants, the Dolphins will be looking at McDaniel and Joseph as two people who fit one of the major qualities they are looking for — someone who can use their coaching experience to maximize Tua and the offense.

Can Joseph persuade Miami brass?

But would Joseph — who was fired in Denver after an 11-21 record in two seasons — really be the guy the Dolphins are targeting to be their next head coach?

While he is on their shortlist of candidates, a source close to the situation tells PFN that as much as Grier likes Joseph, Ross won’t sign off on the hire except as a fallback plan. We were told that two or three others would have to decline Miami’s offer first.

That, of course, would lead some Dolphins fans to believe that the search process was a failure. And they would have every right to think that after Miami’s management team decided to fire Flores — a good football coach — in a seller’s market. There are eight teams in need of a head coach, and that number could still grow if Sean Payton decides to retire.

The dirt on Flores has been well-documented by Pro Football Network’s NFL Director, Adam Beasley. And while he didn’t always play nice behind the scenes, he seemed to get the most out of a team that didn’t always have the talent to match their level of play on the field.

Hiring Joseph — who some consider Flores-lite based on scheme and play-calling — would set many Dolphins fans over the edge.

Is there a surprise candidate for the Dolphins’ head coach search?

Don’t rule out a surprise candidate still emerging. The Dolphins have made it a policy not to announce who they have interviewed during their search. They may have met with candidates whose names have not been reported.

Could there be a wild card in the mix, perhaps someone like Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh or current Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier? A strong case can be made that Frazier is a better version of Joseph — a better coordinator and a better head coach.

If there is, in fact, a wild card name that we don’t know about, that could change everything. But that part is speculation, for now, so we work with the information we have.

And by all accounts, that leads us to believe that if Quinn goes to Denver and Daboll goes to New York, the Dolphins would be looking at either Joseph or McDaniel as their next head coach.

Matt Cannata is the Chief Executive Officer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter: @CannataPFN.