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What now for the Miami Dolphins?

The Miami Dolphins are going to miss the postseason. For the second straight year, Miami came into December looking like a potential contender, only to fall apart down the stretch. Last season, the Dolphins were 8-6 and only had to beat either the Buffalo Bills or New York Jets for a playoff spot. They scored a combined seven points in two defeats.

This time around, Miami had the Baltimore Ravens coming in for a Week 14 showdown. A victory and the Dolphins would have been 8-5 and likely needing wins over only the Minnesota Vikings and Jets at home. Instead, the Dolphins blew a 10-0 lead to Baltimore, followed with a blowout defeat against the New England Patriots, and from all indications lost head coach Joe Philbin’s job security.

The Dolphins biggest problem this century has been finding a head coach/quarterback combination to build around. Since the days of Don Shula, Miami has employed a list of mediocre men including Dave Wannstedt, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano and more. The quarterbacks have been worse, featuring Chad Henne, A.J. Feeley, Jay Fiedler, Cleo Lemon and Daunte Culpepper.

With Ryan Tannehill, the quarterback position might finally be solved, but it appears Philbin is on the way out after three seasons. Under his tutelage, Philbin’s teams have never been bad but come up short. With a roster of considerable skill, the lack of January contests is cause for termination.

The question now becomes who enters the picture? With Jim Harbaugh likely out as the San Francisco 49ers head coach, rumors will swirl about Harbaugh to South Beach. When Harbaugh left Stanford University in 2011, Miami was extremely interested in him, only to watch him choose the 49ers. This time around, owner Stephen Ross will once again put on the full-court press, hoping to lure Harbaugh with a fat payday and a young core.

If Harbaugh goes elsewhere, likely Oakland or Michigan, the Dolphins could go the unproven route. Adam Gase, offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, would be a terrific choice. Gase has been in demand for a few seasons but hasn’t left his post with Peyton Manning, perhaps a wise career decision. Another option is Hue Jackson. Jackson runs the offense for the Cincinnati Bengals and has limited experience as a head coach. Jackson was the lead man for the Raiders in 2011 and went 8-8 but was canned anyway. Imagine what Jackson, who coaxed eight wins out of Oakland, could do with the Dolphins.

Other top assistants include Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Kansas City Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton and Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, grandson of legend Vince Lombardi. Bowles could be especially appealing to the Dolphins since he coached there from 2008-11, including a stint as interim head coach.

Regardless of its final decision, Miami has a major offseason ahead. Make the right move, and the Dolphins could be contenders immediately. The wrong one and, well, the stay in the same spot they’ve been in for 15 years.

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