Hyde: Caldwell brings experience
64-year-old former head coach of two playoff teams is what Miami needs.
The most welcome Dolphins coaching move of them all landed not with a big headline, or triumphant applause, or any public hoopla beyond a simple handshake Friday morning and nod of greeting.
“Hi, Jim Caldwell,’’ he said.
You might not be excited by a 64-year-old coach with comes with a quiet and respected voice of experience. And that’s fine. Caldwell must be used to that kind of welcome in a league where the young geniuses make people excited.
Brian Flores, at 37, might be that type of wunderkind who doesn’t need help in his first swing at head coach. Coordinators Chad O’Shea and Patrick Graham, too, might know it all in their first times in those roles.
Still, Caldwell brings something none of the five, first-time Dolphins coaches have had this
millennium. Experience. Counsel. A backstop of ideas, even if the former head coach of two playoff teams downplays his role.
“My job is to help wherever I can,’’ Caldwell said.
Let’s look back to look ahead at what that could mean. Adam Gase knew it all when he arrived. That swagger. That arrogance. That was part of his charm when he took over the Dolphins — at least until it became part of his downfall.
It wasn’t just the headline stuff from his decisions, like a cocainesniffing coach, an AWOL linebacker or a veteran refusing to play. A smaller sign: The Dolphins had players, plural, veterans and youngsters, constantly late to meetings in the Gase era.
A small thing, maybe. But it spoke of bigger, disciplinary problems. Gase couldn’t handle it. He tried. He called out players in his own way. The issue persisted.
Gase even tried to embarrass players by posting names of those late plate to meetings and the amount they were fined. Maximum amount: $3,000. It didn’t solve anything.
For all the talk of “culture” inside the Dolphins last season, this was the developed culture of the Gase era. It spoke of a lack of everyday details you often saw play out on the field.
Flores, no doubt, knows what he inherited. The culture is set by the head coach in any sport, pro or amateur, big time or little league. And it’s not so much on this specific topic Caldwell will provide any help.
It’s on dozens of issues like this, big and small, team-wide and player-specific, where a voice experience might help.
“My goal and aim is to help this team win and win consistently,” Caldwell said.
In some form, he’s here to help these new coaches know what they can’t know. Gase loved to X and O and could match strategy with the best of them. But he would lament so much of his time was spent dealing with everything
but the X’s and O’s.
That’s the life of a head coach. Bill Parcells said every head coach had five things come across his desk every day that he’d never dealt with as an assistant.
The Dolphins coaches of the past two decades are sad examples of that. Joe Philbin oversaw the awful Bullygate saga that tore apart the franchise. Tony Sparano, a good leader, never had a veteran coaching ally in a way that hurt him. Cam Cameron had such problems linebacker Joey Porter said in a meeting Cameron didn’t know what he was talking about.
Then there was daily drip of issues like, yes, players constantly being late to team meetings in the Gase era. The mystery is why Gase didn’t do what Sean McVay did in Los Angeles. He didn’t hire a veteran defensive coordinator like 71-year-old Wade Phillips to cover his blind spots. He hired two first-time coordinators in Vance Joseph and Matt Burke.
Caldwell, no doubt, wants to be a head coach again. He interviewed for three jobs this offseason. He’s a football lifer who was a head coach at Wake Forest, won a Super Bowl as Indianapolis’ offensive coordinator, took Indianapolis to another Super Bowl as a rookie head coach and Detroit to the playoffs.
Asked if he’s seen it all, he said, “I try to learn something new every day.”
That’s what experience sounds like. His presence says something good about Flores, too. He recognizes he might need help.
“He doesn’t need much help,” Caldwell said. “He’s excellent. A guy that has great vision and foresight. Really, what I’m here for, I’m just here to ask whatever he asks me to do. He has very capable coaches.”
He chuckled. “I know when you refer to, ‘experience,’ you’re referring to age as well. That’s a kind way to say it.”
This right way to say it is this move won’t make the Dolphins succeed. It does, however, suggest a common mistake of past firstyear coaches won’t be repeated.
Jim Caldwell is the assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach for the Dolphins.
Jim Caldwell took the Lions to the playoffs. He also coached the Colts.