Huizenga has already made up his mind

12/28/2003 - Miami Dolphins

Even though the team still has one game remaining, the fate of Miami Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt has already been decided, but owner Wayne Huizenga will not make an announcement about the future until Monday.

The Dolphins have scheduled a 10 a.m. ET news conference for Monday at the team's practice facility in Davie, Fla. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports Sunday that there is a possibility Wannstedt will receive an extension and the Dolphins will bring in a new general manager to take over personnel decisions.

Huizenga met for two hours Friday with Dolphins president Eddie Jones and the two men apparently finalized their plans for restructuring the football operation. That could mean Wannstedt will not return in 2004, or that Huizenga simply will ask his coach to relinquish some personnel control.

"The game Sunday (against the New York Jets) is important for a lot of other reasons," Huizenga told local reporters as he exited the Dolphins practice facility. "But as far as my decision? Win or lose, my decision is the same."

Huizenga did not divulge, and it has not been determined through sources, if Wannstedt has been apprised of his status. The two men spoke earlier in the week but Wannstedt was not part of the Friday session and was conducting practice through most of it. He has one year remaining on his contract.

Some sort of change in the football operation has been anticipated since the Dolphins began to slump a few weeks ago. Despite winning at Buffalo last weekend, Miami was eliminated from playoff contention, the second straight year in which the Dolphins failed to advance to the postseason.

While the Dolphins are viewed by many as underachievers, and some veterans seem to have tired of Wannstedt, it could be difficult to dismiss the coach, given his record in his four-year tenure.

Pending the outcome of Sunday's game, Wannstedt has compiled a 41-25 mark and led the Dolphins to the playoffs his first two years on the job. Should the Dolphins defeat the Jets, it would mark the third time in four seasons that the club posted double-digit victories under Wannstedt's stewardship and Miami would be the first team since 1991 to miss the playoffs with 10 wins.

Since 1970, only six coaches have been dimissed following seasons in which they won 10 or more games. The Dolphins, however, have regressed every season under Wannstedt. They won the AFC East in 2000, finished second in 2001 and were eliminated from the postseason in the final week in 2002 at New England. Now they are out with one week to play.

The sense is that Huizenga prefers to retain Wannstedt but shake up the power structure with a general manager. But even that is not certain and Huizenga and other members of the Miami front office have been purposely cryptic in discussing the future.

It is believed, however, that Huizenga and his top lieutenants have been seeking advice from outside the organization on potential general manager candidates.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.