Cameron's firing continues Miami's upheaval under Parcells

Updated: January 4, 2008, 1:11 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

DAVIE, Fla. -- Unlike his boss, Bill Parcells didn't need to go to Costa Rica. He stayed right at home and decided Cam Cameron had to go, along with just about everyone else on the Miami Dolphins.

Different School of Fish

Bill Parcells wants people he knows surrounding him as he tries to fix the Miami Dolphins. He doesn't know Cam Cameron -- and even a glowing reference from Parcells' friend Bob Knight couldn't overcome that fact, writes John Clayton. Story

A year ago Thursday, Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga embarked on a two-week coaching search that took him as far as Central America to interview at least a dozen candidates.

Now the Dolphins are starting over.

Cameron was fired Thursday after winning only one game in his first year as an NFL head coach. The move means Miami will have its fifth coach in five seasons.

Such instability has contributed to the Dolphins' decline. This season they lost their first 13 games and finished 1-15, the worst record in franchise history.

Late last month, they brought in Parcells to run the organization. He hired Jeff Ireland as general manager this week, and they fired most of the coaching staff Thursday.

"They were struggling on both sides of the ball," Ireland said. "Looking at it from afar, we've just got to put the right person in place."

Parcells made the decision to fire Cameron in consultation with Ireland, who spent the last seven years in player personnel with the Dallas Cowboys.

Parcells, the Cowboys' coach in 2003-06, may tap the Dallas pipeline again. The early front-runner to replace Cameron is Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano, who is scheduled to interview Friday for the head coaching vacancy in Atlanta.

"Tony's an outstanding coach," Dallas head coach Wade Phillips said this week. "He's got all the attributes, I think, to be a head coach. He works well with people. His players play for him; I think that's important. And he's a really sharp, sharp guy as far as Xs and Os. And I think he'd work well certainly putting a staff together."

ESPN's Chris Mortensen has confirmed through sources that the Dolphins also will consider these five additional assistants as Cameron's successor:

• Maurice Carthon, Cardinals running backs coach
• Todd Haley, Cardinals offensive coordinator
• Mike Tice, Jaguars assistant head coach/tight ends
• Rex Ryan, Ravens defensive coordinator
• Leslie Frazier, Vikings defensive coordinator

Thank You For Coaching

One-and-done NFL head coaches, since 1990 (not included: coaches who served on an interim basis for part of a season before being hired full time; those who started a season and did not finish).

The One-and-Onlys ...
Season   W-L
2007 Cam Cameron, Dolphins 1-15
2006 Art Shell, Raiders 2-14
2001 Marty Schottenheimer, Redskins 8-8
2000 Al Groh, Jets 9-7
1999 Ray Rhodes, Packers 8-8
1997 Joe Bugel, Raiders 4-12
1994 Pete Carroll, Jets 6-10
1993 Richie Petitbon, Redskins 4-12
1990 Rod Rust, Patriots 1-15

All but two members of Cameron's coaching staff were also fired, although some might be rehired by the new head coach, Ireland said. Retained were assistant special teams coach Steve Hoffman and linebackers coach George Edwards.

"I saw change coming, but to this extent?" Dolphins safety Yeremiah Bell said, according to the Miami Herald.

Cameron was under contract through 2010. A perceived difference in philosophy with the new regime ranked as a bigger factor in his firing than Miami's 1-15 record, Ireland said.

"We just felt in order to move forward and not look back, we needed someone in place who shared the same philosophical compatibilities we shared," Ireland said. "We didn't really know the guy that well. We were going to try to get someone that does share those things, and we weren't completely sold that he did."

Ireland said the philosophy he and Parcells share involves creating a culture of winning. That would be a change for the Dolphins, who missed the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season, extending a franchise record.

"We want strong character around here," said Ireland, who added he'll have final say regarding all player personnel decisions. "The vision of the team will be discipline, passionate players, highly competitive. And we'll be a big team."

The search last year was the most extensive since the franchise's first season in 1966, but Cameron quickly became a disappointment. Until Miami beat Baltimore in overtime Dec. 16, he was in danger of becoming the first NFL coach to go 0-16.

Throughout the worst season in team history, Cameron won praise for maintaining a calm demeanor with the media and his players. But as the losses mounted, players became coy when asked if they believed in their coach.

Defensive end Jason Taylor, Miami's only Pro Bowl player, took a neutral stance on the firing.

"We've had a difficult year, and it's one of those times when it's a little unsettling,'' he said. "As a player on the team, you can only control what you can, and for other things, you have to let others do it.''

There apparently was an underlying reason for Taylor's neutrality. Kicker Jay Feely, in an interview with ESPN Radio 760 on Thursday, said Cameron treated Taylor in a way that bothered some Dolphins players.

"Probably his one mistake, I think, was kind of taking on Jason and trying to diminish his role on the team, because [Taylor is] just a guy that gives you everything he's got," Feeley said in the interview, according to the Herald. "He was the defensive MVP, and that kind of left a bad taste in all of the players' mouths," Feely said. "Every first-year head coach is going to make mistakes like those when you come in because you're trying to establish yourself, you're trying to establish your authority over the team."

Cameron was hired after five years as offensive coordinator for the high-scoring San Diego Chargers, and the Dolphins' offense improved early in the season. But when John Beck became the third starter at quarterback this year, the unit failed to score a touchdown in three consecutive games, and the rookie returned to the bench.

Cameron took over a team that had gone 19-29 the previous three years and was in decline following a series of bad drafts. Poor depth made this season's wave of injuries catastrophic.

Running back Ronnie Brown led the league in yards from scrimmage when he was sidelined for the season by a knee injury, and quarterback Trent Green and linebacker Zach Thomas also went on injured reserve. When 2002 NFL rushing champion Ricky Williams returned from a suspension, he lasted only six carries before a chest injury ended his season.

In addition, top receiver Chris Chambers was traded after six games.

The coach's office became a revolving door in 2004, when Dave Wannstedt quit after nine games and was replaced by Jim Bates. Nick Saban became the coach in 2005, but lasted only two years before leaving for Alabama.

His departure was announced by Huizenga on Jan. 3, 2006. One year later to the hour, Ireland was at the same lectern to discuss the start of yet another coaching search.

"My commitment is to try to rebuild this franchise," Ireland said. "It's a great chance for me, and it's a great chance for the Dolphins, in my opinion."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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