As the NFL headed moved toward the AFC and NFC championship games, the Miami Dolphins' focus centered around filling out their coaching staff and preparing for their role coaching assignment in the upcoming Senior Bowl.
Amid all of that was the continuing speculation regarding Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson and the Dolphins' potential role in how that situation might unfold.
Here then are the five biggest stories of the week:
While teams around the NFL continue filling their vacancies for head coach — and subsequently offensive coordinator, the Dolphins' coaching staff remains incomplete more than two weeks after longtime coach Chan Gailey announced his resignation. After six candidates initially were identified publicly through various reports, no new candidates have surfaced. Of the initial six, Mike McDaniel was promoted by the San Francisco 49ers from run game coordinator and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott reportedly has told teams he wants to stay in college football. Then there was Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks Matt Canada, who interviewed with the Dolphins before reports indicated he was being promoted by the Steelers to become their new OC. But that was a week ago and the Steelers still haven't made an official announcement amid reports they're interviewing other candidates. The Dolphins also are still looking for a new defensive line coach after mutually parting ways with Marion Hobby, who soon after was hired to the same position by the Cincinnati Bengals.
One position the Dolphins did fill this week was that of offensive line coach, with 2020 assistant Lemuel Jeanpierre taking over for Steve Marshall after another "mutual parting of the way." Marshall's departure wasn't totally unexpected given that he was brought onto the staff last year to work with Gailey, with whom he had a prior working relationship from their time with the New York Jets. Jeanpierre's promotion gives the Dolphins a young position coach who also recently played in the NFL, two factors that should help him relate very well to the players.
With the news this week that draft prospects will not be converging on Indianapolis for the scouting combine this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's added value to the Dolphins having been chosen to coach the National team at the 2021 Reese's Senior Bowl. The prospects who will be in Mobile next week were assigned their team throughout the week, and the Dolphins ended up with the best wide receiver and running game at the game, former Alabama teammates DeVonta Smith and Najee Harris. Smith won't play because of a finger injury and Harris might not either because of an ankle issue, but having both players take part in team meetings throughout the week will provide more insight for the Dolphins — though it doesn't necessarily mean they'll end up picking both players, or even either.
4. The Watson Watch
Based on social media reaction, there are some Dolphins fans who just wish this story would go away, but it will not and cannot because of the magnitude of the player involved. It's that simple. Simply put, Deshaun Watson is the kind of quarterback the Dolphins and their fans hope Tua Tagovailoa can become, so if there's a chance for Miami to land him, it's definitely news. The biggest development this week, though, was a report from longtime NFL writer Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, which included this comment: “Miami has a quarterback with upside in Tua Tagovailoa, but that could be a deal-breaker for the Texans. Tagovailoa isn’t regarded as a quarterback the Texans will view as an adequate replacement for Watson, according to multiple league sources. The Texans are considered far more likely to draft a quarterback, someone like Ohio State’s Justin Fields or BYU’s Zach Wilson, to replace Watson than swap him out for Tagovailoa."
It was another good week for cornerback Xavien Howard, who added to his collection of postseason accolades by being named to the Pro Football Writers Association All-NFL and All-AFC team. Defensive tackle Raekwon Davis followed him by being named to the PFWA All-Rookie team. The Dolphins were shut out in the coaching/managerial awards even though they had three good candidates in head coach Brian Flores, GM Chris Grier and defensive coordinator. But Kevin Stefanski of the Cleveland Browns was named Coach of the Year and the Buffalo Bills got Executive of the Year and Assistant Coach of the Year honors with Brandon Beane and Brian Daboll, respectively.