Dolphins' staff has Patriots flavor, even-keeled teachers, flexibility

The Brian Flores era has begun, and his coaching staff is a diverse mix of youth and experience that will lead the Miami Dolphins through an attempted rebuild.

Flores has hired coaches who are even-keeled, versatile teachers, rather than explosive, scheme-driven personalities.

It's notable that while the number of minority coaches has fallen, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, seven of the Dolphins' 16 assistants are minorities. Many of these men, such as Jim Caldwell and Eric Studesville on the offensive side, are extremely accomplished and have the respect of their peers across the NFL. Miami could still add a few more coaches before the end of the month.

Flores retained three assistants (two position coaches, one quality-control coach) from Adam Gase's staff. The two retained coaches, Studesville (running backs) and Tony Oden (safeties), ran arguably the Dolphins' most productive units last season. Flores hired three coaches (Chad O'Shea, Jerry Schuplinski and Josh Boyer) from the Patriots' Super Bowl-winning staff.

The Dolphins have a first-time head coach, first-time offensive coordinator and first-time defensive coordinator, but Flores has done well to add experience around him outside those positions -- most notably in Caldwell, a former head coach who will be a key sounding board for Flores.

Here's a look at the new staff:


Chad O’Shea, offensive coordinator: This is the first offensive coordinator or playcaller role for O’Shea, who spent the past 10 seasons as the Patriots' wide receivers coach. O’Shea was the Patriots' red zone coordinator, and he reportedly was a top candidate to become the offensive coordinator when Josh McDaniels was headed toward becoming the Colts' head coach last offseason. One of O’Shea’s biggest supporters is Super Bowl MVP Julian Edelman, whom O'Shea helped mold from a college quarterback and seventh-round pick into one of the NFL's best slot receivers.

O’Shea, a Houston native, played quarterback at Marshall and the University of Houston before entering the college coaching ranks in 1996. He should help make the Dolphins' offense more diverse, with a focus on getting running backs involved in the passing game, as the Patriots have done so well in recent years.

“Chad is extremely smart, innovative and hard-working. He brings a lot of energy to practice and meetings," Flores said. "Chad has a great rapport with players. He has earned the trust of a lot of guys he has worked with, from Randy Moss to Wes Welker to Julian Edelman. Chad has gotten the most out of his players from the 10 years I have been around him."

Jim Caldwell, assistant head coach/quarterbacks: Caldwell is the most experienced coach on the staff, with his career having begun in the college ranks in 1977. He went a combined 62-50 (with five winning seasons and four playoff trips) in head-coaching stints with the Indianapolis Colts (2009-11) and Detroit Lions (2014-17). His expertise is with quarterbacks, as he helped lead Peyton Manning, Joe Flacco and Matthew Stafford to some of their best seasons. He will play a big role in fixing Miami's QB problem.

“Jim is an incredible human being, a man of faith and a great football coach. His experience as a head coach will be invaluable for me," Flores said. "Jim is a great teacher, highly organized and somebody that I have a lot of respect for."

Jerry Schuplinski, assistant quarterbacks: A Patriots assistant since 2013, Schuplinski is credited with playing an essential role in developing backup quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. Both thrived after receiving bigger opportunities elsewhere. Schuplinski will likely get the opportunity to help develop another young quarterback in Miami.

Eric Studesville, running backs: Studesville is the lone returning lead offensive position coach from Gase's staff, and his numbers explain why. The Dolphins were tied for seventh in yards per carry, averaging 4.7 yards under Studesville in 2018. They were tied for 22nd with 3.9 yards per carry in 2017 before Studesville arrived. He has coached running backs to 10 individual 1,000-yard rushing seasons in his past 18 seasons as an NFL running backs coach.

George Godsey, tight ends: Godsey spent three years coaching with Flores in New England from 2011 to '13, the latter two seasons as the Patriots' tight ends coach. Godsey was the Houston Texans' offensive coordinator and playcaller from 2015 to '16. He played quarterback at Georgia Tech and coached the position with the Lions last season.

Pat Flaherty, offensive line: Flaherty has spent the past 15 seasons as an NFL offensive line coach, most recently with Jacksonville in 2017-18. The Jaguars led the NFL in rushing and were in the bottom five in sacks allowed behind a Flaherty-coached offensive line in 2017. In 2018, Jacksonville’s rushing offense fell to 19th, and they allowed the third-most sacks. Miami's offensive line was in shambles by the end of last season, and Flaherty's experience will be essential in helping fix it.

Karl Dorrell, wide receivers: It’s a return to Miami for Dorrell, who coached the Dolphins' receivers (2008-10) and QBs (2011) under Tony Sparano. Dorrell spent the past four seasons coaching the New York Jets' receivers. In 2015, Dorrell had two 1,000-yard receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. He spent five seasons as UCLA head coach (35-27 record) and had four stints as a college offensive coordinator.

Tiquan Underwood, offensive quality control: Underwood spent five seasons as an NFL receiver, including in 2011 with the Patriots. He was memorably released one night before Super Bowl XLVI. Underwood was the receivers coach at Lafayette College in 2018.

Josh Grizzard, offensive quality control: Grizzard, now in his third season with the Dolphins, is another holdover from the Gase era. He worked with the Dolphins' running game that improved dramatically in 2018, and he has worked with quarterbacks as a quality-control coach at Duke.

Matt Lombardi, offensive quality control: Lombardi has worked as an offensive quality-control coach at Louisville and Baylor. He is also the son of Michael Lombardi, a former Browns general manager and assistant to the Patriots' coaching staff from 2014 to '16.


Patrick Graham, defensive coordinator: Like Flores, Graham began his NFL coaching career as a low-level Patriots assistant, spending nine years there and eventually earning a role coaching the linebackers and defensive line. He was the Packers' linebackers coach and run-game coordinator in 2018, when they were tied for eighth in sacks and tied for 11th in fewest rushing yards allowed per carry. Graham has coached 4-3 and 3-4 schemes, making him a fit for Flores’ desired multiple defense.

“Pat is a Yale guy. He’s extremely bright. He is great with the fundamentals and has very strong leadership ability. I can’t say enough good things about him," Flores said. "We worked together in New England, and I know the type of passion he has and the way he works. We have a lot of the same core values and beliefs from a defensive standpoint."

Josh Boyer, defensive pass-game coordinator/cornerbacks: Boyer is another longtime Patriots coach who followed Flores with a promotion from New England to Miami. Boyer, a Patriots assistant since 2006, coached several Pro Bowl players such as Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Aqib Talib, Darrelle Revis, Devin McCourty and Brandon Meriweather. Boyer played a significant role in getting Butler a tryout for New England as an undrafted free agent, and three years later, he became the hero of Super Bowl XLVIII.

Boyer was a part of a New England defense that tied for fifth with 28 takeaways last season. Flores and Boyer helped hold the Rams to 260 yards and three points in Super Bowl LIII. Boyer gets a bigger role here in Miami as defensive pass game coordinator.

Tony Oden, safeties: Oden is the lone returning lead defensive position coach from the Gase staff, and he runs the Dolphins’ most promising unit. His specialty is takeaways. Miami was second in interceptions (21) last season. Xavien Howard tied for the NFL lead in interceptions and made the Pro Bowl for the first time under the direction of Oden, who got a strong season out of rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick. He also helped develop Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay as the Lions' DB coach from 2014-17.

Marion Hobby, defensive line: Hobby has coached at the collegiate level for 20 of his 24 years as a coach, but he spent the past two seasons as the Jaguars' defensive line coach. He was a huge part of that Jacksonville defense that finished second in the NFL in sacks (55) in 2017. That unit, like the Jaguars as a whole, fell off in 2018, ranking 22nd in sacks. Hobby also played three years on the Patriots' defensive line.

Robbie Leonard, linebackers: Leonard spent the past six seasons with the Giants, and he was elevated to running the outside linebackers room in 2018. He worked on both 3-4 and 4-3 defenses with New York, giving him the multiple perspective needed under Flores. He also worked as Graham’s assistant in New York (2016-17).

Special teams

Danny Crossman, special-teams coordinator: Crossman spent the past six seasons as the Bills special-teams coordinator and now moves to their southern rival. Crossman has the task of replacing beloved special-teams coordinator Darren Rizzi, who had the Dolphins' special teams consistently among the better squads in the NFL. Rizzi took a job with the Saints. Crossman’s units were up-and-down throughout his Bills tenure but dipped in 2018.

“Danny and I worked under Scott O’Brien, and there is a lot of familiarity from technique, fundamentals and a vernacular standpoint," Flores said. "Danny is full of energy and extremely good with the fundamentals. I am excited to have him."