Dolphins' candidates a collection of first-timers and two wild cards

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, left, and general manager Chris Grier each say they're not looking for a quick fix. Lynne Sladky/AP Photo

DAVIE, Fla. -- The Miami Dolphins' coaching search kicks off in earnest Friday. General manager Chris Grier will try to find the man to help lead the team out of mediocrity.

"It’s not about winning one year and then falling back," Grier said. "We want to build this thing the right way, where it’s long, sustained success."

Owner Stephen Ross added: "We’re going to look to really build this organization based on our needs, and if it takes a year or so -- two years, three years -- we’re going to be there."

The next Dolphins coach will have to believe that Ross will follow through with the patience to build Miami into a contender, even if that means losing a lot early on.

A first-time head coach might be more willing to take on a rebuilding situation. But it's also worth noting that each of the Dolphins' past five head-coach hires were first-time NFL head coaches, and none of those men won a playoff game. That would suggest the Dolphins should look into bucking that trend. But if a rebuild is coming, getting a coach with considerable experience to choose them could prove difficult.

ESPN's Mike Sando solicited opinions from NFL executives and ranked the eight open NFL head-coaching jobs. Miami came in fifth, behind the Packers, Browns, Jets and Broncos. That means there will be competition, and a candidate could choose a more enticing team even if the Dolphins make an offer.

Five of the six known candidates Miami has either requested or plans to interview would be first-time NFL head coaches. The lone exception is Steelers offensive-line coach Mike Munchak, who had a stint as the Tennessee Titans head coach from 2011 through 2013.

A look at what each candidate would bring to the table, and a glance at the two big-name wild cards: Jim and John Harbaugh.

Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator

Qualifications: Helped the Chiefs become NFL's top-ranked offense. Bieniemy, a former NFL running back, has the intense leadership, brutal honesty and attention to detail that players rave about. He comes from an Andy Reid coaching tree that has been fruitful, having produced the Eagles' Doug Pederson and the Bears' Matt Nagy. Bieniemy, 49, has 18 years of coaching experience -- 11 in the NFL -- and called plays as offensive coordinator at the University of Colorado.

Potential hesitations: He hasn't called plays yet on the NFL level, and this is his first season as a NFL coordinator. Like many on this list, it would be essential for Bieniemy to hire a strong staff of coordinators and assistants to support him.

Fit/connection: Bieniemy's respect in NFL locker rooms and willingness to give unfiltered feedback makes him intriguing for a Dolphins team trying to start over with a young core. Bieniemy's expertise in the run game is appropriate, as Miami's best asset in 2018 was leaning on its collection of running backs.

Read this: ESPN's Adam Teicher's profile of Bieniemy.

Brian Flores, Patriots defensive playcaller

Qualifications: The Patriots' defense improved in Flores' first year as playcaller. He has the unique background of having worked in nearly every part of football operations: He started his career as a scout and coached special teams and offense before settling in on the defensive side of the ball. Flores interviewed for the Cardinals' head-coach job last offseason before it went to Steve Wilks.

Potential hesitations: There have not been many success stories when Bill Belichick assistants leave New England to become a head coach. Flores, 37, is also the youngest of the Dolphins' known candidates and has never officially been a coordinator. There's some inexperience, and he'll have to answer why Rob Gronkowski was on the field for the Miami Miracle.

Fit/connection: He will be the first to interview with the Dolphins, on Friday morning, and it will take place in Massachusetts, where his longtime New England pedigree (he's been with the Patriots since 2004) could be a fit with Grier, who began his career as a Patriots scout. The two likely share similar philosophies in team-building.

Read this: ESPN's Ian O'Connor wrote a feature on Flores' path to this potential opportunity.

Kris Richard, Cowboys defensive-backs coach/passing-game coordinator

Qualifications: Like Bieniemy, Richard is a former player who clearly has the respect of those he coaches. Many rave about his interpersonal skills. He's credited for helping build the Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" as defensive-backs coach, then defensive coordinator. He has also helped lift the Cowboys' scoring defense from 13th in 2017 to sixth this season.

Potential hesitations: Richard, 39, is also on the younger side, so the Dolphins would have to be OK with hiring a second consecutive coach younger than 40. He would have to answer questions about why it ended poorly in Seattle.

Fit/connection: Richard's background of developing defensive backs could do wonders for core Dolphins players such as Xavien Howard and Minkah Fitzpatrick. Richard was actually traded to the Dolphins as a player, but never suited up for a NFL game with Miami.

Vic Fangio, Bears defensive coordinator

Qualifications: Led the Bears to the top-ranked scoring defense. Full of experience despite never having been a head coach; he has coached 32 years in the NFL, including 19 as a defensive coordinator. He's a teacher, and his experience would gain him quick respect.

Potential hesitations: Fangio told reporters this week he had done "zero" work preparing for head-coach interviews, even though he has at least two planned. Fangio's personality is a little bit more reserved, and there's room to wonder if he's up for leading a rebuilding team. At 60, Fangio is on the older spectrum for first-time head coaches, but it did work for Bruce Arians.

Fit/connection: There isn't a lot here, other than admiration from watching Fangio over the decades. Fangio's experience developing defensive backs Eddie Jackson and Adrian Amos would also look to be an example of what he could do with Howard and Fitzpatrick.

Mike Munchak, Steelers offensive-line coach

Qualifications: He's a Hall of Famer, having excelled as an offensive lineman with the Houston Oilers. He's well respected, as evidenced by Ben Roethlisberger openly campaigning for him to return. He has 25 years of NFL coaching experience and he's consistently been one of the best with offensive linemen. He's also a former NFL head coach.

Potential hesitations: It ended poorly in Tennessee because Munchak was unwilling to make certain staff changes, and although loyalty is admirable, it's not always a winning strategy. He went 22-26 in his three seasons as the Titans' coach. You might question the potential of Munchak to lead a team to a championship.

Fit/connection: Like Fangio, there's not a lot here in terms of connections. Munchak's offensive-line background would be a strong boost for tackles Laremy Tunsil and Ja'Wuan James, who are potential long-term players. Munchak could also get more out of the interior offensive line, which struggled with stunts and twists. His head-coach experience would make him prepared for the task and a rebuild.

Darren Rizzi, Dolphins special-teams coach

Qualifications: Rizzi had time and game-management responsibilities during the Adam Gase era, preparing him for that important role, and he has the leadership qualities to be a CEO-type coach. Passionate and fiery with a strong desire to teach, those traits would fit well with a rebuilding team. Rizzi's special-teams units are among the best in the NFL and were easily Miami's best group last season. He can point to Baltimore's John Harbaugh as an example of a successful special-teams coach becoming a successful head coach.

Potential hesitations: Rizzi doesn't have expertise on offense or defense, meaning there would be more pressure to hit home runs when he hires coordinators and assistants. He had two stints as a college head coach: at New Haven, where he went 15-14 over three seasons, and at Rhode Island, where he went 3-9 in one season. It also would be tough for the Dolphins to tell fans they are starting a new era with promotions from within to lead in the front office and the locker room.

Fit/connection: There has been eye-opening support from Dolphins players -- current and former -- for Rizzi to be head coach. Players such as Kenyan Drake, Kiko Alonso, Kenny Stills, Hall of Famer Jason Taylor and former Dolphins receiver/Ohio State assistant Brian Hartline are among those who have raved about Rizzi's interpersonal skills and how much he cares for players. Rizzi has been with the Dolphins since 2009 and he has a strong read on the team.

The wild cards

Ross is known to have a strong affinity for both Jim and John Harbaugh, two names to watch as wild cards throughout the process.

Ross, a Michigan alumnus and significant booster of the school that named its business program after him, told reporters he would not have an interest in hiring Jim Harbaugh away from the Wolverines. But if Harbaugh decides he's making the jump back to the NFL -- to this point, he's said publicly that he plans to stay at his alma mater -- Ross could always change his tune.

As for John Harbaugh, the Baltimore Ravens said last month that their coach would return for the 2019 season and that they were working on an extension. However, NBC Sports' Peter King reported that there was a "real chance" that Harbaugh won't sign an extension and instead would decide to become a free agent in 2020. If that's the case, the Ravens could try to trade him.

If John Harbaugh is available in a trade, the Dolphins could sniff around to see what the price is.