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Dolphins begin search for new coach

MIAMI (AP) - Mike Nolan decided against buying a place to live when he came to town two years ago as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.

"I'm a renter now," Nolan said with a laugh. "It's a complete change in philosophy. I think renting's the way to go nowadays."

He made a good call. The Dolphins face an offseason of big changes, and a lot of players and assistant coaches will be moving on.

Owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland began their search for a head coach Monday by interviewing Todd Bowles, who was interim coach for the final three games after Tony Sparano was fired.

The team is also expected to interview former Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, and perhaps several other candidates.

"Steve Ross and I have a plan in place that is designated to ensure that we identify and interview an outstanding set of candidates for the head coaching position," Ireland said in a statement. "That search has begun and there is no designated timetable. ... Steve and I are excited to embark on this process, and we are confident that it will result in the selection of an outstanding individual who will return the Dolphins to their longtime status as one of the most successful teams in the league."

The status of the franchise has declined dramatically in recent years. The Dolphins have reached the playoffs only once in the past decade, and they've endured three consecutive losing seasons for the first time since the 1960s.

This season Miami lost its first seven games, then played much better and beat the New York Jets on Sunday to finish 6-10.

"Our ultimate goal was to make it into the playoffs and make some noise there, so that's disappointing," Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall said. "Hopefully we can take some of this momentum we've had in this second half and run into next year flying."

The Dolphins would prefer to hire someone with NFL head-coaching experience, such as Fisher, who coached the Oilers and Titans for 17 years and led them to a Super Bowl. Ross is drawn to celebrities and apparently willing to spend big, but competition will be stiff thanks to a slew of vacancies around the league, including all three Florida teams.

Some situations are more appealing than the Dolphins, who have been plagued by instability. The next coach will be Miami's seventh since the start of the 2004 season.

The ongoing search for a franchise quarterback is another issue. Newcomer Matt Moore played well after Chad Henne was sidelined by a season-ending right shoulder injury, but with a top-10 pick in the April draft, Miami will be tempted to draft a QB.

Henne, a free agent this offseason, said Monday his shoulder is healing well and he would like to remain with the Dolphins. Given Moore's emergence, that's unlikely.

"I love being down here, and hopefully I get another opportunity," Henne said. "If not, I'll try my luck elsewhere. Obviously I want to be a starter, and I feel I can be in this league."

Heading for retirement is NFL active sack leader Jason Taylor, who decided to call it quits rather than try to break in yet another new coach. Among those certain to return is Reggie Bush, who reached the 1,000-yard rushing milestone for the first time in his first season with Miami.

The Dolphins had trouble with pass protection and pass coverage. Blowing late leads and losing close games became bad habits. Those issues will all be addressed by a new coach, but Bush believes the team needs only few tweaks, not major renovations.

"The chemistry is there. The foundation is laid out," Bush said. "I think whatever coach they bring in will fit right in, and I think we'll be fine."

Perhaps. But the next coach might want to try renting.

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