MIAMI - Rejected by Jeff Fisher, the Miami Dolphins plan to interview several more candidates before hiring a coach, owner Stephen Ross said Friday.
Fisher turned down the Dolphins' offer and accepted the coaching job in St. Louis, the Rams confirmed. Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland quickly hit the reset button in their search, but the rejection represented a major setback.
"Lol Damn Friday the 13th strikes again!!" Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith tweeted.
Fisher's decision came 10 days after he interviewed with Miami.
"It lasted a little longer than I would have liked," Ross said with a chuckle in a phone interview with the AP. "We did everything we thought we could do. We were stretching. We made an offer better. We worked hard at it."
Ross said he didn't think Fisher was swayed because the Dolphins, unlike the Rams, have a general manager in place. That may mean more authority over personnel decisions for Fisher in St. Louis.
"The organizational structure I don't believe was an issue at all," Ross said. "I've always thought the relationship between the coach and general manager is a partnership, and we felt Jeff was fine with that."
It's the second time in 12 months that Ross has come up short courting a coach. Last January he pursued Jim Harbaugh, who instead joined the San Francisco 49ers.
Fisher, who coached the Titans franchise for 17 years, was Miami's first choice this winter and widely considered the top prize on the NFL coaching market. Ross wanted to make a splash by hiring a coach who would reinvigorate the fan base, and Fisher offered the best chance to do that.
Among the other candidates interviewed by the Dolphins, the only one with any NFL head coaching experience is Todd Bowles, thanks to his role as their interim coach for the final three games this season.
"Jeff was great — he had the experience that the other ones might not have," Ross said. "But it has always been my philosophy to hire young people who have a real desire to succeed, and that's what's out there. Hopefully there's a Hall of Fame coach we'll be talking to."
Other candidates interviewed by Miami have included Green Bay Packers offensive co-ordinator Joe Philbin, Cincinnati Bengals defensive co-ordinator Mike Zimmer and Chicago Bears special teams co-ordinator Dave Toub. The search will now be expanded and may include other coaches still in the playoffs.
"We have continued to evaluate candidates even after we spoke with Jeff," Ross said. "We're excited about the candidates we're considering. They're outstanding in their own right. We'll continue with our plan, which will include interviewing several candidates more. I'm confident the process will result in the choice of the right coach to lead our team."
Ross said he didn't know why Fisher chose the Rams, but their situation might be considered more appealing than Miami's for several reasons. The Rams have former No. 1 overall pick Sam Bradford at quarterback and the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, while the Dolphins have endured a revolving door at quarterback for years, and they'll pick eighth or ninth in the first round of the draft.
In addition, Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff is the son of Fisher's agent, Marvin Demoff.
The Dolphins fired Tony Sparano last month with three games to go in his fourth season as their coach. When the search for a new coach began, Ross said he would like to hire "a young Don Shula" and give the franchise much-needed stability.
But the state of the Dolphins makes it harder to attract top talent. The same franchise that successfully courted Jimmy Johnson, Nick Saban and Bill Parcells has now lost out to a St. Louis franchise dogged by years of losing and speculation about relocation.
Chronic losing is a problem for the Dolphins, too. They went 6-10 this season and missed the playoffs for the ninth time in the past 10 years.