In putting his staff together, new Dolphins head coach Adam Gase went outside the Dolphins organization to find his offensive and defensive coordinators, but he decided to retain Rizzi not only in his role as special teams coordinator but also as assistant head coach.
So Rizzi, much to his delight, will continue to hold the title of longest-tenured coach in the staff.
“It’s great to be back for my eighth season with the Dolphins,” Rizzi said in an interview with The Finsiders. “Can’t believe it’s been that long. I’ve told many people I’m as excited now to be a part of this organization as I’ve ever been. I’m really looking forward to working with Adam Gase. It’s just a real exciting time.”
Gase will become the fifth head coach Rizzi has worked for since joining the Dolphins, including interim coaches Todd Bowles and Dan Campbell.
This is the second time Rizzi was retained through an offseason coaching change, the first time coming in 2012 after Joe Philbin was hired.
Like four years ago, there was some uncertainty for Rizzi while the Dolphins were conducting their coaching search.
“I was under contract for another year, but you never know how it’s going to play out when a head coach gets let go and (as) an assistant coach it’s a year-to-year proposition,” Rizzi said. “Adam interviewed, got the job. The day he got the job, he asked me to come in and speak to him and asked me to be part of the organization.
“This is really where my heart is. I really love this organization, I always have. I just feel like there’s a lot of positive things going on here. I think Adam is going to do a great job. I think the staff that he’s put together, I’m really excited to work with. I think there’s a great mix of new guys coming in and some guys that have stuck around. Real excited about that. The offseason is always a little bit hectic for the assistant coaches, no doubt, jockeying for positions and jobs. I’m just really, really fortunate, myself, my family, to stay here in South Florida and work for the organization that I love.”
After first joining the Dolphins as an assistant special teams coach, Rizzi took over the special teams units in October 2010 and was given the title of coordinator the following season.
After Campbell took over last October, he named Rizzi as his assistant head coach and called on him to help him out with in-week and game-day logistics.
Exactly what Rizzi’s role as assistant head coach will be under Gase has yet to be determined, but Rizzi is ready to help any way be can.
“I know on a daily basis I’m going to help Adam with different things here in the building,” Rizzi said. “As far as the games go, it’s kind of a fluid situation. We really haven’t gotten down to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i’ just yet. But Adam knows my skill set, kind of knows what I’ve done here in the past. I’m sure he’s going to lean on me for certain things. That really hasn’t been exactly defined yet, everybody’s role on game day. But that’s one of the things we talked about in my interview process. He knows kind of what I’ve done in the past and I’m sure he’ll use it accordingly.”
Rizzi had no connection to Gase prior to their current collaboration with the Dolphins, but he says he’s liked the interaction the two have had in the month since the Dolphins hired their new head coach.
“Just a really enthusiastic guy, a lot of energy, and every day I really like his presence with our staff,” Rizzi said. “Obviously a very bright guy. He’s done a great job offensively wherever he’s been. He’s had some great leaders that he’s worked for. Obviously John Fox, Nick Saban, different people that he’s worked for that have done very well as head coaches. So he’s got some great role models that he’s been around.
“We have a lot of the same personality traits, so we hit it off pretty well. Again, he’s trying to fill the building with the same type of people — enthusiastic, energetic, guys that are going to get the most out of the players every day and really have the same common goals. But I think the fan base is going to be really happy with Adam. I’m really, really pleased. Under the circumstances, it was a great decision. I think moving forward it’s going to be nothing but positives.”
When it comes to his specific area of the team, the kicking game, Rizzi said there were a lot of things to like about the 2015 season.
Specifically, Rizzi mentioned the work of rookie free agents
“There were some things we did really well, but there’s going to be some of the things in the offseason here that we’re going to work on,” Rizzi said. “There were times out there we had five or six, sometimes seven, rookies of the 11 players that were out there. For me that’s an exciting thing because all these guys are going to be back and they now have a year under their belt, maybe two years under their belt, guys like Walt (Aikens). So I really feel like with our core players coming back, it’s going to be a really strong unit. And I’m really looking forward. We’ve just got a couple of things that we’ve got to work on, but I really, really feel very, very excited and positive about that moving forward.”