Bates' future?

Jim Bates held his final press conference as Dolphins head coach on Monday, a day after the Dolphins closed out a 4-12 season with a 30-23 loss at Baltimore. Bates, who earned a lot of praise for the work he did as interim head coach, now must decide what he will do for next season. The first step, of course, will be meeting with new head coach Nick Saban on Tuesday.

Bates said his first preference would be to continue as a head coach because the final seven games of the Dolphins season reinforced his belief he could be a successful NFL head coach.

Another major issue facing Bates is whether it would be difficult for him to return to the Dolphins as defensive coordinator after having been head coach, if only for half a season.

"It would be hard," Bates said Monday. "It won't be an easy deal after being in front of the room, but it's something I could handle because I know Nick."

Other issues for Bates would involve the scheme of defense Saban wants to run, as well as which, if any, of the defensive assistant coaches Saban would want to keep.

Already, nickel package coach Bill Lewis has accepted a job at Notre Dame to work as an assistant under new head coach Charlie Weis.

The only opening in the NFL right now is in Cleveland, where the Browns finished the season under interim head coach Terry Robiskie.

Dennis Erickson very well could be fired in San Francisco, but that might be it in terms of openings this offseason, which might limit Bates' opportunities.

Bates said his agent had been in communication with several different teams over the past few weeks, but no interviews have been scheduled.

Dolphins players -- those who will be back -- certainly would love for Bates to be back, and given the defense's track record in recent years, it would be a blow if the Dolphins lost Bates.

His job as interim head coach also was very impressive, almost to the point where you wonder how well the Dolphins would do in a full season under him.

But that's not going to happen because Saban is the man Wayne Huizenga wanted all along. Now, Dolphins fans should hope Saban can convince Bates to stay.

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