Brian Flores’ dismissal signals bigger issues with Dolphins organization


One of the most remarkable things about Black Monday is how revealing it can be. Bad franchises often provide insight into why they stay bad. Good franchises exhibit a noticeable kind of pragmatism or patience, leading to a decision that is ultimately productive for the franchise.

There’s a reason teams like the Eagles and Colts find themselves in constant playoff contention despite regular head coach turnover. Philadelphia has had three head coaches since Andy Reid left in 2012 and all three made the playoffs, one winning the Super Bowl. Indianapolis has had three head coaches since Tony Dungy’s departure in 2009 and made the playoffs with each. Jim Caldwell has reached the Super Bowl. Chuck Pagano has made the playoffs three times and the conference title game once. Frank Reich has already appeared in the playoffs twice.

There’s also a reason we regularly laugh at the various temperamental franchises that never seem to make the playoffs. The Lions. The Giants after Tom Coughlin. The Jaguars.

Miami firmly entrenched itself at this club on Monday with the sacking of Brian Flores, a move that caused waves throughout the coaching community and was recorded as the biggest surprise of the cycle so far. As one incumbent coaching agent succinctly put it: “Insane”.

Flores finished the 2021 season 9-8 after starting the season 1-7, ending the year with a playoff-tied victory over the Patriots. It was the first time since 2000 that a Dolphins team recorded a New England season sweep.

Immediate leaks by sympathetic insiders were promises that Michigan man’s owner Stephen Ross would not sue Jim Harbaugh. There were suggestions that Flores had poor people skills. There was clear evidence of a power struggle. The man who drafted Tua Tagovailoa against Justin Herbert has stayed. The guy who took an expiring grocery bag and had the equivalent of three seasons of edible meals got his walking papers.

A few years ago, through an extensive coach search process, the Bills landed Sean McDermott and ultimately ended years of ineffective practice by putting everything around him he needed to be successful. Buffalo is now a tent institution in the AFC East, a formidable and enduring contender who can regularly outsmart Bill Belichick. They have a franchise quarterback. They have a full roster of talented and reliable players.

The Dolphins half-heartedly attempted the same kind of turnaround when they hired Flores and paired him with general manager Chris Grier. They would rebuild the team, rack up draft capital, and come out of a period of uproar as a consistent and reliable powerhouse.

What actually resulted was a frenzied and uncontrollable approach to the project and free agency. Good players have been distributed, mediocre players have been recruited. A quarterback was acquired without an offensive line to protect him. A wide deep threat receiver was brought in to help a quarterback more comfortable in a midrange RPO offense (Jaylen Waddle managed to set a rookie reception record anyway).

Despite all of this, Flores found a way to make it work. While he was not without flaws – an inability to find the right offensive coordinator, one might say, ultimately did – Flores developed franchise cornerstones like defensive tackle Christian Wilkins and safety. Jevon Holland. He has kept an emotionally vibrant team despite extremely difficult circumstances. He was the closest thing the Dolphins could find to their McDermott, a coach who wouldn’t immediately melt into an anxious and incompetent mess every time Belichick came to town.

Now Flores is in the market, a coach who will no doubt receive openings from other teams with vacancies. He will place himself, at the very least, behind Vic Fangio as the most aggressively pursued defensive coordinator of the cycle. The Dolphins, meanwhile, will do what the wrong teams do. They will anonymously put all their misfortunes on Flores’ plate. They’ll make another shy and expensive attempt to get the right guy for the job, and they’ll eventually continue to acclimate to the sight just below Belichick and McDermott for the foreseeable future.

Unfortunately, this is not a curse that dolphins cannot do anything about. They can start to act like a good franchise. They could have done it when they woke up this morning. Instead, they again chose politics and infighting. They did not see the good in what they had and went to hunt the next poor soul to whom they promise, It’s not like everyone says it’s here. We will see this nobody on Black Monday in two or three years, completely bewildered, and the dolphins are no closer to where they would like to be.

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