Schad: Owner decided Dolphins would collaborate, communicate better without Brian Flores

Joe Schad
Palm Beach Post

Brian Flores always felt whatever he did was in the best interest of helping the Dolphins win football games.

But in the end, it wasn't wins and losses that cost him his job. It was about people.

Flores won eight of his final nine games, but was still fired by owner Stephen Ross on Monday. Flores decreased team penalties and increased the teams' odds for success.

But that he is gone and general manager Chris Grier stays tells you that Ross did not perceive Flores as communicative or collaborative enough.

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In the end, the Dolphins perceived Flores as difficult and stubborn — more a part of the problem than the long-term solution. Flores was an excellent tactician, but interpersonal skills did not appear a strength.

"An organization can only function if it's collaborative, if it works together," Ross said Monday, in his first public news conference in nearly two years. "Communicate through collaboration."

Flores often spoke about being smart, tough and disciplined. And Flores did unquestionably move Miami in the direction of the Patriot Way.

But he was demanding of his players and coaches and staff. Very demanding. And it did not seem that fostering relationships was a priority.

After Sunday's defeat of the Patriots, it was striking that Flores went out of his way to speak about how he had learned things about himself this year. It seemed intentional.

"I try to improve every day," Flores conceded.

Grier is a survivor. He is long for the Dolphins. He's been a part of the organization since 2000. He's been around for Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Nick Saban, Cam Cameron, Tony Sparano, Todd Bowles, Joe Philbin, Dan Campbell, Adam Gase and Flores.

Grier's legacy will include selecting Tua Tagovailova over Justin Herbert. But there is more to it than that. There have been some high-quality recent selections, too.

Flores agreed to Miami's plan for a total rebuild in 2019, and so his career record of 24-25 is slightly misleading. But it's still interesting to see his record is not much different than his predecessors.

Gase was 23-25. Philbin was 24-28.

Grier is long for the Dolphins. Flores, it seems obvious now, was not long for the Dolphins. And it wasn't as much about X's and O's as it was about people.

Key questions not answered under Flores

Why did Flores have so much coaching staff turnover?

Why couldn't he get the offensive staff right?

Why did he move on from key free agents so quickly?

Flores believed that his way was the right way and, sometimes, he was right. He certainly was not patient. And that can be good or bad, but it's certainly not necessarily best for a roster of young, developing talents.

"Look at our roster," Ross said. "We have an excellent roster of young players. With our salary cap, we are well suited for the future." 

The Dolphins didn't fire Flores because his defensive scheme wasn't good enough (it was) or because his structure and organization and discipline wasn't good enough (it was). They must not have viewed his approach as sustainable.

Was Flores fostering healthy relationships?

"Different people rub different people in different ways," Ross said, declining to comment on if he heard from some players that they did not want to play for Flores.

Ross added that, "Everybody has their own opinions, but that was not the reason."

Flores was all business, from the start. But all businesses, even professional football, are people businesses.

Flores could be dismissive. He could be impersonal. He could even be unkind.

Bill Belichick can do or say whatever he wants until the end of time. He has won numerous championships. Though the first season should almost be dismissed, Flores did fail to take his team to the playoffs.

Of the eight coaches hired in the 2019 cycle, four (Kliff Kingsbury, Zac Taylor, Matt LaFleur and Bruce Arians) have taken their team to the playoffs.

Four (Gase, Vic Fangio, Freddie Kitchens and Flores) have now been fired. Despite Miami's program improving, Flores would have been an aberration if he had stayed.

Brian Flores walks off the field at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday for the last time as the Miami Dolphins' head coach.

Ross did not commit to the organization sticking with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. But it seemed obvious the combination of Tua and Flores was not working.

And it would have seemed hard to envision Flores attaching his Dolphins coaching future to Tagovailoa, based on what the quarterback had shown, and not yet shown, in his first two years.

Dolphins now need to hire a new coach

Where does Ross go from here?

He has gone with three consecutive inexperienced, first-time head coaching hires. The previous two were on the offensive side of the ball and it seems logical they would return there. More ideally, it would be a coach with a better ability to build a complete staff.

Flores never did get his staff right. Flores never did get the offense right.

In general, it's always seemed easier to hire a smart offensive mind as head coach and then hire a competent defensive coordinator, than the reverse. The Flores experience seems to back up that theory.

While Flores' defensive production was championship-caliber, he could not get the offensive right. Neither Chad O'Shea, Chan Gailey or George Godsey/Eric Studesville proved the right hire.

Not being transparent and clear about who was calling the plays — was it actually quarterbacks coach Charlie Frye? — was a big misstep early this season.

Flores always seemed to want everyone and everything to be on edge. Is that healthy?

Would it have worked long-term? We'll never know.

After Flores turned the Dolphins' fortune from 1-7 to 9-8, after he swept the Patriots and posted consecutive winning seasons, it seemed unlikely Ross would move on from Flores. But this wasn't about statistics. And in the end, it was about more than just performance.

Ross did not like the vibe in those Dolphins' offices. Ross did not like what he was hearing, what he was seeing and what he was sensing.

In the end, Ross simply decided Flores wasn't the person he wanted leading the organization. He did not like what was happening behind the scenes.

It wasn't about wins and losses. It was about people.

Who's Next?

Potential candidates the Dolphins could interview to replace Flores:

Byron Leftwich, Bucs offensive coordinator. Meshed well with guy named Brady.

Eric Bieniemy, Chiefs offensive coordinator. Perennial hottest assistant coach.

Bill O'Brien, Alabama offensive coordinator. Texans head coach for 7 seasons.

Josh McDaniels, Patriots offensive coordinator. Guided rookie QB Mac Jones.

Kellen Moore, Cowboys offensive coordinator. Dallas offense No. 1 in NFL.

Brian Daboll, Bills offensive coordinator. Played part in Josh Allen's growth.

Doug Pederson, Eagles' former head coach. Ex-Dolphin, led Eagles to Super Bowl win.

Jim Caldwell, Former Colts, Lions head coach. A veteran coach who's done it all.