Barring a change of heart, Brian Flores will become the head coach of Miami Dolphins when the New England Patriots’ season ends. When word first leaked of Flores being the Dolphins’ choice, I was like, “Okay, let’s see what happens.” He’s 37 years old, has been part of the Patriots organization for over ten years, and this season was his first year as their de facto defensive coordinator. Bill Belichick, however, is known for being hands on and so it’s fair to wonder how much credit Flores should get. Flores has never been a coordinator prior to this year and never been a head coach at any level, which is fine. The three previous head coaches the Dolphins hired had never been head coaches either. Flores isn’t the first person and won’t be the last person hired to be a head coach in the NFL with no previous head coaching experience at any level.
What gives me pause for concern is the success—or lack thereof—Belichick’s former assistants have had at the NFL level. Since Belichick took over as the Patriots’ head coach in 2000, he has had several assistant coaches take head coaching positions with other NFL teams and fail. Eric Mangini, Romeo Crennel, and Josh McDaniels all failed at being head coaches. At times, those guys looked overwhelmed and unprepared as head coaches. Another assistant, Matt Patricia, just completed his first season with the Detroit Lions and there were rumblings of him rubbing his players the wrong way and even talk he could get fired after only his first season. Belichick had assistants like Al Groh and Nick Saban, who lasted 1 or 2 years respectively, that found out they weren’t cut out for being a head coach at the NFL level and bailed for the college ranks. One assistant who has had some success is Bill O’Brien with the Houston Texans, but his 42-38 record is misleading. In O’Brien’s first three seasons the Texans went 9-7 and last year went 4-12, which would get you fired in most cases. The Texans decided to keep him, and this year went 11-5 before getting bounced in the first round of the playoffs. O’Brien’s teams have talent, but they have underachieved and typically are one and done in the playoffs. Maybe he has finally found a quarterback in Deshaun Watson or maybe he gets the benefit of being in a bad division because the AFC South isn’t a great division.
Flores is obviously respected around the league because this year and last year he’s gotten interviews for head coaching positions, so its clear teams think highly of him. Flores must surround himself with a good experienced staff to help him as a first-time head coach. Flores might turn out to be the right head coach for this team and I really hope he is. Maybe I’m just traumatized by the Dolphins making bad decision after bad decision the last two decades and the team starting over every 3 to 4 years. Flores might be able to turn the tide of the franchise, but the history of Belichick’s former assistants as head coaches doesn’t exactly give me confidence. We shall see.