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Sunday the Miami Dolphins beat the New England Patriots 33-24 to finish the 2021 season with a 9-8 record and the team’s first season sweep of the Patriots in 20 years. The season ended on a high, despite missing the playoffs and had fans excited going into the off-season with the most salary cap of any team in the league to upgrade the roster to improve the roster to make a playoff run next year.
Then less than 24 hrs after the season-ending victory, team owner Stephen Ross announced he fired head coach Brian Flores, despite the team winning 8 of its last 9 games after starting 1-7. This move blindsided everyone from fans of the Dolphins to people around the NFL and media. Flores has been respected for the job he has done with the Dolphins in 3 years with the team going into a full rebuild mode and getting the most out of his team especially on defense. He kept the team focused, after the 1-7 start when most teams would have packed it in, and the team responded with the way the season ended, so why fire him?
Ross said he was looking for someone to communicate and work collaboratively with the organization. Translation there was friction with Flores, GM Chris Grier, and the organization. Apparently, tension was so bad with Flores that it led to Monday’s decision. Look there’s always going to be disagreements with the coach and general manager, but with the team playing better and Flores leading them out of a 1-7 whole, wasn’t there a way to make it work?
I know Flores isn’t perfect as a head coach, and he’s gone through 3 different offensive coordinators and 4 offensive line coaches in 3 years, which probably hurt the offense. However, Flores is the best coach the Dolphins have had in over two decades. Yes, I know he didn’t make the playoffs, and the offense has regressed, but this team has been getting better under his watch. Yes, they get off to bad starts and haven’t done well against contenders, but he built a terrific defense and was one of the most disciplined teams being the least penalized. He does have his flaws. Plus, why does he go and Grier stay?
Grier has been with the team for over 2 decades and has had final say on all decisions personal wise. Yes, Flores has his input as well, and he should get blamed as well, but Flores has developed some good players, especially on defense. Maybe they did whiff on the quarterback and Grier should take the fall for that too.
— DolphinsTalk.com (@DolphinsTalk) January 13, 2022
Since Ross has been owner, he has gone through 6 head coaches and 4 general managers. Grier is included, and he stays. There is no consistent continuity and plan. He inherited Tony Sparano and embarrassed him by courting Jim Harbaugh while Sparano was still employed, causing a major rift between him and then General Manager Jeff Ireland. Then he hired clueless Joe Philbin as head coach and two years later fires Ireland because of that his options with candidates were limited due to they wanted hire their own coach, which Ross refused. So, he hired a puppet in Dennis Hickey, who would do as Ross wanted. Then in the middle of Hickey’s tenure, one year later, Ross hired Mike Tannenbaum as part of the football operations, and he stepped all over Hickey on every move from signing Ndamukong Suh to drafting Jordan Phillips rather than someone Hickey preferred. Hickey eventually left, and Philbin was fired so the Dolphins made Grier the GM and hired hot assistant coach Adam Gase to be the head coach. After making the playoffs in 2016, the product on the field declined, and after the 2018 season, Ross fired Gase and Tannenbaum but kept Grier as GM and decided to blow up the roster, which I think was the right move. In the process, the Dolphins hired Flores as the coach, and he developed a good young team that finished with back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-2003. Yet that is still not good enough. Why would anyone take this job with this track record?
This is a reason the Dolphins have been stuck in mediocrity during Ross tenure. Ross is the owner, and he can do what he wants to do it’s his team. Having said he needs to stop this cycle and realize not everyone is going to get along. Also, he needs to put aside his loyalty to Grier. I know he respects him, but he has been with the team for two decades in the front office in a variety of positions. If you are going to part with Flores in the middle of this rebuild fine, but then why keep Flores. It’s a half-ass move because the next time you hire the coach and things don’t go well you are going to fire Grier, and then we have the situation where a new GM will want his own coach again and the cycle will continue.
Ross has done some good things as owner. He put $500 million of his own money to upgrade the stadium, and he also upgraded the practice facility. However, since he has been owner, the Dolphins on the field haven’t produced consistently. I have questions as to will Ross ever get this right, and I don’t think he will until I see it otherwise. His track record speaks for itself, and just like Grier he is front and center of the problem, but Ross isn’t going anywhere because he’s the owner and, in my mind, until we have a new owner things won’t change under his watch.