From the moment the news broke that the Miami Dolphins were firing head coach Brian Flores, something just didn’t feel right.
His 24-25 record in three seasons doesn’t look great, but that first season was a throwaway year in every sense of the word with the Dolphins organizationally focused on losing enough to secure a top-five draft pick which they did.
The two following seasons, the Dolphins failed to make the playoffs but still boasted a solid 19-14 record which includes a historic finish this season.
In 2021, they became the first team in NFL history to start 1-7 and finish the season with a winning record (9-8).
And by following up on last year’s 10-6 record, the Dolphins recorded back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003.
Closing the season out like Flores did with wins in eight of the last nine games, is usually cause for a contract extension, not termination.
But as much of a head-scratcher as Flores’ firing may have seemed initially, it falls in line with the ultimate fallacy the NFL has been peddling for years which is that winning games matters most to teams.
Flores isn’t gone because he didn’t win enough.
He’s gone because he didn’t win enough favor with the powers-that-be to make them feel comfortable with him at the helm, going forward.
His firing is a cautionary tale for all coaches who have a plan for success and are hell-bent on making it come to fruition; even if it’s counter-intuitive with the ideas of those who hired him under the guise of winning games.
"An organization can only function if it's collaborative, and it works well together," team owner Stephen Ross told reporters following Flores’ dismissal. "And I don't think that we were really working well as an organization [the way] it would take to really win consistently at the NFL level."
Flores had his flaws, for sure.
There were three key areas where the divide between coach and the organization was significant.
- The use of Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
- Miami’s pursuit of Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
- The revolving door of coordinators under Flores’ watch.
Flores, like most of us, bought into the same fallacy that his success would be enough to mitigate any differences of opinion. Not only was he winning more than most of his Dolphin head-coaching predecessors of the last 20 or so years, but he was having success against his former boss Bill Belichick in New England ,who is widely considered the greatest coach in NFL history.
Flores has an impressive 4-2 record against Belichick, easily the best winning percentage (.667) of any former Patriots assistant against the coaching legend. But that didn’t matter; at least not enough in the eyes of Miami’s shot-callers. What the Dolphins did was fast-track the inevitable.
Flores getting axed by the Dolphins was going to happen sooner rather than later. And if they kept him around to start next season, firing him might have prolonged even more by running the risk that he would build off the late-season success the Dolphins enjoyed this year.
Despite Flores-coached teams in Miami playing better the deeper they got into the season along with the unheard of success he has enjoyed against his legendary boss in New England, Flores is very much a work in progress and like most young coaches, has room to grow.
That’s what makes the decision by Miami so disappointing.
Say what you want about Flores, but there’s no denying the promise he has shown in just three seasons as an NFL head coach. That’s why it’s likely he’ll wind up with one of the other vacant head coaching jobs in the NFL.
Flores is no different than the reporter or doctor or barista at your nearby coffee shop, who longs to be somewhere that believes in their vision and appreciates and understands their value.
At least one good thing has come about with all this.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has made it clear that this decision was not about Flores’ track record of wins and losses, but about the deteriorated relationship between Flores, the team’s General Manager Chris Grier and Tagovailoa.
Glad we don’t have to deal with the fallacy that winning matters most.