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MIAMI – Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is an alumnus of the University of Michigan; the school means a lot to him, as does its football program, which won the Big Ten championship this season.
He’s not ready to shake up that program.
A few hours after firing head coach Brian Flores on Monday after three seasons with the franchise, Ross shot rumors of his interest in filling the vacancy with Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, who said he would entertain NFL offers this offseason.
Ross said the team is approaching its upcoming coaching search with an “open mind” and has not taken a position on any candidates following Flores’ dismissal.
“I have no coach in mind at this point. We will do a thorough review and interview process,” Ross said with a small laugh. “And Jim Harbaugh, I love Jim Harbaugh. He once had the opportunity to come to the Miami Dolphins before. But he’s at the University of Michigan … It’s my school I graduated from and I’m very involved in it. .
“And I do not want to be the person who takes Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan. I hope he stays there. He’s a great coach.”
Ross praised the “excellent list of young players” compiled by general manager Chris Grier, but criticized the level of communication that the Dolphins displayed at an organizational level. Ross’ confidence in Grier is the reason he returns for his seventh season as the team’s general manager.
But his decision to fire Flores had as much to do with off-field culture as it did with the team’s performance on it. Miami struggled to show any kind of continuity in Flores’ three seasons, employing four offensive coordinators, two defensive coordinators and four offensive line coaches, among others.
“I’ve been looking at this for three years now and have seen the organization grow,” Ross said. “And I think an organization can only work if it’s collaborative, and it works well together. And I do not think we really worked well as an organization that it would require to really win consistently in the NFL. -level.”
Miami was expected to compete for an AFC East title in 2021 after finishing 10-6 and missing the playoffs in 2020. The team won its opening game before losing seven straight and putting itself in a hole that no other team in The NFL’s history has come back from. to get to the playoffs. Miami, however, responded to its losing streak in seven games with a winning streak in seven games – and became the first team in league history to have both in the same season.
However, the highest in the winning streak stopped abruptly when the Dolphins were blown out by the Tennessee Titans in Week 17, knocking them out of the playoffs for the fifth season in a row.
The Dolphins were also the most talked about team interested in dealing with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson throughout the offseason and the first half of the regular season – rumors that Grier rejected after the trade deadline. They drafted quarterback Tua Tagovailoa as number five in 2020, and despite Tagovailoa’s effective, albeit unspectacular, play, Ross said the quarterback position had “no role” in the decision to fire Flores and that he has “no plans”. “about pursuing Watson out of season. .
“I have great confidence in Tua and I think you know the next head coach will work with him or anyone,” Ross said. “But I have great confidence in him. I saw him grow. He’s a nice young man and he’s our quarterback.”
Ross said in the end that the quarterback decision will be made by the next head coach, “but I have great confidence in Tua.”
Sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Flores, the fourth coach in Dolphin’s history to record two winning seasons in his first three years with the team, is expected to be a top-notch head coach candidate in this upcoming hiring cycle. Ross said he is confident the Dolphins will see Flores again as NFL head coach.
Flores went 24-25 in his tenure with the Dolphins and 4-2 against his former boss, Bill Belichick – the best character of any coach against Belichick while at the helm of New England.
In a statement to ESPN, Flores thanked the Dolphins for the opportunity to be the team’s head coach and said “it was an honor to represent the franchise and lead this group of men.”
“I am most of all grateful to the players, the coaches and the support staff who gave everything they had on a daily basis to help us win matches. They deserve the credit for every success on the pitch and it was the honor of their lives for me to go to work with them every day.I have always believed that management is really about service and I did my best to serve the players, staff and organization every day.I believe in this team and will always value the relationships my family and I came to here, “he said.