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MIAMI – Miami Dolphins players sprinted off the sidelines to celebrate in the final zone before taking one last elated run from the field at Hard Rock Stadium after beating the New England Patriots 33-24 on Sunday. They were not tied for the playoffs, but they were hugely proud to end the season with a record of 9-8 after being 1-7 in November.
Coach Brian Flores was not asked about his job security after the game. He was asked what it meant for him to sweep the Patriots, his former team. He was asked how it felt to end the season 8-1. He was asked about his confidence in his ability to build for the 2022 season.
But not about his job security; he was expected to go into next season with one of the hottest spots in the NFL, but that would still be his seat.
“Right now, my thoughts are on a way to enjoy this [win], “Flores said Sunday.” Out of season, these are things we will start getting into in the future. But right now, I’m just trying to enjoy this moment. “
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Twelve hours later, Dolphins fired Flores with owner Stephen Ross, saying the coach did not cooperate properly at the organizational level to maintain success.
“An organization can only function if it is collaborative and it works well together,” Ross said. “And I do not think we worked really well as an organization [the way] it would take to really consistently win at the NFL level. “
The firing was partly a surprise because Miami’s 8-1 finish gave the Kansas City Chiefs the best in the NFL during that time. The Dolphins are also the first NFL team to start 1-7 and finish with a winning record. Flores’ three-year tenure ended with a record 24-25 and no playoff appearances, but also delivered Miami’s first winning season in a row since 2003.
But it was a facade, according to Ross.
As ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported, Ross’ decision was about relationships and Flores’ inability to maintain them. His time with the Dolphins featured constant turnover – different offensive coordinators each year, two defensive coordinators and four offensive line coaches, one of whom was fired days into training camp.
The decision to keep Chris Grier as general manager represents Ross choosing a side, and his illuminating review of the roster Grier has compiled serves as an accusation against Flores’ ability to make the most of it; it’s a mistake the Dolphins’ next coach can not afford to make.
Priority one is to correct what was a bad offense in 2021. The only categories in which Miami ranked better than 21st place were passing yards per carry. match (17th) and third-down conversions (13th). This will not be a unique problem for the team’s next head coach – Miami has not played a top-10 offense since 1995, which is the longest drought in the NFL in 12 years.
That process begins with deciding what to do with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who was effective, albeit unspectacular, in his second season.
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Flores’ relationship with Tagovailoa reportedly deteriorated when second-year quarterback weathered rumors of the team’s interest in Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, who asked for a barter in January before 22 lawsuits, with allegations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior, were brought against him. . Ross said the quarterback position “did not matter at all” in his decision to fire Flores, but that does not mean Tagovailoa, the fifth overall election in 2020, will not be a primary concern (or selling point) for Miami’s next head coach.
“Like I said before, I have a lot of confidence in Tua, but it’s really going to depend on the next head coach … and the direction he wants to take on that position,” Ross said.
The Dolphins allowed the second-most points in the league over the past nine weeks, and Flores was instrumental in that production. The same defense allowed the fourth most points per. match during the first eight weeks in which Miami sputtered to a 1-7 start. Someone also had to take the blame for it.
The Dolphins once went 15 seasons without losing one. They have finished over .500 five times since that streak ended. They have approached nine coaches, temporary or full-time, to complete that cycle over the last two decades – in a way, to create their own cycle.
In the low season, that cycle begins again.