One game doesn’t make or break an NFL head coach, and it certainly shouldn’t lead to his immediate firing. But Brian Flores may have lost the Dolphins locker room after one game, and if that is indeed the case, which it certainly sounds like it is based on multiple reports, he could already be a dead coach walking.
In the span of a few hours on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Miami, Flores’ ability as a head coach was called into question and his players outwardly quit on him. Flores’ gameplan to challenge Lamar Jackson to throw it deep on his squad by playing without safety help over the top backfired tremendously, and Jackson torched Flores for that decision, exploding for 324 yards and five touchdowns. That Jackson needed only 17 competitions to reach those gaudy numbers speaks to the ease with which Jackson converted deep throws, all against a gameplan Flores had all offseason to work on.
Somehow the aftermath of the Dolphins’ 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was even worse.
ProFootballTalk reported that multiple players reached out to their agents after the game and expressed their interest in being traded. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald later confirmed that report, saying more specifically three players expressed that desire. In both reports it stated players were upset with Flores’ game plan and questioned Miami’s desire to win this year, with some speculating they’re already playing out the string for the best draft pick possible in next year’s draft (hello, Tua!).
While Dolphins GM Chris Grier must shoulder most of the blame for this roster, and likely should also be canned (if the Dolphins desire is to compete and not tank), the fact remains that when players start questioning a coach’s gameplan and strategy, it never ends well. A coach-player relationship is predicated on trust– trust that the coach will put the player in the best position possible to succeed and trust from that coach that the player will perform in the moment. When that trust is broken, which seems to have happened already based on these reports, it’s nearly impossible to get it back.
Of course, that doesn’t automatically mean Flores should be fired. If anyone should go first, it’s probably Grier. But the NFL is also a tight-knit fraternity, and while the talent level in Miami isn’t high right now, word travels fast around the league. If players are saying these things after one game, there’s a good chance the chorus will grow louder and Flores may not be able to drown out the noise completely in Miami next year or moving forward. If that’s true, or if the Dolphins believe it’s true, he’s likely going to be a one-year hire.
Flores earned this position after working on the Patriots’ staff for 15 years. He learned from Bill Belichick and earned other head coaching interviews before landing with the Dolphins last year.
The former Boston College linebacker did it all the hard way, moving up from scouting assistant to scout to special teams assistant to stints as a coach for different defensive positions. While one game doesn’t take all of that away, and while one game doesn’t rest on his shoulder alone, coaches often have to shoulder the blame, and it seems in Miami that blame is being put (unfairly) on the coach. It may already be too late to save him.