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Armando Salguero: Miami Dolphins Fire Brian Flores, Keep GM, And Already Eyeing Possible Replacements

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Brian Flores struggled to hire and keep a good, experienced coaching staff.

He struggled to develop or nurture quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

He was hired by Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier but basically raised himself above Grier as the Miami Dolphins’ top football decision-maker in what seemed like odd dynamics within the organization.

And he failed to get his team ready to play early in seasons.

Brian Flores was fired by the Miami Dolphins on Monday after three seasons with all these facts attached to his tenure. But it was relationships within the organization more than any other reason that got him fired.

“I’ve been looking at this over three years now and watching the organization grow,” Ross said. “And I think an organization can only function if it’s collaborative and works well together and I don’t think we were working well as an organization that it would take to win consistently at the NFL level.”

Flores finished with a 24-25 record and no playoff appearances during his tenure.

Interestingly, a club source said the team is “for now” going to keep Grier, the club’s general manager since 2016 and the man who hired Flores in 2019.

On its face, it is another half-measure by Ross who has a history of not making a clean start with his football team — often firing a head coach or general manager who are tied to one another but never both at the same time.

In a bit of office intrigue, Grier has been able to align himself with club president and CEO Tom Garfinkel, whom Ross values, and that has been helpful in keeping him in the owner’s good graces.

Grier, you must know, is fond of saying he functions to empower the head coach and get him the players he wants so as to succeed. He often deferred to Flores in personnel decisions, even though Flores was not necessarily hired to make personnel decisions.

But Ross apparently sees the Dolphins as a talented team that needs better coaching to succeed, a belief that speaks to his belief in Grier.

“I think if you look at our roster, we have a very fine, I think, an excellent roster of young players,” Ross said. “This was all done in the last three years. We had an old, aging roster before getting us nowhere but to mediocrity. If you see our roster today, our salary cap, players we have, I think we’re well suited for the future.”

It was the team of Flores and Grier who selected quarterback Tua Tagovailoa with the No. 5 overall selection in 2020, leaving Justin Herbert on the board so that the Los Angeles Chargers could take him with the No. 6 overall selection.

Herbert is better than Tagovailoa.

That was a collaborative decision made by all, including Flores and Grier.

The decision during the 2021 season to try to trade for Deshaun Watson was similarly a collaborative decision. Both Grier and Flores wanted to improve at the quarterback position, so they worked to trade for Watson, even as Tagovailoa was on the roster and starting games for the team.

The Watson chase ended when Ross stepped in and declined to let the trade proceed as long as Watson had myriad legal issues involving sexual abuse and harassment hanging over him.

The Dolphins under Grier and Flores intended to once again be involved in the chase for Watson this offseason, but that is now uncertain — to be determined by whatever decision the next head coach and his staff decide is the proper course.

“It’ll be up to the head coach in terms to what he does with the quarterback,” Ross said.

About that: Jim Harbaugh immediately becomes a favorite to land the Dolphins head job if he wants it but Ross and sources say that is not happening.

Ross acknowledged he tried to hire Harbaugh to the Dolphins in 2011 and, failing that, was instrumental in getting him to Michigan, his alma mater. The owner’s ties to Michigan make him uncomfortable tearing Harbaugh away from the Wolverines.

“I have no coach in mind at this point, we’re going to do a thorough review and interview process,” Ross said. “I love Jim Harbaugh. He had the opportunity once before to come to the Miami Dolphins but he’s at the University of Michigan.

“As everyone knows that is my school that I graduated from and I’m very involved in it, but I’m not going to be the person to take Jim Harbaugh from the University of Michigan. I hope he stays there. He’s a great coach.”

Harbaugh has made it clear to people within his circle he is ready to listen to NFL teams who might be interested in returning him to the NFL.

It is unknown if Harbaugh decides to leave Michigan whether it would make him an option for Ross although sources said that isn’t happening. The door, however, cannot be completely closed.

It’s uncertain if Harbaugh or any other big-name coach would come to Miami with Grier as the GM. That is why Grier is safe at the moment.

But he’s not fully safe.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

11 Comments

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  1. Flores had the D playing well, but the offense is awful to watch. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why they chose to use Waddle, their top pick, like a possession WR. They had no continuity or identity on offense whatsoever. Their offensive strategy was apparently show up and hope the D wins the game each week. Hopefully a new coach will bring some sanity there.

  2. Not a big fan of Flores. His inability to get along with OC and Offensive line coaches created the mess in the offensive line and ultimately kept Miami out of the playoffs.
    But have to give Flores credit for trying hard and getting the players ready. As far as I know the only thing Grier works hard at is blaming other people for the team’s inability to make the playoffs.
    In the last 10 years Grier has watched four coaches, two offensive coordinators and a director of football operations fired while continuing to ascend the corporate ladder.

    • Hello, Robert. I like Tua and would tend to take Tua’s side on this. But I have seen the Dolphins FO do this before. The only thing they do well is throw other people under the boss.
      Flores problems keeping OC were a huge issue and affected performance this year,
      But Flores work hard. And it upsets me to see him fired and Grier stay.

  3. Hello, Robert. I like Tua and would tend to take Tua’s side on this. But I have seen the Dolphins FO do this before. The only thing they do well is throw other people under the boss.
    Flores problems keeping OC were a huge issue and affected performance this year,
    But Flores work hard. And it upsets me to see him fired and Grier stay.

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