Re­build­ing to fo­cus on ’20 QB class

Tan­nehill suc­ces­sor on radar

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Sports - By Safid Deen South Flor­ida Sun Sen­tinel

Tank for Tua. Bomb for Fromm. that rhymes with Her­bert.

The phrases will be­come clev­erer over time when the 2019 NFL sea­son gets un­der­way.

But it seems the Mi­ami Dol­phins have al­ready con­structed their plan to im­prove the fran­chise.

Just don’t call it “tank­ing.”

The Dol­phins may not be com­pet­ing in this year’s NFL play­offs, but news of the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s strat­egy to re­build the ros­ter un­der a new head coach re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion dur­ing the sec­ond week­end of the post­sea­son.

While team owner Steve Ross and gen­eral man­ager Chris Grier sig­naled for a re­build after fir­ing for­mer coach Adam Gase on Dec. 31, ESPN de­tailed some of the Some­thing

cin­nati Ben­gals re­port­edly set to hire Los An­ge­les Rams quar­ter­back coach Zac Tay­lor, the Dol­phins were the odd team out of the mix.

The op­tics of the Dol­phins’ coach­ing search also did not look fa­vor­able for the fran­chise when long­time spe­cial teams coach Dar­ren Rizzi and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Dowell Log­gains in­ter­viewed for the po­si­tion ear­lier Fri­day.

Re­spect­fully wait­ing for Flores and the Pa­tri­ots’ sea­son to be com­pleted was ul­ti­mately not in the Dol­phins’ fa­vor dur­ing the NFL hir­ing frenzy of the week.

By hav­ing Flores lined up, he and the Dol­phins can be­gin ex­plor­ing as­sis­tant coach­ing op­tions as early as Sun­day night after the Pa­tri­ots’ game against the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers as the other seven teams that made new hires fill out their coach­ing staffs.

In the mi­nor­ity: Flores, who is Hon­duran, could be the first His­panic coach and the sec­ond black coach (in­terim Todd Bowles) in Mi­ami Dol­phins his­tory. Flores is also the only black or His­panic coach to be hired dur­ing this NFL cy­cle.

This is sig­nif­i­cant be­cause four NFL teams fired black coaches after the reg­u­lar sea­son ended. The New York Jets fired Bowles and hired for­mer Dol­phins coach Adam Gase. The Ari­zona Car­di­nals re­placed Steve Wilks after one sea­son with Kliff Kings­bury. The Bron­cos hired Vic Fan­gio to re­place Vance Joseph, and the Ben­gals will re­port­edly hire Tay­lor to re­place Marvin Lewis.

If the Dol­phins’ hir­ing be­comes of­fi­cial, Flores will be the third black coach in the NFL, along with Pitts­burgh’s Mike Tom­lin and the Charg­ers’ An­thony Lynn.

Flores will also be the sec­ond His­panic coach in the league, join­ing Carolina’s Ron Rivera, who is Puerto Ri­can.

The Dol­phins would be the only NFL team to have a black coach and black gen­eral

More to know: Flores is the sec­ond-old­est of five chil­dren to his fa­ther Raul and mother Maria, of Hon­duran de­scent. He grew up in Brownsville, Brook­lyn — one of the rough­est parts of New York City — be­fore play­ing run­ning back and safety at Poly Prep Coun­try Day Pri­vate School in Brook­lyn. He was a stand­out line­backer at Bos­ton Col­lege un­til he tore his quadri­ceps mus­cle dur­ing his se­nior year in 2003. Then, his 15-year ca­reer with the Pa­tri­ots be­gan in 2004.

Flores is known to be ac­count­able, as he made an ef­fort to tell his play­ers it was his fault the Dol­phins beat the Pa­tri­ots on Dec. 9 thanks to Kenyan Drake’s last-sec­ond 69-yard game-win­ning touch­down, which saw Pa­tri­ots tight end Rob Gronkowski out of po­si­tion on the field as the last line of de­fense.

“He’s def­i­nitely a guy that de­mands a high stan­dard of ex­cel­lence,” Pa­tri­ots de­fen­sive end Trey Flow­ers said of Flores in a story pub­lished by the Prov­i­dence Jour­nal in Rhode Is­land. “You can def­i­nitely sense that in­ten­sity in the meet­ing rooms, on the prac­tice fields, just that pas­sion for the game that he’s got to be per­fect, be pre­cise, be fun­da­men­tally sound and phys­i­cal. He’s a guy that de­mands great­ness.”

Pa­tri­ots safety Devin McCourty also ap­pre­ci­ates Flores’ coach­ing style.

“He’s on us a lot,” McCourty said of Flores to ESPN. “He feels like we need to be an all-about-busi­ness de­fense, and if he feels like it’s slack­ing, he’ll get on us. If he feels like we’re hav­ing too much fun, he’ll get on us. I’ve en­joyed it. Lead­er­ship is some­thing he’s meant to do. It’s in him, even out­side of just X’s and O’s and foot­ball.”

Buck­ing the trend: In Flores, the Dol­phins would be hir­ing a de­fen­sive coach, which is no­table be­cause of the league’s fas­ci­na­tion to­ward of­fen­sive coaches and Mi­ami’s knack for hir­ing of­fen­sive coaches in re­cent years.

In a league where teams are scram­bling to find the next of­fen­sive ge­nius to lead the way, the Dol­phins are go­ing in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion.

Al­though, it is im­por­tant to note the Dol­phins will likely be search­ing for their next fran­chise quar­ter­back in the next two sea­sons, Flores will be hired in hopes of dras­ti­cally im­prov­ing the Dol­phins de­fense, which sur­ren­dered the third-most yards and fifth-most points to op­pos­ing teams in 2018.

The Dol­phins’ in­ter­views of de­fen­sive coaches like Flores, Dal­las Cow­boys as­sis­tant Kris Richard and New Or­leans Saints de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Den­nis Allen showed Grier wanted to al­ter the fran­chise’s di­rec­tion of of­fen­sive coaches like Gase, Joe Philbin, and the late Tony Sparano.

Flores would join Fan­gio as the only de­fen­sive coaches hired dur­ing this coach­ing cy­cle.

Fa­mil­iar­ity is key: While they may not have crossed paths di­rectly in New Eng­land, Flores and Grier have a sim­i­lar NFL up­bring­ing with the Pa­tri­ots that makes Flores’ po­ten­tial hire a com­fort­able one for Grier and the Dol­phins.

Grier be­gan his NFL ca­reer in the Pa­tri­ots or­ga­ni­za­tion as an in­tern in 1994, as his fa­ther, Bobby, was New Eng­land’s vice pres­i­dent of player per­son­nel. Grier then be­came a scout for the Pa­tri­ots be­fore his rise through the Dol­phins fran­chise be­gan in 2000.

Flores has been with the Pa­tri­ots since 2004, where he be­gan as a scout for four years, be­fore he joined the coach­ing staff in var­i­ous roles for the past 11 years. Dur­ing that span, Flores has been a part of three Su­per Bowl vic­to­ries and six to­tal trips to the Su­per Bowl with the fran­chise.

Flores was the first can­di­date the Dol­phins in­ter­viewed for their head coach­ing po­si­tion on Jan. 4.

Grier hopes Flores can in­ject those Pa­triot win­ning ways into the Dol­phins fran­chise as Mi­ami at­tempts to nav­i­gate through a re­build­ing process.

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