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Miami Dolphins

Brian Flores’ Biggest Advantage

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Age may only be a number, but a lot is encompassed by the number of years we’ve roamed the Earth.

With age and experience we all (are supposed to) become smarter and wiser. We’ve been around the block a few times and understand how certain situations play out. We have a better understanding of who to trust, which process is the more-efficient, and, through trials, tribulations and failures, have identified how to solve our problems with a greater likelihood for success.

So with all of the known positives that come with acquiring additional knowledge and experience, the Miami Dolphins went ahead and hired a linebackers coach from the New England Patriots named Brian Flores…?

The last linebackers coach of significance for the Miami Dolphins was Matt Burke, and we all know how that story ended.

If I asked you three months ago who Brian Flores was you probably would have had no idea. You most likely couldn’t tell me if he was a player or a coach. Probably wouldn’t have even known which team he was part of. Heck, you probably wouldn’t have even guessed he was related to the NFL if the question didn’t hint as such.

So what did the Miami Dolphins get themselves into by hiring a head coach who had never been a coordinator in his career?

With age comes the type of experience and knowledge that doesn’t allow you to make the same mistake twice – and with that, the Dolphins hired their 6th-consecutive inexperienced head coach.

Previously, the Dolphins tinkered with hiring a commodity of a coordinator (Cam Cameron and Adam Gase), obtaining the “big prize” (Nick Saban and Gase), as well as unknown coaches who fit a certain mold (Tony Sparano – no bull****; Joe Philbin – genuine & sincere). After 5 failed attempts, you’d think the Dolphins would approach a more-solidified option than a former scout and friend of general manager, Chris Grier.

But see why, among all of the skepticism, why Flores has a huge advantage over his former counterparts.

Irrelevant Experience

A head coach’s prior experience lands them the job, but that doesn’t mean the results are going to be similar.

If Adam Gase taught us anything, it’s that no matter how smart or dedicated a head coach is, they cannot produce and win without the assistance of their staff.

Miami’s previous “proven” head coach was also a porn star, and the “proven” head coach they hired prior to Dave Wannstedt, Jimmy Johnson, needed owner Wayne Huizenga to beg for his return. Needless to say, it’s evident the team hasn’t gotten it right since they ‘gave up’ a 1st-round pick for Don Shula back in 1970.

The prior experience these coaches possess couldn’t bring Miami to an AFC Championship game, let alone a Super Bowl (let alone a Super Bowl victory). Jimmy Johnson was a 2x-Super Bowl champion and AP coach of the Year in 1990 and he couldn’t lead the greatest quarterback of all time deep into the playoffs. Dave Wannstedt coached the Chicago Bears for 5 years in the 1990s and, with Miami, had an impeccable defense that could have rivaled the 2000 Baltimore Ravens or the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers if the team had an offensive gameplan that was more intuitive than running Ricky Williams 775 times over a 2-year span (387.5 carries a year!).

Since the failed Cam Cameron experiment back in 2007, the Dolphins have tried a few different options at head coach:

  • Tony Sparano was a hard-nosed offensive line coach whose passion exhilarated the entire locker room, but he and his coaching staff failed to gameplan accordingly.
  • Joe Philbin was very nice guy and logically built his Dolphins coaching staff to coincide with the addition of Ryan Tannehill.
    • Mike Sherman, Tannehill’s head coach at Texas A&M, was brought on as the team’s offensive coordinator.
    • Recently hired Cincinnati Bengals head coach, Zac Taylor, was also brought on to be the quarterback’s coach. Taylor is Sherman’s son-in-law and, prior to the gig with Miami, had no coaching experience.
  • Adam Gase is addicted to football and carried a welcomed swagger to the Dolphins, but he relied too heavily on a sub-par coaching staff that ultimately betrayed him and led to his (possibly premature) firing in Miami.

What a coach has already accomplished doesn’t necessarily translate to their next head coaching gig.

Sparano coached a Dallas Cowboys offensive line from 2005-2007 and averaged 14th in rushing offense during that time. Philbin was the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers from 2007-2011 and averaged 6th in total offense during that time. Adam Gase won a Super Bowl with Peyton Manning and orchestrated Jay Cutler‘s best season in the NFL; and yet, all three of these coaches weren’t able to mimic their prior success.

Miami averaged 12th in rushing offense during Sparano’s tenure as head coach, but the offensive line was consistently in shambles. Philbin’s offenses averaged 24th in total offense during his tenure, and Gase averaged 27th in total offense during his.

We are all raving about Flores’ dominant game-planning that shut down the Kansas City Chiefs for an entire half and shut out the Los Angeles Rams for, essentially, an entire game, but is that game plan guaranteed to migrate to Miami?  Miami doesn’t have the same culture, the same collective scheme, and same personnel as the Patriots. Flores will try and recreate the Dolphins in his image, taking plenty of knowledge and experience with him from his previous employer, but will it be enough to overtake the evil empire up north?

The Patriot Way to Failure

Past results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and if Miami’s history of head coaches has you queasy, check out the list of head coaches that have spawned from the Bill Belichick coaching tree:

Most of Bill Belichick’s defectors have failed in the NFL; with Bill O’Brien being the only “winning” coach. While I’m not instantly writing off Brian Flores due to the failures of Belichick’s past coaches, I am certainly not buying into the notion that Miami is suddenly a franchise that is to be respected.

There is nothing the Dolphins have done over the past two decades that warrants respect.

If Flores is able to establish a legitimate quarterback, the task will be much easier. Among the above coaches, only Matt Patricia and Bill O’Brien have respectable starting quarterbacks, and neither quarterback is dominant enough to shoulder their team through the playoffs.

Yes, we can get excited about the possibilities this opens up for Xavien Howard (though he developed into a top-5 cornerback under Matt Burke, so I’m not sure how much more we can ask of him) or what this may finally mean for our nonexistent run defense, but it’s nothing more than a prayer at this point.

Flores’ game plans in the playoffs and close connection to the dark lord himself (Belichick) have us giddy, but the smartest moves he’s made have nothing to do with player personnel. With his inexperience comes a lot of potential surprises and mistakes; and by obtaining experienced coaches from around the league, Flores is able to minimize these potential pitfalls.

Staff Appreciation Day

Now, yet again, we have a fresh start with an inexperienced head coach – giving us fans a reason for excitement, hope, optimism and an excuse to spend some extra money we’d otherwise save out of frustration for this team’s lack-of-success.

This is the most obvious and cliche statement I could make, but we really have no idea what Brian Flores and his staff are going to provide for the Dolphins.

With that uncertainty in mind, we can view the coaching staff he’s assembled and either cringe or sigh in relief. And if I were you, I would be more relaxed than I would be panicked.

Take a look at the coaching staff assembled by the past 3 Miami head coaches:

For one, Flores is the most-experienced head coach of the bunch. He only has a couple more years of experience than Adam Gase, but his extra time under Bill Belichick’s staff may prove more valuable than Gase bouncing around from the Denver Broncos to the Chicago Bears and then to the Dolphins.

Flores also has the most experienced coordinator group out of the bunch. All of Flores’ coordinators have at least 10 years of coaching experience in the NFL. In fact, only 4 position coaches have less than 10 years, and only one of them has less than 5.

You could even eliminate the assistance of Jim Caldwell and Dom Capers and Flores would still have the most-experienced staff by 37 years.

No, this has nothing to do with the fact that Flores has poached multiple coaches from Bill Belichick’s staff. I don’t expect Miami to replicate New England, but I expect Flores’ and the rest of his coaching staff’s experience in the NFL to translate much better than the prior regimes have faired.

After initially believing Stephen Ross and the Miami Dolphins “settled” for Flores, it appears the team is finally learning from their mistakes. Ross is no longer reaching for the shiniest object, nor is he forcing a marriage to work.

If the Miami Dolphins have matured at all since 2000, we’ll be the beneficiary of better results. And if Flores’ staff is any indication of the future, Miami appears to have finally gotten it right.

Growing up a passionate Dolphins fan in Jets territory, Jason learned from an early age that life as a Dolphins fan wasn’t going to be easy. Previously the Sports Editor for his university newspaper, Jason has experience writing columns, creating game recaps and conducting interviews with Hall of Fame athletes (Harry Carson and Yogi Berra are two of his proudest interviews). When he’s not dissecting the latest sports news, you can find him perplexed over the Dolphins offensive line woes or involuntarily introducing music to his neighbors.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Gabriel Markman

    February 8, 2019 at 6:11 pm

    Great read. Gase had the potential to be great, but a head coach is only as successful as his staff allows them to be. Looks like Miami left no stone unturned this time around.

    • Avatar

      Niamor

      February 8, 2019 at 8:59 pm

      i hate to be that guy, but i see it repeated too often.

      Adam Gase never WON a super bowl. he was OC when Seattle beat them.

      he went with John Fox to Chicago. When Peyton won with Denver, Gary Kubiak was the coach.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins Extend DeVante Parker

Jason Hrina

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Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

One of the longest-tenured players on the team may very well be a Miami Dolphin for life.

According to Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network, the Miami Dolphins have extended DeVante Parker through the 2023 season.

All of the details are still being flushed out, but the deal is a 4-year, $40m extension, with an $8m signing bonus (which is guaranteed).

According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, Parker will earn $4.5m guaranteed in 2020, and $7.7m guaranteed in 2021.

Parker signs this extension in the middle of a career year. His 55 catches are 1 shy of his career-high (56, 2016), his 882 receiving yards surpass his prior career-high by 138 yards (2016), and his 6 touchdowns are only 3 less than his career total coming into the 2019 season.

Whether it’s Chad O’Shea‘s offense, a shift in Quarterback mentality, or the receiver finally coming into his own, Parker has shown that he can be a #1 receiver in this offense. Though some fans may be hoping for DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. “elite”, the truth is, Parker isn’t that far behind.

His extension is in line with his production, and it’s fair to say that Parker’s potential still hasn’t been tapped. It’ll be interesting to see how much Parker builds off of his career-year, especially if the Dolphins can solidify their offensive line and give their receivers a chance to get open (more often).

Parker joins Ryan Tannehill and Mike Pouncey as the only other 1st-round picks drafted this decade to have signed an extension with the team.

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Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins roster move round-up: Week 15 sees several more changes

Shawn Digity

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Miami Dolphins Linden Stephens
Linden Stephens defending Los Angeles Rams tight end Johnny Mundt

MIAMI (Locked On Dolphins) – Miami Dolphins continue to change up the roster

The Miami Dolphins have continued their roster churning in Week 15, leading up to their prizefight against the New York Giants on December 15.

While it’s been a mainstay strategy for the Dolphins this year, to comb over the waiver wire and the free agency market, there was a significant uptick in waiver wire awards last, totaling four new players being claimed.

Last week’s claimed players included Trevor Davis, Mack Hollins, Zach Zenner, and Zach Sieler. Zenner’s Miami stint was short-lived; he was waived on Tuesday, December 10 to make room for the newest wave of Dolphins signees.

Along with Zenner’s release, the Miami Dolphins added cornerbacks Ken Webster and Ryan Lewis to the Injured Reserve list.

Those three transactions allowed the Dolphins to scoop a player from the New England Patriots’ practice squad, defensive back Nate Brooks, a second player from the Tennessee Titans’ practice squad, linebacker Jamal Davis II, and a third player, offensive lineman Adam Pankey, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers.

Nate Brooks is a rookie defensive back that played at North Texas and has spent time with the Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.

Jamal Davis II is also a rookie. He entered the league from Akron. As mentioned above, he spent time with the Titans earlier this year before the Miami Dolphins signed him.

Adam Pankey is the most traveled player the Dolphins have added. Pankey went undrafted in 2017 out of West Virginia and has had two runs with the Packers and a short one with the Titans.

On December 7, cornerback Linden Stephens was added to the roster in a last-minute shuffle before the Dolphins-Jets game. Cornerback Chris Lammons was released to make room for Stephens on the squad, per Adam Beasley.

Stephens has had tenures with the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos. He formerly played at Cincinnati in college.

In practice squad news, cornerback Rashard Causey was added to the group on December 12, per Safid Deen. Causey played college ball at UCF and has spent time with the Denver Broncos.

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Miami Dolphins

Dolphins Giants Week 15 Preview

Travis Wingfield

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Dolphins set to run it back in New York

Who: Dolphins (3-10) @ Giants (2-11)
When: Sunday December 15, 1:00 East
Where: MetLife Stadium — East Rutherford, NJ
Weather: 35 degrees, partly cloudy
Vegas Slant: Dolphins +3

DolphinsGiants

The Miami Dolphins did not equip Brian Flores with a competitive roster for the 2019 season. Despite taking a path traveled by nobody else in the league, Miami sits with a better record than three teams in the league, and Sunday will pit the Fins up against one of those teams.

The Giants thought they were constructing a playoff roster that could run the football behind former number-two overall pick Saquon Barkley, and disrupt both the run and pass with an influx of high resources spent on the defensive line.

Even with half the cash payroll of the next lowest team on that notorious list, and 11 of its original opening day starters gone for one reason or another, Miami enter a week-15 road game as mere three-point dogs.

Still, with three or four new bodies working into the rotation every week, Brian Flores’ Dolphins have won three games since the bye week, and been within a score in the fourth quarter for all nine games.

Does either team want to win this game? Of course the players and coaches will want to be rewarded for a long, arduous work week, but what good does a victory do in the grand scheme of things? Flores has proven that he can coach his ass off, while Pat Shurmur is assured to lose his job whatever happens these final three weeks.

The cost, for the Giants, could be Chase Young. For Miami, perhaps even more severe as the best quarterback prospect of the last several years could suddenly be available because of medical concerns, should the team land in the top five.

A victory Sunday will likely remove Miami from that perch as the Lions and Cardinals are both underdogs, and would each jump the Dolphins with a one-game difference in the standings.

The Scheme:

Offense:

Mike Shula’s scheme is as 11-personnel heavy as any in the league, but things have changed due to injuries. Without Evan Ingram to provide the ultimate flexibility between 11 and 12-personnel packages, the Giants have lacked much variety in his absence. Using 81% one back, one tight end (3rdmost in football), Miami will be afforded the opportunity to get creative on defense altering its pre-snap look from the same package.

The Giants are successful on just 41% of their plays from this personnel grouping, including 12 interceptions, 31 sacks and just 6.6 yards per passing play. New York only runs one other package (12-personnel) and also doesn’t have a lot of success out of that grouping. Adhering to old school principles, the Giants don’t throw from run formations, and the predictability has the Giants averaging just 5.7 YPA from 12-personnel.

The Giants rank 26th in total offense, 22nd in passing, 26th in rushing and 25th in scoring.

Defense:

James Bettcher is a fan of sending pressure, and he will certainly try to heat up Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday. Fitzpatrick might have the last laugh with his ability to get the ball hot to the interior receivers working in behind the linebackers and winning one-on-one matchups with a young defensive backfield.

The Giants base is a 3-4 look, but elements of that defense are always sparingly used because of the nature of modern day football. Bettcher wants to get pressure out of his outside backers in Markus Golden, Oshane Ximines and Lorenzo Carter, using his interior backers in a more traditional, off-ball sense.

New York blitzes 28.7% of the time — exactly the middle of the pack at 16th— but it’s safe to assume they’ll turn that number up on Sunday. The G-Men are in the middle of the pack in hurry rate, knockdown rate and pressure rate. The Giants 94 missed tackles are 13th most in the league.

The Giants rank 27th in total defense 26th in passing, 20th in rushing and 28th in scoring defense.

The Players:

Offense:

Eli Manning is Eli Manning. The Giants hung onto him for three years too long, and his storied career appears to be coming to an end in three weeks. Filling in for the injured Daniel Jones gives the Miami defense a chance to tee off on a quarterback for the first time since the home win over Sam Darnold and the New York Jets.

Manning can’t move, he can’t drive the ball, and there’s really no reason for him to be on a roster at this point. The Dolphins will hit him, turn him over, and dominate the Giants offense is he plays.

New York funneled a lot of resources into its offensive line, and it’s still one of the worst in football. Miami lacks true pass rushers, so it’ll be up to the stunts and games up front to get pressure. Expect Flores to blitz Manning relentlessly, likely with a lot of zero looks.

Holding Saquon Barkley has been easier for opponents this year. A lot of the Giants running game gets Barkley going horizontally, and he’s been able to make the big plays due to poor blocking and a nasty ankle sprain earlier in the year.

This game will be a big test for Taco Charlton, Vince Biegel, Andrew Van Ginkel, Charles Harris and the rest of the Miami edge players.

Defense:

Markus Golden stands to wreck this game for Miami. He’ll come down off the offense’s left edge, and that position has been an issue for the Dolphins all year long. Sliding protection and using a back or tight end to chip Golden is the only way Fitzpatrick will have any time to throw.

On the inside, the Giants offer the beef that Miami’s interior line struggles with the most. Dexter Lawrence is massive, and those are the kind of players that give Daniel Kilgore problems up front.

Alec Ogletree remains a focal point of the Giants defense, and that presents a lot of opportunities for the Dolphins. Look for Miami to empty out the backfield from 12 and 11-personnel, find Ogletree in coverage, and go to work.

The New York secondary is full of inexperience. Rookie DeAndre Baker has worn the rabbit hat (teams go after him) all year long while Janoris Jenkins appears to have past his prime.

This is a slow defense and I’d be surprised if Chad O’Shea doesn’t have his way with it in the passing game.

The Medical:

(Coming Friday)

The Opportunities:

If Devante Parker can go, there isn’t a player in the Giants defensive backfield that can handle his skill set. Regardless, Miami’s passing schemes will create opportunities for whichever players are healthy, especially Allen Hurns inside on mismatches from 12-personnel against linebackers. Patrick Laird should draw some favorable matchups in the passing game in his own right — expect a big day for The Intern.

If it’s Eli, expect a lot of pressure sent to overwhelm a bad Giants line and quarterback. If it’s Daniel Jones, expect Miami to play coverage and take the ball away from the rookie. Either way, this is the day the Dolphins defense gets healthy.

The Concerns:

The Giants skill players can make some noise. Darius Slayton’s speed is a problem, and he’s been producing regardless of who’s under center. The Dolphins added yet another pair of defensive backs to the injured reserve, and that’ll provide a challenge against Slayton, Golden Tate and Sterling Sheppard.

Miami haven’t been able to block many pass rushes, and they’ve created almost nothing by way of the ground game, so the Giants talented front is an issue. There will be one-on-one opportunities aplenty for Markus Golden, Dexter Lawrence, Dalvin Tomlinson and Leonard Williams.

The Projected Outcome:

It doesn’t matter if it’s Daniel Jones or Eli Manning. Both are going to give the Dolphins defense opportunities to take the football away, and neither presents much fear to a unit that is full of undrafted free agents are largely unknowns. Manning doesn’t have the physical traits to scare anyone and Jones is on track for the most turnovers at the position per game of all time. If Jones plays, it will be on a tender ankle that robs the one trait he has — his mobility.

Miami beat the Jets in November in convincing fashion. Every other game since the bye week — with the exception of the Cleveland and Buffalo (home) games — have been white knuckle affairs. This game has the makeup of a blowout, but in favor of the road team.

A bitter, angry team off the loss last week responds to Brian Flores’ message and puts a beating on the Giants.

Dolphins 27
Giants 13

@WingfieldNFL

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