The mere fact that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross fired coach Brian Flores and kept GM Chris Grier becomes what lawyers would call At first glance evidence of institutional dysfunction. Smart teams view the coach and general manager as failing or succeeding together, with no possibility of blaming either. And it would likely take a whole team of lawyers to get to the bottom of what prompted Ross to unplug a coach who delivered winning streak records for the first time since 2002-03, culminating in a Patriots sweep.
So what went wrong? Here are some educated speculations, based on everything we’ve read and heard about the franchise over the past few years.
As previously mentioned, the fact that Ross doesn’t live or work in South Florida opens the door to factions, cliques, and allegiances. On match days, while the coach breaks their butt in a bid to win games, others may whisper sweet words into the owner’s ears, blaming the coach for everything that goes wrong.
In 2021, the biggest thing that went wrong was the team’s failure to land quarterback Deshaun Watson. Despite Ross and the company’s best efforts to distort the facts now, Ross wanted Watson. Flores just didn’t want a distraction.
Watson’s endless chatter affected Tua Tagovailoa in a negative way. As a source explained to PFT at the start of the season, Tua has actually turned down the opportunity to be team captain for 2021, given the possibility of Watson arriving and taking the starting post at any time.
By the time the trade deadline passed, Tua started playing better and the Dolphins started winning games. Is it a coincidence?
Ross, like many other owners, wants to take the lead without being accused of meddling. Thus, like the other owners, he never gives a direct order. He shouldn’t have to. He makes his point known and he hopes employees smart enough to understand the hint will.
This year it was Watson. And Ross didn’t get it. Last year it was Tua – but only after the Bengals refused to trade with the Dolphins for Joe Burrow.
And maybe this is where Flores lost Ross for the first time. Going into the 2019 season, Ross realized that sometimes you have to take your pieces. Although the focus of tank work all season was initially Tua, Ross pivoted towards Burrow. However, after a few ugly losses to start her tenure, Flores apparently gave up and defied the tanking strategy.
This prevented the Dolphins from getting the first pick, which became Burrow. Where would they be now if they’d had it? They would likely be in the playoffs and they would potentially be the No.1 seed or so.
On some level, that reality may have been in the owner’s throat. He wanted to tank. Flores didn’t understand the hint, or he ignored it. And there was the best chance of getting the franchise quarterback the team coveted since Dan Marino retired.
Add to that the organization’s failure to complete a deal for Deshaun Watson, and Ross had to blame someone. Add the fact that other members of the organization had more open and regular access to the absent owner to whom the team belonged, and Flores was the one taking responsibility for it.
Is it important at this stage? To anyone who could become the Dolphins’ next coach, it certainly should.