The Miami Dolphins are expected to officially name New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores as their next head coach sometime on Monday, following his work as the play caller in the the Patriots' defensive masterpiece in Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
Flores and the Dolphins have been talking for weeks about the job, and he's expected to bring two Patriots staffers — WR coach Chad O'Shea and assistant QBs coach Jerry Schuplinski — with him to Miami. O'Shea is believed to be the Dolphins' next offensive playcaller, and Schuplinski likely will be the Dolphins' QB coach.
Flores' agent discussed contract details with Dolphins GM Chris Grier overnight and he's expected to sign the deal before being announced later Monday.
Flores, who turns 38 in a few weeks, has never been a head coach at any level. He also will be the only minority head coach hired among the eight total openings during this offseason, with Rams QB coach Zac Taylor expected to be the Cincinnati Bengals' next coach to complete this year's cycle.
There have been reports that Flores could bring former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell onto his staff to run the offense and be a veteran sounding board for the first-time head coach.
Flores was the Patriots' de facto defensive coordinator (without having that title), having replaced the duties of Matt Patricia, who left New England following the Patriots’ loss in Super Bowl LII one year ago. The work of the defense down the stretch was the key to their winning a sixth title, especially in keeping the high-powered Rams out of the end zone on Sunday.
In many ways, Flores improved the Patriots’ defense this season over what Patricia could achieve. They took steps up in yards allowed (from 29th to 21th), passing yards allowed (30th to 22nd), interception rate (from 21st to sixth) and third-down defense (21st to 16th).
But Flores' chore in Miami will be tougher and the wait for more glory likely longer. A report from ESPN indicates that the Dolphins might be planning to bypass quarterbacks in this year’s draft with the hope of landing one of the potential stars — Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and possibly Georgia’s Jake Fromm among them — in he 2020 crop.
In essence, they’re announcing now they’re tanking.
Call it what you want, but this Dolphins team isn’t suddenly going to dethrone the Patriots and take the AFC East crown next season. What owner Stephen Ross reportedly hopes Flores can bring to the franchise is stability and leadership to help foster a better culture in Miami, one that has been lacking for too long.
Flores will become the Dolphins’ seventh head coach (including interims) since the 2011 season, and it will be his first head-coaching position at any level. He has spent his entire NFL career coming up through the ranks in the Patriots’ organization, starting out as a scout during the Patriots’ early heyday in 2004 before transitioning to Bill Belichick’s coaching staff. After two years as a special-teams assistant, Flores also worked on the offensive and defensive staff, ascending to coaching the safeties and linebackers — and then becoming this season’s point man on defense.
That kind of cross-training could provide excellent knowledge of all facets of running a football team, and being steeped in a winning culture for the past 15 years also gives Flores a picture of what things need to look like.
But it’s also hard not to look back at the long line of previous Patriots assistants who struggled in their elevation to head-coaching positions. From Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis to Eric Mangini and Josh McDaniels, there have been more failures than successes. Bill O’Brien might be the best success of the group, although his postseason history has been poor, and the book remains out on Patricia, who led the Lions to a 6-10 record in his first year.
Flores’ first season in Miami might not be much better. But the hope is that — in time — he’s the exception to the rule for previous Patriots assistants and that the Dolphins can be patient for the long-term health of this team to one day return to prominence.
Patience might be running thin down there, but the approach could turn out to be a smart one in the long term.