Brian Flores

Dolphins Didn’t Plan On Stockpiling Picks

The Dolphins’ have amassed an impressive collection of draft picks in recent years, but that’s not necessarily their modus operandi, head coach Brian Flores says.

I wouldn’t say the goal is necessarily to accumulate first-round picks. I think it’s to put the best team together,” Flores said on the Dolphins’ Drive Time podcast. “I think there’s a variety of ways you can do that. Trade, free agency, waiver-wire transactions, obviously the draft. And I think Chris and his staff have done a great job of using all those different avenues to bring in players and I think we’ve brought players in through those variety of ways — I think we’ve used them all. But it’s to put the best team together, not necessarily a team full of first-round picks…We look through those different avenues to acquire players, that’s really always at the forefront.”

The Dolphins managed to rack up three first-round picks in 2020. On Thursday, after moving around the board, they’ll have two first-round choices at No. 6 and No. 18. And, thanks to their 49ers trade, they’re on course to have two top-32 picks in 2023.

In theory, the Dolphins could keep trading down to further strengthen their future arsenal. But, if Flores is to be believed, that won’t be their focus heading into the 2021 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Flores: Tua Will Remain Dolphins’ Starter

The Dolphins are now one win away from their first trip to the postseason since 2016, and they have Ryan Fitzpatrick (and a healthy dose of Raiders ineptitude) to thank for it. After Miami’s offense with QB Tua Tagovailoa under center stagnated throughout much of last night’s game against Las Vegas, head coach Brian Flores replaced the first-round rookie with the hirsute 38-year-old, and that sprinkling of FitzMagic was enough to pull out a last-second win.

Fitzpatrick completed nine of 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in his limited action, and while much of that yardage came on a no-look prayer of a pass and a healthy run-after-catch from RB Myles Gaskin, the offense undeniably came to life with Fitzpatrick at the helm. That led most to assume that the veteran would start the Dolphins’ Week 17 game with the Bills next week.

But Flores said in his post-game presser that Tagovailoa remains the team’s starter and will get the call against Buffalo, as Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com was among those to report. “Tua is a young player,” Flores said. “He’s developing. He’s improving on a daily basis. He’s learning from these experiences. He’ll be better next week.”

Last night marked the second time in five games that Tagovailoa was pulled for Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter, and while Fitzpatrick wasn’t quite able to complete the comeback in Miami’s Week 11 loss to Denver, he got the job done against the Raiders. As a result, the Dolphins will clinch a playoff berth if they beat the Bills next week.

Tagovailoa’s surface-level stats look decent enough — he has completed 65.1% of his passes for 10 TDs against just two interceptions — but most of his throws are dinks and dunks, and his 6.3 yards-per-attempt average is among the worst in the league. He will need to take more downfield shots to pull out a victory over the Bills, but if he should struggle, Flores has shown he will not be afraid to send in Fitzpatrick.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Notes: Dolphins, Newton, Bills

With the Dolphins for just 18 games, Minkah Fitzpatrick elaborated on the difference of opinion he had with his second NFL head coach. Brian Flores, per Fitzpatrick, preferred he play a hybrid strong safety/linebacker role and only tried him as a deep safety in one practice last summer. This only came after Fitzpatrick asked Flores to see more time in coverage, Tyler Dunne of Bleacher Report notes. After the Dolphins’ Week 1 blowout loss to the Ravens, in which Fitzpatrick was used more in coverage — albeit after limited practice time as a deep safety in Flores’ scheme — the 2018 first-round pick asked for a trade. Flores, Dunne adds, attempted to convince Fitzpatrick he was a key part of Miami’s future. That did not end up working. The Dolphins traded Fitzpatrick to the Steelers, with whom he became an All-Pro, for a first-round pick that turned into tackle Austin Jackson.

We had a difference of opinion in my skill set and what he thought I could do and what I thought I could do,” Fitzpatrick said, via Dunne. “It was going to get tough for me to show something to somebody they were choosing not to see. They didn’t give me the opportunity to show it, even though I had film that showed it. The losing and all that stuff? If I was put in the right position and we’re losing — because of decisions people made upstairs — it is what it is. I can only control how I play. That didn’t affect me at all. It was just a fact that I was being used the wrong way.”

Here is the latest from the AFC East:

  • Shoulder and foot injuries helped lead Cam Newton out of Charlotte after nine seasons. But the former MVP quarterback said he is “full go” as he begins practices with the Patriots, Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston notes. Newton, 31, sounded more cautiously optimistic about staying fully healthy, Perry writes, after being injured for much of the past three seasons. But going into the padded portion of New England’s training camp, Tom Brady‘s likely successor said he feels “amazing.”
  • Since Dolphins players reported to camp, Xavien Howard has landed on both the active/PUP list and the reserve/COVID-19 list. Howard underwent knee surgery in December. While Howard was running at the team’s facility this summer, per ESPN.com’s Cameron Wolfe, he does not figure to see much practice time before Week 1. This makes the standout corner’s availability for the Dolphins’ opener against the Patriots uncertain.
  • Another Dolphin uncertain for Week 1: Preston Williams. The Dolphins are easing their UDFA success story back into action after his ACL tear, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes, adding that Williams’ Week 1 status is in doubt. Williams went down in Week 8 last season, ending a strong start to his career. He caught 32 passes for 428 yards. With Albert Wilson and Allen Hurns opting out, Williams will be critical to Miami’s passing attack.
  • Formerly a key Bills wide receiver, Robert Foster now appears on the verge of being cut or traded. The third-year Bills wideout will need a strong camp to make the team, Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic writes (subscription required). Buffalo drafted Gabriel Davis in Round 4, and the rookie will join the recently re-signed Isaiah McKenzie as a backup to the team’s Stefon DiggsJohn BrownCole Beasley starter trio. After Foster averaged 20 yards per catch as a rookie — in a 27-reception, 541-yard, three-TD season — he caught just three passes in 13 games last season.

Longest-Tenured Head Coaches In The NFL

Things move fast in today’s NFL and the old adage of “coaches are hired to be fired” has seemingly never been more true. For the most part, teams change their coaches like they change their underwear. 

A head coach can take his team to the Super Bowl, or win the Super Bowl, or win multiple Super Bowls, but they’re never immune to scrutiny. Just ask Tom Coughlin, who captured his second ring with the Giants after the 2011 season, only to receive his pink slip after the 2015 campaign.

There are also exceptions. Just look at Bill Belichick, who just wrapped up his 20th season at the helm in New England. You’ll also see a few others on this list, but, for the most part, most of today’s NFL head coaches are relatively new to their respective clubs. And, history dictates that many of them will be elsewhere when we check in on this list in 2022.

Over one-third (12) of the NFL’s head coaches have coached no more than one season with their respective teams. Meanwhile, less than half (15) have been with their current clubs for more than three years. It seems like just yesterday that the Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury, right? It sort of was – Kingsbury signed on with the Cardinals in January of 2019. Today, he’s practically a veteran.

Here’s the list of the current head coaches in the NFL, ordered by tenure, along with their respective start dates:

  1. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000
  2. Sean Payton (New Orleans Saints): January 18, 2006
  3. Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers): January 27, 2007
  4. John Harbaugh (Baltimore Ravens): January 19, 2008
  5. Pete Carroll (Seattle Seahawks): January 9, 2010
  6. Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs): January 4, 2013
  7. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 2, 2014
  8. Mike Zimmer (Minnesota Vikings): January 15, 2014
  9. Dan Quinn (Atlanta Falcons): February 2, 2015
  10. Doug Pederson (Philadelphia Eagles): January 18, 2016
  11. Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills): January 11, 2017
  12. Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars): December 19, 2016 (interim; permanent since 2017)
  13. Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers): January 12, 2017
  14. Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams): January 12, 2017
  15. Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers): February 6, 2017
  16. Matt Nagy (Chicago Bears): January 7, 2018
  17. Matt Patricia (Detroit Lions): February 5, 2018
  18. Frank Reich (Indianapolis Colts): February 11, 2018
  19. Jon Gruden (Las Vegas Raiders): January 6, 2018
  20. Mike Vrabel (Tennessee Titans): January 20, 2018
  21. Kliff Kingsbury (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2019
  22. Zac Taylor (Cincinnati Bengals): February 4, 2019
  23. Vic Fangio (Denver Broncos): January 10, 2019
  24. Matt LaFleur (Green Bay Packers): January 8, 2019
  25. Brian Flores (Miami Dolphins): February 4, 2019
  26. Adam Gase (New York Jets): January 11, 2019
  27. Bruce Arians (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 8, 2019
  28. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020
  29. Matt Rhule (Carolina Panthers): January 7, 2020
  30. Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys): January 7, 2020
  31. Joe Judge (New York Giants): January 8, 2020
  32. Kevin Stefanski (Cleveland Browns): January 13, 2020

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Giants Request Permission To Interview Dolphins DC

New Giants head coach Joe Judge continues working to fill out his staff. New York has requested permission to interview Dolphins defensive coordinator Patrick Graham for the same position, according to Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network. Garafolo adds that the request is expected to be granted.

Generally, teams are hesitant to allow their coaches to interview with other teams unless it is for a clear promotion. However, Judge worked with Graham and current Dolphins head coach Brian Flores with the Patriots, which may make Miami more willing to make an exception. Graham not only shares a history with Judge, but also worked with the Giants from 2016-17, serving as the team’s defensive line coach from 2016-17.

On the surface, it would seem like a surprise for a coach on a 5-11 team to be receiving outside interest, but entering the season many wondered if the Dolphins would manage to win any games. Miami clearly entered the season with a tank in mind, making minimal free agent additions last offseason and trading the team’s best offensive lineman (Laremy Tunsil), defensive back (Minkah Fitzpatrick), and wide receiver (Kenny Stills) early in the season. While the Dolphins are by no means a legitimate contender, they finished the season winning three of their final five games, including wins against the Eagles and Patriots.

Since Judge was relatively unknown before the Giants announced his hiring this week, little is known about the people he might target to fill out his staff. At least to start, it appears he will continue to look to the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

AFC Notes: Marrone, Dolphins, Lawson

After the Jaguars ugly 42-20 loss to the Titans, the team fell to 4-7 and reporters asked head coach Doug Marrone if the team would be making any changes at quarterback or defensive coordinator. Marrone remained steadfast that he is not considering changes at either spot, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.

Marrone, currently in his third season as Jacksonville’s official head coach (he served as the interim at the end of 2016), is still looking to replicate the success he found in his first year at the helm. That season the Jaguars had one of the best defensive units in football that carried a team with questionable quarterback play to the AFC Championship Game. Since, the team is 9-18 and recently looks in disarray defensively. On the opposite side of the field, rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew showed promise while Nick Foles was out with a broken collarbone. Foles returned last week, but has yet to lead a strong offensive performance.

Here’s some more Sunday notes from the AFC:

  • Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is perfect for the Dolphins situation, according to Armando Salguero of The Miami Herald. Fitzpatrick has helped their offensive unit maintain an acceptable level of competence, but not to a level that could cause the team to win enough games to have their first round pick fall outside the top five in next year’s draft. Salguero also notes that head coach Brian Flores’ choices have made clear that Miami believes that Josh Rosen is not the franchise’s answer under center.
  • The Bills defense dominated the Broncos offense in Sunday’s 20-3 victory. It’s no secret that Buffalo has one of the best defensive units in football, but one player seemed to be playing with a little chip on his shoulder. According to Denver7’s Troy Renck, Bills edge rusher Shaq Lawson, who recorded two sacks on Sunday, looked for Broncos center Connor McGovern after the contest to tell him, “You will remember me now.” Apparently, McGovern said he did not who Lawson was prior to the game and the Clemson alum took note.

AFC Notes: Jackson, Miller, Fitzpatrick

Former Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the Ravens released a statement denying a report by Michael Lombardi of The Athletic claiming Mornhinweg wanted to move Lamar Jackson to wide receiver. Jackson, of course, was the subject of much debate as a draft prospect with many pundits, including ESPN’s Bill Polian, calling for a position change to wide receiver.

Jackson, however, remained adamant that he was a quarterback, was selected in the first round by Baltimore and has taken the NFL by storm over the past two seasons. Mornhinweg, who was replaced by Greg Roman as the team’s offensive coordinator entering this season, made clear in his statement that “My thoughts before the draft, and even more when we started working with Lamar, was that this young man was going to be a special quarterback.” Regardless of what his opinions were at the time, Jackson has proven he is an NFL signalcaller.

Here’s more notes from around the AFC:

  • The Broncos were deflated after blowing a 20-0 lead in their 27-23 loss to the Vikings on Sunday. To try and help team moral, all-pro linebacker Von Miller organized a team dinner just a couple hours after landing back in Denver, according to Kyle Newman of the Denver Post. Per Newman’s report, the dinner was a resounding success. Players brought their family members and seemed to rebound from their loss and get ready for another week.
  • Dolphins head coach Brian Flores told reporters that Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain Miami’s starting quarterback this week against the Browns, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Flores, however, would not rule out the possibility of backup quarterback Josh Rosen retaking the job from Fitzpatrick at some point this season.

Latest On Dolphins’ Trades, Strategy

In addition to moving on from numerous veterans this offseason, the Dolphins have now traded two players who were seemingly building blocks in Laremy Tunsil and Minkah Fitzpatrick. These moves appear to have tripped the NFL’s alarm.

The Tunsil trade involved numerous Texans offers, with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reporting the steps the AFC teams took to finalizing the trade that sent the left tackle to Houston. The Texans’ offers went from Jadeveon Clowney-for-Tunsil, straight up, to Clowney and a first-rounder for Tunsil to first- and second-rounders for Tunsil. The Dolphins managed to drive the price to two first-rounders and a second-round selection and requested tackle Julie’n Davenport in return, Salguero notes.

Upon seeing the Texans’ deal-closing offer on a board in Chris Grier‘s office, Tunsil told the Dolphins GM, “I would trade me for that too,” Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald adds (via Twitter).

In reshuffling their power structure after last season, the Dolphins were not planning to jettison Tunsil, Fitzpatrick, Kiko Alonso or T.J. McDonald. (The Dolphins dealt Alonso to the Saints and released McDonald.) Brian Flores‘ coaching staff clashed with Alonso, Salguero adds, and asked him to play multiple roles — including edge defender. The Dolphins demoted the highly paid linebacker before trading him.

Fitzpatrick is a Steeler, being dealt after a trade request. The second-year defensive back was not on board with the versatile role the Dolphins asked him to play, and Salguero adds the team never found a sufficient comfort level that would allow Fitzpatrick to settle in at one spot. Both Grier and owner Stephen Ross attempted to help Fitzpatrick and Miami’s coaching staff find common ground.

Myself, Brian, and Steve (Ross) — we had multiple conversations with him, saying we wanted him here and viewed him as a core piece and wanted him here,” Grier said. “The kid just felt it was time for him to move, and we told him what the value was. We told teams we had multiple offers, and we felt that the Pittsburgh one was the one best for the organization.”

Fitzpatrick’s rookie deal was worth $16.447MM over four years. Similar to the deal in which the Dolphins acquired Josh Rosen, the Steelers are only on the hook for Fitzpatrick’s base salaries. Pittsburgh has the 2018 No. 11 overall pick under contract through 2021 for $5.48MM, Field Yates of ESPN.com notes (on Twitter).
The Dolphins now hold three 2020 first-round picks. A building suspicion in NFL circles centers on the prospect this Dolphins rebuild may be a stealth effort for Trevor Lawrence in 2021, per Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. But Salguero adds one of Miami’s three 2020 first-rounders will be used to draft a quarterback — regardless of how Rosen performs in what now may be an extended audition. The Cardinals in 2018-19 and Baltimore Colts in 1982-83 were the most recent franchises to draft first-round passers in consecutive years, so as of now it looks like this oft-labeled tanking strategy is built around Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa (should he enter the 2020 draft).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Josh Rosen To Start For The Dolphins

It’s been a tough week for veteran quarterbacks. The Eli Manning-era in New York came to an end earlier this week. Ben Roethlisberger may have played his last game for the yellow-and-gold after going down with an elbow injury and Drew Brees is out of the Saints’ lineup with a thumb injury. Now, another veteran quarterback is on the outs, as the Ryan Fitzpatrick era in Miami appears to be over.

Josh Rosen will make his first start for the Dolphins against the Cowboys on Sunday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (Twitter link). Rapoport hears that coach Brian Flores made the decision this afternoon.

Rosen, who Miami gave up a second-rounder for, started 13 games for the Cardinals as a rookie last season. The offensive line in Arizona wasn’t a strength because of injuries and a lack of talent and Rosen struggled, completing just 55.2% of his passes. Rosen will again be saddled with a poor offensive line and it’s arguable that the weapons around him in Miami are inferior to the ones he had out in the desert.

The former No. 10 overall pick has seen action on two occasions this season, both coming late in Miami’s pair of blowout losses. He’s completed 8-of-21 pass attempts for 102 yards so far during his time in Miami.

Dolphins Cut Kiko Alonso

The Dolphins cut Kiko Alonso en route to reaching the 53-man max. Both moves were rumored this week, but the Fins were waiting to see if they could arrange a trade for the linebackers before letting them go.

Alonso requested a trade during training camp when he realized that he would be squeezed out of the Dolphins’ plans in one fashion or another. New coach Brian Flores is overseeing a defensive overhaul and he didn’t have much use for the veteran, despite his three years of starting experience in Miami. Originally drafted by the Bills in the second-round back in 2013, Alonso won’t play out the two years left on his four-year, $28.9MM deal.

Here are the other moves made by Miami to make their roster kosher by Week 1: