Ordinarily when a head coach decides to fire a position coach, and the offensive line coach at that, it might be a one or two day story in the sports press. But it’s hardly that big a deal, except in the case of new Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores. That’s because Flores is under much more scrutiny than usual for a rookie head coach for two reasons.
First, he was the only new Black head coach named last year during the NFL’s annual search for coaching candidates. Second, he’s the latest of the Belichek staffers to try their hands at being a head coach. The track record of Belichek assistants getting their own head jobs has been a less than stellar one, but there are many who think Flores will be the exception.
Third, Flores comes to the head coaching job from the defensive rather than offensive end, having been the Patriots’ defensive coordinator last season during their latest Super Bowl triumph. The current conventional wisdom is that the best head coaches in today’s NFL come from the offensive side, preferably offensive coordinators and/or quarterback coaches. Even some inexperienced offensive coaches are being considered for head jobs ahead of veteran defensive coaches.
Lastly, it has to be added that Flores was hired by one of the NFL’s few Black general managers, Chris Grier, who is also being very closely watched after making a serious of controversial decisions last season, among them opting to let Ryan Tannehill go to the Titans and also canning Adam Gaze, now with the New York Jets. Grier doesn’t exactly have a lot of job security either, so both his and Flores’ fate are linked and definitely dependent on how much success the team enjoys, especially if they can return to the playoffs.
Therefore every decision Flores makes will be under a microscope, and thus the move to dismiss Pat Flaherty last week only seven days into training camp became a huge story. After a pair of lackluster practices in pads, Flores decided he wanted a change. He brought in Dave DeGuglielmo, a well-respected coach who had previously been with the Colts last season and the person he originally wanted before hiring Flaherty last February.
“I went with my gut,” Flores said in explaining his decision to various Florida newspapers. “I’m always going to do what’s in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins, and I think that was the case with this move. As a team we need to move forward. The easy decision would have been to do nothing and hope it gets better.”
The Dolphins had already hired DeGuglielmo as an analyst earlier this summer, and the 16-year coaching veteran, who had ties with Flores from their time together in New England, had been assisting with practices since the offseason program began. He had also previously coached the Dolphins’ offensive line from 2009-2011, and also in 2017 under Gase.
DeGuglielmo coached the Indianapolis Colts offensive line last season, and helped mentor Quenton Nelson, a rookie who earned first-team All-Pro honors and was selected to the Pro Bowl. The Colts offense finished fourth in the NFL, scoring 27.1 points per game, was seventh in total offense (386.2 yards per game), and the improved play of the Colts offensive line was credited for much of Indianapolis’ success.
Whether this works or not, no one will know till the regular season begins. But the amount of coverage and exposure given an otherwise routine personnel decision shows just how closely the pro football world is watching both the Dolphins and the duo of Brian Flores and Chris Grier.