The Miami Dolphins are off to an earth-shatteringly bad start to the 2021 NFL season. Despite finishing with 10 wins in 2020, the team has limped out to an ugly 1-6 start this year.
To make matters even worse, several of Miami’s losses have been rather embarrassing. It’s not like they’re losing hard-fought games against good teams week in and week out. The Dolphins gifted Urban Meyer and the Jacksonville Jaguars their first win of the season during Week 6 and were ruthlessly blown out by the Buffalo Bills back in Week 2.
It’s been ugly, no matter how you slice it.
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is struggling
Before the 2021 season, Dolphins head coach Brian Flores was viewed as an ascending mind in the NFL. He helped establish a strong culture and identity during Miami’s rebuilding efforts in 2019, following it up with the before-mentioned 10-win season in 2020.
Flores even got some Coach of the Year consideration last season despite his team missing out on the postseason. That’s how widely respected he’d become.
However, fast forward to 2021, and Flores looks like a completely different person. Individuals with far less experience are routinely outcoaching him, and the Dolphins look sloppy and disinterested on a routine basis.
Flores is a former linebackers coach from the New England Patriots. Defense is very much his calling card, which is why the Dolphins near-league-worst defense is so concerning at the moment. Miami went from seventh-best in expected points contributed by the defense in 2020 to fifth-worst in 2021. The Dolphins made minimal roster changes on the defensive side of the ball this past offseason. This is 100% a coaching issue.
Flores is reportedly losing the locker room
With things beginning to crash and burn in Miami, it isn’t surprising to hear blame being placed on Flores and his lackluster coaching efforts. According to NFL insider Jason La Canfora, Flores is in major danger of completely losing the Dolphins locker room.
“There is a really negative vibe down there right now,” one source with direct knowledge of the situation tells CBS Sports. “A lot of players do not trust [Flores]. Flo thinks he is a player’s coach with an open-door policy, but I know a number of players who would tell you they don’t really think he is approachable enough or flexible.
“There is still too much of that New England [stuff] going on. It just doesn’t work. There is a psychology to handling players and building a team, and you have to be able to connect and motivate. That’s not the vibe there. It’s pretty bad.”Jason La Canfora, CBS Sports
La Canfora further adds that a good chunk of Flores’ locker room issues stems from his poor handling of the team’s quarterback position. Flores infamously benched then-rookie Tua Tagovailoa toward the end of last season for veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick, a move that was met with significant backlash inside the Dolphins locker room.
Tagovailoa himself has yet to settle in with the Dolphins as well, according to La Canfora. Tagovailoa feels like an outsider despite his recent top-5 draft pick status due to a shaky relationship with Flores and constant Deshaun Watson trade rumors.
The Miami Dolphins may explore hiring a new head coach
Flores looked like a rising star in 2020. However, after seeing how he handles a bit of controversy this season, it would benefit the Dolphins to explore a head coaching change. They’re clearly in need of a new voice in the locker room, and Flores’ once successful defensive tactics are no longer working.
Additionally, the new norm around the NFL is filling head coaching vacancies with bright offensive coordinators. The Dolphins would be wise to bring in an offensive-minded head coach for Tagovailoa to grow with (assuming Watson doesn’t replace him in the coming days).
Either way, a 1-6 start is enough for any organization to consider a change. Issues in the locker room only cast further doubt on Flores’ ability to remain in power in Miami.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference.