For a generation, the Dolphins have chased the Patriots.
In the standings.
For national prestige.
And for the loyalties of Florida sports fans.
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Perhaps Stephen Ross has finally decided that if you can’t beat them, steal them.
One week into Miami’s nationwide search for their new head coach, one name keeps coming up among the NFL’s smart set:
Brian Flores, the Patriots’ 37-year-old linebackers coach.
Ross and Chris Grier, the Dolphins’ new football czar, met with Flores in New England for several hours Friday and came away impressed.
But that was no major surprise, considering he might have been Grier’s favorite all along.
While Grier had left the Patriots for the Dolphins years before Flores was hired as a scouting assistant, a league source tells the Herald that Grier has long thought highly of New England’s linebackers coach.
In fact, one source went so far as to say that Flores is near if not at the top of the Dolphins’ list.
The Dolphins’ interest should come as no surprise. They have tried to drink from the Patriots’ talent well before.
Five years ago, they asked Nick Caserio, New England’s director of player personnel, to be their general manager. Caserio flew to South Florida for two interviews, but ultimately passed. A league source said at the time that Caserio earned on the low end of the wage scale for his position — and presumably parlayed the Dolphins’ offer into a raise or an outright promotion.
But the Flores candidacy is different in many ways.
Nothing the Patriots can offer him would come close to the eight-figure contract he would almost surely sign as the Dolphins’ head coach.
And there’s no guarantee that if Flores stays with the Patriots, he will succeed Bill Belichick when he retires. In fact, Flores wasn’t even granted the title of defensive coordinator this year, despite taking over Matt Patricia’s responsibilities when the Lions hired Patricia to be their head coach.
If the Dolphins decide on Flores (and he accepts the job), they could not hire him officially until the Patriots are eliminated from the playoffs. The Patriots play host to the Chargers on Sunday afternoon in the divisional round.
Flores could have options beyond the Dolphins. He interviewed with the Browns on Saturday, and the Packers and Broncos both have some degree of interest.
But the Dolphins could be the perfect fit. With a roster reset coming this offseason, he probably will have a longer grace period here than in other cities. Plus, Ross is never shy about writing a big check to get what he wants. Ross gave Adam Gase a lucrative five-year contract when he hired him in 2016.
Flores would make history as the Dolphins’ first black, non-interim coach. His parents are Honduran immigrants, and he used football to escape the poor, crime-ridden Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville. Flores played linebacker at Boston College and then got a job in New England’s personnel department after college. He transitioned into coaching in 2008 and has worked up the ranks ever since.
He is one of four candidates to meet with Ross and Grier since Gase’s termination. The others: Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Cowboys defensive backs coach Kris Richard and Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.
What’s next? The team will sit down with Dolphins special teams coordinator Darren Rizzi at some point this week, and then presumably bring at least one candidate back for a second interview before extending an offer.
Two coaches who will not be meeting with Ross and Grier: Steelers offensive line coach Mike Munchak and Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio. Both were on the team’s preliminary list of candidates but interviews never materialized.