Well, this is something.
The fact the Miami Dolphins have identified the man they would like to hire as their next head coach would normally be a thunder clap of news accompanied by an entourage of plaudits and praise. It would normally be a lot of paragraphs suggesting greater hope for tomorrow, which is a big deal for a franchise that for a while has been mostly about glory years long ago.
But this time it’s different.
This is worthy of a golf clap.
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Because Brian Flores, the man the Dolphins want to hire to be their 13th head coach, could be the next Bill Belichick. Or he could be the next of the many Bill Belichick disciples who flopped as head coaches.
Because Flores, 37 years old, could be a ball of energy and leadership and bright ideas. Or he could be the next young coach Dolphins owner Stephen Ross hires who isn’t ready for the job.
Just like when Ross hired 37-year-old Adam Gase in 2016.
Flores might some day bury the rest of the AFC East, including Belichick and Gase, now the New York Jets coach. Or he could get buried under a thousand-and-one surprises he isn’t expecting his first day at work.
We just don’t know. And what’s worse, the Dolphins don’t know.
And what’s worse beyond that first worse is the Dolphins have proven they don’t know based on their recent history of hiring football people — particularly under Ross.
The Dolphins owner that made the final call on this search has led about half-a-dozen searches for football coaches and general managers since he took over the team in 2009.
Name the one he nailed. I’ll wait.
Nick Saban, who famously left the Dolphins in 2006 to greatness as the Alabama head coach, often said past performance is the best predictor of future success. If this is true, it’s fair to predict bad tidings for this move.
Because this team’s recent past performance in hiring folks to lead the football team is abysmal.
I’m initially troubled by Flores. Because his own record of past performance is only cursory. He’s worked throughout the New England system. He’s worked as a scouting assistant, he’s worked as an offensive and special teams assistant, and obviously he found a niche on the defensive side of the ball.
But as I look through his resume, I don’t see where he’s addressed an entire team, set the daily agenda for the organization, hired or fired assistants or players.
He’s going to be learning all that as he goes in Miami.
First time for everything, you say? That has been a painful process with the last four head coaches the Dolphins have brought in to guide the franchise.
What we have here is a head coach with no experience chosen by people who have never hired a winning football coach. What could go wrong?
I’m old enough to remember when things were different.
When good quarterback play was taken for granted. When a trip to the playoffs was as good as booked before the season began. When December prime time games were a vehicle for showing off our fabulous weather to the rest of the nation.
Even when things started going a little sideways in the mid 1990s, this organization was still among the NFL’s elite. The Dolphins were still a destination team. There was shine on both the team’s helmets and the franchise’s reputation.
That’s gone now.
That’s been gone.
The franchise that hired Don Shula after he took the Baltimore Colts to the Super Bowl, and hired Jimmy Johnson after he took the Dallas Cowboys to two Super Bowls, and hired Saban after he took Louisiana State to a national championship, has faded.
And so coach searches no longer chase proven champions.
Probably because they cannot even get proven champions to show interest.
Now the Miami Dolphins are chasing a fanciful dream.
They’re chasing the hope Flores turns into something. That he grows into something. That he does something he’s never done before — or even been asked to do before.
I bought this approach with Cam Cameron. And Tony Sparano. And Joe Philbin. And Adam Gase. I’m keeping my hands in my pockets this time.
The Dolphins have been telling you these guys are leaders and organized. We’ve heard they’re outstanding with their schemes and handling personalities. And they’re likely going to say the same thing if they finalize this Flores hiring.
Maybe it will all finally be true this time.
But the benefit of the doubt is no longer a gift the Dolphins get with their new coach hire. They should get your hope but not your expectation that this will work.
I spent a long time talking to an NFL Hall of Famer Friday evening. I asked him his opinion on the men vying for a vote into the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month. And he rattled off his opinion about each, not holding back, eagerly showing his strong knowledge of players and coaches alike.
And then I asked about the Dolphins. And Stephen Ross. And the looming hiring of Brian Flores.
He didn’t disparage any of them. But the enthusiasm in his voice that was there a moment ago, was gone.
And that’s how I feel about this move. It deserves respectful acknowledgment.
And a shrug.