Miami fired head coach Brian Flores on Monday following the Dolphins' season-ending 33-24 win over New England.
Flores produced a 24-25 mark over three seasons while falling just short of leading his teams to the playoffs.
Dolphins owner Stephen Ross explained that he didn't see the progress he expected from his team in 2021, which disappointed early before nearly riding a red-hot seven-game winning streak to an unlikely postseason berth.
"I made a decision today to part ways with Brian Flores," Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said in a statement from the team. "After evaluating where we are as an organization and what we need going forward to improve, I determined that key dynamics of our football organization weren't functioning at a level I want it to be and felt that this decision was in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins. I believe we have a talented young roster in place and have the opportunity to be much better in 2022. I want to thank Brian for his hard work and wish him nothing but the best in his future."
Monday's news may have been a product of a power struggle more than anything. Palpable frustration and tension between Flores and general manager Chris Grier essentially boiled over with Flores' firing, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday, with Ross choosing his head of player personnel over the coach his team once selected to attempt to lead the Dolphins out of the darkness that was the end of the Adam Gase era.
Even with the details provided above, the firing was a surprise. Flores took the job in 2019 with a Dolphins team that was very much in flux and seemed to only increase the difficulty of its path back to relevance after Grier shipped first-round tackle Laremy Tunsil to Houston and first-round safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh during Flores' first season. Grier ended up spending those picks on tackle Austin Jackson, who moved inside to guard in 2021 after struggling at tackle as a rookie, and defensive back Noah Igbinoghene, another high pick who hasn't lived up to his billing in his first two seasons.
Miami then traded the second first-round pick it received from Houston (2021) to move back from third overall to sixth, spending it on productive receiver Jaylen Waddle, Grier's best high draft pick to date.
Grier's biggest swing and miss came at the game's most important position: quarterback. Miami spent the fifth overall pick of the 2020 draft on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who struggled to get comfortable as a rookie and paled in comparison to the quarterback selected immediately after him, 2020 Offensive Rookie of the Year Justin Herbert. While Herbert turned the Chargers into a contender in 2021, Tagovailoa battled through multiple injuries before showing some signs of improvement in his second season, which came after Grier's Dolphins spent the first half of the 2021 season flirting with shipping Tagovailoa and significant draft capital to Houston for embattled quarterback Deshaun Watson, making the going much more difficult for both Tagovailoa and Flores.
The instability at quarterback didn't help a difficult first half of the 2021 season in which Miami lost seven straight games after defeating New England to open the campaign. Tagovailoa and Flores were forced to answer questions about Watson and the team's future under center up until the trade deadline passed, at which point Miami was freed from uncertainty and turned its season around, winning its next seven games to improve to 8-7. Much like the fashion in which the Dolphins ended their 2020 season, their blowout loss to Tennessee in Week 17 ruined their chances of staging an unlikely run to the playoffs, rendering the Week 18 win over the Patriots as useless, save for a morale boost heading into the offseason.
The work Flores had done to lift Miami out of irrelevance was undone with one untimely Week 17 loss, leading to his termination Monday. Like they did at the end of the dysfunctional Gase era, the Dolphins will once again enter the offseason with a massive vacancy, launching a search to find a replacement for a coach many considered to be a rising talent in the NFL who simply needed some stability under center to turn his team into a legitimate playoff contender.
A Michigan alumnus, Ross has been tied to a possible pursuit of Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh, who has reportedly shown an interest in returning to the NFL ranks after leading Michigan to its best season in the last decade, a campaign that included a Big Ten championship and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. Ross shot down rumors of a continued pursuit of Watson when speaking with reporters on Monday while also stating he would not be the person who takes Harbaugh from Michigan.
Ross spent his Monday presser touting the promise of Miami's young, Grier-assembled roster, which Ross said was filled with excellent players. The owner pointed toward a lack of internal collaboration as the reason for firing Flores, who Ross felt could not work with Grier effectively enough to turn the Dolphins into a true contender.
Ross will now work with Grier in identifying a candidate who can fulfill the job better than he believed Flores was capable of doing.