Absentee ownership directly contributes to weird outcomes, like the firing of Brian Flores

Stephen Ross built a towering success in New York. Hes trying to build another with Dolphins.
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The Dolphins have struggled in recent years to find any real flow or rhythm. A big part of the problem is that the owner of the team doesn’t spend nearly enough time in the building to assess how or where or why things are going.

Stephen Ross lives and works in New York. He’s one of the NFL’s various absentee owners. And this has not helped the Dolphins craft the kind of consistency that allows long-term stability and success.

Without Ross there to constantly assess and monitor the vibe of the organization, the inevitable adversity leads to dysfunction. Someone will be blaming someone else for whatever goes wrong. Turf battles inevitably will emerge. The owner will be making decisions based on limited information brought to him by people who may be trying to nudge him in a specific way.

It happened when Jeff Ireland, Dawn Aponte, and Joe Philbin constantly struggled and bickered and fought for the approval and favor of the owner. It quite possibly has happened more recently, with Brian Flores on one side and the front office on the other side.

The problem is that the coach, who’s busy coaching the team, doesn’t have the luxury of whispering to the owner all of the various problems caused by, for example, poor decisions when it comes to drafting players. The G.M. and others in the front office, however, have much greater access to the owner on the one day when he happens to show up — game day. It gives the non-coaches in any power struggle/blame game a huge advantage.

If Ross were in the building every day, talking to his head coach on a face-to-face basis repeatedly, he’d be in a much better position to assess where and how and when blame should be placed and changes should be made.

The Dolphins already are putting out the word that the problem with Flores was “relationships.” Shockingly, a guy who spent years with Bill Belichick isn’t adept at kissing asses and/or blowing smoke up them. If they’d won more games, it wouldn’t have mattered.

That will continue to be the challenge for all former Belichick assistants. Even if they think they’re different, they’re far more like him than they’d ever recognize. Throw in an owner who isn’t around nearly enough to understand the broader dynamic, and it becomes easier for the various members of the front office to gang up on the guy who is all about football and not about playing politics or “being nice” or anything other than trying to win as many games as possible.

Wherever the Dolphins go from here, the problems will continue as long as Ross serves as an absentee owner. As another owner said several years ago when asked about the fact that Ross doesn’t live and work in his team’s city, “I love competing against him.”

72 responses to “Absentee ownership directly contributes to weird outcomes, like the firing of Brian Flores

  1. LOL!

    I love it!

    Flores and Grier both thought they’d arrived for some weird reason. I saw players celebrating yesterday as if they made the playoffs. How is Grier still surviving?

    Horrible leadership and Flores got what was coming after selling out and going into the division and stealing half of BB’s staff like Mangini did.

    Completely unprofessional.

  2. Message to ALL owners….STOP hiring Patriots assistant coaches….I think we can all see BB is in charge,makes the important choices, and does a wonderful job delegating to his assistants. They are NIT being developed for HC roles.

  3. So we bust on Jerry for being too involved and now bust on Ross for not being involved?

    That is why they hire a team president and executive staff.

    The owner does not need to be on site daily for each of their multiple business operations…in my opinion.

  4. On the other hand, owners like Jerruh and Mr. Snyder (until recently) were always around, and we constantly criticized them for meddling in football stuff. So while there could be some merit to the premise of the article, it kind of depends on the owner’s personality and style of dealing with the organization and front office.

  5. Jeepers Creepers and the Cowboys wish Jerry Jones did not spend as much time in the building and lived in New York.

  6. Why the outrage with Flores being fired? He was below 500 in 3 years but not for Nagy? Nagy had a winning record and made the playoffs twice in 5 years. I think we all know the answer. Just can’t say it…

  7. What a blunder. Wish there were more tough coaches like Flores. Maybe he’ll go to one of these other teams looking for a HC, he deserves it

  8. Can a fan base be allowed to fire an owner? Like after a decade plus of awfulness coupled with being average occasionally, can’t we have a vote to put a team up for sale??

  9. “Wherever the Dolphins go from here, the problems will continue as long as Ross serves as an absentee owner.”

    I completely disagree. Owners hire “football people” to make football decisions. On the one hand we complain about “meddling owners” and now we’re complaining about an owner who does not meddle enough. The bottom line is winning. It cures whatever level of engagements owners (or anyone within the facility) displays.

  10. Firing Flores after the job he did with with the tools he was given truly speaks to an owner being completely out of touch! Some other team is about to get a great coach!

  11. Flores out, means Ross will go all in on Jim Harbaugh, but will Ross fire whoever blew it drafting Tua over Herbert?

  12. So that was that leaves Joe Judge as the last remaining example of the Belichek coaching tree? Vrabel doesn’t count as he never coached under Belichek.

    Please let this be the end of Belichek’s tree. Belichek is a unicorn, his success can not be replicated. Let Joe Judge be the cautionary tale that scares off all the other owners, just show them the tape of his games and they will run away in horror.

  13. Didn’t Flores choke with the playoffs on the line last year? And they make the playoffs this year if they don’t lose to the lowly Jags.

  14. The main problem is the owner is to stupid to understand interview answers and select a decent head coach.

    BB’s assistants suck at Head coaching (Vrabel must have been the smart one not to want to be on his staff) but moron owners still insist on hiring them because they must have a bag of magic beans because none of them have been successful when hired as head coaches.

  15. I’m guessing he objected to getting Watson, which will be an ongoing story line until resolved. He’s a pretty decent coach, his squads played hard.

  16. greenbaydean says:
    January 10, 2022 at 10:11 am
    Why the outrage with Flores being fired? He was below 500 in 3 years but not for Nagy? Nagy had a winning record and made the playoffs twice in 5 years. I think we all know the answer. Just can’t say it…


    Here’s your answer: Nagy came in as a supposed offensive genius, and the Bears offense has been nothing but a disappointment in 4 seasons under his leadership. That was particularly true this season, as it looked like he had no idea how to utilize Justin Fields and maximize his skillset. Also, Nagy’s second playoff appearance came in an 8-8 season when the playoff field expanded to 14 teams, and his players seemed to tune him out over the last two seasons.

    As for Flores, while he did finish with a sub .500 record, it was only by 1 game. The team responded well to him in the second half of this season. Personally, I think he’s out bc of the team’s offensive mismanagement: How many OC’s have they had in the 3 years he’s been there?

    Obviously Flores made plenty of mistakes to get to this point, but I certainly think he’s a better coach and leader than Nagy is.

  17. They fired Brian Flores?????????? And here I thought the Jets and Giants were all screwed up. Add Miami to that couple of troubled franchises.

  18. I was truly surprised by Flores’ firing as I think the foolishness in the NFL is that coaches fired before 5-year contracts complete because of the win now mode of a league designed for parity with 8-9 or 9-8 teams being the norm. No wonder they don’t get the results when they are constantly turfing coaches. It’s a joke.

    One thought on this column, the argument could’ve just as easily been made for an owner being too involved causing disfunction. Look at the Jags or until recently the Bills. If Stephen Ross isn’t a football mind, he should stay in NY but he shouldn’t be unilaterally firing the coach. He should be firing CEO/Presidents of his team, IMO.

  19. Stephen Ross wants to bring in Kevin O’Connell(Rams current OC) as head coach.

    Can’t blame Stephen for wanting a piece of the McVay tree. LaFleur, Brandon Staley, and Zac Taylor are Rock Star head coaches.

  20. I’ll trade my Blank for a Ross any day. Owners own, the football people they hire run the team.

  21. Damn dolphin fans I’m am so sorry y’all have to go through this. Miami’s gonna absolutely regret firing Flores. Hell get another gig soon and do better than Miami

  22. Losing record just like every other Belichick assistant, it’s almost like there was someone else responsible for all the winning, you know, someone who has continued to win since leaving

  23. The issue with Flores is that no top tier coordinators will work for him. Rumor has it that he is impossible to work for. And we all have seen how many offensive coordinators that Miami has employed the last 3 seasons. That and the offensive line coach is the straw that has broken coach Flores back. This will come out in the media over the next week or so. He also doesn’t see eye to eye on the draft picks that Grier has picked. Honestly outside of this last draft Grier has done a terrible job in the draft and in free agency. All you have to do is look at last season free agents and where those same players are this year. Grier is just as much to blame as Flores is.

  24. There’s a balance you need to have as an owner. The Dolphins are masters of mediocrity. Firing Flores is exactly the kind of move that makes them that. Don’t be going into the coaches office every day telling him what the game plan is but don’t be living in New York making decisions off of reports and never meeting the players or being around the team

  25. Miami will never win with this ownership, like the Jets, Jags, Texans, Browns, WFT and the Lions. These teams are always drafting high but have a continuous revolving door at the coaching level. It prevents them from ever reaching the next level. The draft picks leave asap because they see what’s going on and realize they will never win there.

  26. If the Dolphins had fired Flores at 1-7 and the interim coach went 8-1, he’d be hailed as a genius and hired on the spot. One of the most difficult things for a coach to do is to hold a team together when it appears things are imploding. I’d hire Flores in a heartbeat.

  27. This implies that things would be better if Ross was in town. Is there really any evidence of that?

  28. I believe the “relationship” part was his inability to identify or even hire quality assistant coaches. He’s had a different offensive coordinator every year he’s been there including the ridiculous co-offensive coordinator fiasco this year.

    Also he out Belichick(ed) Bill Belichick when it came to secrecy and media dealings. Last year receiver Preston Williams was out for the year but he had people believing he was coming back and his secrecy surrounding who was calling plays was absurd because the offense sucked anyway. That’s where NE assistants go wrong imo. They start off trying to be like BB but BB didn’t evolved into who he is now with the clout of multiple Superbowl rings.

  29. Ross is what’s wrong with NFL ownership these days. Guys like Ross should just sign the checks and surround themselves with “football people” who have a proven track record. Let the football experts handle their business without micro-managing/meddling, etc. Flores was a good coach. I watched several games and he gets the team to play hard. Who cares whether you like someone or not? You don’t have to like someone to do a job you are being paid to do. Flores squeezed as many wins as he possibly could out of that group. Drafting has been an issue and personnel are not the best. How may of Grier’s picks did Flores agree with in determining whether those picks fit Flores’ system? I firmly believe Ross ought to ax Grier as well as I seeing him being as much to blame for this season’s results as Flores. Find a more competent GM and let him hand-pick a HC. This way, you can ensure that the “relationship” is already there instead of playing match-maker. The NFL is better when the Phins are winning. I really miss the Dan Marino days.

  30. Is it possible the firing is because flores lost to the Bills a combined 148 – 65 in his 2 years as the dolphins HC? it doesn’t matter if they are scrappy, he is miles away from the division champs.

  31. Wonder why there are certain organizations that will never win? I give you exhibit A. What a joke!

  32. Flores was not bottom of the league awful taking over a stripped team and having to play musical QB’s with whatever draft bust the front office handed him and was thanked by being fired. Sounds like what the Detroit Lions did to Jim Caldwell. Totally worked out for Detroit so obviously the Dolphins will be fine.

    Maybe the Browns should move on from Kevin Stefanski for only winning 8 games with popcorn venders due to covid and a one armed, one legged QB.

  33. Wow, I’d have thought that the very first rule for any AFC East Coach in terms of job security was, “Can you beat the Patriots?”

    Anyways, Dolphinos, from a Pats fan, thanks so much.

  34. Firing Flores is the very definition of Stupidity.

    Flores is actually a damn good coach.

    I hope my GIANTS reach out to him and make the nod.

    He is a Brooklyn guy, we can bring him home where he belongs.

  35. Actually in 3 years as MIA hc, he lost to the Bills a combined 216-106 with an 0-6 record. In 2019 (pre-Allen breakout), the bills only 30 pt games were both against MIA.

  36. tommyribs says:
    January 10, 2022 at 11:06 am
    Firing Flores is the very definition of Stupidity.

    Flores is actually a damn good coach.

    I hope my GIANTS reach out to him and make the nod.

    He is a Brooklyn guy, we can bring him home where he belongs.


    yes he was so good the first time around…

  37. touchback6 says:
    January 10, 2022 at 10:02 am

    I love it!

    Flores and Grier both thought they’d arrived for some weird reason. I saw players celebrating yesterday as if they made the playoffs. How is Grier still surviving?

    Horrible leadership and Flores got what was coming after selling out and going into the division and stealing half of BB’s staff like Mangini did.

    Completely unprofessional.


    Wow, celebrating someone getting fired. Didn’t think you could go that low. Comparing Flores to Mangini is an insult. Bill still has a good relationship with Flores, and hopefully for the Patriots defense sake, Flores returns. Those assistants who left for the Dolphins made their own choice, it’s not like Bflo held a gun to their heads. And many of them have left Miami anyways. Flores is a great leader and you can see the players loved him, both in Miami and NE. Also, how is hiring people “selling out?” Is anyone who doesn’t do exactly as BB does also selling out. You are unequivocally the worst sports fan I’ve ever had the misfortune of interacting with. All of your takes are filled with revisionist history, total ungratefulness for anyone who has left the Patriots, and are more concerned with denegrating other’s success than celebrating the Patriots success.

  38. I’m guessing a lot of people responding to this column don’t have much contact with the C-Suite in their organization.

    Here’s how it works in a good organization. Management hires the best person they think they can get their hands on to do the job, hands them the authority and tools to do the job, sets goals and then gets the hell out of their way.

    Many times when you are brought into a new position it is to FIX what the last guy did wrong (personnel, system, whatever) and you need time to figure out what is good (keep that) and what is bad (and needs to be fixed).

    In BAD organizations upper management meddles in what the people they hired are trying to do and then blames them when things go south. And that means usually the LOWEST ranking person available (HC in this case) gets canned.

    If Ross want Watson then he is the problem. You just can’t fix (in a football sense) stupid (Ross is obviously VERY good at his real job). If the GM was not drafting the players and getting the assistants the HC wanted then the GM is the problem.

    If the HC is getting everything he (reasonably) wants and they aren’t winning then that is on him.

    No matter what 3 years is not enough time to turn around an organization as complex as a football, especially as there are constantly moving parts (players here or not).

    I’m not in the building but from the outside it looks like Ross is not very good at picking a good GM and then he meddles (while the GM is also meddling). Until he picks a good GM and stops meddling the division will always belong to someone else.

  39. Flores’ straight-talking no-nonsense approach was actually a good move following Gase who was passive-aggressive and sent all kinds of mixed signals to players. That makes it extra strange that apparently contributed to his being fired since it was a key component of why he was there in the first place.

  40. Don’t know about that. It comes down to the competence/intelligence/management skills of the owner. A good owner can run a team effectively from 1000 miles away, a bad owner can’t run a team effectively from 10 feet away.

    How has being in the building every day helped Daniel Snyder make good decisions about his team? Woody Johnson?

  41. The Phins have only had one HC last 4 years since Ross became the principal owner. Anyone who doesn’t think the fish rots from the head in Miami hasn’t been paying attention.

  42. Flores had the courage to stand up to the owner who was hell bent to get Watkins and Flores wanted to develop Tua.

  43. Whether an owner is present or not is irrelevant as long as he’s holding the people who are in the building everyday accountable & not overriding them. If you let the front office hire & fire the coaches, thats fine. As long as the front office is held accountable as well. If you’re an absentee owner & then unilaterally hire or fire coaches, that’s dysfunctional. So basically, there’s another shoe that needs to drop.

  44. Like Todd Bowles, Flores is a good defensive coordinator. Not sure about the head coach thing.

  45. qaztec says:
    January 10, 2022 at 11:54 am
    Because like having Jerry Jones around everyday has been good the last 25 years

    Jerry Jones has 3 Super Bowl trophies from 2 different coaches and his team just won the NFCE.
    Despite the constant bashing of him there are not many owners that will go all in on trying to create a winner like him.

  46. Not a Fins fan, but good friends of mine are. Things they complained about most – no run game. No offensive line. (so no help for Tua).

    In comparison, similar circumstances – Eagles, decided to finally use their strength (offensive line) in putting together a run game that helped their similarly new QB in Hurts…after a horrible start. And they managed to get into the playoffs (yes, didn’t beat a playoff team).

    Seems more like that was front office’s issues…one thing they needed in the offseason was run game – and they didn’t address it. They got Tua a great young wideout in Waddle. But nothing else. Seemed like best decision from Ross would have been keep Flores & Grier, with a mandate to fix run game/o line this year or else one or both of them is canned if they don’t get to the playoffs in ’22-23.

  47. 50Stars says:
    January 10, 2022 at 10:05 am
    So we bust on Jerry for being too involved and now bust on Ross for not being involved?


    Jones’ problem is that he’s involved to the point of calling in plays from the owner’s box. There is difference between taking in a few meetings or scheduling one on ones with your coach and micromanaging every decision.

  48. As a Patriots fan I love when the Dolphins have dysfunction. That said this might be one of the dumbest moves in recent memory. This season Flores navigated multiple injuries on offense, won 8 of the last 9 and 7 in row, beat Bill twice, and did this while having a less than stellar QB in Tua. Flores will land on his feet and the Dolphins will continue to be the Dolphins.

  49. Remember the absolute dumpster fire 2019 dolphins went 5-3 to lose the season. In 2020 most thought they would be worst in the division again.

    2021 they finished 8-1 and simply put they would have been a tough out.

    Joke franchise. Flores did more with the dolphins then could be expected.

  50. This is total horse crap. Ross has to be the worst owner in the NFL. What good coach would want to come to the Dolphins with that revolving door lubricated with Slick 50. They coaches as much as quarterbacks. This will come back to haunt this team.

  51. The Detroit Lions have had the same owners since 1961 and the Ford family has been in the area long before that.

    In 60 years of local family ownership the Lions have never been to the Super Bowl, last won a playoff game in 1991 & went 0-16 in 2008 (the current coach was a right end on that team).

    This season the Lions began another of their neverending rebuilding efforts and went 3-16-1.

    The current head coach had the team competing in most of those losses however being used to seeing so many rebuilding efforts to only see failures I will believe the Ford family has decided profits can coincide with winning when it actually happens.

    Having the owners living in the vicinity and active in the running of the club means nothing if the owners are like the Fords.

  52. Perhaps if the owner were present, Flores could have taken him his homemade cookies (biscuits) in a little pink box each morning to establish a good working relationship and open the lines of communication.

  53. So… “absentee” owners like Stephen Ross and Zygi Wilf gets ripped for not living/working directly with their NFL teams, yet “hands-on” owners like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder gets ripped for interferring directly with their NFL teams.

    Um, did I get that right?

  54. Flo will be successful elesewhere.hired crap offensive coaches.GRIER struck on too many high picks and most picks, actually

  55. Not really a surprise, Flores was pretty underwhelming and bad during his tenure in Miami. I am not sure why all the lashing out and outrage…. Oh, right. I do understand why…

  56. To blame Flores for the 11 losses the first year goes beyond outrageous. The team was in a tanking mode. Grier and Ross wanted to lose all 16 games to get the #1 pick.
    But Flores wanted to win which bring me to the bigger problem.
    When Flores fired Gase and Tannebaum he told everyone that he was done with having the HC and GM come back to him. He was going to appoint a GM and have everyone report to him. And that definitely included the HC. Grier with his new power wanted Flores.
    And what they are leaking now is that Flores instead of taking Grier’s orders not only refused to tank but has been running the team including telling Grier who to draft and to go for Watson one season after he picked Tua.
    A manager that lets a newly hired employee boss him around and calls his boss for help is not a manager at all. And should be fired.
    Even if you take all the leaks at face value there is no way Grier should have kept his job.
    And an owner that allows himself to be dragged into this mess after he publicly announced he wouldn’t deserves what he gets.

  57. Mike has commented about the Vikings in this regard. Zygi, the Wilf with the brains and the instincts, the guy who made money for the family, “spends much of his time in New Jersey,” says one report, and relies on brother Mark for information. That’s not the way to do it IMO. Most fans regard Zygi as solid; I say he’s a lazy owner. An owner of an NFL team should spend four days a week in the office soaking up knowledge (BUT also managing to stay out of the way). I realize that’s a tough balancing act; some owners can do it; some can’t; some won’t try. Zygi’s refusal to fully commit to being an owner is sad for the franchise.

    The Vikes had a perfect situation from 1967 to 1974, three key elements: ownership deeply embedded in the community (Max Winter and his group), a very strong GM (Jim Finks), and a very strong head coach (Bud). All of whom respected one another. In the spring of ’74, Jim asked Max for a little slice of equity, was turned down, and departed. Viking drafts immediately went downhill.

    Today, the team doesn’t have any of those three key elements. In a few weeks they might have one or two of them. Will they ever have all three in the lifetime of Zygi Wilf?

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