Aborted tank in 2019 may have soured Stephen Ross on Brian Flores

Dave Hyde: Trust the Tank? Fifteen ways to assure a bad Dolphins year turns gloriously awful
Getty Images

The mere fact that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross fired coach Brian Flores and kept G.M. Chris Grier becomes what the lawyers would call prima facie evidence of institutional dysfunction. Smart teams take the position that the coach and G.M. fail or succeed together, with no opportunity to place blame on one or the other. And it likely would require a whole team of lawyers to get to the bottom of what caused Ross to pull the plug on a coach who delivered consecutive winning records for the first time since 2002-03, culminating in a sweep of the Patriots.

So what went wrong? Here is some educated speculation, based on everything we’ve read and heard about the franchise over the past few years.

As previously mentioned, the fact that Ross doesn’t live or work in South Florida opens the door for factions, cliques, and allegiances. On game days, while the coach is busting his butt in an effort to win games, others can whisper sweet somethings into the ears of the owner, blaming the coach for whatever may be going wrong.

In 2021, the biggest thing that went wrong was the failure of the team to land quarterback Deshaun Watson. Despite the best efforts of Ross and company to spin the facts now, Ross wanted Watson. Flores simply didn’t want the distraction.

The endless Watson chatter was affecting Tua Tagovailoa in a negative way. As one source explained it to PFT early in the season, Tua actually declined an opportunity to be a team captain for 2021, given the possibility that Watson would be arriving and taking over the starting job at any time.

The moment the trade deadline came and went, Tua started playing better and the Dolphins started winning games. Is it a coincidence?

Ross, like plenty of other owners, wants to call the shots without being accused of meddling. Thus, like other owners, he never gives a direct order. He shouldn’t have to. He makes his views known, and he trusts that employees smart enough to get the hint will do so.

This year, it was Watson. And Ross didn’t get him. Last year, it was Tua — but only after the Bengals refused to trade down with the Dolphins for Joe Burrow.

And that could be where Flores first lost Ross. Entering the 2019 season, Ross realized that, sometimes, you’ve got to take your lumps. Although the object of a full-season tank job initially was Tua, Ross pivoted to Burrow. However, after a few ugly losses to begin his tenure, Flores apparently ditched and defied the tanking strategy.

That kept the Dolphins from securing the top pick, which became Burrow. Where would they be now if they had gotten him? They’d probably be in the playoffs, and they’d potentially be the No. 1 seed or close to it.

At some level, that reality may have been sticking in the owner’s craw. He wanted to tank. Flores didn’t get the hint, or he ignored it. And there went the best chance to get the franchise quarterback the team has coveted since Dan Marino’s retirement.

Throw in the failure of the organization to execute a trade for Deshaun Watson, and Ross had to blame someone. Throw in the fact that others in the organization had more open and regular access to the absentee landlord who owns the team, and Flores was the one to take the fall.

Does it matter at this point? To whoever may become the next coach of the Dolphins, it definitely should.

47 responses to “Aborted tank in 2019 may have soured Stephen Ross on Brian Flores

  1. You fail to mention the franchise quarterback issue would have been solved with the selection of Justin Herbert instead of Tua.

  2. An owner can fire someone for any reason. It could be that he just didn’t like the man. Why pay millions to a person you can’t stand?

  3. Hard to know what to believe anymore. Never know who is telling the truth or reporting facts instead of opinions. Bottom line is Miami is a total dysfunction right now and the shame of it is if the kicker makes a few more kicks they are at 11 or 12 wins and hosting playoff games.
    But now Ross has kicked them right back to ground zero again. The new coach will come in and dismantle the defense and most of the chemistry of the current roster.
    Ross is responsible for the upcoming 5 win season.

  4. A lot of speculation on what happened. Bottom line though is the coach should understand what the boss wants and decide if he will implement. It’s not a question of just Xs and Os. Flores probably did understand but decided to play it straight and in the long run, trust that he would be rewarded.

  5. Only a person who is a complete babe in the woods moron of an owner could petulant after years, and years of losing to find such a way to be so wrong headed once you start winning.
    So he’s mad cause-I wanted you to keep losing and lose in 19. Your inability to perpetuate the ineptness of my franchise I don’t like coach!
    Other point I hear is, I see the guys play hard and we are what is the word “ winning?” And yet you are abrasive apparently and gruff. And what’s this idea of showing competence in Division? I’m expected as the southernmost franchise to be in the basement of the standings dont you know football coach?
    Dolphin fans I know some of you have said the guy could be a bleep who was tough to work for, hence the coaching turnover. Well there’s double digit guys most years of that coaching stripe and we often trumpet the winners. And he was taking the division to the two presumed alpha challengers up North. So I’m left to ask are any of you really happy the guy is gone? Cause Ross seems problem 1, and either 2 or 3 in addition. From afar that is.

  6. Yes since they are another thorn in the narrative of this tanking we will sell this speculation. Ross is impatient and an awful owner. This franchise hasn’t won a playoff game this century.

  7. I think it’s unfair speculation to say the Dolphins would be in the playoffs and potentially the number 1 seed if they had Burrows. The rest of the Dolphins roster isn’t THAT good.

  8. Who’s a worse influence for their respective franchise?

    – Stephen Ross and the Dolphins
    – Dan Snyder in Washington
    – Jack Easterby in Texas

    I mean, these guys make the Pegulas and the Bowlens and the Kroenkes look like Paul Brown, Halas, and Lombardi all rolled into one.

  9. Tua may not be the franchise QB Ross wanted but if allowed to develope could be a very competent QB a team could place good players around to win championships.
    Dan Marino never won a Superbowl but Mark Rypien did.
    Ross needs to quit coveting other teams QB’s and build out the rest of his team.

  10. So you think Flores was intentionally tanking at first? I’m pretty sure they were just that bad. At least for the first 8 games

  11. The fact that Flores couldn’t get any quality coaches and had such a turnover of coaches in 3 years should be explanation enough.

  12. That kept the Dolphins from securing the top pick, which became Burrow. Where would they be now if they had gotten him? They’d probably be in the playoffs, and they’d potentially be the No. 1 seed or close to it.

    ———————–

    They still could’ve done that with Herbert. Identifying Tua as the second best QB in the draft was also a mistake.

  13. Its called NFL parity. Drafting that low for years helps organizations become relevant regardless of coaches. He 9is a highly regarded DC like Vic Fangio, but not Head coach material. Hope one or the other end up a Dc with Harbaugh in Rader nation

  14. A lot of these billionaire owners come off like they want to run an NFL team like a regular business, and they couldn’t be more wrong. Yanking a coach who just turned your team around and even swept a Bill Belichick coached team because he didn’t fit your business culture is a prime example. Denver should never let him leave the interview room without a contract if they had any sense.

  15. Without having to do anything other than make a selection when it was his turn, Grier could have selected Herbert and Jonathan Taylor in the first round last year. Grier selected Tua, a worthless tackle from USC and an even more worthless cornerback from Auburn. A third grader could have made better selections.

    Any coach going there knows that the head talent evaluator is incompetent. That’s going to impact the quality of candidates.

    Miami is looking at guys who desperately want their first opportunity or blew their first one and will take any second opportunity. No established coach is going there with Ross and Grier’s track record.

    I don’t think Flores was anything special, but if he got fired, Grier absolutely needed to go with him.

  16. I thought the insider reports were that due to his intensity and personality, Flores didn’t get along with Ross, the GM, assistant coaches or players – pretty much everyone?

  17. Dolphins fans salute Flores for not tanking the season and playing hard until the end of that 2019 season. The fans deserve to see their teams play hard and give them their money’s worth regardless of draft position. They got Tua anyway but not making the playoffs soured the owner.
    Now he can pursue Watson or Wilson and see where it goes …

  18. Simple problem of owner and coach crossings swords and the coach being adamant he is going to do his thing until someone says no. Someone said no the other day.
    The should take Hairball out of Michigan and make my day.

  19. The GM should have been fired.
    Flores got winning seasons out of mediocre talent.
    More losing seasons to come – enjoy them Mr. Ross

  20. Dolphins could of had Justin Herbert and Jamaar Chase. Who does Ross blame that on cause it sure wasn’t Flores.

  21. Dolphins doing Dolphin things. I hate to tell you this Mr. Ross but, you will not see your team win a Super Bowl let alone get to one!

  22. Flores will go somewhere and win. The Dolphins will continue the cycle and be on to another head coach and firing Grier with him in 2-3 years.

    It’s so sad it’s funny.

  23. Yet the reporting on this matter points to Flores as difficult to get along with and having few allies. Certainly there are two sides of this story. And yes, it should matter to whomever becomes the next Dolphins coach.

  24. A real coach is not going to ask his team to tank. I’m sorry Ross doesn’t understand that. One playoff appearance with him as the owner. He needs to do some serious self-reflection more than firing others.

  25. now go get Watson this offseason. please. fix up the offensive line and this teams a constant contender with Watson.

  26. If the OL blocked Epenesa in the first Bills game you may have had a very different year. Who could have guessed the Bills would rush the QB since they have drafted DL high for several years. Tua was sabotaged by a team determined not to provide adequate protection to run the play. So was Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Tannehill.

  27. Tanking on purpose is antithetical to the game, it feels like “throwing a game” to ensure losses to get the #1 pick. Not all #1s are a “sure thing,” history has shown that time and again. Burrow turned out to be the sure thing after all but for ever first overall pick like him – there are others which are out of football within six years or left.

    Left completely out of the above story is how Ross felt about the decision to pick injury-prone Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama ahead of Justin Herbert of Oregon – despite Tua suffering a devastating hip injury before the draft. No chance at Burrow, but the Fins did have a shot at Herbert, who has thrown more than 9,300 yards and 69 TD passes, both league records after two seasons. No rings yet for him, but hey, not everyone is Mahomes in his second year. Shows a lot of promise despite no depth in the trenches.

  28. They couldn’t get Joe Burrow, but still had the opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback. Like Mike Lombardi said on the Joe Rose show yesterday morning…it’s pretty easy for G.M. Chris Grier, Coach Flores and Stephen Ross to go into a room and talk it out on who which quarterback they should select at #5…should they take the smaller guy with the weaker arm who’s accurate and has played with the best collegiate football talent but has a troubling injury history, or do they select the much taller, 6’6” prototypical NFL quarterback who has a cannon for an arm and suffered only two minor injuries in college? Whether or not Flores was on board with Tua, doesn’t exempt Ross’s buddy Chris Grier from the making the final decision on choosing Tua over Justin Herbert. It was Grier’s responsibility to get a franchise quarterback and he failed.

  29. Bottom line Ross is a RICH guy, and the Miami Dolphins are his toy and possession and he acts like it. He really doesn’t care about the fans. Unfortunately us fans have Waaaay To many owners that have this attitude. In the 60’s and early 70’s that we’re BUILDING the NFL for the fans.

  30. This isn’t the only piece out there saying that Flores is the goods and the Dolphins were foolish to dump him. Maybe he’d be a good fit with my Bears?

  31. I just hate this talk of season long tanking. It’s a thing for people behind keyboards and really disrespectful to the people who devote all their energy, time, bodies and minds to playing each week. What player or coach could respect someone who demands them to lose repeatedly?

  32. Being born in Miami and a Phins fan forever, I wanted Flores gone. I know a lot of the media and fans have questioned it. He did produce back to back winning seasons for first time in like 20 yrs for phins. But we regressed since last year, even with hitting on the top 3 picks of this past draft. .during his tenure I watched crappy clock mgmt, he threw challenge flags when the stadium replay screen showed he’d lose and also didn’t throw flags when same screen showed it was clear we would win the challenge and many were pivotal points in the game. Also last year , Fitz had us a 3 game win streak and he benches him to put Tua in. Our offense has been pathetic and one of worst in the NFL. Besides Tua, who isnt built for the NFL, it’s Flores’ inability to identify coaches. heck he hired a high school coach. And let’s not forget this season he used two offensive coordinators and we find out Charlie frye, our qb coach is calling the offensive plays. Charlie frye sucked as a qb why the heck have this guy on your team developing a new qb and calling plays. Then we find out when we lost 7 in a row, he had started the season with a different defensive scheme than the year before that had us in the top 10.why??? The moment he changed it back, we won 8 of 9.plus he replaced off coords 3 straights years of his 3 years, and Def coords twiceI think. After we finished strong and didn’t tank that first year, his coaches left for lateral moves. Coaches don’t want to coach for him. I guess he’s a total arse to them. But the players like him. He could be successful, but just not in Miami. I hope we go after Doug Peterson. We have solid defense, we need offensive mind. Pederson used to be backup qb for phins years ago and was winning qb for shulas all time wins record. Of course won superbowl in Philly. And was ocoord at greenbay and greenbay was great as usual. So he’d be a fan favorite instantly and has experience and a winning record and superbowl as HC. But our owner is our problem and the gm that must be blackmailing the owner. So we are doomed and will probably hire a rising star coach from pop Warner. Sigh. Phins Up, but always down 🙁 Grier is only constant since Marino and Jimmy Johnson retired, added to team in 2000. If anything get rid of him for his jinx on us for these past 21 years, but we know he stinks in many other ways.

  33. The Phins should have picked Justin Herbert. Herbert has had 2 spectacular seasons with the Chargers, even though they missed the playoffs in an overtime loss to the Raiders. Herbert has so much more upside than Tua, who is still suspect of staying healthy for an entire season so far. I am not sure about Watson, but the QB pickings in the draft are sparse and questionable at best. Look to free agency with all that cap space – Rogers or even Garapollo?

  34. There are numerous reports and evidence that Flores was sabotaging Tua which contradicts this article. Tua not starting the Ravens game was dumbfounding and on Flores. Flores had many dumbfounding decisions like keeping Jesse Davis in the starting lineup until week 18.

  35. Not buying this at all! The Dolphins traded away players to lose in 2019 that is clear. So if that was the strategy Ross wanted to follow and Ross and Grier are so tight. Then why wouldn’t Grier just keep trading players for picks until they couldn’t possibly win. I mean what this article is really saying is,Grier failed to make the team bad enough to lose so he should be fired!

  36. “Who’s a worse influence for their respective franchise?

    – Stephen Ross and the Dolphins
    – Dan Snyder in Washington
    – Jack Easterby in Texas

    – McCaskey in Chicago..!

  37. Why would you have your coach Tank
    games when the refs control the outcome anyways?

  38. Why oh why does Herm Edward famous quote enter my mind here? “YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAMES!!!!” No such thing as a tank job.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.