Ryan Fitzpatrick would have gotten Brian Flores fired. It may not have happened this season, but it would have eventually happened. It’s what happened to Steve Wilks just one season earlier in Arizona. What happened in that Sea of Red last year was ugly on a multitude of levels, as you saw a first-year African American head coach get let go while the team’s general manager Steve Keim -- who hired Wilks for the least-favorable gig in the NFL last year -- stayed on and followed the brilliant Hire Sean McVay’s Friends movement by hiring a coach who owns a sub-.500 career head coaching record in the college ranks. For Keim to fire a coach that had to try and win football games with Andre Smith and Justin Pugh anchoring the offensive line was unequivocally gross. It was wrong.
It also still matters.
It matters because this series of events figures to become the norm in an offense-obsessed in league. If Mike McCoy had not been at his job and had the Cardinals not have spewed out one of the worst offensive seasons of all-time, per Offensive DVOA, Wilks probably keeps his job. It is one thing to be bad, it is another thing to be on offense in 2019. The Cardinals will be bad in 2019, but with Kyler Murray, Christian Kirk, a potentially healthy David Johnson and an offensive whiz running things they will at least be entertaining. There is nothing entertaining about watching Josh Rosen getting hit more times than that poor sap who was on the receiving end of a vicious beatdown from a Stephen King-like Easter Bunny from Hell. Nobody wants to see a promising young quarterback getting hit on 43 percent of his dropbacks as a rookie, but that’s what fans saw.
It didn’t matter that Keim was responsible for the defense being depleted, for the weird Patrick Peterson that is still out there long after Wilks left the building, for that joke of an offensive line, for the bright idea to give Sam Bradford $20 million on a roster that has more holes in it than the a John Wick victim. What Keim did to Wilks has to be illegal in at least 23 states. Firing a head coach after one year is already a bad look, but doing it in the way Keim took the cake.
The Dolphins, like the Cardinals, figure to be very bad in 2019. The Tank For Tua tour started in Miami because Miami had been planning to start Fitzpatrick for 16 games in, yes, you guessed it, 2019. Do you remember what happened to the last head coach to start the season with Fitzy under center? That’s right, he was fired. If FitzMagic sizzles more and fizzles less, Dirk Koetter gets another year. Koetter got fired because their quarterback wasn’t good enough to win them enough games. By riding with Fitzpatrick in 2019, or even a Drew Lock or Dwayne Haskins, I would have expected the Dolphins to not employ Flores in 2020.
Flores is a longtime defensive coach, hired an inexperienced offensive mind to run his offense, and even brought on a longtime coach in Jim Caldwell to coach QBs who would probably be coaching the team in 2020 if Fitzpatrick, Starting Dolphins Quarterback happened. We’ve seen this story before, the offense is a disaster, they fire the OC by Week 6, promote Caldwell to OC, they win some games, but the fans are still treated with the worst offense in the league so Flores is fired. It wouldn’t have mattered where the Phins finished in Defensive DVOA because offense is king. If you’re a first-time head coach with a defensive background and take a job with an unsettling QB situation you’re probably going to get fired even though your job was fix the play on the other side of the ball.
But the Dolphins did a nice thing for Flores before the 2019 season gets underway -- they gave a quarterback who could save his job. Who knows with Rosen -- he got hit a lot last year, has some weird shoulder stuff, and hasn’t proven anything in this league. But he’s also not a rookie quarterback, he’s not a late-round flyer, he’s not so damaged where you couldn’t see this Phins’ offense have its moments this fall. That’s what Flores needs from Rosen -- throw TDs, hit Kenny Stills deep from time to time, target Kenyan Drake out of the backfield early and often, and, most of all, be exciting enough that Stephen Ross isn’t vomiting all over himself as the former UCLA kid takes sack after sack and hit after hit. Just do enough to sell those jerseys, get Dan Marino on a studio show talking about great Flores has been for Rosen, and finish ahead of the Bills.
That’s feasible now. Rosen is intriguing enough as a prospect that maybe Flores won’t get Wilks’d. Chris Grier flirted with the Steve Keim Bullshit playbook, but scribbled some plays out and threw Flores a life vest because Flores was drowning. Without the Rosen trade, 0-16 or 1-15 or 2-14 was feasible. This roster still needs a lot of work. Rosen in Miami is good for Flores in Miami. 6-10 can happen now. Rosen can bury the Pats one week in thrilling fashion. Hard Rock Stadium -- please do not Well, Actually the name of this stadium, I don’t care, and this is actual name -- can be less of a pit of sadness and more of a well of goodness. Flores just needs Rosen to be good enough for local fans to call into the Dan Le Batard Show asking the question “Is Flores the Bill Belichick disciple that isn’t an abject disaster?”
If Rosen can get to that level, Flores will get time. It might not seem like much but what we saw in Arizona would have happened in Miami. Rosen hasn’t played a snap for the Dolphins yet and he may have already saved Flores’ job. This is the NFL now for defensive coaches -- you can be bad but bad and boring is a dubious combination that will get you fired. Unless you’re Steve Keim of course.