MIAMI GARDENS — Brian Flores had spent his whole football life preparing for Sunday – the past 15 years with the most successful organization in the business in New England. He did his part in helping the Patriots win four Super Bowls, including the most recent.
Sunday was his first chance to show that he could take what he’s learned and lead a winner on his own.
Flores’ first regular-season game as head coach couldn’t have gone worse for him and the Dolphins, a 59-10 thrashing by the Ravens at Hard Rock Stadium. Actually, the Ravens could have scored more. The game ended with a kneel-down at the Miami 5.
Still, it was the second-worse loss in Dolphins history.
The surprise wasn’t that Flores’ reign started with a loss in a rebuilding season. It was how poorly the Dolphins performed, how outclassed they were by the Ravens.
And, frankly, how ill-prepared they appeared despite months of meticulous preparation by a demanding and perfectionist coach.
Brian Flores and his Missed on goals
“We talked about playing penalty free. We talked about having a clean operation, alignments, assignments, trying to play turnover free, and we didn’t accomplish any of that. We talked about starting fast. We didn’t accomplish that.
“It starts with coaching. It starts with me. I’ve got to do a better job of coaching this team. We’ve got to play better. It starts with me. We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got a lot of work we have to do.”
The thoroughness of the beating administered by Baltimore illuminated the ruthlessness of the NFL. Before Ravens coach John Harbaugh took his foot off the Dolphins’ throat on that final play, he had shown no mercy all afternoon.
Harbaugh called a fake punt with his team leading 35-3. It went for 60 yards and led to another score.
Harbaugh went for it on fourth down with his team up 52-10.
Flores, who has been on the other side of rough-riding an opponent while coaching under Bill Belichick, shrugged it off.
“It’s our job to stop them. Those are my thoughts,” he said. “It’s not their job to let off. So it’s our job to stop them. John is a good coach. They’ve got a good team. It’s our job to stop them. I’m not looking for handouts here.”
Brian Flores not blaming tanking
Similarly, Flores brushed aside a question regarding concern about whether there is enough talent on a roster that has been stripped bare of many of veteran players in the early stages of rebuilding.
“I don’t worry about that,” Flores said. “We’ve got the guys we’ve got. We’re going to coach them. It’s our job to coach them. It’s our job to get them better. It’s our job to put them in positions to play well and make plays, and that’s my job. I’m not getting into – Look, I’m not an excuse maker. I never have been.
“Put that in the excuse bucket and you can kick it to the curb, because I’m not into that.”
Flores has bristled at the suggestion the Dolphins are deliberately tanking the season, playing to lose in order to be in position to draft a quarterback to build around.
He puts high demands on his players, as well as on his coaches and himself.
In Brian Flores way of thinking, Sunday’s result is a challenge to be met with even harder work.
That was evident in what he said his message was to the team at halftime when they trailed 42-10:
“‘Let’s play better. Let’s not have as many penalties. Let’s get aligned. Let’s tackle. Let’s not turn the ball over.’ … I just wanted us to stick together, play together and fight.
“We’ve got to fight. We can’t lay down. We’ve got to fight, keep fighting.”
Ready for Patriots?
His message will likely be similar when the team returns to practice this week.
Because, guess what, next week can be worse: The opponent is Flores’ former team, the Patriots.
As much as Harbaugh threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Dolphins, imagine what Belichick will have in store for his former protégé.
“I’ll just go through my normal process, my normal routine,” Flores said. “I’ll obviously reflect on what this was this past week and try to improve it and try to do a better job. At the end of the day, how this team plays is a reflection of me, and I have to do a better job, and this team has to do a better job, and we’ll come to work tomorrow and try to do that.”
Craig Davis has covered South Florida sports and teams, including the Dolphins, for four decades. Follow him on Twitter @CraigDavisRuns
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