Greg Cote: Dolphins firing coach Brian Flores is an unjustified travesty of a clown-show owner
MIAMI — Unjustified. Unfair. Shocking. Egregiously premature. Embarrassing. Irresponsible. Dumbfounding.
Not enough words have yet been invented to adequately and fully describe the national clown show the Miami Dolphins became Monday with the sudden and utterly stupid firing of head coach Brian Flores.
Team owner Stephen Ross might as well have bought a billboard alongside Interstate 95 that depicts him wearing a big red Bozo nose and the word “INCOMPETENT” stamped across his forehead. The failed owner, good at spending money on facility improvements but very bad at fielding winning football teams, has sunk to a new low.
Firing Flores was so out-of-the-blue unexpected that when I first heard the news I laughed at the ludicrousness, assuming it a joke. Decades in sports journalism have seen me rarely surprised by much, but this shocked me. The timing. The senselessness. Everything.
I mean, Flores had just beaten Bill Belichick on Sunday, 33-24. Beaten him for the fourth time in six meetings.
Sanity and simple logic have rarely ever taken a hit this brazen and direct. Well, at least not since dozens of people recently camped out for days at Dealey Plaza in Dallas anticipating the resurrection of John F. Kennedy Jr.
Ross, in announcing that Flores was done after three seasons — the last two with a combined 19-14 record, the franchise’s first consecutive winning records since 2002-03 — also announced that general manager Chris Grier would be back for a seventh year overseeing the roster.
I could have seen the firing instead of Grier, whose most laudable move with the Dolphins was hiring Flores.
Speculation immediately arose that Ross would hire Jim Harbaugh away from Michigan. Ross of course is a Michigan alum and major donor who has been enamored of Harbaugh for years.
Just as quickly came media reports Harbaugh was not being targeted by Miami — which had the stench of Dolphins management planting that. Why? The NFL’s Rooney Rule that encourages interviewing minority candidates.
Ross firing one of the league’s few Black head coaches with extremely dubious cause and already having in mind his white replacement — not a good look, that.
“I’m not going to be the one who takes Jim Harbaugh away from the University of Michigan,” Ross stated Monday.
People who fully buy that might be almost as gullible as those folks awaiting the return of J.F.K. Jr. at Dealey Plaza.
I mean, if you’re going to fire somebody for no good reason whatsoever, at least have a replacement strategy.
Ross also said Monday he has “a lot of confidence” in second-year quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and has “no plans” to pursue a trade for the Houston Texans’ embattled but available Deshaun Watson.
Then again, we are talking about the mercurial, erratic Ross, who, at age 81, should not be credited with patience as an attribute.
If by March new Dolphins coach Jim Harbaugh was introducing new QB Deshaun Watson at a news conference as Ross beamed from the dais, would anybody be surprised? Anybody at all? Even a little?
Tagovailoa deserves the time and the improved surrounding cast to succeed.
So did Flores deserve the time to succeed.
Instead they both were saddled with a flagrantly impulsive team owner running a scattershot operation, reaching around in the dark, needing a scapegoat to disguise his own failed ownership.
There is a line of succession. The next Dolphins majority owner, business partner Bruce Beal Jr., already is known. It’s a matter of when Ross wishes to step down.
It can’t come soon enough.
This is the same owner who went after Harbaugh once before, even though he had a sitting head coach in Tony Sparano. Sparano was so publicly embarrassed by that he got a contract extension out of it. Before being fired.
This was the same owner who has sabotaged Tagovailao most of his first two seasons with his tawdry obsession with Watson.
The owner who, in 13 years as majority owner, has overseen three winning seasons — two of them by the coach he just fired.
Still, there are plenty of things that will make this job opening very desirable to many coaches. Yes.
Tua and Jaylen Waddle. Back-to-back winning seasons. A really good defense. A handful of excellent, ascending young players. A loyal, hungry fan base desperate for a hero, a sideline savior.
But there is the one major drawback to the Dolphins job that is just as real, and large:
His name is Stephen Ross.