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Ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ greatest vulnerability as he looks for another top job

As Brian Flores begins interviewing for head coach openings, we look back at his checkered history running the Dolphins' coaching staff.

Brian Flores was unemployed for all of 24 hours before opportunity resumed knocking. Just one day after Flores was fired by the Miami Dolphins after three seasons, he already had another team — the Chicago Bears — asking to interview him for their head coach opening. NFL Network was first to report Chicago’s interest.

Brian Flores to interview for Chicago Bears opening

The interest is no surprise. On paper, Flores is one of the strongest candidates of this cycle. He’s young. He’s smart. And he’s had some success in a place where success is rare.

That’s why his termination after a 24-25 three-year run — including a 19-14 record in the last two years — was so jarring.

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But the closer you got to the situation, the more you understood why the Dolphins moved on. The leaked accounts of Flores’ personality flaws that made national news this week were an open secret to those in and around the organization. Still, there are plenty of coaches known for not having the best relationship skills who get hired time and time again. That includes Jim Harbaugh, who might make the leap back to the NFL after seven seasons at Michigan.

Leading an NFL franchise isn’t about being loved. It’s about getting results. Flores didn’t make the playoffs in any of his three seasons. Yes, his teams were better on the field than they were on paper (at least for the first two years). But there is reason for a degree of skepticism when you hear people saying with certainty that Flores will bounce back and fill one of the NFL’s vacancies this cycle.

Can Flores build (and keep) a winning coaching staff?

The reason to be suspicious? Flores has a major blind spot when it comes to building and maintaining a high-level coaching staff. And there’s little reason to believe old problems will vanish in a new place.

His turnover among assistants in his three years in Miami was breathtaking. He went through four offensive coordinators, four quarterback coaches, four offensive line coaches, and two defensive coordinators.

Only seven men made it through three full seasons with Flo in Miami: Josh Boyer, George Godsey, Eric Studesville, Josh Grizzard, Rob Leonard, Mike Judge, and Brendan Farrell. And the last three were low-level assistants for much, if not all, of their time in Miami.

Flores’ troubled history with assistants

The tone was set early.

Assistant head coach Jim Caldwell — whom we expect will get consideration for the Dolphins’ HC opening — lasted just a few months in 2019 before leaving for health reasons and never returning. Flores’ first offensive line coach, Pat Flaherty, was fired the first week of training camp over clashes with the head coach. At the end of the year, Flores’ first defensive coordinator, Patrick Graham, was so determined to get out of Miami that he voluntarily made a lateral move (to the Giants) after just one season.

Flores went on to fire his first offensive coordinator (Chad O’Shea). His second OC, Chan Gailey, retired rather than return for another year in Miami. Flores then had such trouble finding an external replacement last January that he promoted not one, but two assistants (Godsey and Studesville) to share the responsibilities.

With each year, the coaching staff got worse, not better. Flores was always a bit hamstrung by own his work history as he tried to build a coaching tree. He spent his entire career with the Patriots before getting the Dolphins’ top job. So his Rolodex has never been robust. But things got so challenging as his time in Miami went on that he had to reach down to the college and even high school ranks to fill his staff.

Could a fresh start and a lot of money change that dynamic? Perhaps. But the Bears and any other team considering Flores must weigh not just his X’s and O’s acumen (which has never been in doubt), but his ability to be an effective CEO of his own coaching staff.

Adam Beasley is the National NFL Analyst and Insider for Pro Football Network. You can read all of Adam’s work here and give him a follow on Twitter @AdamHBeasley.

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