Stuff we’re hearing as the Dolphins embark on a 2019 season with low expectations:
▪ One player who was released over the weekend said there was a lot of “mental warfare” from the coaches in August - in terms of considerable mental and physical demands on players - and some grew weary of what it would be like to be a Dolphin.
Let’s put it this way: If the players endure all of this and they win, it’s one thing. But if they don’t win - and it’s likely they won’t win much this year - running to the “Takes No Talent” wall after any misstep - in searing heat - will get old fast, as will the other demands placed on them.
Beyond winning, one other way Flores can keep his players to keep believing is if players see his defensive strategy leads to on-field success, which they’ve been led to believe will happen.
▪ That said, multiple players said they had no issue with Flores, who’s respected by players and considered effective at the managerial aspect of the job. Feedback was less flattering on a couple of assistants, including offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, who’s extremely high-strung.
▪ One player said several veterans are angry about the Laremy Tunsil trade - one veteran even spoke privately of asking for a trade - but all are reluctant to express this publicly to reporters, and understandably so.
One teammate described Tunsil as angry about the trade. The Dolphins had never assured him that he wouldn’t be traded but had led his camp to believe that he probably would not be traded.
▪ Multiple people who have dealt with the Dolphins say even though general manager Chris Grier was given total control of personnel decisions, including the 53-man roster, he is deferring to Flores on most things. One person who spoke to Miami’s front office said as an example, Grier preferred to keep TJ McDonald but Flores didn’t, and Grier usually lets Flores get his way.
This is notable, because owner Stephen Ross wanted to empower his GM in his latest organizational shuffling. But Grier apparently has no desire to be the commanding, have-it-my-way GM presence, instead trying to build consensus among his staff and often deferring to his coach.
Editorial aside: In some ways, I wish Grier threw his weight around more, because he should insist on Flores starting Josh Rosen to get a full read on him instead of wasting time with Ryan Fitzpatrick. (To be clear, I am not saying Grier pushed for Rosen to start, but that he should impress upon his coach to do what’s best in a rebuild, which is starting the young quarterback.)
▪ That said, the strong sense I get internally is that it’s unlikely Rosen will be Miami’s longterm starter. It was clear to the Dolphins, soon after the trade, that their future QB probably will need to come from the 2020 draft.
▪ Speaking of Ross, one coach who spoke to the Dolphins about their head coaching job in January said Ross conveyed that their intent was not to win this year and the whole objective was to be positioned to draft their future quarterback in 2020 and build around that player. So everything you’ve heard publicly from Flores suggesting the goal is to win this season is misdirection, even though any NFL head coach obviously wants to win every game even if the organizational blueprint is to rebuild.
Tanking was the plan from the start, but they didn’t decide to trade Tunsil until Houston “wore Chris down,” by repeatedly pushing for Tunsil and improving its offer to one he ultimately couldn’t refuse, according to a person with direct knowledge.
▪ One player who was released said it’s difficult to envision Miami continuing to invest time in defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche because he’s clearly out of shape. He’s on the physically unable to perform list after last December’s knee surgery and isn’t eligible to return until the sixth game.
▪ One player said Kiko Alonso was scolded repeatedly in the May/June practices for freelancing or not doing things how the coaches wanted. So who can blame him for wanting out, especially after losing his role as an everydown player?
▪ One player said coaches absolutely love linebacker Sam Eguavoen and believe he’s going to be a stud in this system.
▪ The release of Vincent Taylor was partly a byproduct of him not being considered a scheme fit. Veteran John Jenkins, his replacement, is capable of playing more positions, including end and nose tackle in a 3-4 and tackle in a 4-3. But the view here was it’s a mistake to give up on Taylor, whose production per snap was very good the past two seasons.
▪ The Dolphins believe they don’t necessarily need to find their longterm tackles in the draft. They’re poised to have more than $125 million in cap space, but one top 2020 free agent tackle came off the market Tuesday when Dallas reached a longterm deal with right tackle La’El Collins.
Here’s my Wednesday piece with Jimmy Johnson’s thoughts on the Laremy Tunsil trade and news on the team’s young players.
Here’s my Wednesday piece on how numerous Dolphins veterans - including their top player - have been asked to change.