Barry Jackson

Where Dolphins stand with Flores, fan base and other issues as they peer into future

Several Dolphins issues gained some measure of clarity on Tuesday, as several top Dolphins executives attended the NFL fall owners meetings at the Ritz Carlton in Fort Lauderdale.

Among them:

▪ Though this wasn’t remotely surprising, a source with direct knowledge said that Brian Flores definitely will return as coach in 2020, regardless of anything that could happen with the on-field product this season.

The Dolphins gave Flores a five-year contract and are fully committed to giving him a chance to coach what they will hope will be a far more competitive team next year.

▪ The Dolphins do not believe they will need to sustain years of pain in this rebuild. With more than $110 million in cap space and five picks in the first two rounds of April’s draft, the Dolphins fully intend to field a competitive team next season and one they hope could be in the mix for a playoff spot.

▪ The Dolphins are 0-5 and have been outscored 180-42, but management isn’t concerned that this season will damage the team’s brand.

Dolphins ratings in Miami-Fort Lauderdale are the lowest they’ve been this century; only 9.2 percent of Dade/Broward homes with TV sets tuned in last Sunday’s game against the Redskins, which is stunningly low for a team in its home market.

Last Sunday’s game also marked the first time that Hard Rock Stadium did not sell out for a Dolphins game since the team shrunk stadium capacity before the 2016 season.

The team announced tickets distributed for Sunday’s game at 59,808.

Asked if any of these things concern him, team president Tom Garfinkel said: “I’m not concerned. Our fan base has been fantastic and supportive. We have a great loyal fan base and I have tremendous confidence in our football leadership and the decisions they’re making and am excited about the future of the team.”

▪ Garfinkel said ticket sales “are down a little bit from where they’ve been the last couple years. They’re still significantly higher than where they were in 2012, 2013.”

▪ Garfinkel cited two reasons for the drop in attendance:

“Obviously, team performance has something to do with it. It’s also a consequence of having four of our first five games at home where there’s been a saturation in that time period. It’s hot. They’ve been to a couple already. That’s part of it.

“If you look at it, you have to judge the end of the first quarter, start of the second quarter to know how many people are there because one of the things we’ve done is kind of created our own problem by having such great club places that often people go back in the clubs. So you’ll notice at halftime it will empty out, beginning of the third quarter it will look empty and beginning of the fourth quarter, it will look full again. We’ve had great fan support.”

Asked what the franchise needs to do to get attendance back to past levels, Garfinkel said: “We’re working hard to try to improve the performance of the team on the field. That will get people in the seats earlier and staying in them.”

Garfinkel said season ticket prices for 2020 have not been determined. And he said he’s unaware of a single person asking for a refund this season: “Nothing has come to my desk.”

Does he worry about the franchise’s longterm popularity being damaged?

“We have a great fan base and I’m consistently blown away by the support our fans give us over the last six years I’ve been here. When I travel on the road, there are always a couple thousand people wearing Dolphins jerseys. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from our fans about the direction of the team, the future of the team, and continually impressed by our fan base and how loyal they are.”

Has that support come even in the past six weeks? “Uh-huh,” Garfinkel said.

▪ The Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium will host Super Bowl 54 on February 2, 2020 and Garfinkel said “we’ll throw our name in the hat for the next available one” in 2025.

Here’s my Tuesday piece on tight end Mike Gesicki, who has displayed improvement.

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