NFL 2019: Lots of losing likely in Flores’ 1st year
MIAMI (AP) — Low expectations at the start of a rebuilding effort mean the Miami Dolphins have little to lose in 2019, other than maybe a dozen games or so.
The franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2000 is rebooting yet again with a new coach, a new quarterback and the same old slim hopes. They’re given a 300-1 chance to win the Super Bowl, by far the worst odds in the NFL.
First-time coach Brian Flores faces a tricky task: While he tries to establish a winning culture, the season will be mostly about losing and how the Dolphins position themselves for next year’s draft, when they’ll likely take a quarterback in the opening round for only the second time since Dan Marino in 1983.
In the meantime, here are things to know about the 2019 Dolphins:
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh Rosen will likely become the 20th and 21st players to start at QB for Miami since Dan Marino retired 20 seasons ago. Fitzpatrick and Rosen battled for the starting job in training camp, and given the shaky state of the offensive line, Flores will likely need at least two quarterbacks to get through the season.
Fitzpatrick acknowledged he has been beaten the odds as he prepares to throw a pass for his eighth team, which will be an NFL record, and enters his 15th pro season.
“If being a quarterback was all based on height, weight, speed and arm talent, then I wouldn’t be in the NFL,” he said.
ONE DETRACTOR ALREADY
Flores’ defensive play calling helped the New England Patriots to a 13-3 Super Bowl victory over the high-scoring Los Angeles Rams, but his Miami scheme is already drawing criticism — from the mother of defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick.
Melissa Fitzpatrick complained on Twitter that her son is playing out of position at strong safety. He’s also playing free safety, nickel back, boundary cornerback and linebacker for Flores, who plans to mix 3-4 and 4-3 schemes and put up to six defensive backs on the field.
Flores praised the versatility of Fitzpatrick, a 2018 first-round draft pick.
“He’s all over the place, and that’s a good thing,” Flores said. “He’s really a joy to work with.”
Flores must hope his scheme will help hide issues up front. The Dolphins allowed a franchise-record 6,257 yards last year and then lost four defensive ends in the offseason, including former Pro Bowlers Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn.
The strength of the defense is a deep secondary that includes Fitzpatrick, Reshad Jones, T.J. McDonald and Xavien Howard, the Dolphins’ best defender. Howard tied for the NFL lead last year with seven interceptions in only 12 games, made the Pro Bowl for the first time, and was rewarded with a $76.5 million, five-year extension, the most lucrative deal ever for a cornerback.
Flores’ scheme has Howard hitting the reset button.
“It’s a different system, so I’ve got to use different techniques,” he said. “It’s like I’m starting over again, like a rookie year. It’s something new, and I have to learn on the fly.”
SETTLING INTO THE JOB
Even before the first game, it has been an eventful start for Flores. He fired his offensive line coach less than a week into training camp, and criticized receiver Kenny Stills for going public with complaints about team owner Stephen Ross’ politics. Earlier he lost assistant head coach Jim Caldwell, who took a leave of absence to address health issues.
Flores said he’s ready for such challenges.
“That’s the job,” he said. “Look, when you’re in a leadership position, there’s a lot on your plate. I welcome it all, to be honest. I don’t run away from any adversity or any situation, and I don’t want our players to run away from anything. I need to be an example to them.”
The Dolphins went 7-9 last year and have finished above .500 only twice since 2005. They’re well aware lots more losing is expected this season.
“I love it,” left tackle Laremy Tunsil said.” I love being the underdog. We don’t need any attention. Let’s keep working on the low.”
They’re likely to remain low until at least 2020.