The most important thing to know about the Miami Dolphins is that their new coach, Brian Flores, treats every game like he will be held criminally liable if anything interesting happens. Dolphins fans, befitting a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in 20 years, have extensive experience with coaches who may be sexually aroused by 36-yard field goals—R.I.P. Tony Sparano—but Flores takes this specific, NFL brand of sadomasochism to a new level.
Flores is the kind of coach to whom football being a spectator sport is at best a coincidence, and at worst a nuisance. In his short time in Miami, he has already been publicly rebuked by the team’s beat writers for his North Korean approach to early-season propaganda. Still, Flores lies not because he has to, but because he wants to. He isn’t simply putting on a public face because he gets paid to cover for the franchise’s tanking; he also believes his football team should be afforded the sort of secrecy normally granted to government agencies. He is the only one who seems unable to acknowledge that this character—the tight-lipped tight-ass who would rather sacrifice a child than go for it in the red zone—takes on a flaming absurdity when you lose every game by 30 points.
This was all very apparent on Sunday against the Cowboys. In the first half, the Dolphins actually moved the ball. Despite having to run for his life on every play, Josh Rosen looked like he could be a good quarterback for whichever new team he’s playing for next season. The Dolphins’ big receivers, DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, pretty much did what they wanted with Dallas’ secondary, even if their ability to catch the ball was intermittent. When Dallas was on offense, Dak Prescott played very disrespectfully, using the 10 seconds he was afforded on every pass to run around in circles before flinging the ball 50 yards downfield. Most of these passes fell incomplete, and one was intercepted.
The Dolphins legitimately should have been winning at halftime—Dallas put up only six points, and the Dolphins had four scoring opportunities. Here is what Flores and offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea were able to do with them:
- On the first drive of the game, the Dolphins attempted a 47-yard field goal to give them their first lead of the season. Kicker Jason Sanders missed.
- On their third drive, down 10-0, the Dolphins had first-and-goal on the eight-yard line. They ran Kalen Ballage up the middle three times, and then kicked a field goal from the three-yard line. Flores then called for an onside kick, which the Dolphins would have recovered had they not been offsides.
- In the second quarter, the Dolphins again drove inside the 20. On third down, Rosen threw a pass to Williams in the back of the end zone. It was called incomplete, but may have been a touchdown. Flores declined to challenge, and kicked a field goal from the 15-yard line. As the game went to commercial, both Fox announcers were openly incredulous over Flores’ decision.
- On the final drive of the first half, the Dolphins again got into the red zone. On first down from the seven-yard line, they ran Kenyan Drake up the middle. He fumbled the ball away.
The Cowboys really wanted this game to be interesting; Flores did not, and his will was much stronger than theirs. At every juncture, he retreated from the very powerful but terrifying life force that is the end zone, choosing instead to kick the ball over the wall he must see when he looks at the goal line. It was 10-6 at halftime, and the Cowboys spent the entire second half ramming Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard into the second level of the Dolphins defense nine yards at a time, until everyone was asleep.
Line: Cowboys by 22.5
Margin: Cowboys by 25
The easy answer here would be Wiltz’s fellow cornerback Xavien Howard, who “shadowed” Amari Cooper in this game in the same way ashes might look like a shadow when piled on the ground. Instead I’m going to choose Jomal Wiltz, who is on this team only because he was on the Patriots practice squad when Flores coached there, and the one thing NFL coaches love more than extreme risk aversion is signing bad players they used to coach.
In the third quarter, Wiltz got torched by Randall Cobb and pulled up lame as Cobb blazed past him. The catch would’ve been a long touchdown had it not been called back because of an illegal shift. Jacking up your hamstring on a play that doesn’t even count for a team that’s designed to lose as many games as possible... damn, it couldn’t be me.
The Dolphins only looked competent against Dallas when Josh Rosen was throwing deep, and more often than not he was picking on Awuzie, a third-year corner who played at Colorado. On the first drive of the game, DeVante Parker made a one-handed catch while drawing a pass interference on Awuzie, who was flagged for PI again later in the half. Awuzie was also covering Preston Williams when he may-or-may not have caught the touchdown in the end zone, though we will never know because the only thing Brian Flores will challenge is the notion that football could be a source of entertainment that brings happiness and cheer to the public.
Mostly like being in detention. Brian Flores took away my calculator that had Snake on it and made me stare at the wall.