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Ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores could be what Bears need, but it’s complicated

Flores’ firing was the stunner of Black Monday. But there’s a reason why such a promising coach is available.

The stripped-down Dolphins were the NFL’s worst defense in Flores’ first season. He got them to No. 6 the next season and 16th this season.
AP Photos

Brian Flores was one of the hottest up-and-coming coaching candidates in the NFL three years ago. He still is.

Even after he was surprisingly fired by the Dolphins on Monday, Flores’ stock is high. He’s only 40, he spent more than a decade learning under Bill Belichick and he made quick renovations after taking on a major fixer-upper in the Dolphins. Guys like this usually aren’t available, which makes Flores a rare commodity with a quarter of the league looking for new head coaches.

And the Bears had him in the building Friday.

Flores’ first interview was at Halas Hall, but the Texans and probably several other teams will join the pursuit.

That competition could strain the Bears’ desire to hire their general manager first and bring him into the process for choosing a coach. Flores is available immediately, as opposed to coordinators coaching in the playoffs, so any team ready to make a decision would force the Bears to declare themselves in or out quickly.

That would be especially complicated in Flores’ case.

He is widely thought to have overachieved, considering that the Dolphins opened his tenure by stripping their roster as much as possible to bring in future assets, so why would they send him out the door?

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said, “Key dynamics of our football organization weren’t functioning at a level I want.” And given that he retained general manager Chris Grier, it’s pretty obvious those two weren’t collaborating — to borrow the Bears’ favorite word — very well.

When pressed on how Flores managed relationships within the building, from Ross and Grier at the top to young quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, Ross responded tellingly by first declining to comment but then adding, “Different people rub people different ways.”

The South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that there was an explosive confrontation between Flores and Tagovailoa at halftime in Week 17.

None of that should preclude any team from hiring Flores, but it seems imprudent to do so without a general manager already in place to have some input on how the two would work together. It’s fine for a coach to have a somewhat-edgy personality, and the Bears might have a taste for that demeanor after failing with Matt Nagy’s “Friday Night Lights” style. The Bears just need to make sure that it doesn’t lead to dysfunction.

Flores, for example, burned through four offensive coordinators and two defensive coordinators in only three seasons. He fired his first offensive line coach one week into training camp. He opted for an ill-fated setup of co-offensive coordinators this past season.

But Bears chairman George McCaskey indicated that someone like Flores might fit the hard-nosed attitude he and adviser Bill Polian hope to find.

“They don’t have to like him, they don’t have to love him, but they respect him,” McCaskey said, referring to a principle in one of Polian’s books. “So the primary quality we’ll be looking for in the general manager and the head coach is leadership.”

Despite his flaws, Flores turned one of the NFL’s worst defenses into a respectable unit. Unlike Nagy, he delivered in his supposed area of expertise.

The Dolphins were bottom-six in points allowed the two seasons before his arrival and last in his first season. He took them to sixth in 2020 and 16th in ’21.

“Flo’ is intense, and he gets after you when you’re not doing your job, and that’s what a coach does,” offensive tackle Jesse Davis said. “Some days you may not want to hear it, but most days that’s what you needed to hear. The guys in the building responded pretty well to it or they wouldn’t have been there.”

Linebacker Jerome Baker added, “We all believed in Flo’. He was a great coach. A great guy. And we definitely trusted him.”