Brian Flores surprisingly getting the boot as Miami Dolphins head coach has inadvertently given the Washington Football Team an opportunity. It’s an opportunity too good to miss.
Specifically, Washington should move fast to hire Flores to replace Jack Del Rio as defensive coordinator. Del Rio hasn’t done enough with the talent at his disposal. That’s not a problem for Flores, who turned the Dolphins into one of the NFL’s most exciting teams defensively, despite a lack of elite players.
Brian Flores Should Become New Washington Football Team Defensive Coordinator
Brian Flores would give Washington’s defense what it needs: a more creative, unpredictable scheme. He used a sophisticated mix of pressure and disguise in Miami. The heady formula routinely left offenses baffled. On Flores’ watch, the Dolphins defense became a nightmare for quarterbacks. Particularly for young and inexperienced signal-callers.
This play against 2021 No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence and the Jacksonville Jaguars is a prime example. The XandOJunkie relayed a perfect combination of showing pressure pre-snap and rotating into an unexpected coverage look once the play began:
Double mug look sim pressure from the Dolphins where they bring the boundary corner on the blitz. They roll to a Cover 2 behind it while getting pressure from both defensive ends. pic.twitter.com/yNSOdC4yGe
— XandOJunkie (@Spread_it_Out) January 7, 2022
Taking the play in two parts, the Dolphins showed Lawrence a six-man pressure look. It was a guessing game of who would rush and who would drop. Three standing players bailed, while the corner blitz meant Miami still rushed four. It was an impressive switch, but nothing compared to what went on in the secondary. An apparent man-coverage look became a classic two-deep shell.
Free rushers sent Lawrence fleeing from the pocket. The changing picture in the defensive backfield forced a desperate, incomplete heave. This double dip into failure is common for quarterbacks facing Flores’ Rubik’s Cube defense. Take a look at what the Dolphins did to New England Patriots rookie Mac Jones in Week 18:
Dolphins disguise zone with a cover 0 blitz, best thing Mac can do is throw it away here expecting the blitz and his receivers running into eachother. https://t.co/GcK8tBkTF6
— George Balekji (@GeorgeBalekji) January 9, 2022
Again, disguise and bluffed pressure combined brilliantly to make a quarterback appear foolish. NESN reporter George Balekji correctly identified the shift from an all-out blitz into a soft coverage umbrella.
Washington’s defense simply doesn’t pose these kinds of challenges to quarterbacks.
Del Rio Doesn’t Deserve to Return
Things are entirely predictable on Del Rio’s watch. The most elaborate his scheme gets is to flip flop between four and five-man lines. Yet, regardless of how many are on the front, there’s little to no mystery about how Washington will attack offenses.
Despite the over-familiarity of his coverage and rush concepts, Del Rio firmly believes he’ll still be calling plays next season, per NBC Sports Washington’s Peter Hailey:
Jack Del Rio, when asked if he's "hopeful" to return to Washington as the defensive coordinator, answers, "I'm not hopeful. I will be"
— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) January 6, 2022
The problem with this bullish defiance is how it ignores Del Rio’s failings. Specifically, his struggles to get more from the high-profile players at his disposal. Washington has invested four first-round picks on D-linemen, but only Pro-Bowler Jonathan Allen has improved. Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Daron Payne have struggled for consistency under Del Rio.
Injuries have derailed Young and Sweat, but that’s not the whole story. Young, drafted second overall in 2020 and touted for a Gold Jacket, hasn’t lived up to expectations when he’s been on the field. He struggled for sacks earlier in the season and even got into it with Del Rio during a 43-21 defeat to the Buffalo Bills.
Young isn’t the only key player who has performed below expectations on Del Rio’s defense. The same is true of cornerback William Jackson III. He was a notable addition in free agency last season, but the former Cincinnati Bengals ace was nowhere close to being Washington’s shutdown corner. Del Rio’s response seemed to indicate coaching was at fault, per Hailey:
Jack Del Rio reflecting on William Jackson III's first year with Washington: "We weren't able to bring that to the heights that we hoped in terms of his ability to impact us"
— Pete Hailey (@PeteHaileyNBCS) January 6, 2022
Aside from Jackson, 2021 first-round pick, linebacker Jamin Davis also failed to make the grade. Davis was supposed to be the sideline-to-sideline playmaker Washington had been missing at the linebacker level. Instead, he started just eight games, made 40 solo tackles and registered only a single sack.
It became common for Davis to be conspicuous by his absence during the final weeks of the season. JP Finlay, host of 106.7 The Fan, made the point well during Week 17’s defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles:
Good stop for Washington D there but hard not to notice theyre playing David Mayo ahead of Jamin Davis. I get Philly runs a lot but that's pretty telling
— JP Finlay (@JPFinlayNBCS) January 2, 2022
Davis’s struggles strike at the heart of the issue with Del Rio.
Washington Should Move Fast for Sought-After Flores
Having so many first-round picks in the lineup should make Del Rio’s job easier. He just has to let the talent execute and deliver. The problem is that’s not working, and Del Rio is lacking exciting and innovative alternatives. Imagine what Flores and his schemes could do for Young, Sweat, Davis and Jackson.
Making imagination reality will require Washington moving fast. Flores is sure to be in demand among teams looking for new head coaches. He’s already drawing interest from the NFC North, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
After his surprise dismissal Monday, Flores is expected to be hot in this cycle. Chicago gets the first confirmed interview.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) January 11, 2022
It wouldn’t be a shock if Flores landed another job quickly, but his prospects at head coach may not be as strong as they appear. Not after his problems in Miami. ESPN’s Jeff Darlington reported those issues included clashing with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and general manager Chris Grier:
The decision to fire Flores can be summed up with one word: Relationships. His relationship with Grier and Tua had deteriorated to a pretty bad place. Along with constant staff changes, owner Steve Ross no longer saw Flores as a healthy fit in Miami. https://t.co/9oRmk66hm9
— Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) January 10, 2022
There were other issues, detailed comprehensively by Ben Solak of The Ringer.
Flores’ problems getting along needn’t worry Washington. In fact, they may make it easier to tempt him back to the coordinator ranks. Flores wouldn’t be the first who needed to reset as an assistant after struggling with the broader communication aspects of being a head coach. Todd Bowles did the same after a failed tenure with the New York Jets. Vic Fangio is faced with the same dilemma after being canned by the Denver Broncos.
Washington head coach Ron Rivera is tough and experienced enough to handle a fiery coordinator. Putting Brian Flores in place wouldn’t just improve a floundering defense. It would also give Washington a natural successor for Rivera. One who has proved he can engineer wins with a modest roster.
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