The Patriot Way. Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots do something different than the rest of the league - though really it is exactly the same as the rest of the league. It is “next man up,” it is do not say anything, and it is about ultimately about winning
And, it is “Do Your Job.”
The Miami Dolphins hired former Patriots linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores as their head coach this offseason. With the hire, there is hope that some of the Belichick magic has rubbed off on Miami’s new coach, bringing a little of the Patriot Way to Miami.
It seems “Do Your Job” is not enough in South Florida, however.
The Dolphin Way seems to be “Do Better.”
“I think it’s about competing, getting better at all of the one tasks at a time,” quarterback Josh Rosen said of Flores’ standards for the team. “You can’t take everything down at once. I think by period and by rep, you’ve got to get better.”
Asked about the defense and getting ready for the 2019 season, safety T.J. McDonald explained, “I believe so. I believe you have to put the time in. I wouldn’t necessarily say you have to be smart, but you have to put the time in.”
He continued, saying, “Everybody has gone in and taking the coaching that we’re getting. It’s not just me, everybody is moving around. It’s something that we all have to buy into and adapt to. I think that’s going to give offenses fits once we get lined up and know whose where and stuff like that. I think that’s going to help us in the long run. The big thing right now is buying into knowing what the hell we’re doing.”
The Dolphins know they have to do the work to get better. The know they have to practice, they have to learn, and they have to be willing to move around the field, playing multiple positions, in order to get better as individuals and as a team.
“I think that as a team, as an offense, even me as a quarterback, I think we all made progress in the right direction but our work is not done,” quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said as minicamp came to a close.
Flores seems to use some form of “do better” in his response to every question about every player in every press conference.
Asked about linebacker Terrill Hanks, Flores replied, “Terrill Hanks, I think he’s working hard. I think he’s got a good amount of ability. I think he’s smart. I think he’s young. He’s learning. He’s working to get better. I think he’s moving in the right direction. I think he’s eager to learn. He’s very coachable. I enjoy working with him. I think he’s got some talent and hopefully he continues to progress the way he has in almost four weeks. Hopefully we’ve got something, but it’s still very early.”
The undrafted free agent linemen, on both the offense and defense? Flores replied, “On the offensive and defensive line, it’s hard until we put pads on but all four of those guys and really I would say all of the undrafted kids, they’re really doing a good (job). They’re all working hard. They’re all very eager to learn (and) to do extra on the practice field (and) in the meetings. They stay late, they’re in early, they’re lifting. I would say – they were way, way behind. When every rookie comes in, they’re so far behind. But I think this class, really as a whole – draft picks and undrafted guys – have closed the gap to a degree. I think they’re all doing a good job. Again, there’s a long way to go. Hopefully we continue on the progression that they’re on and we keep it going.”
As the spring has continued and both Rosen and Fitzpatrick have started to find their roles in the offense, even as they battle to decide who will be the starter, Flores took a look at their leadership roles, explaining, “But from a leadership standpoint, I think they’re both moving in a good direction.”
As for on the field, the quarterback battle is just getting started, and Flores is looking at the basics right now for both Rosen and Fitzpatrick. “I want to see improvement on the weeks,” the coach stated. “Each guy’s been building. From when they got here, I’ve seen steady improvement each day, each week. I want to see that continue from a leadership standpoint first and foremost, getting us lined up. If somebody doesn’t know where to go, that guy needs to get him lined up. That’s the role of the quarterback. I want to see fire. I want to see energy. If it’s in and out of the huddle, I want to see a crisp operation that starts at the quarterback position. We need to continue to do that. It’s been solid. It can always be better and we’re going to continue to harp on those guys. Every good play starts with the quarterback. We stress ball security, ball handling. Again, I’m into the details. I’m into the fundamentals. If you keep asking, you’re going to get roughly the same answer.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is a Pro-Bowl-level offensive lineman who has yet to crack the all-star event for the league. After having already stressed that even Tunsil has to earn his starting position, Flores made clear that the team expects the team’s 2016 first-round pick to do better. “He’s a very talented player,” Flores said. “I think from a leadership standpoint, that’s something that he’s developed and we’re looking for that leadership from him. I think he works hard. I think he’s smart. I think he’s got a chance to be a good player, a very good player in this league. We’ll just keep progressing and try to demand that out of him.”
Along with Tunsil, offensive lineman Jesse Davis seems to have the inside track for a starting position, in this case as the team’s right guard. That does not mean the Dolphins could not be looking to find a way to get more out of Davis, with him starting the spring offseason training program at guard, but then moving out to right tackle for some of this week’s work.
“Right now, it’s just getting comfortable back there. I haven’t played tackle in a year and a half. Right now, I don’t want to be a one-dimensional player. I’d rather be a utility guy like I have been before.”
He then added, “And if you want to talk about money, the money is always nice.”
How about a player who was selected early last year, but struggled as a rookie? “Mike is another guy (that is) very talented,” Flores said of tight end Mike Gesicki. “He’s working very, very hard. He’s catching the ball decently but again, I talked to him about this this morning that one drop is one too many. One penalty is one too many. One missed assignment is one too many. That’s kind of the standard, that’s the approach we’re taking. I’m hard on Mike because I see a lot of potential in him and I think he’s working towards that. These guys are dealing with a lot from me right now. They’ve all responded well.”
Miami used their first-round draft choice on defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. How has their top rated rookie looked this spring? “Christian is a rookie,” Flores stated. “He’s got a lot to learn, a long way to go; but he works hard at it every day. He brings a lot of energy, I like what I’ve seen, but at that position you’ve seen nothing until you put pads on. We’re not winning any awards right now. We’ve got a long way to go with him and with the rest of the group as well.”
Another young defensive tackle, 2017 sixth-round pick Vincent Taylor, has become a special teams star for the club as well as shown flashes on defense. “You see some athleticism,” Flores said of Taylor, but as with everyone else, there is work to be done to get better. “You see some strength. He’s got good size. He does a good job of staying on his feet. Again, at that position, you said it. At that position, it’s hard to evaluate without putting pads on from a run-read standpoint, going from a run, play-action transition to a pass rush. These are things that are, until we get the pads on, there is no way to really evaluate it. He’s getting in better condition. I think from an understanding protection standpoint and how to beat a protection, I think he’s starting to understand that. I think a lot of our guys are starting to understand that. They are all working and it’s something that I think he’s doing a good job and I think if he continues on this doing what he’s doing, I think he’ll be okay.”
Is there a time where Flores feels the team is reaching or surpassing his standard? “That’s a good question. I have high expectations so I’m always going to say we’re behind. I guess that’s my thought process. There’s always two, three, four, eight things I feel like we could have done better. I do see some improvement. I see a lot of progress. Practice looks the way I want it to look like just from an operational standpoint and from a tempo standpoint. But yeah, I want to be at a higher level at everything. So no, we’re not where I want to be.”
Flores has tried to build competition into everything the Dolphins do. If a player is beaten on a play, on either side of the ball, that unit does pushups. There are sprints. There is always a battle, and every single snap adds to a player’s resume as far as the coaches are concerned. “Everything counts,” Flores said. “So today counts, tomorrow counts, training camp counts, preseason counts. Everything counts. The most weight, that’s a hard one to kind of (answer). No, I don’t put it all into the preseason games. I think practice counts for a lot of it. Production at practice, production in games, meetings, walkthroughs, I think all of it counts.”
And, Flores realizes it is going to take some time, but as the Dolphins do better, they have an ultimate goal as well. “We’re not going to conquer the world in one day,” Flores said earlier in the week. “I’ll tell you that right now. It takes some time. We’re working towards that on a daily basis.”
It is not all about the on-field, physical aspect of the game, however. A new sign appeared on the Dolphins training fields this week:
As Poupart tweets, it does seem to say the mental part of the game is four times more important than anything physical. The Dolphins need to be better, and that starts with the mental part of the game.
The Dolphins are doing a lot right now, moving players around and finding the best roles for each - and adding the possibility that the best role for each player may be different from play to play. They have moved offensive linemen between positions, they have moved cornerbacks to safety and safeties to cornerback, they have moved wide receivers between roles, and they are looking at moving around the tight ends and running backs as well. The Dolphins are looking to the players to do more. They are looking at them to understand more. And, most of all, they are looking at them to do better.