Almost from the day he was hired as head coach early last February, Brian Flores has found himself denying the Miami Dolphins are tanking this season.
“Tanking,” of course, is when a team usually subtly — rarely overtly — constructs its roster so that it will win only infrequently. The payback is that low league finishes produce high draft choices which, ideally, dramatically improve a team’s talent and win percentage.
And, yeah, it has worked, baseball’s Cubs and Astros have benefited as have the NBA’s Cavaliers and 76ers … but it’s not foolproof.
Having high draft choices is only half the formula … the other is making optimum use of those coveted picks.
In the Bills’ 17-year playoff drought, among their first-round draft selections were Erik Flowers, Mike Williams, J.P. Losman, Donte Whitner, John McCargo, Leodis McKelvin, Aaron Maybin and E.J Manuel. Their second-rounders in that span included Cyrus Kouandjio, Torell Troup, James Hardy and Roscoe Parrish.
And ask Sabres fans how missing the playoffs for eight straight years played out for them in the draft … Jack Eichel notwithstanding. NHL teams historically have the worst luck in tanking.
You get the idea.
So, yeah, Miami has three first-round picks and two second-rounders in 2020 and two firsts and two seconds in 2021 but if those picks are blown was tanking worth it?
Meanwhile, the Dolphins, whose home attendance has suffered big-time, are beyond awful.
They own an 0-5 record, second only to Cincinnati (0-6), but Miami has been much more futile. While Flores has told everyone who will listen that his team isn’t tanking, his team has argued otherwise, losing it first four games by 49, 43, 25 and 20 points … an average of 34 per defeat. Over that span, the Dolphins were outscored 163-26.
Last week, incredibly, Miami playing winless Washington, scored in the final minute, disdained the extra-point kick for a tie and went for a game-winning two-pointer only to see a perfect pass dropped en route to a 17-16 loss.
But don’t be fooled, the Dolphins are lousy on merit.
Consider, Miami is last in the league in points scored, points surrendered, turnover margin, opponents yards per game, total offense and passing offense. It’s second to last (31st) in fewest sacks, penalties committed, opponents rushing yards, average passing yards per game and takeaways.
THE DOLPHINS media has been kind to Flores who they understand is merely the pawn of the front office’s questionable plan to achieve NFL parity.
“We try to at least stay the course,” he said. “We continue with our process, which I think has been better. We continue to prepare. The challenge now is for us to move on from (the Washington loss) as quickly as possible because if we don’t, it’ll make preparation for Buffalo that much harder, and that’s a good team we’re playing. That’s part of being a professional.”
Flores, defensive coordinator of last year’s Super Bowl champion Patriots, added of his reaction to Miami’s staggering start, “I’ve always been the same. I’ve never made excuses. I’ve never complained. I’ve never worried about anything except for the next day and trying to improve and get better.
“That’s kind of how I’ve approached everything since high school. That’s what I learned from my high school coach and that’s really my approach.”
But how has he reacted to such a disastrous start to the season?
“I’m here every day,” Flores said. “I see the way these guys work, the way they apply themselves in meetings and walkthroughs and practice and the effort they give in all those areas.
“What I see is somewhat different (than) what (people see). These guys are motivated. They work hard. Right now there’s a lot of adversity in this building and I think that is, in a lot of ways, strengthening a lot of guys. Hopefully we’ll be better for it.”
But don’t count on it.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)