How Brian Flores’ simple approach has turned Dolphins into winner

Safid Deen, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·5 min read

Jerome Baker looked to his left on the Miami Dolphins bench and asked teammate Kyle Van Noy a simple question.

“What’s our record?”

Van Noy answered quickly. He knew.

The Dolphins are 6-3, winners of their last five games, and the subjects of a palpable buzz in South Florida and the NFL world, with hopes to keep the momentum flowing as they visit the Denver Broncos (3-6) on Sunday.

The Dolphins can have the same record as the idle Buffalo Bills in the AFC East with a win, which could also help them improve their sixth place standing in the AFC playoff picture.

But Dolphins coach Brian Flores and his players insist concepts of winning the division or competing in the playoffs are far from their minds as the second year of Miami’s extensive rebuilding effort progresses.

“I think that’s the unique thing about this team is we truly do not – I’m not going to say care – but we really don’t make that an emphasis of ‘this is what we’re going to do.’ The one thing is we truly just want to get better every day,” Baker said this week.

“I think for us, our main goal is to just get better every day and let the season handle itself.”

Since Flores has taken over the Dolphins, his constant life approach is reverberated throughout members of the franchise.

An 0-7 start to Flores’ first season in Miami last year? One day at a time.

Winning two in a row to spark a five-win finish in their last nine games of the 2019 season? One day at a time.

The 2020 NFL offseason, which saw the Dolphins land valuable players like rookie starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and veteran defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah? One day at a time.

A 2-2 start behind 16-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick? Coaching two games without multiple assistants and a starter in second-year defensive tackle Christian Wilkins due to COVID-19 protocols?

A five-game win streak that is kickstarting a special season in Miami?

One day at a time. One game a time. One week at a time.

It all starts and ends with Flores, who learned to live this way growing up in Brownsville area of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Flores would jump on a train near his modest apartment in Brownsville area of Brooklyn, N.Y., then take a bus on a 90-minute journey to Poly Prep Country Day School where he attended high school.

It stayed with him as he spent four years at Boston College as a player and student before his football career turned into a 15-year stint with the New England Patriots organization.

And he’s still living by the words that have become a mantra since he became Dolphins coach in Feb. 2019.

“I would say that’s definitely the approach for a lot of people. That was my approach growing up,” Flores said this week.

“I mean I’m not going to get into the specifics of that, but I learned early on that that’s the best way to approach things – not to look too far ahead, not to get too high, not to get too low, to stay even-keeled and just take things one minute at a time, one day at a time and focus on right now.

“But yeah, I’ve had experiences really throughout my life that have brought me to the conclusion that that’s probably the right way to go about things. I found some results doing it that way and that’s the message that I try to send to the players.”

It’s a message that has become so engrained in their psyche, they even start to repeat it themselves.

In their own variations, of course.

Ask a rookie about his NFL potential?

“I don’t think about much stuff like that long-term. I like to take things day by day and come out every day and attack the day,” rookie Malcolm Perry said.

Praise for a defense that is Top 5 in keeping points off the scoreboard, and forced a turnover in 16 straight games?

“We’re going to get people saying we’re great and things like that, but we try to block that out,” defensive end Shaq Lawson said. “That’s what we’re doing, we’re blocking that out and taking it one game at a time.”

Discussion of tying the Bills’ record the division, and a playoff run this season?

“We definitely understand that we’re in the mix and everybody’s excited that we’re in the mix; but as a team, we try to preach to guys just have a one-week season,” veteran safety Bobby McCain said.

And the answer from Flores to one of the few questions on the Broncos this week, following so much focus on the Dolphins’ accomplishments and potential for the rest of the season?

Flores rattled off nine players to watch, praised a few positions groups, and offered another reminder of his steady approach.

After all, the Dolphins did not just start rattling off all these wins by luck or overlooking their opponents.

“I think it’s important, and we’ve talked about it, we just try to take things one day at a time and not worry about what’s in the future or what’s happened in the past,” Flores said.

“This is a very good team, like I’ve said. This is a very good defense. We talked about the players on the defense. This is a very good offense. It’s just a one game focus. It’s hard to play in Denver. This is a good team.”

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