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Raise the bar?
Flores had interpersonal relationship issues. Miami decreased penalties and increased toughness and discipline. But it sure seems it wasn't a fun place to work.
Winning is more important than fun, but the Dolphins will try to reset the organizational plan with a coach who can win and doesn't have everyone on edge.
The Dolphins' problems extend beyond Flores, who did not coach a playoff game in his three seasons.
Heading into the postseason, only the Dolphins, Lions and Bengals had failed to win an NFL playoff game since 2001. And then Cincinnati not only made the playoffs, but won a game.
Consider that since Dave Wannstedt was fired, the Dolphins have been outscored by their opponents in 12 of 17 seasons and have no playoff victories.
The Dolphins' positive scoring-differential seasons in that span: 2005, Nick Saban (+1), 2008, Tony Sparano (+28), 2011, Tony Sparano/Todd Bowles (+16), 2014, Joe Philblin (+14) and 2020, Brian Flores (+66).
Statistically, Flores had some numbers working in his favor. But there was too much toxicity behind the scenes and owner Stephen Ross felt he had to make a change.
Here are our Top 10 offseason priorities for the Miami Dolphins:
Hire the right head coach
The Dolphins want to hire a coach who is a good communicator and collaborator.
That was not the case with Flores.
But it's not like the Dolphins don't still want a strong leader who can instill toughness and discipline. Oh, and it would help if they had a good plan to score more points.
In an ideal world, the next Dolphins coach would have head coaching experience, but that's certainly not a prerequisite.
In an ideal world, the next Dolphins coach would be offensive-minded. But if the coach has a top-notch offensive play-caller in tow, that could be OK.
Make a decision on Tua Tagovailoa
It would be great if Tagovailoa was Miami's quarterback answer and no further assets were required to be shed to bolster the most important position on the field.
But it cannot be stated that Tua has demonstrated the search is over.
Tagovailoa has not lived up to the performance of peers Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert. There are concerns about durability and arm strength.
Miami's offense was limited, in part because Tua seemed to be limited as a downfield passer. Oddly, his mechanics seemed off at times, too.
The Dolphins made it known on Saturday that their intent is to move forward with Tagovailoa in 2022, and not Watson.
Could that change? Never say never. But it seems they're interested in seeing what he could do with a new staff and another year of NFL experience under his belt.
Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson? No veteran quarterback who has led a team to a Super Bowl and may be available should be totally dismissed.
But for now — their intent is to roll with Tua.
Fix the offensive line
The Dolphins had the worst offensive line performance in the NFL in 2021, according to Pro Football Focus, ESPN, Better Homes and Gardens ... (we kid, we kid).
But this is no laughing matter.
Right guard Robert Hunt is the only known quantity on Miami's offensive line.
The Dolphins hope Liam Eichenberg can be at least league-average at right tackle, left tackle or left guard.
Miami may well give Austin Jackson one more shot at left guard or left tackle.
But really, Miami would be well-served to add at least one veteran offensive tackle and to draft at least one potential offensive line starter in April.
And there's always hope that offensive line coach Lem Jeanpierre was actually a significant part of the problem.
Create an identity on offense
A big part of this will rely on if Miami moves forward with Tagovailoa, who seems to best lean on a quick-passing, run-pass option offense.
In order to win in the NFL, a club must have a successful passing attack. But, yes, there must at least be a reasonable threat to run, which Miami has not had.
The Chad O'Shea-Chan Gailey-George Godsey/Eric Studesville/Charlie Frye offensive attacks failed to have an identity. Part of this was by design. Flores thought the identity should be to do what it takes to win that week.
But largely Miami's offenses were both boring and ineffective.
The Dolphins need to be more physical on the offensive line and add at least one powerful back. But they also need to find a way to create more explosive plays on offense, including better utilizing speedster Jaylen Waddle downfield.
Add a quality running back
It's an absolute joke that Miami has drafted only one running back above the seventh round over the last five drafts — and that was Kalen Ballage.
In general, we can go along with the idea that drafting a running back in the first round is usually not necessary.
As it relates to the Dolphins, we can understand that idea that landing a quarterback and building an offensive line should take priority in the dramatic rebuild process.
But it is sickening to watch running backs such as Jonathan Taylor and many other young dynamite running backs Miami has passed on have great success.
The Dolphins need to add a legitimate, potential Top 10 running back either through the draft or free agency. Aside from Jay Ajayi's 2016 season, Miami hadn't had a really dangerous, consistent running back threat since Ricky Williams 12 to 20 years ago.
Make a decision on Mike Gesicki
Only four tight ends have more NFL catches than Gesicki's 73 over the last two seasons. If Miami wants a long-term deal, it will cost, probably $12 million+ a season.
It makes more sense for the Dolphins to franchise tag Gesicki. There is a chance he could appeal the reasonable tight end tag and claim he's actually a wide receiver.
If Flores had stayed, we can guess Miami would have been more likely to move on from Gesicki. But how would an incoming coach view Gesicki's overall talents?
He's not a dynamic blocker, but he's a dynamic receiver. Is Hunter Long, who barely played as a rookie, ready to take Gesicki's reps?
We'd go with the tag. But it wouldn't be shocking if he's allowed to walk.
Make a decision on Emmanuel Ogbah
Ogbah batted down 12 passes this season. No defensive player had done that in the previous four years.
Ogbah also led the team with 9 sacks this year and had 24 quarterback hits, which was tied for 12th among all NFL players.
This was one of the very best free-agent signings of the Chris Grier general manager era. Ogbah blew away expectations after signing for 2 years, $15 million.
According to Spotrac, Ogbah should now command at least $10 million per season on a new 3- or 4-year deal.
Ogbah is 28. If he commands more than $12 or $13 million a season, Miami may have to walk away. But a real effort should be made to keep Ogbah, a quality leader, person and player.
Appease Xavien Howard
Howard is by far Miami's best player.
Howard is a superstar and a future Hall of Famer.
It would be a real shame if a few million bucks were to force the veteran cornerback out of Miami.
Yes, Howard is 28. Yes, there are long-term concerns about how his knees will impact how many more years he is a dominant force.
Miami tweaked his contract before this year, even though there were four years left. Does Miami want an annual headache?
This is an annoyance worth working through.
If fellow cornerback Byron Jones stays on Miami's roster, Step 1 should be to make sure Howard makes more than Jones in 2022.
If the demands go too far, the Dolphins really can't afford to take less than a first-rounder and second-rounder in return.
Make a defensive scheme decision
Will the head coach and defensive coordinator Miami hires keep the same 3-4, 4-3, multiple, aggressive, man-to-man heavy scheme Flores did?
We abso-freakin-lutely hope so.
In fact, it would make a lot of sense for Miami's next coach to consider retaining a handful of standout defensive coaches.
It's always an adjustment when a new scheme is installed. Is there any reason not to bring back Miami's defensive scheme? No, not really.
The Dolphins have a lot of things figured out on defense. Why mess with a good thing?
What is the roster-building plan now?
The Dolphins are at a crossroads.
Ross seems to think there is a good young roster in place. Perhaps he thinks Miami really should have made the playoffs this season.
It's easy to forget a 1-7 start, but Flores was a huge part of that start and not making the playoffs was a disappointment.
The Dolphins have a ton of free agency spending capital entering the spring. They must use it wisely. They must use it more wisely than they have in recent years.
Are the Dolphins in position to make a championship leap in 2022? No.
But surely Grier knows his team must make the playoffs next season after five straight without an appearance.
Grier must address team needs in a free agency: at least one solid offensive tackle, perhaps two, at least one above-average, durable receiver, a capable running back and a middle linebacker, too.
If the Dolphins move on from Howard and/or Jones, they will suddenly have a need at cornerback. There are elite corners in this free agency class.
If Miami moves forward with Tua in 2022, it will be a last-chance scenario. The Dolphins, with two first-round picks in 2023, would surely look to draft his successor then, if he does not show more than he has already.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Top 10 Miami Dolphins priorities for 2022, including Tua Tagovailoa