Not too high, not too low: Brian Flores' consistency paying off

Domonique Foxworth owes the Miami Dolphins an apology (1:31)

After criticizing the team early in the season, he now thinks Brian Flores should be Coach of the Year (1:31)

DAVIE, Fla. -- There's a word that nearly every Miami Dolphins player and coach uses when they talk about Brian Flores: consistency. It rolls off without a thought, as if it's part of Flores' biography.

"Up, down, highs, lows I just try to stay pretty even. That's always been my approach and I don't think that will change," Flores said. "That's something that good teams, they have to do that. There's adversity every week in this league, there's ebbs and flows. ... We've got to stay even. This team's learned how to do that."

If you're looking for a reason why the rebuilding Dolphins (3-9) have redefined their season by winning three of their past five games, including an upset victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, start with the coach's consistency. Flores, 38, is showing great coaching promise in the midst of an arduous first season.

There was a period in September when doubt crept in about the sustainability of the Dolphins, including: the Kenny Stills-Donald Trump/Stephen Ross-Jay-Z situations, the trades of Laremy Tunsil, Stills and Minkah Fitzpatrick, tanking cries and the Dolphins losing their opening two games by a combined score of 102-10.

Some players remember initial uncertainty of how this team would navigate the season, yet Flores remained, shall we say, consistent.

"He's the most straightforward man in coaching that I've been around," Dolphins linebackers coach Rob Leonard said. "He's going to tell you the truth -- player, coach, trainer, scout. It doesn't matter. He's the same person. That's all you can ask for to work for, in my opinion. That's why I wanted to be here."

Flores shouldn't be crowned yet because there's a long way to go for both coach and team, but if Dolphins fans are looking for signs of hope, let's look at how Flores and his coaching staff are getting the most out of their talent.

'A team of fighters'

Loud cheers of celebration erupted in the Dolphins' locker room following their most impressive win of the season, a game in which Miami overcame a 14-point third-quarter deficit to beat the playoff-contending Eagles.

"It's a team of fighters. We compete," Flores said. "We're going to try to be a tough, smart, disciplined football team. That's what you need if you're going to come back."

Miami might have the NFL's least talented roster. The Dolphins have 72 players who have been on the field for them this season, most in the NFL in 2019. Of Miami's 53 players on the active roster, 22 of them (41.5%) were undrafted and 47 of them (88.7%) are 28 years or younger.

Despite what appear to be disadvantages, the Dolphins lack nothing in fight.

"We're a resilient bunch. There's no quit in this team," quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "It starts with [Flores] and trickles down to everyone else."

Since Week 6, the Dolphins have been the league's best red zone offense, scoring touchdowns on 80% of their possessions (20 of 25).

Clear examples of on-field improvement and a disciplined approach have helped the Dolphins evolve from one of the worst teams in NFL history in terms of point differential to a group that upset a possible playoff team.

"I just told them, 'I'm thankful to be the head coach of this team, this organization.' I'm proud of that group," Flores said. "That's a room full of guys who, they're not going to back down from anybody. It's not always going to go our way. I think we have learned that this year; but we're just going to keep swinging and that's it."

'Turned up Flores' during games

For three hours on Sundays, Dolphins players see a different side of Flores -- it shines through when he's yelling at an official over a questionable call or when he aggressively claps and then unleashes a Tiger Woods-like fist pump after a key fourth-down stop. As center Daniel Kilgore describes it, the team is seeing "turned up Flores" on game days.

"You think it's two sides of him," defensive tackle Davon Godchaux said. "He'll be happy one moment, then the next moment he'll be mad. Then you'll catch him on the sideline just laughing at himself. It's real funny to me. He's just being himself."

Safeties coach Tony Oden added: "He has a much better sense of humor than people may give him credit for."

Flores has been emotional in key moments, such as during his first Dolphins win when he was doused with a Gatorade bath and given the game ball by his players. The moments, the players and the process matter.

It could be said that is part of why this Dolphins team decided that building the Flores Way was more important than losing out and securing the No. 1 overall pick.

'It's been a fun year'

Discipline and maximizing advantages are two elements that have allowed the Dolphins to punch above their weight class.

Miami ranks in the top five in fewest accepted penalties and penalty yards, a stark improvement from last season when it was one of the NFL's worst teams in both categories.

Receiver DeVante Parker and tight end Mike Gesicki are the Dolphins' best jump-ball 50/50 weapons, and much of Sunday's offense was isolating them on the Eagles' smaller defensive backs. The duo combined for 238 yards and three touchdowns.

Miami has used defensive back Eric Rowe as a tight end neutralizer, the way they did against the Eagles' Zach Ertz. He finished with three catches for 24 yards.

These are all examples of good coaching, and elements that will be beneficial once more talent arrives in 2020 (the Dolphins currently have three first-round picks).

"It's been a fun year. I enjoy coaching this team," Flores said. "We've improved and gotten better, and that's the goal in coaching. As a teacher, as an educator, you want your pupils, your students to get better."

Seeds are being planted in Miami with hope for the eventual harvest.