The most intriguing Giants candidate — for reasons good and potentially bad — gets his day on Thursday, when Brian Flores interviews for the vacant head coaching job.
He can coach. But can he get along with those he works for, works with and those who play for him? Is he a relationship builder or breaker?
“That’s certainly one of the things we’ll discuss with Brian,’’ Giants co-owner John Mara said. “We’re gonna spend some time on that when he comes in. It’s obviously something we’re gonna have to discuss when he comes in.’’
Flores and Brian Daboll, the Bills’ offensive coordinator, are thought to be the two favorites to land the Giants’ job — handicap it as Daboll 1 and Flores 2 — but the interviews are a critical part of the evaluation and it is difficult to cast anyone as a frontrunner before he actually meets with the team. Daboll spoke at length with the Giants on Tuesday and his history with quarterbacks and familiarity with new general manager Joe Schoen from their time together in Buffalo makes him the one to beat. The Dolphins also have interest in Daboll and want to bring him and others back for second interviews — next week. By then, Daboll could already be the Giants’ head coach.
Another Giants’ candidate, Dan Quinn, announced Thursday he will be staying with the Cowboys as their defensive coordinator, after the Broncos and Bears – two teams that had Quinn in for interviews – filled their head coach openings, the Broncos with Nathaniel Hackett and the Bears with Matt Eberflus.
Leslie Frazier, the Bills’ defensive coordinator, meets with the Giants on Friday for his in-person interview. The Giants could have their new head coach in place by Saturday.
In many ways, the young, tough Flores is exactly what Mara is looking for, as he has already proven he can handle the rigors of life as an NFL head coach, at least on the field. He led the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2002 and 2003 and the two-game sweep of the rival Patriots in 2021 was the first time that has happened in 21 years.
The Giants, when they started contemplating the firing of Joe Judge late in the season, did not expect Flores, 40, would be available. That he was jettisoned in Miami the day after the season ended – one day earlier than Judge was let go – came as a surprise, not only to the Giants but the majority of the NFL. Flores, 24-25 in three years in Miami, was 19-14 the past two years. After starting off 1-7 this past season, the Dolphins rolled to seven consecutive victories and finished 9-8.
The Dolphins under Flores played strong defense, kept mistakes to a minimum, battled hard and were offensively-limited with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The football did not get Flores fired. Reports of unrest with players, a blatant dislike of Tagovailoa’s skill set, incompatibility with general manager Chris Grier and a supposed lack of respect for owner Stephen Ross led to Flores’ demise.
“An organization can only function if it’s collaborative, if it works together,” Ross said after firing Flores. “Communicate through collaboration.”
The “C” word is a big one around the Giants. Both Mara and Schoen mentioned collaboration several times Wednesday during Schoen’s introductory press conference on Wednesday.
That Flores is from Brooklyn makes for a good potential homecoming story but it has no bearing on the decision the Giants will make. Mara called Flores during the general manager search to tell him all the GM candidates had Flores — already meeting with teams — on their list and that the Giants would be calling him.
“I just wanted to let him know ‘Before you make a decision just know we have interest in you,’’ Mara said. “Make whatever decision you feel like you need to make for you and your family but just know we do have interest in you and once I get the general manager search done we will be back to you.’’
Mara said he also “briefly’’ discussed with Flores during the conversation the main topic to be discussed at an impending interview: Does he have a problem building and growing relationships?
Grier has been involved with the Dolphins organization since 2000 and he clearly won a power struggle with Flores, who clashed with several players in his three years in Miami. Cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, a first round pick in 2018, ripped Flores after he was traded to the Steelers in 2019. Players anonymously claimed Flores played favorites and it was obvious that Tagovailoa was not one of those favorites, as reports swirled that Flores wanted Grier to draft Justin Herbert and not Tagovailoa.
Flores cycled through offensive coordinators, hiring and firing Chad O’Shea, Chan Gailey, George Godsey and Eric Studesville in a three-year span. Early this past season, Flores refused to reveal who actually was calling the plays, leading to speculation it was Charlie Frye, the quarterbacks coach.
Flores hired Patrick Graham to be the defensive coordinator in Miami in 2019 but the pairing lasted only one season. The Dolphins allowed the most points in the league and Graham came to the Giants as the assistant head coach/defensive coordinator for Joe Judge. Graham, Flores and Judge all worked together on Bill Belichick’s staff with the Patriots.
Graham’s quick departure from Miami was more about moving closer to home and receiving a promotion, a source said, rather than a falling-out with Flores.
“That is my man, I love him to death,’’ Graham said about Flores this past season.
After the Dolphins’ regular-season finale, a 33-24 victory over the Patriots, Flores admitted he learned much about himself during the year and added, “I try to improve every day.’’ If that was a message to ownership, it did not have the desired effect.
“Different people rub different people in different ways,” Ross said.
It remains to be seen how Flores rubs the Giants.