When Dolphins coach Brian Flores looks across the sideline during Sunday’s home game against the New York Giants, he will see a pair of familiar faces leading the opposing team.
Sunday’s matchup will be his first against Giants head coach Joe Judge, as well as defensive coordinator Patrick Graham, who spent one season as the Dolphins defensive coordinator during the 2019 season.
All three spent time together as assistants with the New England Patriots, and when Flores was hired as head coach of the Dolphins, he brought Graham along with him.
Speaking Monday about his relationship with Graham, Flores beamed and spoke glowingly of someone he referred to as a brother.
“Pat and I are good friends,” Flores said. “We shared an office together. We’ve had our spats. Our wives are best friends. Our kids hang out. So, Pat is a great friend of mine. From a football coaching standpoint, we’re more brothers than anything. So, I have a lot of respect for him. I would never stand in the way of somebody doing something they wanted to do. That was something Pat wanted to do. I have a lot of respect for him and his family and I support him. I supported him in that situation and I’m always going to support him. That’s my man 50 grand as many would say.”
The Dolphins defense — albeit in the first year of a strip-down and rebuild — struggled in Graham’s sole season in Miam,i but the Giants defense has steadily improved since Graham’s arrival. The season before Graham joined New York’s staff, the Giants defense ranked 28th in efficiency, according to Football Outsiders. In 2020, that ranking increased to 19th, and this season it is 17th.
Graham also holds the title of assistant head coach and opted against interviewing for the New York Jets’ head coaching position this past offseason to stay with the Giants. He later told reporters his current position with the Giants is a “dream job.”
Flores and Judge shared similar backgrounds in their journeys to becoming head coaches and find themselves in similar positions ahead of their Week 13 clash. Though neither officially held the title of offensive or defensive coordinator in the NFL — Judge was special teams coordinator for several years — both impressed with their knowledge of the game and leadership skills.
Both teams currently sit under .500 — with the Dolphins at 5-7 and Giants at 4-7 — although the Dolphins’ four-game winning streak has boosted talk about being in the hunt for a playoff appearance in the second half of the season. And the success of both coaches mainly hinges on the development of their young quarterbacks, Tua Tagovailoa and Daniel Jones. Both were top-10 picks in the NFL Draft, with the Dolphins selecting Tagovailoa fifth overall in the 2020 Draft and Jones going No. 6 overall in the 2019 Draft.
“I think some of the tightest relationships you have in this business are the relationships you have when you’re broke, grinding with somebody,” Judge told Giants reporters. “Brian came into this league the same as I did in kind of a bottom of the totem pole type of position. We were given the opportunity to work and had the opportunity to work our way up. He certainly did that and I had the opportunity as well to do that. I think it’s when you’re kind of grinding through those long hours and stressful times and going through adversity together is when you really form strong bonds with people. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Flo. I really, really do.”
Flores called Judge “another good friend” and said he stays in touch with Judge, though conversations consist of their families more so than it does football.
“Our wives are friends,” Flores said. “My son and his daughter were in the same pre-K class, so we’re talking about people I have great relationships with. But on Sunday, we’re going to compete. I think that’s what I know we’re going to get from them. That’s what they expect from us.”