DAVIE, Fla. -- A football sloppily tumbled to the ground on this mid-May Miami Dolphins practice. Quarterback Josh Rosen scrambled to recover the ball behind undrafted rookie center Ryan Anderson's feet. An assistant coach yelled and sent both players jogging to the T.N.T. wall.
It was the third under-center exchange that Rosen and Anderson had botched in their first six attempts. Even during the first organized team activity open to the media, the blunders were hard to ignore.
Rosen later chalked it up to unfamiliarity between the two players, and he was probably right. Mental mistakes or not, they aren't accepted on the Dolphins' practice field anymore.
And with that we were introduced to the T.N.T. wall -- a form of discipline that comes after a mistake that "Takes No Talent." It's a saying that Dolphins coach Brian Flores learned from his high school coach, Dino Mangiero, and it has become a frequently used example of how he is changing things at Dolphins headquarters.
A bit of a rough start for Josh Rosen who had a bad exchange with center Ryan Anderson in three of his first handful of snaps under center. Rosen also just threw an interception to LB Sam Eguavoen in 7 on 7 drills. pic.twitter.com/em2miNXILp— Cameron Wolfe (@CameronWolfe) May 14, 2019
In his first months on the job, Flores has implemented several elements of his culture -- including punctuality, discipline, competition and one-line mantras -- that underline how he wants his team to be. The T.N.T. wall is the most visible of them all, and the goal is to remind players to quit the bad habits.
"I tell my players this -- I can go out there and get conditioned if I just go out there and run every day. I'm not going to do that, not like they do; but I could do that. Any of us in here can do that. That really takes no talent; it just takes hard work, effort," Flores said. "Everybody talks about, 'This guy is talented; that guy is talented.' The talent on the team and a lot of things in this game come down to focus, execution, not making a bad penalty. Really, that's not a talent issue. It's a focus issue; it's a mindset issue. I try to, and us as a staff, we try to make an emphasis of those specific things. Things that take no talent, I think those are the details that help you win games."
Dozens of different Dolphins players make their way to the wall because of mistakes during practices.
"It's discipline that Coach Flo is teaching," Pro Bowl cornerback Xavien Howard said.
As Mills added, "The T.N.T. wall is just nothing but hard work, dedication and just holding ourselves to a higher standard and to focus on the fundamentals and the little things each day."
'My personal mantra'
Flores walks into the media room, stands behind a lectern and asks: "Everybody here? Are we good to start?" Reporters scramble to their seats. Photographers frantically reposition their shot.
The coach's news conference was scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m. Flores begins at 10:38, seven minutes early.
This has become a regular occurrence for players, coaches and yes, media, during Flores' short time leading the Dolphins. It's a message about the importance of time, one of Flores' core beliefs.
"Early is on time, on time is late and late is forgotten," Flores said. "Is it a rule? No. It's my personal mantra, and I feel like I have a lot of respect for time. I really do. It's precious. We shouldn't take it for granted."
Flores learned the importance of time more than 20 years ago from Mangiero at Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, New York. And it stuck. Flores regularly arrived to the facility by 5 a.m. when he was a New England Patriots assistant. Now with the Dolphins, Flores has given players and coaches a jolt of urgency when it comes to punctuality.
Tom Coughlin time became a thing in New York after the then-Giants coach had clocks changed in the facility. There are no signs that clocks have been changed in Miami (yet), but Brian Flores time is real.
Rent is due every day
Ask any Dolphins player to describe Flores in three words and there's a very good chance that every single player will repeat "serious" or a synonym for it. (Trust me, I tried it with seven players.)
Flores refers to himself as straightedge, but that doesn't mean he lacks personality. His leadership is already apparent, and players often repeat his one-line mantras like they are gospel.
One of Flores' favorites is "rent is due every day." It's a saying borrowed from The Rent Axiom, and it's a thought that success is never owned, just rented.
"It means you have to come out and apply the same effort and get better every day," defensive tackle Kendrick Norton said.
Just about every Flores mantra relates to discipline, hard work or respect -- each a Flores core value.
Culture is a word used often in the Dolphins facility, and many others across the NFL, so much so that it has become a platitude. Regardless of the word you use, Flores said his process of changing the Dolphins is "ongoing" and he hopes that what the team lacks in talent will be compensated for in structure.
That change in culture also is a result of a variety of chaotic episodes that have followed the Dolphins during the past six seasons, such as: an assistant coach needing to resign after a video of him snorting drugs in team facilities surfaced; the bullygate scandal; and linebacker Lawrence Timmons going AWOL before a game. Also under former coach Adam Gase, the Dolphins were one of the NFL's most penalized teams. So, Flores will aim to minimize outside issues as well as on-field mental mistakes and distractions while in Miami.
Flores has taken some elements from New England, but this isn't quite the Patriot Way. He says he thinks of different elements daily to add to his program.
"I can't give it all to them every day, so I try to give it to them in bits. We're trying to build a culture that's about improvement, it's about hard work, it's about competition, but it's also about honesty, it's also about humility," Flores said. "Those are core values of mine that when you're not doing those things, that's when I get a little bit upset."
And if Flores is upset with you on the field, go ahead and hit the T.N.T. wall.