The Dolphins Are Awful. Brian Flores Is Fine.

Patterson, 66, and now a fire safety educator, remembers the football origin story somewhat differently: He visited the family’s apartment in Brownsville on a beautiful fall weekend, only to find the brothers watching television. When asked why they were indoors, Brian or one of his siblings, replied, “Mom doesn’t want us outside; she thinks it’s too dangerous.”

Patterson said he took the brothers in his station wagon to a youth league game in Howard Beach, Queens. Brian ran an impressive 40-yard dash and was pointed to the team equipment van, where he grabbed a helmet and shoulder pads. But no one in his family had ever played football and the shoulder pads felt awkward.

“He had the pads on backward,” Patterson said. “We turned them around and from there he excelled.”

Flores received a scholarship to Poly Prep Country Day, an elite academic and football school, commuting more than an hour across Brooklyn by bus and subway. He struck Mangiero, his coach, as Flores strikes many people — serious, driven.

At Boston College, Flores played safety and linebacker, but a leg injury in 2003 ended any slim chance of playing professionally. So Flores famously wrote to every N.F.L. team looking for a job. He took an entry-level post in the Patriots’ personnel department in 2004. His duties included getting coffee and picking up dry cleaning. He slept on an air mattress in a friend’s attic for a time. He climbed from scout to assistant coach, to the de facto defensive coordinator last season as New England won its sixth Super Bowl.

Miami players describe Flores as New England players did. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick: “He’s been great being upfront.” Linebacker Vince Biegel: “Steady Eddie.”

Flores often recalls his mother, Maria, who died of breast cancer in March, shortly after the Dolphins named him head coach, forcing him to practice his reading when he was little and wanted to cut the lessons short. She would grab him by the ear and tell him, “We’re going to do this right now.” So that is how he plans to rebuild the Dolphins: Move forward. Persevere.

“You always know that if you put your head down and work hard,” he said, “things normally turn around and get better.”

Alain Delaqueriere contributed research.