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Is the rest of the NFL ready for a fearless and forward-thinking Brian Flores?

Brian Flores was sitting in a chair swiveling around and repeating a question, “Is there anything else I want to say? … Is there anything … Hmm …” He was inside his dimly lit office in Eagan, Minn., where he worked as the defense coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Wearing a purple flatbill cap, his eyes were fixated on the floor on a chilled December afternoon. After being fired from his position as head coach of the Miami Dolphins, Flores, who is Black and of Honduran descent, sued the NFL and three teams, including the Dolphins, for racism-related allegations. Despite the risk it posed to his future opportunities in the league, he felt it was a necessary sacrifice in order to instigate change. After being hired as a senior defensive assistant and linebacker coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers by head coach Mike Tomlin in 2022, he was sought by the Vikings head coach Kevin O’Connell to help the defense rebuild which he did successfully.

Last year’s Vikings defense ranked 24th in DVOA, but this year’s Vikings defense ranked 11th despite losing key players like edge rusher Za’Darius Smith, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, and future Hall-of-Fame cornerback Patrick Peterson. His overall resume and the transformation of the Vikings defense in 2023 make Flores a likely candidate for head-coaching positions in the coming days. Flores’ coaching technique has also been innovative and effective, as his strategic approach to the defensive game has helped the Vikings secure victories and make significant improvements in their performance.

Jason McCourty, who played under him in both New England and Miami, noted that the defense that Flores had developed in the 2023 season was much different than anything they had encountered before. The two had worked together and kept in touch over the years, and when McCourty asked Flores to explain the unique aspects of his defensive strategy during preparations for the Vikings’ game against the Bengals, Flores agreed that his 2023 system was innovative. He explained that the players had been disoriented at the beginning, but the unorthodox approach and unique linebacker strategies had brought about turnovers, stops, and victories. McCourty observed that Flores had immensely enjoyed developing and implementing this unique defensive system.

Flores voiced his passion for his work and the game of football, expressing that people often do not appreciate the years of sacrifice and hard work it takes to be successful. He spoke about how his career had begun in the Patriots’ second-floor personnel office, where he would often work long hours on various duties. Despite the demanding and fast-paced work environment, Flores had valued the opportunity and found joy in his work. His college coach’s recommendation had led to his hiring, and both he and his colleague Tim Pichette had wholeheartedly embraced the back-breaking work hours in exchange for a meager salary. They had developed a close working relationship and appreciated discovering unknown defensive structures in college games. Their discussions occasionally veered towards Flores’ upbringing in Brooklyn and his reverence for his high school coach, showcasing the future coach’s inherent resilience and strong determination to succeed.

Eventually, Flores strived to become a more influential leader in altering the game’s outcome, and as a result, he moved to the first floor to serve in a different capacity. He transitioned into various roles within the organization from 2008 to 2018, showcasing his versatility as a coach with the New England Patriots.

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