Brian Flores

Cardinals reportedly choose Wilks; Flores a logical choice to replace Patricia

flores_patriots.jpg

Cardinals reportedly choose Wilks; Flores a logical choice to replace Patricia

The brain drain in New England after this season may not be quite as severe as it once looked like it might be.

According to ESPN, the Cardinals have chosen to hire Panthers assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Steve Wilks as their next head coach. That would mean that Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores, a finalist for the job in Arizona, will shoot to the front of the line of candidates to succeed Matt Patricia as Patriots defensive coordinator. Patricia is expected to be named Lions head coach after Super Bowl LII. 

For the Patriots, holding onto Flores would be a significant boost to their coaching staff in 2018.

The team is also expected to lose Josh McDaniels, who could be named head coach of the Colts after the season. Special teams coach Joe Judge is working on an expiring deal, per ESPN, and could be elsewhere next season as well. Then there's offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, who will be 70 later this month and could be interested in going back to the retirement life he enjoyed for two years in 2014 and 2015 before returning last season. 

Flores, 36, has been with the Patriots since 2004. He's served as a scouting assistant, a pro scout, a special teams assistant, a defensive assistant and safeties coach (2012-2015) before taking over linebacker duties. As our Mike Giardi wrote earlier this month, Flores is highly-respected by Patriots players and would make all kinds of sense as the team's next defensive coordinator.

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Reports: McDaniels, Vrabel finalists for Colts job, Flores to Cards?

Reports: McDaniels, Vrabel finalists for Colts job, Flores to Cards?

Bill Belichick could be losing his two coordinators and linebackers coach as his Patriots assistants continue to be at the top of NFL head coaching candidate lists.

Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels is reportedly one of two finalists for the Indianapolis Colts head coaching job and Pats linebackers coach Brian Flores is reported to be "very much in play" to be the next Arizona Cardinals head coach.

Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated's MMQB.com, and an analyst on NBC Sports Boston's Pregame Live, reported that McDaniels and former Pats linebacker Mike Vrabel, now the Houston Texans defensive coordinator, are the final two in the running for the Colts job. 

Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted about Flores Saturday.

The New York Post reported Friday that McDaniels, Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur are finalists for the New York Giants head coaching job. The New York Daily News reported earlier in the week that all signs pointed to Patricia getting the Giants job. In addition, Patricia had been rumored to be the leading candidate for the Detroit Lions head coaching job. 

 


 

Brian Flores' hard work hasn't gone unnoticed, just ask his players

flores_patriots.jpg

Brian Flores' hard work hasn't gone unnoticed, just ask his players

FOXBORO -- Brian Flores’ signature moment was captured in the waning seconds of Super Bowl 49. As Bill Belichick eyeballed Seattle’s sideline, waiting for a declaration of personnel, several assistants impatiently looked on, hoping they’d have enough time to react and get their players where they needed to be. When the time came, it was Flores who yelled, “Malcolm, go!” at undrafted rookie cornerback Malcolm Butler. You know what happened next.

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"It was definitely the greatest thrill in my football career," recalled Flores. “We had spent so much time preparing for a variety of situations and that was one of them, especially in the red area. We were ready for it. Malcolm made a hell of a play but the entire group was ready for it.”

Currently a linebacker coach, the 36-year old is considered the odds-on-favorite to ascend to the role of defensive coordinator should Matt Patricia leave to run his own program, which seems very likely at this point. But Flores is also getting a seat at the big boy’s table. He interviewed for for Arizona’s head coaching vacancy Saturday. That comes as no surprise to the men he’s coached.

“I’m excited for where he’s at right now,” said safety Duron Harmon. “He’s worked to put himself in this position.”

“Obviously, the football knowledge is 100 percent there,” Jordan Richard said. “But he has so many other qualities that you have to respect.”

For starters, Flores has a wide variety of experiences since joining the Patriots back in 2002. He began as a scouting assistant then became a pro scout before appealing directly to Belichick to join the coaching ranks. 

“I wanted to be closer to the action,” he recalled in an interview during last season.

That again required entering at the ground floor. Flores was a lowly coaching assistant, the guy who had to do things like grab the bags and move them from one drill to the next. From there, Flores was special teams assistant, then did some work with the offense, then - finally - a promotion to become the safeties coach from 2013 through 2015. Now he’s coaching a rag-tag bunch of linebackers that have outperformed their overall talent-level.

“Coach Flores is always pushing, always trying to get us to where we need to be. He’s helped me quite a bit,” said Marquis Flowers, acquired at the tail end of August but now a regular contributor on defense.

Flores can relate to his players because he was a pretty good one himself. He was heavily recruited coming out of Poly Prep in Brooklyn, New York, and could have gone to any number of football factories. He chose Boston College, in part because he has a brother with autism and wanted to remain closer to home. He began his career as a safety but eventually moved to linebacker. Not only did he excel on the field but in the classroom as well. Flores was named to the 2003 All-Big East Academic Team, earning his degree in English. He then tacked on a master’s degree in administration for good measure. 

“He’s a smart guy,” said Devin McCourty. “But it goes beyond that.”

It’s the ability to translate an outrageous amount of information and present it to his players in a way that works for them.

“I don’t know if it was because he played at BC, was a good player, was out there playing,” said McCourty. “I think that helps him because he knows when you play what you wanted to hear. We hear so much, there’s so much the coaches can tell you, and Bill says it all the time, about how many different things they give to us. But when you can break it down to two things or three things, that helps players to be able to play fast. And that’s always the goal.”

“There’s a lot that we’re doing and in order to be a good coach it’s how do you present it in a way that allows your players to play fast,” said Richards, “Having him as my safeties coach and now seeing him as linebacker coach this past two years, he definitely exemplifies that.”

To be a professional coach for a decade means you must know the X’s and O’s at a very high level. There are hundreds if not thousands of coaches who have that part down cold. But Flores has taken a page out of Patricia’s book. He has learned as much as he can about his players and developed a greater level of understanding and trust that allows him to stand out.

“Each guy he’s dealt with knows him personally,” said McCourty. “I know his wife, I know his kids, his parents, his brother. I’ve been able to have an awesome relationship with him and that ability to be able to relate to players - he’s kinda still fairly young - that gets the best out of us.”

“He kinda comes to you and basically says we’re on even terms,” added Harmon. “We’re all trying to get there, we’re all trying to improve each day. It’s been awesome for me to see.”

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