Brian Flores is different. It’s not just that he’s one of the rare coaches whose Google search will yield a height and weight (Flores played linebacker at Boston College). It’s not only that he started as a scout in the New England Patriots organization after an injury cost him a chance at the NFL, or that he’s not actually technically even New England’s defensive coordinator.
No, the amalgamation of all of these things along with his background as a Honduran immigrant growing up in Brooklyn, one of an infinitesimal portion of Hispanic players and coaches in the league, that makes Flores so unique.
Last offseason, the Cardinals interviewed Flores twice for their head coaching job, despite the fact Flores wasn’t calling defensive plays or in charge of the Patriots defense. That was Matt Patricia. To see a 37-year-old linebackers coach getting those kinds of opportunities in the NFL speaks to the quality of coaching talent those around the league believe Flores possesses despite not being well-known to the casual fan.
With Patricia in Detroit, Flores oversaw a vast improvement in the New England defense, boosting blitz usage and relying heavily on man coverage to force teams to drive the ball against them consistently. In just one season, the Patriots defense went from 31st in defensive DVOA under Patricia to 16th without any significant personnel changes.
There’s also a Packers-specific reason Flores is an outlier: he’s a defensive coach. Of the candidates Green Bay has either already interviewed or intends to interview, nearly all of them are offensive-minded. Chuck Pagano and Pat Fitzgerald are the others on the list, though Pagano should be considered a longshot and Fitzgerald says he’s staying at Northwestern (disclaimer: coaches have said this before and left).
Flores doesn’t appear to be the preferred candidate from the Patriots organization, as that is Josh McDaniels. Theoretically, McDaniels could bring Flores with him and offer him a promotion to DC, though New England wouldn’t have to allow that and could simply give Flores the title he already de facto owns.
Even still, Flores’ name on the Packers’ list is instructive given who isn’t on the list. No Steve Wilks, Vic Fangio, Kris Richard or other top NFL defensive minds. Even if this is simply a “just to make sure” interview, Mark Murphy and Brian Gutekunst have plenty of quality defensive coaches who could receive the same courtesy. They didn’t extend such a courtesy to those other names.
In other words, if they’re going to give themselves the opportunity to be won over by a sharp defensive mind this January, it’s Flores who will get that opportunity, instead of defensive coaches deemed worthy by other organizations.
And while the 37-year-old may not be the top choice for the Packers, the diverse and unique background offers a blueprint for his appeal. Head coaches have to understand personnel. Flores was a scout. Head coaches have to be able to lend a hand on more than just their side of the ball. Flores was a special teams assistant — an area where Green Bay has been dreadful. He even helped with the Patriots offense and special teams in 2010, a practice that isn’t uncommon in New England where McDaniels got his start as a defensive assistant.
Flores may not be a name you know, but his is a name you should know. He’s going to be a head coach sooner rather than later in this league. It probably won’t be with the Packers, but it would be hard to blame Murphy and Gutekunst if Flores blew them away in the interview on Friday and got into the fray.