Think of an ideal head coaching candidate for an NFL franchise.
Maybe he’s young and able to communicate with players in an efficient and effective manner- maybe due to a history of playing the game at a high level. Maybe he has experience as a scout so he can communicate with the front office. Maybe he’s worked as a special teams coach or an offensive coach or a defensive coach at multiple positions so he has a good full picture understanding of coaching. Maybe he’s a graduate of an incredible academic institution like Boston College (full disclosure: I went to Boston College).
Now imagine if there were a coach that met all of these different maybes. Wouldn’t they be near the top of most coaching candidate lists? Let’s meet Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores.
The 35-year-old Flores played safety and linebacker for Boston College from 1999-2003 before joining the Patriots scouting department immediately out of college. Flores served as a scouting assistant from 2004-05 and as a pro scout from 2006-07 before moving to the coaching world.
“What’s funny about the whole scouting thing,” Flores told Pats Pulpit during Super Bowl week, “is I was hired here by Scott Pioli, who is [assistant general manager] with Atlanta, worked with [Falcons GM] Thomas [Dimitroff], worked with all those guys, it’s...I have a lot of respect for them, but yes, the whole scouting part definitely helped me just as far as being able to really kind of understand where guys fit within a team, trying to get them to do what they do best, what they could do best, how to help us the best.”
Flores assisted with special teams for three years from 2008-10 and wore two hats in 2010 as he also assisted with the offense. Flores was named defensive assistant in 2011 before receiving a promotion to safeties coach from 2012-15.
Patriots historians will note that the Patriots had the worst safety play under head coach Bill Belichick in the 2011 season due to a long string of injuries, and will also note that the safety play has never been better. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, and (for a while) Steve Gregory helped settle down the positional group and turned it into a strength of the defense.
Flores had a chance to serve as linebackers coach in 2016, a coaching position reserved for the heirs of the Patriots defensive coordinator role, after Patrick Graham departed for the New York Giants.
“Pat’s a great friend of mine, I was upset [when he left],” Flores said. “I didn’t really think of it as an opportunity, it was more of a down day for me, if I’m honest. But I got to move to linebackers which has been great. I’ve really enjoyed coaching that position. It’s just another learning experience for me.”
Flores has embraced all of the learning opportunities in his various roles and has built a lengthy resume of quality experience. He treasures his personal relationships as the key takeaways from his different experiences.
“It’s more the people I’ve been around,” Flores explained. “Watch a guy like [Dante] Scarnecchia coach the offensive line. Watched Billy O[‘Brien] coach on offense when I was with them. Watch [former ST coordinator] Scotty O[‘Brien], I learned a lot from him. [Former ST coordinator] Brad Seely, I learned a lot. Just kind of gaining knowledge from all these different, great coaches that I’ve been around.
“[Defensive coordinator] Matt Patricia, the same. [Cornerbacks coach] Josh Boyer. We have a lot of great guys come through here and just try and take a look with each guy and along with the whole part of it, the coaching one on one, interacting with players that you kind of make it your own, but take a little bit from all the guys that I’ve worked with.”
Flores will likely ascend to the Patriots defensive coordinator role if and when Patricia departs for a head coaching role in the coming years. The Patriots have started to give Flores play-calling experience, asking him to call the defense during the final preseason game against the New York Giants. Flores called it “another good experience,” but kept his focus on “things I wish I could have done better.”
Despite a clear pathway to a coordinator role, Flores says that he’s not thinking about the future.
“I think I’ve been fortunate to be in a lot of different roles here, scout, offense, defense, special teams,” Flores said. “But I’m a one day at a time kind of person. I don’t really think about what’s in the future...I just try to get better every day and just try and prepare the guys as best I can every day. That’s really my goal. I don’t really think about anything else.
“I hope that I’m preparing a lot, I hope that I’m prepared. There’s always something I could get better at, but that’s kind of the approach I take every day.”
Flores is keeping his attention on the Super Bowl and not looking too far ahead, but when his name is called for an expanded role, he’ll be ready.