Less than 24 hours after their defeat in Super Bowl 52, the New England Patriots also lost their defensive coordinator: Matt Patricia accepted the role as the Detroit Lions’ new head coach, leaving the Patriots with a vacancy they did not experience over the last six seasons. Officially, the team never filled the void as it decided against naming a coordinator for this side of the football ahead of the start of the 2018 league year in March.
While nobody is currently holding the defensive coordinator title, Brian Flores is serving as the coordinator-in-the-making. The 37-year old, who played linebacker at Boston College before joining the Patriots, started his coaching career with the club as a scouting assistant and climbed the ladder all the way up to linebackers coach, a position he is in since 2016. Now in his 15th season with the club, Flores is filling two roles.
Not only is he still coaching his position group, he also is serving as the Patriots’ new defensive signal caller. Considering his experience and football acumen, it is hardly a surprise that he has been made Patricia’s heir in all but job title. However, the change in coordinator entails more than just a different person wearing the headset and calling the shots from the sideline. It also means a change in communication.
“It’s obviously something that’s changed,” New England defensive line coach Brendan Daly told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday. “It changes year-to-year based on how the staff is structured and the roles that everyone is in. I do think that one of the most important things that happens on game day is that flow of communication and the ability to make adjustments within the game.”
As Daly pointed out, Flores now takes on a bigger role in this process. “It’s obviously different because he’s focused on calling the game: so, within the series, his role is significantly different than what it’s been,” the fifth-year Patriots coach said. “At the end of the series, it is a little bit different: he’s got much more of a responsibility for the overall defense, and therefore more coverage and back-end specific things in terms of communication with Josh Boyer and Steve Belichick.”
According to Daly, Flores’ responsibilities after each defensive drive looked differently when Patricia was still around as the coordinator overseeing the whole unit. “In the past, [Flores] and I would have a little bit more exchange between series just front-specific as he was working with the linebackers,” Daly said. “But, those roles have changed a little bit, and we still have some of those conversations, but they’re not necessarily as specific to the linebacker position — more overall front related.”
So how have Flores’ new responsibilities impacted the overall communication? Not too much, if Daly is to be believed. “I’d say that’s been a good process and something that it takes a little bit of time to work your way into as it changes,” the 43-year old said. “But, I feel like 11, 12 weeks into the season here, we’ve kind of gotten a rhythm in that regard and I think that’s been something that’s been an asset for us.”
“I feel like that’s been a pretty good process, specifically the flow of information with the guys from the press box and what they’re able to see and then what we’re able to gather on the sideline in terms of communication from the players coming off the field and tying all that together,” the fifth-year Patriots coach continued. “It’s been a group process for sure. I’d say everyone has played a major role in that.”