With the exception of the last seven months, Brian Flores spent his entire coaching career with the New England Patriots. He joined the team in 2004 as a scouting assistant straight out of Boston College, and over the next few years climbed up the organizational ladder until becoming defensive play caller and de facto coordinator in 2018. Needless to say that Flores knows a thing or two about how the Patriots operate.
On Sunday, he will try to take advantage of this knowledge when the Patriots come to town to play against his Miami Dolphins. Flores, of course, took the job as the franchise’s head coach shortly after New England’s victory in Super Bowl 53 — one that featured a defensive performance for the ages — and will now face his old team and mentor Bill Belichick for the first time. According to Belichick, however, the familiarity between the two parties will not be a factor this week.
“We play teams every week that have players and coaches that were here,” said Belichick during a conference call earlier this week. “We have a lot of times players and coaches that were on that team that we’re playing, so that’s pretty common in the NFL. I think every team goes through that. We’ll have them every week. You can write that story certainly in the coming weeks. It’s the same every week. I think that’s way overrated.”
Belichick is pretty open about his feelings on the “Does Flores’ knowledge of the Patriots give his team an advantage?”-storyline — and for good reason. Just take a look at last week’s game between New England and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Three former members of the Patriots organization were either on the field or the coaching staff for the Steelers, as Pats Pulpit’s own Oliver Thomas found out. The game ended with a 33-3 win for New England.
Of course, no two situations are alike, but the general point still stands: familiarity can only get you so far, and it is of no concern to the Patriots as they prepare for their upcoming game against a Dolphins squad that employs a total of fourteen ex-Patriots on its 53-man roster or coaching staff — including Flores and the coordinators on both sides of the ball (Chad O’Shea on offense, Patrick Graham on defense).
“There’s obviously familiarity both ways, but I would say that that probably is the case most of the time,” said the Patriots’ own offensive coordinator, Josh McDaniels. “I know [Flores] was here, so that may give him a little bit of insight about specific people and the way we do things and all those things. But, I think honestly, at this point in time, the best thing for us to do is really not concern ourselves with all of the things that they may know or could know or what type of advantage is gained in that regard and really to focus on the things we need to do to improve.”
“The other night, we didn’t run the ball as well as we needed to run the ball. We didn’t play very well in the red zone. There’s plenty of other things that we need to do and fix and get better at as we head into game number two of the season,” McDaniels added. “We haven’t done very well down in Miami. That’s well-documented. We’re going down there, we’re going to play in the heat against a team that’s scheme has changed since the last time we played them.”
Patriots defensive line coach Bret Bielema sung a similar tune during his conference call on Tuesday: “You’re always going to have – I think in this league it’s probably been the most eye-opening going into my second year – you always have players, you always have coaches, you have a lot of cross over week-to-week of guys that used to be together. I know it’s a lot to write about, but I think it’s probably something that the outside world looks at a lot more than we do.”
“They’ve got a lot of players, or at least a decent chunk of players, that we’ve played against, and they’ve had some success against us in the times that we’ve played down there,” added McDaniels. “And that’s kind of where our focus is going to be at, rather than trying to chase ghosts in terms of what may or may not be an advantage based on the relationships we’ve had.”