Packers Head Coach Candidate: Brian Flores


The idea of hiring a defensive-minded head coach is generally a sour thought based on the comments we’ve received on social media.

The Packers, however, are pursuing a wide variety of candidates. College coaches like Pat Fitzgerald, the so-called offensive gurus like Tennessee’s Matt LaFleur and New England’s Josh McDaniels.

But Brian Flores, the de-facto defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, doesn’t fit nicely into an archetype. He’s not regarded around the league in the same vein as Chicago’s Vic Fangio, and he’s the NFL’s only play caller without coordinator in his title.

However, when news broke of the Packers contacting the Patriots to interview both McDaniels and Flores, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Tom Silverstein said the Packers "might be able to do as well or better [than Josh McDaniels] with Flores."

The details on Brian Flores

Most recent job: Linebackers Coach, New England Patriots (2016-present)
Record as a head coach: 0-0
First job: Scouting Assistant, New England Patriots (2004-2006)
Packers connection: Coached with former Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers in New England in 2008. Coached with Packers defensive run game coordinator Patrick Graham with the Patriots.

The background on Brian Flores

Flores is a Patriots lifer. He joined New England’s front office as a scouting assistant in 2004, immediately after his college playing career ended. He spent four years on the personnel side of the operation before transitioning into coaching, earning his first position with an actual title in 2010 when he was named an offensive assistant/special teams coach.

In 2012, Flores moved to the defensive side of the ball, becoming New England’s safeties coach that season, a position he held through the 2015 season. It was in this stretch that Flores famously subbed Malcolm Butler into the game for the decisive play of Super Bowl XLIX, shouting “go Malcolm, go!” just prior to Butler’s game-clinching interception.

In 2016, Flores became the Patriots’ linebackers coach. Flores still operates in that capacity today and took over defensive play-calling duties prior to this season following Matt Patricia’s departure to Detroit. While this duty does make him the Patriots’ de facto defensive coordinator, it’s important to note that he does not actually hold that position, a key distinction for interview purposes.

Brian Flores’ biggest moment

When asked to compare Flores to Matt Patricia, the Patriots’ previous defensive coordinator, one player said the team is "learning a lot better, a lot easier."

"We meet a little different. We talk about things a little different," Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said of Flores’ coaching style. "It’s just small quirky things that you can’t necessarily put a finger on, but it’s obvious whenever you can kind of have first-year guys come in or even guys who maybe got signed that can pick things up. You can definitely tell there’s a difference somewhere along the line. It helps everybody else on the field when everybody knows what they’re doing. You can play faster and do different things. Whatever he’s doing is working.”

In Brian Flores’ own words

As Flores’ coaching profile has risen, he’s gotten more opportunities to speak his mind in the media. One of those opportunities presented itself just prior to the Patriots’ Week 17 game with the Jets, when ESPN staff write Mike Reiss sat down with Flores for a short but wide-ranging interview that touched on the coach’s defensive philosophy, leadership practices, and even his favorite book (the Bible).

On leadership, Flores articulated a simple yet authoritative position that boils down to honest communication, high expectations, and accountability.

“I think leadership is about being honest. It’s about being transparent. I think it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of others. I also think it’s about being tough on people, having high expectations, having a high standard and not letting off that standard. I think you can do that specifically with players -- you can be tough on them, expect a lot from them, but not be somebody they despise. I think it’s important to connect to people. When you can do that, I think you can get more out of them. That’s part of my leadership style. It’s a combination of building trust and building that connection so you can be tough and they know it’s out of love.”

What are the chances Brian Flores is the next Packers head coach?

Jon’s Rating: 1/5

In his extensive breakdown on Pat Fitzgerald’s coaching candidacy, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein dropped an interesting nugget about the Packers’ interviews with Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano.

Silverstein argued the Packers’ conversations with the two former head coaches served a dual purpose. First, the Packers got a chance to see what kind of fit each would be as the team’s next head coach. But second, and perhaps just as importantly, the Packers got to feel out how each coach would feel about being a part of the next coaching staff in a role other than head coach.

I think this second purpose could be a key part of the decision to interview Brian Flores. While he may be a legitimate head coaching candidate (he has multiple head coach interviews lined up and was in conversations as early as last year), taking the top job would be a pretty big jump for a guy with only one year of coordinator-esque experience.

And that “coordinator-esque” designation is important, because while Flores calls the defensive plays in New England, he is not actually their defensive coordinator. He’s listed as their linebackers coach.

Since he’s “only” the Patriots’ linebackers coach, they wouldn’t be able to block a move if he was offered a defensive coordinator job. NFL teams can only block lateral moves, and jumping to Green Bay to become the Packers’ defensive coordinator would technically be a promotion for Flores.

In a scenario where Josh McDaniels is offered the head coach position in Green Bay, it’s not a big jump to suggest that Flores, who works with McDaniels in New England, could be a natural choice to be the Packers’ defensive coordinator. Even if he doesn’t end up getting the Packers’ head coaching job (which, again, seems like a stretch), Flores could be a name to watch.

Gary’s Rating: 1/5

There are legitimate criticisms to be made about how Bill Belichick’s assistant coaches have gone on to be lousy head coaches of their own. Unfortunately, the sour record of Belichick’s coaching tree has put a damper on how New England has developed dozens of qualified, high-end coaches since Belichick became the head coach in 2000.

Flores is a great example, given that he began his career in the team’s scouting department and worked his way up through the organization’s coaching staff. His players give him glowing reviews, and the praise has earned him interviews for head coaching jobs each of the past two seasons.

What causes me to downgrade Flores’ chances in Green Bay is his inability to put as much of a mark on the organization as he would in other locations. Take a look at where Belichick’s assistants have gone as head coaches – the Lions, the Jets, the Browns, the Chiefs, the Broncos. At the time of their arrival, the organizations were without strong leadership or an established team culture.

It’s just a guess, but given how many teams are interested in interviewing Flores, I wonder if he would want to be the Packers head coach given the precedent his Patriots predecessors have set. Sure, the next head coach in Green Bay will be able to do things his own way, but only to a degree.

Flores is a rising star, and he may choose to land in a destination where he has more control over the entire environment.