Brian Flores Would Change the Culture Of the Vikings’ Defense

Photo Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings are casting a wide net as they search for their next defensive coordinator. New Orleans Saints co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen and Seattle Seahawks associate head coach Sean Desai are among the people they’ve interviewed. But Pittsburgh Steelers linebackers coach and former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is the most prominent name.

While Nielsen and Desai have been rising through the coaching ranks for a few years now, Flores brings a pedigree that cannot be matched. Miami’s defense ranked 29th in total yards allowed after they fired Adam Gase in 2018. Two years later, the Dolphins’ defense became a top-10 unit with Flores at the helm.

In 2020, the Dolphins’ defense ranked:

  • First in takeaways
  • Fourth in opponent scoring percentage
  • Eighth in net yards gained per pass attempt
  • Tied for ninth in sacks

More importantly, though, Flores would change the culture like Mike Zimmer did when the Vikings hired him. Flores is an authoritarian figure who commands respect and is brutally honest with his players and the media. That singular personality trait is simultaneously why he was hired and fired in Miami.

Everywhere Flores goes, guys in the locker room rave about how much they love playing for him. Flores’ first season as head coach in Miami, former Dolphins running back Kenyan Drake said, “[Flores] just kind of has this air about him where people are already ready to run through a wall for him.”

It didn’t take long for Flores to make an impression within the Steelers organization, either. Several players in the linebacker room, including free agent acquisition Myles Jack, had nothing but positive things to say about the impact Brian Flores brought to the team.

“He’s a great coach,” Myles Jack said at the time of his signing. “I saw what he did last year in Miami, how he turned that whole thing around. I think it was amazing what he did.

“Obviously, he’s a head coach, so his perspective, his approach to things is going to be more clear-cut. More, ‘This is what it is, this is what it’s not.’ I enjoy that because I know exactly what I’m doing and I can play fast. It’s been great.”

Even with Flores’ impending lawsuit against the Dolphins, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin went out of his way to add Flores to his coaching staff. It’s a testament to Flores’ character and coaching ability, and his presence has benefited Tomlin in many ways.

“I love sharpening my sword on his and gaining a perspective that his experiences provide, that wise counsel,” said Tomlin. “We talk about a myriad of things. Whether it’s calendar, whether it’s taking care of players, whether it’s the acquisition or evaluation of talent, it’s been fun to have him. His contributions are going to be significant.”

Yet, for all the positive things his former players and colleagues have said about him, Flores was still fired from the Dolphins after only three seasons. Regardless if it was the right decision, there were still very legitimate reasons why he was relieved from his duties in Miami.

The Dolphins hired and subsequently fired Flores for the same reason. In 2019, Miami wanted a coach who was effective at holding players accountable. They got exactly what they were looking for with Flores. While creating a culture based upon toughness and grit was his strong suit, tactful communication and positive reinforcement were not things he’s exactly known for.

When his relationship with general manager Chris Grier and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa soured beyond the point of no return, the Dolphins had no choice but to cut ties with Flores. That does not mean Brian Flores was a bad head coach. However, it became evident that he was no longer the right coach for Miami, who needed someone to develop their young quarterback.

But Flores wouldn’t face any of the problems he had with Miami in Minnesota. Not only that, he would be a perfect fit for the Vikings. Kevin O’Connell is an offensive-minded player’s coach who excels at creating an environment where players want to show up to work every day. O’Connell’s biggest strengths as a leader are tactfully communicating with players and using positive reinforcement to encourage player development.

O’Connell’s strengths cover up Flores’ weaknesses, but Flores’ strengths also cover up O’Connell’s weaknesses. O’Connell tends to be too nice at times, which can make it difficult for the team to play with an edge. O’Connell is an offensive-minded head coach, and we saw the defense lose its identity. And he isn’t able to re-establish that grit and toughness on the defensive side of the ball without directly contradicting his style of coaching that helped the Vikings win 13 games.

Flores would give the defense a distinct identity. He’s someone who can create a culture built upon toughness, discipline, and willpower, something they’ve lacked in the last couple of years.

If Kevin O’Connell is the Vikings’ “good cop,” then this team needs a “bad cop.” Someone who tells it like it is and gets things done. Brian Flores would fill that role perfectly, providing Minnesota with two different but complementary leadership styles on the coaching staff. Which is why he’s the perfect man for the job.

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