By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores seems to have a future as a head coach in the NFL. But in the short term, he doesn’t have a future as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator. At least not yet.
That’s according to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, who spoke to two sources who said the Patriots are “preparing to go into a season without a defensive coordinator.” Instead of getting the official defensive coordinator title, Flores is expected to assume “primary defensive play-calling duties.”
It’s not an unprecedented move for Bill Belichick, as he ran the team for two years without an official defensive coordinator between Dean Pees’ departure following the 2009 season and Matt Patricia’s promotion for the 2012 season. But it is a bit surprising.
Flores, 37, is by many accounts a rising star in the coaching world — so much so that the Arizona Cardinals wanted to speak with him a second time after Flores impressed on his head coaching interview in January. That job eventually went to Steve Wilks, but the interest in Flores before he had ever even been a coordinator was notable, and it led many to assume that Belichick would elevate Flores for the 2018 season, after Patricia left to become the head coach of the Lions.
But that is not the case, at least not yet. Much like Belichick did with Patricia in those 2010 and 2011 seasons, the responsibilities will be added to Flores’ plate gradually.
Of note: The Patriots finished 25th in the NFL in total defense in 2010, and 31st in 2011. In terms of points allowed, they ranked eighth and 15th in those years, respectively.
In the week leading up to Super Bowl LII, Flores drew rave reviews from his players.
“Coach Flo, he’s an amazing coach,” Kyle Van Noy said. “He’s hungry. He’s talented. He knows how to teach. He does a really good job of getting the most out of you. Whether you like it or not, he gets it out of you. It’s awesome to be around a coach that always wants the best for you. That makes you want to play harder for him.”
“He doesn’t coach, ‘Do it like this, or else.’ It’s more like he coaches to benefit the player,” Marquis Flowers said. “He coaches to benefit me. He coaches me with my skill-set, how I should do compared to how another dude can do it. And when you got a coach like that, man, it’s tremendous.”
Of course, Belichick has always maintained control over all aspects of the team, most notably in recent weeks with the surprise benching of Malcolm Butler during the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia. That was a decision which Patricia mostly avoided after the game, repeating many times that Butler just wasn’t a part of “certain packages,” and also avoided last week. In doing so, Patricia all but confirmed that while he held the title of defensive coordinator, there were some aspects of the job that simply were not within his purview.
Flores joined the Patriots organization in 2004 and has worked there ever since. He may be an NFL head coach within five years, but for the time being, he’s going to have to keep working to earn that defensive coordinator title.