How Does Brian Flores Stack up Against Other DCs?

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Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores addressed the media from the TCO Performance Center. Flores was hired in February 2023 to take over for Ed Donatel after Minnesota finished 30th in points allowed.

A common misconception among fans is that the Vikes “always run it back” when something isn’t working as well as it should. While it is debatable if that is actually true, the organization took action this time when they fired Ed Donatell after just one season and replaced him by hiring former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores for the same position.

How Does Brian Flores Stack up Against Other DCs?

He is supposed to oversee the necessary defensive turnaround after a horrendous defensive year in 2022 – the third consecutive one.

How Does Brian Flores Stack Up Against Other DCs?
Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores in Miami Gardens, September 15, 2019. © Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC.

Flores has actually never been a defensive coordinator. He was an assistant coach for the Patriots from 2008-2018. In 2016, Flores became the linebackers coach. Three years later, he was named head coach of the Dolphins, where he spent three seasons.

He went back to linebackers coach in Pittsburgh after he was let go at the conclusion of the 2021 season. The unanimous opinion about that step was that Flores was overqualified for the position. Now, for the first time, Flores is a defensive coordinator. He surely managed the defense in Miami, but a head coach can’t focus as much on his preferred unit as a DC.

The Brooklyn native is still a highly regarded coach, and his departure from Miami is viewed as an organizational problem rather than a Flores issue. He managed the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in almost two decades. Proof of his good reputation is the latest article from Profootballfocus, in which Trevor Sikkema ranked the ten best DCs in the NFL, and he included Flores at the eighth spot.

After spending the 2022 season as the linebackers coach in Pittsburgh, Flores will return to a featured coaching role, this time as defensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings.

Before his time with the Steelers, Flores was head coach of the Dolphins. In his first season, they ranked dead last in points per game allowed (30.9). In his second season, they jumped all the way to fourth (21.1). In his final season, Miami fell to 15th, but their average stayed true at 21.9 points allowed per game. The Dolphins placed sixth in the league in expected points allowed per play in those final two seasons with Flores at the helm.

Trevor Sikkema, PFF
Sep 13, 2020; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores talks with middle linebacker Kyle Van Noy (53) from the sideline as they take on the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest contrast to the 2022 defensive unit should be the aggressive nature Flores wants to run his defense with. He is famous for blitzing. The 2022 Vikings blitzed the quarterback on 18.9% of his dropbacks, the ninth lowest in the NFL, while Flores’ 2021 Dolphins sent extra pressure on 39.6%, the second most in the league. Even the Miami defense in his first season with suspect personnel, probably even worse than current Vikings, blitzed on 31.6%, the 14th most that year.

The frustrating chapter for Vikings fans watching their team sitting back in coverage and letting opposing QBs like Mac Jones and Mike White have career games should be over.

Nov 13, 2022; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs (14) straight arms Minnesota Vikings cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. (23) after making a catch during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

A problem could be the player personnel at his disposal. While the Vikings replaced roughly half of the starting unit, they are still in trouble at some spots. The defensive line will be without Dalvin Tomlinson, linebacker Brian Asamoah has never started a game, and the cornerbacks are a huge mystery. One of Andrew Booth, Akayleb Evans, or Mekhi Blackmon has to claim a starting cornerback spot and play at least at an average level.

Flores could be the solution to fix the unit, but he needs a few players to improve significantly. It might take a year or two, but the Flores hire seems like a home run hit. Multiple players on both offense and defense have already praised the former head coach.

Janik Eckardt is a football fan who likes numbers and stats. The Vikings became his favorite team despite their quarterback at the time, Christian Ponder. He is a walking soccer encyclopedia, loves watching sitcoms, and Classic rock is his music genre of choice. Follow him on Twitter if you like the Vikings: @JanikEckardt