Turns Out, Vikings Fans Were Paranoid for No Reason

Explained: Fallout from Vikings Win over New England
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The coaching hiring cycle is always the first major stage of the offseason. After filling the positions, the focus shifts towards free agency and the draft. This year’s head coaching carousel brought some surprises. Foremost, Bill Belichick, perhaps the greatest coach in NFL history, failed to secure one of the coveted spots. But he wasn’t the only one.

Turns Out, Vikings Fans Were Paranoid for No Reason

There are generally a bunch of excellent candidates, but only 32 spots. The pool includes rising stars from the coordinator and position coach ranks, former head coaches, and college hotshots. Young and old, offense and defense, every owner can hire someone who fits their ideas.

Turns Out, Vikings Fans Were Paranoid for No Reason
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But one guy who wasn’t in the mix is Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores. For some reason, he didn’t just miss out on the eight open jobs but also on literally any interview. Not a single team requested to interview the former Dolphins head coach.

The Vikings are very happy with their coach and always hoped they could retain him for a second season. After elevating Minnesota’s defense in his first year in charge and a successful tenure in Miami as the head coach with back-to-back winning seasons (despite taking over possibly the worst roster in the league), it is quite surprising he didn’t get any attention.

Flores was a controversial figure in the NFL landscape because he sued the league (and three teams) for discrimination. That lawsuit is ongoing, so the owners of the franchises probably aren’t too fond of giving him a job, although not even giving him a chance to interview doesn’t debunk his case.

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores talks with defensive players Jerome Baker (55), Kamu Grugier-Hill (51), Brandon Jones (29) and Bobby McCain (28) at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, November 15, 2020. (ALLEN EYESTONE / THE PALM BEACH POST)

Head coach Kevin O’Connell and most Vikings defenders surely are happy with the outcome. They might have wished him to get another shot for his career, but simultaneously, they know it’s the best result for their own franchise.

Flores transformed the defense that was hesitant to use blitzes into the blitz-heaviest group in the NFL. He also used more three-man rushes than anyone else in the league.

His defensive unit didn’t just feel like an improved one from the previous season, with Ed Donatell calling the shots; it was better in most metrics.

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The 2022 defense finished 24th in DVOA, much worse than 11th in 2023. Instead of giving up the second-most yards and third-most points, the Vikings finished 16th and 14th in those categories. While that isn’t anything special, it is an improvement and better than expected, considering the holes on the defensive line and the unproven cornerback room the DC entered the season with.

Flores elevated the play of some contributors. The best example is career special teamer and backup Josh Metellus, who was suddenly in Pro Bowl consideration after playing a hybrid role in Flores’ scheme. Lining up at the line of scrimmage as a linebacker, cornerback, and traditional safety, Metellus played all over the field, recording a full-time snap count and making a massive impact.

Pass-rusher Danielle Hunter has always been a difference-maker, but he logged career numbers in sacks. Also much improved were safety Camryn Bynum and linebacker Jordan Hicks who were obviously a better fit in his scheme than in Donatell’s. Flores also inserted rookie Ivan Pace into his lineup and coached him to a phenomenal debut season.

Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The young cornerback group held up fine for most of the season, but in the final three games, they crumbled just like the whole defense. For that reason, Flores must get back to the drawing board as the league has figured out how to attack his defense. That isn’t concerning, as the opposing teams always learn, and the NFL evolves.

Personnel-wise, Flores might lose some key contributors, especially the outside linebacker position, which is a problem. All three of Hunter, D.J. Wonnum, and Marcus Davenport are scheduled to hit free agency just like Hicks. Safety Harrison Smith is contemplating retirement.

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He will surely ask for some reinforcements in the draft and free agency. A new defensive tackle and some quality edge rushers are likely high on his wish list.

The 42-year-old coach will stay for another season and hopefully increase the demand for him. Good results on the field will be helpful for the organization and his chances to land a head coaching gig next offseason.

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