Patriots

A good move for the Patriots would be rehiring Brian Flores

Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and the Patriots should be doing everything in their power to bring Flores back to Foxborough.

Brian Flores Dolphins Patriots
Brian Flores during a game in Sept. 2021. Chris Unger/Getty Images


Spent a few hours the past two weeks doing what one does when a certain football team that spoiled you with nine Super Bowl appearances in an 18-year span isn’t part of the current competition or conversation.

I had a mini-film festival of the documentaries and highlight reels from the six times the Patriots were champions. The assorted NFL Films homages are all so familiar now, the stories told and retold through the years. Twenty years later, and you still chuckle knowingly when John Madden suggests taking a knee, right?

But new, or refreshed, realizations do present themselves, sometimes in the context of what’s happening to the team at the moment. Such a scenario happened when I was watching “Do Your Job,” the doc on the Patriots’ 2014 championship run. The sideline shots during the buildup to sending Malcolm Butler in for a fateful goal-line play — spoiler alert, he makes the biggest play in Super Bowl history — serve as a reminder of how deep the Patriots coaching staff was that season.

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Among the notables and their current NFL status: Josh McDaniels (head coach, Raiders), Brian Daboll (head coach, Giants), Patrick Graham (Raiders defensive coordinator), Matt Patricia (back with Patriots after stint as Lions head coach), Joe Judge (back with Patriots after stint as Giants head coach), Ivan Fears (beloved Patriots running back coach believed to be retiring) … and last but nowhere near least, Brian Flores.

Flores’s status is of course the most complicated, more so than any coach’s in NFL history. Flores went 24-25 in three seasons with the Dolphins — the first year was a full-on rebuild in which they won five games out of sheer coaching competence — and beat Bill Belichick in four of six meetings. That didn’t prevent Dolphins owner Stephen Ross from firing him shortly after the season ended.

Flores, one of just three Black head coaches in the NFL last season, had seen and endured enough. He filed suit against the NFL and three teams (now four) for alleged racist hiring practices. He has acknowledged in subsequent interviews that he knows it could be career suicide. He just could not turn his cheek away from the charade any longer.

Flores, the Patriots’ safeties coach in 2014, his 11th season of 15 with the organization, is one of the stars of “Do Your Job.” He is the coach, on command from defensive backs coach Josh Boyer (his defensive coordinator in Miami last season), who implores, “Malcolm, go!,” sending Butler onto the field for the fateful goal-line play.

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It did not go unnoticed here that Flores filed his suit on Feb. 1, the seventh anniversary of Malcolm, Go. Perhaps it was a coincidence that his boldest act came on the anniversary of his most famous coaching triumph, but I wonder.

But this I do know: Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft, and the Patriots should be doing everything in their power to bring Flores back to Foxborough to enhance their current staff. The Patriots organization has endured a brain drain of coaching and personnel staff in recent years, and this offseason has been no different.

McDaniels parlayed his exceptional work with rookie quarterback Mac Jones into a second chance as an NFL head coach in Las Vegas, which also hired general manager Dave Ziegler away from the Patriots. The Raiders pilfered three Patriots assistants — Mick Lombardi, Carmen Bricillo, and Bo Hardegree — leaving a staff that already needed veteran reinforcements with even more voids. Belichick is the greatest coach football has ever seen, but running multiple facets of a team is not a sustainable solo task even for a genius.

The Patriots announced last week that Judge, who was a tone-deaf, Ben McAdoo-level disaster in two seasons with the Giants, will return to the staff as an offensive assistant, perhaps as the de facto offensive coordinator. Judge is a known quantity to Belichick, and should be an asset to the staff again now that he’s not in over his head as the boss.

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Flores would be an even greater asset, the rare branch on Belichick’s tree who not only found success elsewhere, but flummoxed his former boss multiple times.

Sure, there are handy rationalizations to not bring him back. He has been primarily a defensive coach (including the unofficial coordinator on the ‘18 champions), and the Patriots already have Jerod Mayo and Steve Belichick leading the defense.

Then there’s the matter of texts from Belichick being cited in his lawsuit as examples of Flores’s claim that his interview with the Giants was a sham, set up merely to comply with the Rooney Rule. I imagine Belichick’s reaction included a couple of expletives with the usual grumble.

But Flores would help this team more than anyone else Belichick could bring in at this point. He is a football lifer with the same broad knowledge that Patricia possesses — not to mention some actual success running his own team. He also possesses the strength of character that NFL suits like Roger Goodell pretend to have only when it suits them. Whenever Goodell cites integrity, it’s a safe bet he’s covering for a situation in which integrity was entirely absent.

When Flores filed his lawsuit, the NFL responded with a statement that closed with this line: “We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.” That brought an onslaught of backlash, and the league has since at least presented the guise that it is listening, with a story leaking just Monday that Ross could be forced to sell the Dolphins if he did indeed incentivize losing, as Flores alleged.

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But we know what the NFL is going to try to do to Flores, don’t we? They can’t run out the clock on his career like they are doing with Colin Kaepernick, but you’d better believe they can cook up an unspoken Do Not Hire mandate.

It’s really too bad that Belichick allowed Goodell to get back in his good graces after the cooked-up Deflategate sham, a misdemeanor at worst. Hiring Flores now, while he’s suing the league and threatening to rip it apart by the laces, wouldn’t just be a great way to stick it to the slithering suits in the league office.

It’s the best way to add exactly what the Patriots need on their coaching staff. A smart, well-rounded coach who has succeeded with Belichick and away from him. The kind of leader who will do his job, and well, but never at the expense of his principles. The NFL needs more men like him. Maybe the Patriots do too.

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