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‘As Different From Donatell as You Can Get:’ Vikings Request 1st DC Interview

The Minnesota Vikings have made their first interview request to fill their vacant defensive coordinator position left void by Ed Donatell.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted on January 21 that the Vikings “have requested permission to speak with #Steelers senior defensive assistant and LBs coach Brian Flores for their newly vacant DC job, source said. Coach Kevin O’Connell and Flores overlapped in New England for a year.”

Flores spent three seasons as the Miami Dolphins head coach from 2019 to 2021. He turned the Dolphins defense, which allowed the most points in the league in 2019, into one of the league’s most feared units, allowing the sixth-fewest points in 2020. Flores was fired after the 2022 season despite back-to-back winning seasons.

Zone Coverage’s Nick Olson, comparing Flores’ blitz rates of 40-plus percent in his final two seasons in Miami compared to Donatell’s 18.9% blitz rate this season, tweeted saying “Flores is about as different from Donatell as you could get.”

“Could be a hell of a hire — he did some amazing things in Miami,” Olson said. “Would be a hard pivot from Fangio-style defense to Belichick-style man match, and would require significant investment in CBs. But like I always say, another first-round corner couldn’t do us any harm.”

Flores has interviewed for the Cleveland Browns (who hired Jim Schwartz as their new coordinator) and Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator positions as well as the head coach vacancy with the Arizona Cardinals. Flores is the betting favorite for the Cardinals job.

Flores is about as different from Donatell as you could get:

• 2022 Vikings blitzed 18.9% of drop backs (9th-least); Flores’ 2020-21 Dolphins blitzed 40+% (2nd-most)
• 2022 Vikings based out of off coverage MOFO C6/8/4; 2021 Fins were press-heavy, ran the most C0 & 3rd-most C1

— Nick Olson (@NickOlsonNFL) January 21, 2023

 Brian Flores Could Install Super Bowl-Winning Defense With Vikings

A disciple of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, Flores spent 15 years in various capacities with the New England Patriots. He crossed paths with O’Connell in 2008 when O’Connell was a quarterback on the team.

Flores took on play-calling duties in 2018 and was credited with calling the game of his life in the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over the Los Angeles Rams, beating the league’s brightest offensive mind in Sean McVay and the league’s No. 2 offense.

“There’s no other way to say it, but I got out-coached,” McVay said, per the Miami Herald.

Flores dialed up disguises and opportune blitzes, sacking Jared Goff four times and holding the Rams quarterback to 3-of-12 on third down and a 57.6 passer rating.

Brian Flores, who delivered a coaching defensive masterpiece in his final game with the Patriots, enjoys the moment with his kids. pic.twitter.com/hbe0txUD7N

— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) February 4, 2019

Adopting the heavy blitz, pressure style of defense from Belichick, Flores went on to face his former head coach six times with the Dolphins. After losing the first meeting in 2019, he won four of the next five meetings.

The Dolphins’ firing of Flores has come under legal scrutiny after he filed a lawsuit against Miami and three other teams.

Flores alleged that he was offered a bribe from owner Stephen Ross to lose games in 2019 to acquire the No. 1 overall pick. He also clashed with ownership as Ross committed tampering in an attempt to bring Tom Brady to Miami during the 2020 offseason — which was later confirmed and led to the Dolphins forfeiting a first-round pick.

Flores alleged that he and other Black coaches were part of “sham” interviews as a way to work around the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coach and front office openings.

Steelers Saw Brian Flores’ Impact in 2022 Season

After Flores’ fallout with Miami, Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin pounced at the opportunity to add Flores to his coaching staff.

“It doesn’t require a lot of time to realize that you could use a Brian Flores on your staff,” Tomlin said last March, per The Athletic.

Flores, under Tomlin and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, played a hand in helping the Steelers turn the league’s worst rushing defense from 2021 into the ninth-stingiest unit on the ground, per Pro Football Reference.

Steelers Nation noted that Flores wasn’t given as much say in the defense, but found his fingerprints in Pittsburgh’s prep for the Carolina Panthers in Week 15. Coming off a loss to the Baltimore Ravens where they gave up 215 rushing yards, Pittsburgh shifted its defensive front to include four down linemen on obvious rushing plays, and it worked.

The Steelers allowed a season-low 21 rushing yards to a resurgent Panthers team that had averaged 151 rushing yards in its previous three games.

Flores is likely ready to move on and have his fingerprints on more responsibility in the upcoming season.

“Coach T is … well, very, very good and talented. He shouldn’t take a back seat to anybody,” Tomlin said, per The Athletic.

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