ATLANTA — Less than a day after his defense dominated in Super Bowl LIII, Brian Flores was named head coach of the Miami Dolphins, the team announced Monday.
Flores and the Patriots defense led the way to New England’s 13-3 win against the Rams, holding the second-ranked offense this season by points and yards without a touchdown. It was the second game in a row in which the Patriots’ defense didn’t allow points in the first half, following its performance against the top-ranked Chiefs in the AFC Championship game.
“To be a head coach in this league is a dream come true, to be head coach of the Miami Dolphins is a dream come true,” Flores said in a video interview the Dolphins put on Twitter. “This is a great organization with a great history, with a great fan base, and I’m excited to be here.”
The move wasn’t surprising after Flores interviewed for the job during the Patriots’ playoff bye week and then again during the two-week period before the Super Bowl.
Flores, a 37-year-old product of Boston College, was a popular candidate with teams looking for a head coach. He also interviewed with the Packers, Broncos, and Browns in the postseason. He interviewed with the Cardinals last season. He said that he wouldn’t have taken the Dolphins job were it not, in his opinion, a good fit.
“I wasn’t in a rush to become a head coach, I really wasn’t. I had a good job in New England,” Flores said.
For Flores, his next chapter marks the end of a 15-year career in New England in which he served in several capacities. Flores started in scouting, and originally hoped to become a general manager, but he found himself wanting to make a more direct impact on games and asked to move into coaching after the 2007 season.
“Two things that stand out immediately when you meet Brian are his football intelligence and leadership skills,” Dolphins general manager Chris Grier said in a release. “Brian is widely respected throughout the NFL. He paid his dues in New England working in personnel, on offense, defense, and special teams, which helped him build a great understanding of what it takes to win.
“If you talk with anyone who has played for him or worked with him, you will hear about his ability to lead and get the most out of people. Brian sets a high standard for his players and coaches and we are completely aligned with our vision on how to build a successful organization.”
This is the second straight season the Patriots will lose their defensive leader. Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia took the Lions’ head coaching job two days after last season’s Super Bowl.
Flores’s agent worked overnight to finalize his contract, according to the NFL Network, and Flores and his family were already down in Miami putting pen to paper Monday afternoon.
"To be a head coach in this league is a dream come true, to be head coach of the Miami Dolphins is a dream come true. This is a great organization with a great history, with a great fan base and I’m excited to be here."— Miami Dolphins (@MiamiDolphins) February 4, 2019
We go one-on-one with Head Coach Brian Flores pic.twitter.com/R7EmdEhbB9
Flores is not the only loss, either. Patriots receivers coach Chad O’Shea will reportedly become Miami’s offensive coordinator, while assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski will become part of Flores’s staff as well, according to SiriusXM NFL Radio.
In New England, former Buccaneers and Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is considered a top candidate to replace Flores. Schiano is a close friend of Bill Belichick and recently left his job as defensive coordinator at Ohio State. Defensive line coach Brendan Daly and Belichick consultant Bret Bielema are also candidates the Patriots could promote from within.
Back in New England on Monday, a smattering of players in the Patriots’ locker room addressed Flores’s new role. Safety Devin McCourty mentioned how Flores always projected confidence in his players, including during the Super Bowl. Before the play that led to Stephon Gilmore’s interception in the fourth quarter, Flores huddled with the defense and decided that moment was one of the few in the game in which they should dial up the blitz on Jared Goff.
“We send everybody, Goff throws it up kind of when we thought we could get some pressure to him, and Steph comes up with the pick,” McCourty said. “I thought that was kind of [Brian] all year, believing in his defense, not doubting whatever we talked about, not doubting himself or his thoughts, and just going with it.”
Cashing in on 21
For the last several years, including this one, heavy use of 21 personnel — two running backs, one tight end, two receivers — has been a hallmark of the Patriots’ offense. It’s a personnel group that would traditionally be more supportive of the run, but the Patriots pass well out of their 21 sets and use them to get mismatches.
Leading up to Super Bowl LIII, that was part of the game plan. The Patriots opened in 21 and came back to it throughout the game, but Belichick noted after the win that two-tight end sets proved unexpectedly effective and worked well for New England on its lone touchdown drive.
“[Josh] McDaniels made a great adjustment,” Belichick said. “We talked about that on the sideline. We went to a two-tight end offense, but we spread them out. We were able to complete some passes to Julian [Edelman] and then to Rob [Gronkowski] at the goal line to score. It was really well executed. Not something we had, I’d say, anticipated doing a lot in this game.”