The Minnesota Vikings have hired Steelers Assistant Brian Flores showing that some things are not meant to last. Literally.
When the Steelers surprised the rest of the NFL by hiring Brian Flores as their senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach last spring, everyone suspected it would be a short-term relationship.
Brian Flores was head coaching material, having just been fired from the Miami Dolphins largely because – as Flores argues, he refused to tank for draft position. So there was a bit of a question over whether Flores would find a cold shoulder from the rest of the NFL.
But the Cleveland Browns leapt to interview Flores for their defensive coordinator spot. And that was followed by several other interviews, including a 2nd interview with the Arizona Cardinals.
So instead of a cold shoulder, Flores found a warm embrace. Steelers fans may have held out hope that Mike Tomlin and/or Art Rooney II could have convinced Flores to stay in Pittsburgh for another year. But the reality is that moving into the Vikings defensive coordinator chair provides Flores a better path to a head coaching job.
Flores Made an Impact in Pittsburgh
Judging the impact of an assistant coach from the outside in is difficult. Sure, when an assistant does a great job such as Mike Munchak their influence is obvious. But the reverse isn’t always true.
The 2013 Steelers opened the season 2-6 and a horrendous offensive line was the main culprit. Yet they fought back and kept their playoff hopes alive until a blown call in overtime swung victory and the final playoff spot to San Diego Chargers. Improved offensive line play had driven the ’13 Steelers surge during the 2nd half of the season.
- Yet Mike Tomlin began the off season by firing offensive line coach Jack Bicknell (Ramon Foster and Maurkice Pouncey had apparently taken over the offensive line room.)
Other times the influence of an assistant is more subtle. Mike Tomlin fired Joey Porter as outside linebackers coach following he 2018 season and announced that Keith Butler would take over his responsibilities. Fans snickered an jeered Butler’s apparent demotion.
- Yet under Butler’s tutelage, Bud Dupree finally began to play like a first round draft pick.
So if it is hard to pinpoint Brian Flores’ influence on the Steelers 2022 defense, there’s no question that he made his mark. And that mark is helping turn around a unit that was one of the worst run defenses in franchise history into a unit that ranked in the NFL’s top ten.
And the arrival of veterans like Larry Ogunjobi and Myles Jack fueled that improvement, it is quite clear that Flores had a role in helping raw rookies like Mark Robinson be ready to make contributions late in the season. And Robinson played a large role in shutting down stout running offenses such as the Carolina Panthers, Las Vegas Raiders and Baltimore Ravens.
Clearly, the Steelers will miss Flores.
Brian Flores’ departure marks the first coaching change to Mike Tomlin’s staff this off season, as Tomlin has already decided to retain offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Jerry Olsavsky remains as inside linebackers coach while Denzel Martin is on staff as assistant outside linebackers coach.
Mike Tomlin likes to promote from within although his best coaching choices have been veterans, like Flores and Munchak, that he’s brought in from the outside.