Forgive Brian Flores if his head is spinning just a little. A few short hours ago he was doing a masterful job calling defensive signals for the New England Patriots, winning his fourth Super Bowl and shutting down a potent Los Angeles Rams offense in the process. Today he was named head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
One chapter comes to a close and another begins. Yesterday it was champagne and hugs and today it is roll up your sleeves and go to work. A new challenge. A new team. An opportunity Brian Flores has been waiting for all of his football life.
The Dolphins made it official on Monday, naming Flores as the 13th head coach in franchise history, entrusting in him the enormous responsibility of leading this team back to elite status.
With an agreement on hold for the past few weeks while the Patriots took care of unfinished business, I had the opportunity to delve into Flores’ background in order to better understand the journey that led him to him to South Florida on this first Monday of February.
And the more I looked at that journey, the more impressed I became.
Flores’ story is about overcoming, about growing up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in New York, about knowing what it’s like to be poor, about refusing to succumb to the lure of crime and gangs and about starting at the very bottom of the NFL ladder and working his way up.
See, Flores used football as a way off of the streets of Brownsville, N.Y., a path filled with hope and dreams, a path that would allow him to play football at Boston College and to get the break of all breaks, an entry level position with the New England Patriots back in 2004.
Fifteen years later, his resume includes just about every aspect of a pro football operation. He started in the Patriots’ scouting department where he first met future Dolphins’ General Manager Chris Grier. He moved on to coach offense, special teams and most recently defense, all with the Patriots. Now at just 37 years old he brings with him a wealth of big-time experience.
Ready? Sure looks like he is.
Every NFL coach comes with a story. Some are more riveting than others. But you’ll have to search hard to find another coach whose story mirrors Flores, who had so little for so long and who never stopped believing that there was more to his future then food stamps and public housing projects.
The son of hard-working Honduran immigrants, and the second oldest of five children, there was no easy street for Flores and that, in part, is what made Monday’s announcement so special. There are kids in Brownsville today who are hearing about Brian Flores, who can embrace his story with the reality that it too can happen to them.
“Never ran, never will.”
That’s the motto that Flores lived by growing in Brownsville. Stay strong. Stay focused. Don’t give into temptation. Don’t run away from any challenge. Attack each day with purpose and conviction. This is the man the Dolphins are getting, a leader out of both necessity and desire.
After an injury his senior year in college ended any hopes of a playing career in the NFL, Flores knew deep down that coaching was his calling. He would do anything to get into the NFL and that included working for free, which he offered to do at one point in a letter to NFL teams, or picking up dry cleaning, which was part of his responsibility when he first started with the Patriots.
“I moved up the ranks and fell in love with coaching,” he said.
There is no way to predict how successful Flores will be as an NFL head coach. Too many factors come into play to form any conclusions on Day 1. But it is clear nonetheless that the Dolphins have hired an impressive man to help turn this franchise around, a man with the right DNA, the right set of priorities, and certainly all the intangibles you are looking for in a head coach.
Did I mention that with Sunday’s Patriots’ victory, Flores is now one finger short of having a handful of Super Bowl rings? Doesn’t guarantee him anything in South Florida, but at least we know he has been there before and understands the effort and commitment it takes.
Passionate. Demanding. Caring. Motivated. Intense. So many adjectives describe Brian Flores. What does he tell a player when he first looks him in the eye?
“I’m going to do everything I can to help you become the best you can be,” is the message he preaches.
“And that’s what I love about coaching,” he adds. “That I can potentially make that kind of impact.”
Well, it’s now time to impact a different set of lives. And while we don’t know where this journey could take Brian Flores, there has to be a level of comfort given the road he has travelled and the admirers he has gained along the way.
The tough streets of Brownsville now seem like so long ago. But they will always remain an important part of him, a reminder of the obstacles you can overcome and the success you can enjoy by, as he learned growing up, never running away from a challenge.
His newest challenge, and certainly the most formidable one of his career, began on Monday.