General manager John Dorsey will lead the search for the next Cleveland Browns coach, a team spokesman confirmed Wednesday.
The next coach will replace Hue Jackson, who was fired Oct. 29, one day after a loss in Pittsburgh. The final decision on selecting the coach will be made by Dorsey and owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, with Dorsey’s recommendation weighing heavily.
The decision is significant because Jimmy and Dee Haslam led the search to hire Jackson, and Haslam assisted Joe Banner in the search to hire Mike Pettine and Rob Chudzinski. For a variety of reasons, chiefly not enough wins, none of the coaches lasted three years.
Dorsey’s experience in scouting and player personnel give him strong contacts throughout the NFL and in college football. He has not commented yet on how he might go about the search.
In a best-case scenario, the right coach could bring the team together for future success.
The team’s future organizational structure after the new hire has yet to be determined. Haslam previously had it where the coach and GM/VP reported to him. Having the coach report to Dorsey would be an option.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones had a one-word answer when asked if there was any scenario in which he would make an in-season head-coaching change in 2018 following his team’s 28-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday night.
“No,” Jones said.
Jones has made only one in-season head-coaching change since purchasing the Cowboys in 1989 and that was elevating Jason Garrett to his current role in favor of Wade Phillips after the Cowboys got off to a 1-7 start to the 2010 season.
The loss to the Titans dropped the Cowboys to 3-5 at the midway point of the season, leaving them two games behind the NFC East-leading Washington Redskins. The Cowboys play the 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I think we realize we have eight games to go, we’ve got a long way to go in this season,” Jones said. “We want to play better than we played tonight, so I certainly think each individual and coach and front-office person is going to have to do better, including me.”
At the bye, Jones traded for wide receiver Amari Cooper, sending the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2019 to the Oakland Raiders, and Garrett opted to make a change with the offensive line coach, moving on from Paul Alexander in favor of Marc Colombo.
When asked if there could be a change with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, Jones said, “I’m not anticipating any more coaching changes.”
The Cowboys hoped those moves would energize them coming into the Tennessee game, but the Cowboys failed to score a point in the second half.
“I very candidly didn’t see this coming,” Jones said. “I thought we would be sitting here with a positive result. This is a surprise to me and is a setback. Now when you’re halfway through the season, losing a ballgame in the NFL, if that causes you to be deterred or to not think that there’s a future ahead of you, then you’ve picked the wrong world to operate in. That’s not the life we’ve chosen.”
Since taking over for Phillips, Garrett has posted a 70-58 record with just two playoff appearances and one postseason victory. He was named the NFL’s Coach of the Year in 2016 after the Cowboys went 4-12 in 2015, their worst mark since Jones’ first year when they went 1-15.
“I don’t like the way we played tonight,” Jones said. “Had we played a lot better tonight and had the loss, then I would be more positive about that. We’ve got to play better. We’re not in anything if we don’t play better. We have to play better. We did not play good for whatever reason after that first spurt of energy in the early part of the game. We just didn’t play very well.”
TEMPE, Ariz. — Cardinals coach Steve Wilks believes his job, as well as those of his assistant coaches, could be on the line if Arizona continues to lose, he said Monday.
But a change may be coming to the Cardinals’ offense that could save those jobs.
Wilks was asked Monday, a day after a 27-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings dropped the Cardinals to 1-5, if offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s job was safe. The Cardinals’ offense has been one of the worst in the NFL this season, ranking last in yards per game, yards per play, rushing yards per game, rushing yards per play, first downs per game, third-down percentage and average time of possession, and 31st in yards per play, points per game, and passing yards per game and per play.
But Wilks didn’t single out McCoy.
“I would say all our jobs are in jeopardy, including mine, if we don’t win,” Wilks said.
McCoy, who was the Denver Broncos‘ offensive coordinator last season, was fired on Nov. 20 last season after Denver lost six straight. Including that stretch, McCoy has now lost 11 of his past 12 games as an offensive coordinator.
Wilks, who is a defensive-minded coach, said he’s been paying more attention to the offense lately “making sure we’re doing the things we need to do to execute.”
On Monday, Wilks said one option Arizona could turn to in order to spark its foundering offense is a no-huddle scheme, similar to what rookie quarterback Josh Rosen ran at UCLA.
The Cardinals went no-huddle in the fourth quarter against the Vikings and Rosen led Arizona to a touchdown with 7:01 left in the game and the Cardinals trailing 27-10.
“It was very effective for us,” Wilks said. “It’s something that we got to definitely consider. (It’s) part of (Rosen’s) comfort zone based off college and the things he did back there, so we got to do everything we can right now to get this offense going in the right direction.”
Rosen, however, tempered the notion that a no-huddle scheme would be the answer.
“It’s not necessarily that I like it or don’t like it, it was just successful a little bit when we did it,” Rosen said. “I think the Vikings had a comfortable lead, as well, so I think they took their foot off the gas a little bit and kind of let us get some underneath stuff.
“I think it’s definitely something that we can do and continue but (you) also can’t look too far into it considering the situation of the game.”
With the Cardinals hosting the Broncos on Thursday night, Wilks wants to carry over the offensive pieces that worked Sunday in Minnesota to make life easier for Rosen in the short week.
“How much can we carry over in a short week to try to make things simpler on a quarterback so therefore he can go out there and process things and play fast?” Wilks said.
That includes going no-huddle, Wilks said.
Wilks also said he’s open to incorporating more run-pass options into the Cardinals’ offense, another scheme that Rosen ran at UCLA.
“We’ve done some of that. We did some of that (Sunday),” Wilks said. “Do we need to do a little bit more? Probably so.”
Rosen said the game plan, which the Cardinals were putting together Monday afternoon, needs to be fluid and flexible from week to week based on what works.
There’s an overall frustration with the offense, Rosen said, but he added it’s not focused on anything in particular. He singled out Arizona’s issues converting on third down, which the Cardinals have done 21.8 percent of the time, ranked last in the NFL, is a “microcosm of the greater issue.”
“I think there’s a little bit of everything that can always be improved upon,” Rosen said. “I think Coach McCoy’s going to try a couple things that he might think sparks the offense a little bit, but we also have to continue to tighten up what is already in it.
“When things aren’t going right, I think everyone needs to not change the game plan but also not completely buckle down and be stubborn and be like, ‘This is us.’ It’s a constant fluid situation. I think you got to put your head together and solve a problem.”
The Phoenix team of the Alliance of American Football was introduced Friday, and Rick Neuheisel was named its head coach. The team will play its home games at Sun Devil Stadium.
Neuheisel has coached in the college ranks at UCLA (2008 to 2011), Washington (1999 to 2002) and Colorado (1995 to 1998). He was also a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens.
He grew up in Tempe and was a high school star there before going on to become quarterback at UCLA.
“I’m really, really proud to represent my hometown here with this new alliance. This is homegrown stuff, and I think that’s the idea behind this league,” he said in an introductory news conference. “We’re thrilled. Looking forward to the challenge. Unbelievable amount of work to be done, but [where] better than to do it right here in the Valley of the Sun?
“It couldn’t be better. It’s almost like serendipity when the phone call came … that this was a possibility.”
The Alliance will feature eight teams playing a 10-week regular season beginning Feb. 9, 2019 — the weekend after the Super Bowl — on CBS. There will be two playoff rounds and a championship game on the weekend of April 26-28.
Other head coaches in the league are Dennis Erickson (Salt Lake), Mike Singletary (Memphis), Steve Spurrier (Orlando) and Brad Childress (Atlanta).
The NFL’s competition committee has proposed a policy change that would allow teams to formalize head coaching hires when the coach’s original team is playing in the postseason.
The change would relieve decision-makers from waiting weeks to formalize hires.
Set to be voted on next week during the NFL owners meeting, the proposal would help teams avoid the predicament faced by the Indianapolis Colts last month. The Colts had agreed to terms with New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to replace Chuck Pagano in mid-January, but under current NFL rules, could not execute a signed contract until after the Patriots’ season ended. The Patriots continued playing through Super Bowl LII. Two days later, McDaniels informed the Colts that he planned to remain with the Patriots, forcing the Colts to scramble to hire Frank Reich instead.
Under the proposed change, the Colts would have been able to give McDaniels a contract to sign at the same time they agreed to terms. Had McDaniels declined to sign, the Colts could have moved more quickly to make another hire.
The proposal was among a long list of potential rule changes the NFL will consider when the meetings open Sunday. Some were previously reported, including a significant change to the catch rule, a proposal from the New York Jets to make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it is “intentional and egregious” and the authority for the NFL’s centralized officiating office to eject players for non-football acts during games.
NFL executive vice president Troy Vincent said Wednesday that the Jets’ pass interference proposal had gained momentum during a week of competition committee meetings.
The full list of proposals, released publicly Thursday night, also includes:
Allowing coaches and players to view video on league-issued tablets on the sideline or the coaches’ booth during games. Currently, only photographs are allowed to be viewed — either printed or on tablets. Available video could significantly enhance the process of in-game adjustments and evaluations.
Eliminating the requirement that a winning touchdown at the end of regulation, or overtime, to kick an extra point.
Proposals, from the Los Angeles Chargers and Washington Redskins, to expand replay review to include personal fouls, including roughing the passer and hits to players in a defenseless posture. They are not endorsed by the competition committee and are unlikely to earn approval.
FRISCO, Texas — To hear owner Jerry Jones tell it, coach Jason Garrett does not need to worry about his future. He is not on any kind of hot seat in 2018 after the Dallas Cowboys finished a disappointing 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
Jones has been patient with Garrett, even letting him get to the final year of his contract in 2014. Garrett answered that challenge with a 12-4 record, thanks to quarterback Tony Romo’s best season, and was rewarded with a five-year, $30 million deal.
If the Cowboys miss the playoffs in 2018, would Jones give Garrett a ninth season as head coach?
Using the seven head coaching changes from 2017 into 2018 as a guide, what could the Cowboys be looking at if Jones makes a change?
The big name
The Oakland Raiders lured Jon Gruden out of the “Monday Night Football” booth with what was reportedly a $100 million contract. He last coached in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2008 but remained close to the game during his time at ESPN.
Bill Cowher last coached in 2006 and has been on CBS’ pregame show ever since. His name has been tied to jobs even though he has professed he is done coaching. Could he be lured to the “big room,” as Bill Parcells called the Cowboys’ job in 2003?
What about Sean Payton? Yes, he is the New Orleans Saints coach but Jones has long been a fan and there have always been rumblings of a reunion. Payton took the Saints back to the playoffs in 2017 but he has been in New Orleans a long time.
Bob Stoops? Jim Harbaugh? Never underestimate the pull of the star.
Bill Belichick’s run of success with the New England Patriots has made his assistant coaches hot names. Charlie Weis, Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel left New England for lucrative head coaching jobs. Now Patricia has a chance.
McDaniels might be too hot to touch with his handling of the Colts’ debacle but would Jones care? No. He would want a coach that can help Dak Prescott the most. McDaniels is at the top of the list of playcallers in the NFL.
The former player
Mike Vrabel could be considered a Belichick guy as well, considering he played for so many years with the Patriots. His ascension from player to Ohio State assistant, Houston Texans defensive coordinator to Titans coach has been quick.
Dan Campbell was named Miami Dolphins coach after Joe Filbin was fired after four games in 2015. Campbell went 5-7 but brought a toughness to the Dolphins after he was named interim head coach four-plus seasons after he finished his playing career. Now the Saints assistant head coach, Campbell played three seasons with the Cowboys (2003-05), becoming something of a Parcells’ guy over the years. He also learned a high-powered offense under Payton and knows the Cowboys’ process.
The defensive coordinator
Steve Wilks had a one-year run as defensive coordinator of the Carolina Panthers, but he earned praise through the years as a position coach.
Kris Richard had interest from teams as a head coach when he was coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. He will be under Jones’ nose in 2018 as the Cowboys’ passing game coordinator and secondary coach. Jones has also seen what Jim Schwartz has done as the Philadelphia Eagles coordinator the past two seasons.
The offensive coordinator
Frank Reich got the job in Indianapolis after the McDaniels fiasco but his work with Nick Foles in helping the Eagles to Super Bowl LII should not lead folks to believe he was some kind of backup candidate.
If the Cowboys can’t get Payton, then maybe they would look at his offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael. He has been with Drew Brees since their time together with the San Diego Chargers. Payton has had Carmichael call plays and has relied on him greatly over the years. Carmichael has interviewed for head coaching jobs in the past (Oakland).
The redemption guy
Pat Shurmur went 9-23 in two seasons with the Cleveland Browns. Looking back, maybe he did a better job than anybody could have expected, since the Browns have one win over the past two years. The New York Giants hired Shurmur to take over for Ben McAdoo after their 2017 season fell apart and are banking on him being much better the second time around.
Campbell and Schwartz can fall into this category, but John Fox has a long friendship with Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones. This would be his fourth chance, not second, but he took the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos to the Super Bowl before a poor showing with the Chicago Bears.
Jack Del Rio, a former Cowboy, took Oakland to the playoffs in 2016 for the first time since 2002 but lost his gig when Gruden opted to return. Twice he took the Jacksonville Jaguars to the playoffs.
The out-of-nowhere guy
Nobody would have said Matt Nagy would be a head coaching candidate prior to the 2017 season but he did well as the Kansas City Chiefs playcaller after Andy Reid gave up the duties in-season. The Bears are hoping Matt Nagy can be the next Doug Pederson, who was also groomed by Reid.
Nobody expected much from Sean McVay when the Los Angeles Rams named him coach. He was 30 when he was hired and ended up being the NFL’s coach of the year in 2017.
Matt LaFleur is Vrabel’s new offensive coordinator in Tennessee. He was with the Rams last season under McVay. He also spent time with Mike and Kyle Shanahan. He’s 38 years old. New England linebackers coach Brian Flores interviewed for the Arizona Cardinals job and many across the league have raved about his future ability as a head coach.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When Josh McDaniels reversed course to return to the New England Patriots on Tuesday, one of the first questions it sparked was: How much longer does Bill Belichick plan to coach?
Belichick turns 66 in April, he’s committed to be back in 2018, and it seems fair to say he’s “year-to-year” after that.
Some believe McDaniels’ return could accelerate Belichick’s eventual retirement, but here’s an alternative theory: It actually might prolong his stay on the sideline because it reduces what would have been a major strain.
This was shaping up to be one of Belichick’s most challenging years because he was going to have to replace McDaniels, his offensive coordinator; defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; and maybe even special teams coach Joe Judge, whose contract is expiring.
McDaniels’ return takes a major headache away from Belichick, as the Patriots didn’t have a clear in-house candidate to replace the offensive coordinator. It probably would have meant Belichick devoting more time to that side of the ball like he did in 2005, when Charlie Weis departed and McDaniels was being eased into the playcalling role.
McDaniels coming back in 2018 and into the future simplifies things for Belichick, allowing the freedom that is ideal for him to oversee the entire team, or chip in more on defense under a new coordinator (likely Brian Flores).
Meanwhile, another trickle-down effect of McDaniels’ return is the odds of Judge’s return as special teams coach have increased. Over the past 24 hours or so, there has been positive momentum building that Judge will be back with the Patriots in 2018 (although, as we saw with McDaniels and the Colts, nothing is official until it’s signed).
If that’s the way it unfolds, the turnover that was projected for two key spots on the Patriots’ staff will not have come to fruition.
That’d be a huge coup for Belichick, who has also been relishing one other aspect of things: having his sons, Stephen (safeties coach) and Brian (coaching assistant), on staff. Leading up to the Super Bowl, when asked about coaching alongside his sons, he said: “Special, unlike any other, really. It’s obviously great to have Steve, but also Brian, too. It’s special.”
Whenever Belichick decides to retire, he’d be stepping away from that, which figures to be a notable part of his decision-making process.
So maybe it’s two to three years. Maybe it’s four to five. Or even longer.
If anything, McDaniels’ return might extend the window rather than shorten it.
MINNEAPOLIS — Brian Flores will be the next coaching star of the New England Patriots, and to understand why is to understand where he is from. He grew up in the housing projects of Brownsville, Brooklyn, maybe the toughest neighborhood in New York, so there was nothing about Bill Belichick or the Patriot Way that could ever shake him.
Life had roughed Flores up early, prepared him for full-contact drills inside the NFL’s most demanding environment.
“I never backed down from anybody,” Flores said. “If people see you’re scared, or as somebody who backs down, you’re going to deal with it every day. That was my thing. I didn’t back down from anybody or any situation. Football, school, anything.”
Long before the 36-year-old linebackers coach became a Patriots scouting assistant in 2004, or a defensive coordinator-in-waiting, he was the son of Honduran immigrants who lived with his four brothers 20 stories above a community that could be perilous to navigate. His younger twin brothers, Luis and Danny, each had knives pulled on them in separate mugging incidents on their way to the local video-game store. Luis, now a fourth-grade teacher in the South Bronx, said he saw chalk outlines of bodies outside their building more than once, and that almost every night the Flores family heard the not-too-distant sound of gunfire.
Brian, the second-oldest, prefers not to offer the same details on similar confrontations. “I was tested many times,” Flores said, “and I want to leave it at that.” Flores knows what people often think about Brownsville and what journalists from far different places often write about Brownsville. He didn’t need to read in a 2012 Time story that his neighborhood had the nation’s highest concentration of public housing. He didn’t need to read in a 2014 New York Times Magazine piece that there were 72 shootings and 15 murders the previous year “in an area spanning about two square miles that many people never leave.”
Flores lived it every day. He lived amid the high poverty, crime and unemployment rates. And he loved his community all the same. “It shaped me in a lot of ways,” he said. “It made me tough. I learned how to deal with adversity, and it motivated me to get out of there. … It’s a tough environment, and there’s violence and drugs. But it wasn’t the wild, wild West. There are a lot of good people there too. I was fortunate to be around a lot of them.”
It takes a village, after all. “And it takes a big village when you come out of Brownsville,” Flores said. His father, Raul, was a merchant marine who was out to sea as many as 10 months out of the year. His mother, Maria, stayed home to stand guard over the five boys, including the youngest, Christopher, who has autism. Maria ruled with two iron fists. Unless her sons were traveling to and from school or practice, or running an errand, they were expected to be off the streets and inside their three-bedroom apartment in the Glenmore Plaza projects.
“A bunch of our friends from middle school were in gangs,” said Danny, now an equipment manager and graduate student at Columbia University, “and our parents didn’t want us involved in that culture and lifestyle. I was leaving school once and saw a kid running for his life from a gang member. I went straight home. That’s a hard thing to see when you’re 13 years old.”
On a beautiful fall day when Flores was 12 years old, his uncle Darrel Patterson stopped by the apartment to find the Flores boys watching TV. Maria didn’t want them out of the building, but Patterson, a Jets fan and Brooklyn firefighter, had an idea. A cancer survivor, Patterson had been on medical leave on September 11, 2001, when he lost six colleagues from Ladder 118 at the World Trade Center. But football was Patterson’s joy, and he told Maria he was going to load the boys into his car to drive them to a Queens park used by the Lynvet youth football league. A coach there timed Flores in the 40-yard dash and couldn’t believe the kid’s speed. He pointed Flores toward a parked van and told him to go inside and pick out the equipment he wanted to use. The young Flores put his first pair of shoulder pads on backwards, and the rest is football history in a basketball town.
Flores became a Lynvet prodigy as a defensive end and running back, and as an eighth grader, he was spotted by former NFL nose guard Dino Mangiero, who was coaching at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Country Day, a private high school attended by the children of New York elites. Flores was a grade-A student, and the school allowed Mangiero to admit a number of athletes from low-income backgrounds as part of its Jordan Scholars program. Before its campus was rocked by reports that a previous coach had sexually abused students between 1966 and 1991, Poly Prep was seen as an idyllic sanctuary in the affluent Dyker Heights section of Brooklyn. Flores and the younger brothers who followed him from P.S. 332 to Poly Prep, Danny and Luis, thought it was really something after a 90-minute commute by train and bus to see a pond full of ducks and a parking lot full of luxury cars. They were a long way from Brownsville in every literal and figurative way.
By his sophomore year, Flores was starting at tailback and safety for the varsity. Unbeaten Poly Prep was down big at halftime to a strong team from the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey when Mangiero challenged his team to show its heart. On a fourth-and-1 near midfield in the second half, Mangiero had decided to punt before Flores, then a sophomore, started to plead his case during a timeout. Over his headset, Poly Prep assistant Craig Jacoby heard Flores tell the head coach: “Give me the ball. I’ll get a first down.” Flores ran through a tackle and scored a 51-yard touchdown in what would be a 38-38 tie. Jacoby said it was the only varsity game over Flores’ three years that Poly Prep didn’t win.
Flores scored a reported 1,140 on his SAT, and picked Boston College over a wide circle of major college programs offering him a full ride because of its academic standing and proximity to home. The BC coaches saw in Flores what the Poly Prep coaches saw: grit, intensity and, more than anything, humility. Flores redshirted his first year with the Eagles and eventually moved from safety to linebacker. Bill McGovern, now the New York Giants‘ linebackers coach, was Flores’ position coach at BC, and he couldn’t get over Flores’ aptitude for the game and how quickly he applied a lesson from the meeting room to the field. McGovern would speak at clinics and use tape to support his teaching points, and over time he noticed something about his film clips: Flores kept showing up in them. His feet and eyes were always in the right places, and his technique and execution were all but ripped out of a textbook.
The 5-foot-11, 212-pound Flores was BC’s second-leading tackler in 2003, and would have landed in an NFL camp if not for a torn quadriceps muscle that required surgery and knocked him out of the Eagles’ bowl game. Flores had all the makings of a perfect Patriots player — selfless, undersized, overlooked — and suddenly he had to make himself a perfect Patriots staffer. Scott Pioli, vice president of player personnel, hired Flores as a gofer before later teaching him how to judge talent. Belichick taught Flores how to develop that talent once he transitioned from scouting to coaching in 2008.
Belichick’s offensive and defensive coordinators, Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia, are now preparing to take over head-coaching jobs in Indianapolis and Detroit, respectively, leaving some major holes at the top of the New England staff. After interviewing for the head-coaching vacancy in Arizona and impressing Cardinals officials, Flores is expected to fill Patricia’s role. Flores doesn’t fit the profile of past Belichick protégés — small-college, small-town grinders who were long-shots, yes, but who never confronted the type of odds facing a kid from Brownsville. If the camera finds Flores next season as often as it found the bearded Patricia, it will do a great service to young men around the country who are forced to deal with hopelessness and despair below the poverty line.
“I hope it’s a powerful image,” Flores said. “I hope they look at me and hear my story, and there’s a hope and an understanding that they can do it too. That would be exactly what I would want them to feel. To see that regardless of what your circumstances are, or where your parents are from, of where you live … you can write your own story. I’ve written my own story.”
Raul and Maria were Flores’ co-authors. They arrived from Honduras in the 1970s unable to speak a word of English, and by making education the household’s No. 1 priority beyond physical safety, their sons Raul Jr. (Virginia Tech), Brian (BC), Danny (Albany) and Luis (Bucknell) all graduated from four-year universities. Flores earned his undergraduate degree as an English major and then earned his master’s in administrative studies, all while playing big-time football and, when home on breaks, tending to Christopher’s special needs.
People in the community took notice. “Brownsville is the trenches,” said Lance Bennett, the athletic director at New Jersey’s Mater Dei Prep and a childhood friend who became a prominent young musician and a kick returner at the University of Indiana. “And Brian was like a rose growing out of the concrete. At 14 years old, he had this grown-man demeanor about him. I’ve never seen him show emotion or any sign of weakness.”
Another childhood friend, Chris Legree, who played quarterback at Poly Prep and then at the University of Maine, said Flores could put their neighborhood on the map for a reason other than boxers who fought their way out — Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Shannon Briggs among them. Legree recalled Flores as a unifying force at home and again at Poly Prep. “He was really the first black person I’d seen mingling with white people,” Legree said. “And it was a cool thing.”
Legree also said he’d never met anyone who was prouder of being from Brownsville than Brian Flores. As a schoolboy football star, Flores was protected, to some degree, by friends and strangers alike. Even most drug dealers knew to stay clear of him. He was a designated golden child, a kid with a chance to make it out, and if something unlawful or dangerous was about to go down in a park or on a street corner, someone usually rushed Flores out of there, according to Flores and his brothers.
“But at the same time, I still had to watch my back,” Flores said. He described his early-morning walk to the train station as ominous enough to “look like a movie scene where you’re about to get robbed.”
His life experiences made him a hell of a football coach. He learned how to survive in Brownsville. He learned how to interact with people with different socioeconomic backstories at Poly Prep. He learned how to overcome adversity — in the form of his leg injury — at BC.
Belichick has been tough on Flores, just as he’s tough on all the young assistants who he’s groomed through the system. But Belichick has nothing on Maria Flores, who once grabbed her young son by the ear and forced him to immediately start reading the phonics book he’d just pushed to the side.
“Myself and my brothers are what our parents dreamed of having when they came to this country,” Flores said. “We are the American dream.”
Two years ago Flores moved Raul, Maria and Christopher out of the projects and bought them a condo in North Attleborough, Massachusetts, two miles from his home. Flores’ own American dream, as a kid, was to make it as an NFL player and buy his parents a home so they never again had to walk up 20 flights of stairs when the elevator broke down, which happened every couple of weeks. Flores made that dream happen as an NFL coach, instead.
Raul and Maria are close to their three grandchildren, Flores’ two boys and girl, and Christopher, 25, is enjoying a local special-needs program that keeps him active in flag football, basketball and softball. It isn’t crazy to think that Flores will remain in Foxborough for many years, that he might even someday replace a retiring Belichick, considering Patriots owner Robert Kraft is said to adore Flores, and since the timing — three, four or five years from now — might make him a logical candidate.
But Flores is a Patriot, and so the only future he wants to talk about is his Sunday date with the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl LII. A few years ago, Flores made a name for himself in the closing seconds of New England’s indelible Super Bowl XLIX victory over Seattle by ordering onto the field Malcolm Butler, who only pulled off perhaps the greatest goal-line play in league history.
Flores is about to become a bigger name in New England and beyond. No matter what happens with the rest of his coaching career, Flores said he will honor what he called his neighborhood’s mantra: “Never ran, never will.”
Bring on the Eagles, and then a much bigger role in Belichick’s cabinet. This proud product of Brownsville will never run, and he will never back down.