The Vikings defense was horrendous a season ago. They ranked 31st in yards allowed, behind only the Lions. They were also a miserable 28th in points allowed, further cementing them as one of the league’s worst defenses. Somehow that 2022 Vikings team managed to win 13 games without any semblance of a defense. The unit was a big reason though that the Vikings got blown out in a few of their losses and were ultimately labeled as frauds after letting Daniel Jones have a career day against them in a Wild Card playoff loss. Not much was done in the offseason from a personnel standpoint that on paper would have made them a better defense in 2023, leading many to believe it would again be an issue for Minnesota. Then in walked Brian Flores as the new Defensive Coordinator.
What Flores has been able to accomplish this season has been extraordinary. He’s taken mostly the same roster, with a few additions at cornerback and linebacker, and completely changed the expectations. The Vikings are currently tied for 3rd in the NFL in average points allowed per game at 20.2. They are also up to 8th in the league in yards per game allowed. Kevin O’Connell rightfully gets a lot of the credit for keeping the Vikings afloat without their starting quarterback, but Brian Flores’ defense has been the driving force.
Incredible Turnaround for Minnesota’s Defense
Brian Flores is Using an Ideology Similar to That of Great Offensive Coaches
So, the real question is, how exactly has Brian Flores turned things around so quickly? To start with, he’s using the same guys that were on the roster a year ago correctly. Changing a scheme to fit your personnel is typically seen more frequently on the offensive side of the ball. That’s exactly what Flores has done to get the Vikings defense clicking.
During camp, Brian Flores quickly realized that three of his best defenders were all safeties. Rather than rotate them in and out of the lineup, he drew up a defense that has them on the field together almost every snap. One has to imagine that Flores didn’t come into Minnesota schematically entrenched in a three-safety look. That safety trio of Harrison Smith, Camryn Bynum, and Josh Metellus could all garner Pro Bowl attention down the stretch. They’ve played that well and that seamlessly together while rotating around the defense.
Flores playing three safeties that all know how to tackle in space also allows for him to manufacture pressure. The Vikings only have one proven pass rusher on the roster, Danielle Hunter. The rest are late-round selections or have been injured all year which is the case for Marcus Davenport. Rather than sitting back and rushing four, hoping that Hunter eventually gets home, Flores has been blitzing with abandon. Flores has adjusted his scheme as needed at every turn and the results have been remarkable. Unfortunately for the Vikings, Brian Flores will likely be a Head Coach somewhere else next year as a result.
Two Potential Head Coaching Vacancies Could be Fits for Brian Flores
There are two teams that appear to make sense to hire Brian Flores out from under the Vikings. The biggest thing a team would need to have is a strong direction at quarterback. Pairing a rookie quarterback with a defensive specialist coach almost always leads to poor results. Look no further than the Bears with Matt Eberflus and Justin Fields. Both are likely to be looking for work this offseason. It’s also what got Flores in trouble as Head Coach of the Dolphins with his mismanagement of Tua Tagovailoa. With that in mind, the perfect fit seems to exist.
Perfect Fit: Los Angeles Chargers
What would it look like if Justin Herbert actually got solid defensive play from time to time? Brian Flores has been able to create magic with Minnesota’s largely talent bereft group. Now, imagine what he could accomplish with LA’s names on defense. The presence of Derwin James would give Flores the ultimate chess piece to move around the board. James, along with great bookend edge rushers could give Flores the opportunity to scheme up pressure without sending the kitchen sink on a play-by-play basis. At this point it seems almost certain that the Chargers job will be open without an incredible turnaround. With the presence of a Justin Herbert-led offense, Brian Flores feels like the perfect hire to restore toughness to the organization.
Next Best Thing: Washington Commanders
The Commanders will be moving off Ron Rivera after the season, barring a crazy turn of events. While not nearly as accomplished as Herbert in LA, Sam Howell has shown real flashes as a starting quarterback. Brian Flores would serve to be the culture setter that Rivera was initially brought in to be. At a minimum, he’d get their leaky defense moving back in the right direction. It would be a very similar undertaking to what he’s had to go through in Minnesota this year, with Washington at the bottom of almost all defensive categories. Washington may decide to go with an offensive coach to help Howell’s development, but it could do a lot worse than Flores.
Regardless of where Flores is coaching next year, it’s safe to assume that good defense and a strong culture will follow. He can be considered responsible for getting the Dolphins on the right path before his somewhat surprising firing. He had Miami in the thick of every playoff race, even with inconsistent quarterback play. With his credibility brought back up after successful stops in Pittsburgh and Minnesota, it would be shocking if Brian Flores is not one of the first names off the board during this year’s coaching carousel.
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