Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach Brian Flores became the second person to interview the Cleveland Browns for their defensive coordinator vacancy on Thursday.
Flores’ meeting came a day after the Browns opened the interview process by speaking with Tennessee Titans senior defensive assistant Jim Schwartz. Flores and Schwartz also bring previous head coaching experience with them.
The Browns entered Thursday with two other known candidates they had asked permission to speak with: New England Patriots inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo and Seattle Seahawks associate head coach/defender Sean Desai . Desai’s schedule is blocked for the rest of this week due to preparations for an NFC wild-card playoff game on Saturday at the San Francisco 49ers.
Mayo, however, may soon be off the Browns’ radar. The Patriots announced Thursday night that they are in the process of extending the future assistant coach in order to keep him in the organization for the long term.
The Browns fired Joe Woods as defensive coordinator hours after the season finale against the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Woods had held the position since Kevin Stefanski was hired as head coach in 2020.
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Flores, 41, spent last season with Mike Tomlin’s team in Pittsburgh after being fired from his former position as head coach of the Miami Dolphins from 2019-21. Despite back-to-back winning seasons his past two years , he was let go after a 9-8 2021 season that left him with an overall rating of 24-25.
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The Dolphins were one of three teams, along with the New York Giants and Denver Broncos, that were included in a class action lawsuit Flores filed last year. The NFL was also named in the lawsuit, which alleges racial discrimination in hiring practices.
Tomlin brought Flores to the Steelers coaching staff after Flores was passed over for head coaching opportunities last offseason. Flores had an immediate impact on Pittsburgh’s defense, especially against the run.
The Steelers were last in the league against the run in 2021, giving up 146.1 rushing yards per game. Last season, the Steelers, despite losing TJ Watt seven games to a partial tear of the pectoral muscle, surged to ninth place against the rush at 108.1 yards per game.
Flores’ previous experience in the NFL before being hired by the Dolphins was spent working under Bill Belichick with the Patriots. Much like Schwartz, Flores’ early days came not on the pitch, but in the scouting department, serving as a scouting assistant in 2004-05 before being a professional scout in 2006-07.
The first on-field coaching role for Flores came in 2008, the first of two seasons in which he was a special teams assistant. He spent the following year, 2010, working as both an attacking assistant and special teams coach before switching to the defensive side of the ball in 2011.
After a season as a defensive assistant in 2011, Flores was elevated to safety coach, which he served from 2012 to 2015. He was the linebackers coach from 2016 to 2018, before Miami hire him as a head coach.
Belichick is considered the Patriots’ de facto defensive coordinator. However, Flores eventually took on the role of defensive caller for New England before leaving for the Dolphins.
Last year Flores filled that role, in 2018 the Patriots had one of the best defenses in football, one that helped them win the Super Bowl against the Los Angeles Rams in a 13-3 defensive battle. New England finished first that year against the run (40.7 yards per game), second in total yards allowed (295), sixth in points allowed (20.7) and ninth against the pass (254.3).