EAGAN, Minn. – Brian Flores is happy to be in Minnesota.
The Vikings introduced their new defensive coordinator Wednesday during a press conference at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center with Flores and Head Coach Kevin O'Connell.
Flores acknowledged he had multiple opportunities, including being in the running for Arizona's head coaching position, but felt strongly about choosing Minnesota.
"You almost get a gut feeling – I think we've all kind of had those – that this was the place for me and my family. This was the right opportunity," Flores told reporters. "It's funny. I was in church [in Pittsburgh] a couple weeks ago as this was all going on and [Pastor Brian Edmonton] said, 'In life there are instances where you can either have control or you can have growth. And you can't have both.'
"That hit me pretty good. I just felt like this was a great opportunity for growth," Flores added.
Below are five takeaways from Flores' and O'Connell's media availability.
View photos of Brian Flores during his first day as Vikings Defensive Coordinator at TCO Performance Center on Feb. 15.
1. Reconnecting and fitting comfortably | By Craig Peters
The connection between O'Connell and Flores goes back to 2008 when Flores was in his first year as a special teams assistant with the Patriots and O'Connell was drafted in the third round.
Flores had worked in personnel for New England for four years, and while he didn't coach the former quarterback directly, Flores' reputation made it to O'Connell through his draft classmates that included Jerod Mayo and Matthew Slater.
Each detailed what they remembered from nearly 15 years ago and how they've kept tabs since their football paths veered in different directions.
Flores said O'Connell's leadership stood out, even as a 22-23-year-old who was coming into a quarterbacks room that featured Tom Brady and Matt Cassel.
"Guys gravitated to him. He was smart. He was tough. He was team-first," Flores said before joking, "Obviously it was some competition, a little bit of competition in the quarterbacks room there. Just a little bit.
"Obviously it didn't work out, and he moved on, but his leadership, his team-first attitude. He was a great teammate," Flores said. "Those are the things I remember. Honestly, we weren't texting back and forth over the years, but when we saw each other at games, we would say hello. I always kept an eye on his career trajectory, and we saw each other in a few games, but I always had a respect for the way he went about his business."
O'Connell took the handoff in stride, adding, "In the midst of all that competition in the quarterbacks room, I just remember organization-wide the amount of good people in that building."
"As a rookie, you spend a lot of time around the other rookies, and that happened to be guys like Matthew Slater, guys like Jerod Mayo, who over the years, B-Flo had a huge impact on both of those players," O'Connell said. "It was that initial interaction that I always remember. I'm a person that gravitates toward energy and positive people and people that are passionate about what they're doing regardless of title or role, and that was something I felt right away."
O'Connell has kept in touch with Mayo and Slater and spoke with them — and others he did not specifically name — as he was evaluating candidates for the position.
"The way they speak about the man he is, the impact he had on them, and there's many, many more stories from people like that that I reached out to just to get a feel of who I remembered, watching him from afar throughout his football journey and then hopefully culminating and us getting to do football together, which I'm so dang excited about," O'Connell said. "That mattered to me, what people that I really respect had to say about real time and more importantly the willingness to share without needing to pry all that much about the human, the person, and ultimately the impact they had on him was huge throughout the process of getting to learn more and more about this guy."
They'll work together with General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah to develop a plan for the Vikings personnel, O'Connell said, that's "thorough, that's accounted for."
"The things we're really excited about [with] the guys on our roster and then maybe where we need to go add some pieces to ultimately achieve the goals of wanting to be versatile and wanting to be multiple," O'Connell said. "And then ultimately being really tough to move the ball against, with the ability not only to put packages of things together that we do well, but also being in an attacking mindset of taking away some of the things the opponent does well.
"It was interesting – as we got into just random questions throughout the interview process, I kept on hearing things where our football foundation and philosophies are very, very similar," O'Connell added. "And it doesn't matter if you're talking offense or defense, special teams – time and time again, characteristics of not only our team but maybe my personality, how I want our team to be coached, just kept coming out in a real organic, natural way. And that was a real positive thing for me."
2. Aggressive by nature, but not reckless | By Lindsey Young
During his time as the Dolphins head coach (2019-21), Flores became known for his aggressive defensive philosophy and his propensity for rushing the passer.
He was asked Wednesday if that approach aligned with his personal viewpoints for a defense or if the personnel and situation in Miami simply called for it.
"I'm aggressive by nature. Philosophically, that's something that I believe in," Flores said. "I left out of here [after my interview] feeling like there was a shared vision. [Kevin is] aggressive offensively; I'm aggressive defensively. That kind of philosophy was aligned.
"By nature, I like to be aggressive. Not reckless," Flores continued. "There's a method to the madness. There's a rhyme and a reason. Whether it's down and distance, field position, etcetera. But I think it's not about me or Kev' – it's about the players. It's about their ability to execute, it's about our ability to teach and coach and put them in the right positions. Get them doing things that we think they can execute. And we'll do our very best to do that."
To wrap his press conference, Flores was asked a simple, straightforward question about Minnesota's defensive scheme in 2023: Will he run a 3-4 or 4-3 base?
"Who are we playing?" He quipped with a smile before adding, "It's game-plan specific, but it's 3-4."
3. Teacher by trade | By Craig Peters
Flores, who was not retained by Miami after going 24-25 in three seasons and becoming the first coach to post back-to-back winning seasons (10-6 in 2020 and 9-8 in 2021) since Dave Wannstedt (2000-03), has an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL.
He was asked about the lawsuit and pivoted to his passion for coaching that is based off a love for teaching.
"I understand the question, I do. Specifics of the lawsuit – I'm not going to dive deep into it. It's ongoing. Professionally, I'm a coach, I'm a teacher," Flores said. "This is what I love to do.
"I was talking with [Vikings Entertainment Network's] Tatum [Everett] earlier, and you know, my wife's a teacher, as well, so we go back and forth about teaching methods," Flores said. "She's the one who told me about IEPs – individual education programs. Basically, every player we have has his own individual program. So, that's what I was put here to do – to coach, teach and make an impact, and that's where my focus always is.
"Obviously, diversity is important to me as well. I'm not going to run away from that," Flores added. "But when I walk in this building, you see diversity, really, across the board in every department. That's exciting, too. So, those are things that are ongoing. Obviously, the lawsuit is ongoing, but I'm where my feet are. Right now, my feet are right here in Eagan.
4. Cultivating seeds of culture | By Lindsey Young
Flores believes locker room culture is "vital" to a championship football team.
Throughout the 2022 season, Vikings players time and time again emphasized the roster camaraderie and cohesion among defense, offense and special teams.
Of course, the 2023 Vikings undergo some changes and the addition of different personalities, but Flores hopes to build on the cultural foundation that was set under O'Connell in his first season at the helm.
"I think the seeds have been planted here from that standpoint. I mean, the ingredients are there," Flores said. "And look, every year is different […]. There's gonna be draft picks and new players – that's the National Football League. But the seeds are here from a culture standpoint, from a camaraderie standpoint, from [genuinely] and authentically loving one another. That's a big part of it. You know, macho guys don't want to say that all the time, but some of those are in place, and that's a credit to Kevin and [Adofo-Mensah] and the coaching staff and the people who are here and the people throughout the building.
"That doesn't just happen overnight. There's a lot that goes into that. Kev' gets a lot of that credit, but there's a lot of people in a lot of different departments who have a hand in that, as well," Flores continued. "Again, it's 2023, so we have to try to rebuild that, but a lot of those things are already in place. I'm excited to be a part of that and play a role in trying to accentuate that as much as I can, but that's a total team effort. To have that kind of buy-in is a credit to everyone in this building."
5. Choosing growth over control and living in the now | By Craig Peters
Before Flores was even hired as defensive coordinator, there were many projecting that he'd be with Minnesota for just a short time before becoming a head coach for the second time in his career. Asked about that prospect and if he plans to groom someone, Flores said he's made a habit of investing in younger coaches.
"I've always tried to help younger coaches to basically improve and get better, 'Here are some things you can get better. If your goals are to do this, here are some of things you should be doing.' That won't change," Flores said. "Specific to the first part of your question, I'm where my feet are. I'm very excited to be here. I think any other opportunities that may present themselves in the future, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
"Obviously, I have goals and things that I would like to accomplish in the future, but those can change," Flores said. "I'm happy right now in Minnesota, I really am. I'm happy here with Kevin, and this opportunity is something that I'm overjoyed to be a part of this organization. We'll see what happens in the future. But as far as always trying to help others improve, that's always happening. Players, coaches, anyone I'm around – my kids, their friends, whoever, I'm always trying to help others."
Asked a follow-up on why he chose "growth" over "control," Flores replied, "my gut."
It's the same type of instinct that's guided him in games on when to call a blitz and the type of which will work the best.
"I think this is a great opportunity, I really do. I talked about it earlier, but for me there is still more growing to do," Flores said. "We're all still growing and we're all still trying to improve and get better. I'm going to ask our players to try to improve and get better. Even the best players on our team, and throughout the league, really the best players are trying to grow and improve. I've been around some good ones, and they want to continually be challenged and continually grow. If I'm going to ask that of players, then I have to be an example of that myself. I went with my gut and again, I feel like this is a great opportunity."