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Lunchbreak: Kevin O'Connell & Brian Flores Preparing to Grow Within Vikings Roles

Vikings Head Coach Kevin O'Connell's first year at the helm in 2022 was about growth and capitalizing on opportunities as they presented themselves.

That theme was shared by his latest hire, Brian Flores, who was introduced to Twin Cities reporters on Wednesday after becoming Minnesota's 18th defensive coordinator in franchise history earlier this month.

Flores said he had a "gut feeling" about the team's coordinator opening despite having other coaching opportunities available, including being in the running for Arizona's head coaching position.

"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 said during his press conference at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center. "It's funny. I was in church a couple weeks ago as this was all going on, and the pastor, Brian Edmonds, in Pittsburgh, he 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."

Matthew Coller of Purple Insider wrote while O'Connell had plenty of positives from his first year as head coach, he also found areas to improve in on the sidelines.

Last year O'Connell appeared to be frustrated by the lack of aggressiveness and adaptability of his defense as the season went along under [former] Defensive Coordinator Ed Donatell. He talked on Wednesday about reflecting on his first year as a head coach, managing the offensive side as the play caller while commanding the entire coaching staff.

"It was a process for me as a first-time head coach, as a play caller, managing those situations in the game, making sure that my communication with the whole staff was up to the standard that I wanted it to be," O'Connell said. "And those are some of the things that I look to continue to improve on. And whether it was a new coach in a role like the defensive coordinator role or continuing to build on that game day relationship with our whole staff is something I'm really going to focus on.

"I feel very strongly that I've learned a lot," O'Connell continued. "There's a lot of things that I feel we did well, but there's definitely some things that I look back on, personally, that I could be much better at for our team."

O'Connell's and Flores' paths first crossed in 2008, when Flores was a special teams assistant with New England and O'Connell was the Patriots 94th overall selection in that year's NFL Draft.

Coller noted over the years, Flores — who was a head coach with Miami from 2019-2021 — and O'Connell have developed a similar approach to winning football games. He wrote:

Finding a defensive coordinator who shares his vision is vital because O'Connell and General Manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah will be tasked with difficult decisions with the roster, teaching a new system and navigating a schedule filled with star quarterbacks and elite offenses in 2023.

"It was interesting — as we got into just random questions throughout the interview process and I kept on hearing things where our football foundation and philosophies are very, very similar," O'Connell said.

During his three-year tenure with the Dolphins, Flores struggled in his first season. Miami finished 5-11 and ranked near the bottom of the NFL in nearly every defensive category, including tied for 27th in yards allowed per play (6.0), tied for 28th in turnovers (16) and 32nd in points allowed (494) and sacks per game (1.4).

The following two seasons, however, the Dolphins turned things around under Flores. In 2020, Miami catapulted itself into the top eight in those areas, including tied for eighth in yards allowed per play (5.9) and sacks per game (2.6), sixth in points allowed (338) and first in turnovers (29).

The Dolphins posted a 10-win season that year, followed by a nine-win campaign in 2021 that included seven-game losing and winning streaks.

View photos of Brian Flores during his first day as Vikings Defensive Coordinator at TCO Performance Center on Feb. 15.

Coller wrote a key reason for Miami's turnaround with Flores was his aggressive mindset defensively.

He became known for his [Cover 0] blitzes, which send everybody after the quarterback who isn't covering a receiver 1-on-1. Flores acknowledged that he is "aggressive by nature" but joked, "you want all the secrets right now?" when asked to explain his [Cover 0]-blitz philosophy.

"Maybe I'll try to come up with a different way of presenting it, but that's the game," Flores said. "There are always new trends within the league, and it's our job to stay up on them."

Flores was also asked to give his analysis of what he looks for in a defender on his teams.

"Tough, smart, disciplined and physical," Flores said. "I'm big on versatility. Guys being able to play multiple spots and, in order to do that, you've gotta get them coached up in those multiple spots."

Coller wrote as Minnesota begins to navigate free agency, the NFL Scouting Combine and the draft in the span of a couple of months, the teamwork between O'Connell and Flores will be crucial.

The two Patriot protégés will need to be on the same page to avoid 2022's issues and to begin the process of creating a sustainable defense for years to come. Getting on the same page with his defensive coordinator is both the next step in O'Connell's progress as a head coach and the thing that could propel his team to the "championship standard" they are talking about this offseason.

Vikings Entertainment Network's 'The Voyage' series set to premiere next week

"The Voyage" is back. And it's in a new spot, too.

For the first time since its inception in 2019, the Vikings Entertainment Network original series will air during Minnesota's offseason as opposed to during the season.

The first episode that encapsulated Minnesota's 13-win season in 2022 — as told by the team itself — will premiere at 2 p.m. Tuesday on YouTube and across the Vikings digital and social platforms.

In addition to viewing the episode online, it will also air on FOX 9 at 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Below are the air dates for the four-episode season:

Vikings digital and social platforms

Episode 1 — Feb. 21 (2 p.m.)

Episode 2 — Feb. 28 (2 p.m.)

Episode 3 — March 7 (2 p.m.)

Episode 4 — March 14 (2 p.m.)

FOX 9 broadcast

Episode 1 — Feb. 22 (10:30 p.m.)

Episode 2 — March 1 (10:30 p.m.)

Episode 3 — March 8 (10:30 p.m.)

Episode 4 — March 15 (10:30 p.m.)