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Why Brian Flores joined the Vikings as defensive coordinator and it means for Arizona Cardinals head coaching search

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The Vikings have landed one of the biggest names in the coaching cycle to be their next defensive coordinator.

Minnesota has reportedly hired Steelers linebackers coach and senior defensive assistant Brian Flores to be the team’s next defensive coordinator, according to Adam Schefter. Flores spent only one season as an assistant coach with Pittsburgh after his time as the Dolphins head coach.

The hiring of Flores is a major boost for a team with one of the worst defenses in the NFL in 2022. Flores’ decision to join the Vikings also means he is no longer in the running for the Cardinals head coaching gig, where he was recently reported as one of three finalists. Whether he chose to remove his name from consideration or the Cardinals moved away from him as a candidate remains to be seen. 

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Here’s what you need to know about the hire.

Why the Vikings hired Brian Flores

Minnesota enjoyed a major breakout season in 2022, going 13-4, winning the NFC North and securing the third seed in the playoff picture. But if there was one flaw, it was on defense.

The Vikings allowed the second-most yards and fourth-most points in 2022, and ranked 27th in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average). After just one season in Minnesota, Ed Donatell was fired as the team’s defensive coordinator.

Kevin O’Connell wanted to make a big hire at the coaching position. The Vikings were reportedly interested in Ejiro Evero, who was released from his contract with the Broncos when Sean Payton was hired to be the head coach in Denver, making one of the league’s top up-and-coming assistant coaches available. Evero was hired a day later by the Panthers, ruling him out.

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Flores had been a candidate for DC with Payton’s Broncos and for the Cardinals head coaching position, and with good reason. Though he was let go by the Dolphins after 2021, Flores had strong credentials that made his termination questionable at the time, leading to a lawsuit against the Dolphins and the NFL. In three years as the team’s head coach, the defense improved each year, ranking 30th and 32nd in yards and points allowed, respectively, to 20th and sixth in 2020, and to 15th and 16th in 2021.

Prior to his time in Miami, Flores had worked under Bill Belichick since 2004, starting as a scouting assistant before working his way up to become a defensive assistant in 2011, safeties coach in 2012 and linebackers coach in 2016. When he was fired by the Dolphins, he was immediately hired to be a coach on Mike Tomlin’s Steelers. Last year, the Steelers ranked 10th in points allowed and 14th in yards allowed.

What Minnesota’s DC hire means for Cardinals

It was reported on Sunday that the Cardinals were down to three names for their head coaching spot: Flores, Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka. SI’s Albert Breer reported the team’s defensive coordinator, Vance Joseph, and Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan were both told they were no longer in the running for the job.

Flores had not yet had his second interview for the Cardinals head coaching position, with USA Today’s Chuck Harris reporting his interview was set for Wednesday. In fact, none of the three finalists had yet had their second interview. Kafka was scheduled for Tuesday and Anarumo for Friday.

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Neither Kafka nor Anarumo have previously had head coaching experience. Kafka had previously been a quarterbacks coach with the Chiefs before Brian Daboll hired him in 2022 to be the Giants offensive coordinator. In that role, the 35-year-old helped revitalize New York’s offense, particularly on the ground, as New York ranked fourth in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

Anarumo has been around the coaching world for a long time, particularly as a defensive backs coach through much of his career. In 2019, Zac Taylor brought him on board the staff to be the team’s defensive coordinator. After struggles by the defense in his first two years, a big free agency class helped bolster the defense in 2021, with the team climbing to just below average in yards and points allowed. Anarumo gained acclaim for his defensive game plans, particularly in defeating Patrick Mahomes twice en route to Cincinnati’s Super Bowl run. In 2022, the defense ranked sixth in fewest points allowed and 16th in fewest yards allowed, and once again picked up wins against top offenses like the Chiefs and Bills during the run to a second straight AFC championship appearance.

The Cardinals could still bring in another name to the mix for the head coaching position. But as one of only two teams now without a head coach and already Kafka and Anarumo lined up for their second interviews, it’s likely one of those two names will be brought on as the team’s head coach.


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