The Browns have picked from the Bill Belichick tree twice, failing with Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini.
Could Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores be different?
General manager John Dorsey and the search committee interviewed Flores on Saturday in New England for the vacant head coaching job. The team announced Saturday night that the interview had concluded.
Flores, 37, wasn’t given the defensive coordinator title by Belichick but took over as play caller for the first time this season after Matt Patricia left to be head coach of the Lions. The Patriots went 11-5 and have a first-round bye in the AFC playoffs, allowing Flores to interview this weekend.
His defense ranked seventh in scoring (20.3 points a game), 21st in yardage (359.1), 11th against the run (112.7), 22nd against the pass (246.4) and tied for 30th in sacks (30).
Crennel (24-40 with the Browns from 2005-08) and Mangini (10-22 in 2009-10) were also respected defensive minds groomed by Belichick, but Flores would bring a unique background.
He grew up in Brooklyn one of five sons of parents who emigrated from Honduras in the 1970s. He escaped the poor, crime-riddled Brownsville neighborhood, which was also the childhood home of boxers Mike Tyson and Riddick Bowe, and played linebacker for Boston College.
Flores earned a bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s in administrative studies and joined the Patriots in 2004 as a scouting assistant who also served as a gofer, errand runner and chauffeur. He’s worked for Belichick since, moving to the coaching staff in 2008. He coached safeties for four years and is in his third with the linebackers.
“He’s a very highly qualified young man,” Dorsey said Monday.
Flores interviewed for the Cardinals head coaching job after last season and almost got it, losing out to Steve Wilks, who was fired after going 3-13 in his lone year. Flores is a hot candidate this year, also interviewing with the Broncos, Packers and Dolphins.
Dorsey, who’s leading the search for owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, said he’s looking for a man of character and a leader. He also believes he can look into a person’s soul and tell what he’s made of.
“I never backed down from anybody,” Flores told ESPN.com last year of his upbringing. “If people see you’re scared, or as somebody who backs down, you’re going to deal with it every day.
“That was my thing. I didn’t back down from anybody or any situation. Football, school, anything.”
Flores is a bit of an outlier in the Browns’ search. Interim coach Gregg Williams is the only other candidate to interview thus far whose background is on defense. Dorsey will interview Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus on Sunday, according to an ESPN report.
While much of the outside focus is on finding a coach who can mesh with and get the most out of quarterback Baker Mayfield, Dorsey’s vision is wider. He wants someone who can command the respect of all 53 players on the roster.
“I think leadership is about being honest,” Flores told ESPN.com last month. “It’s about being transparent. I think it’s about putting yourself in the shoes of others. I also think it’s about being tough on people, having high expectations, having a high standard and not letting off that standard. I think you can do that specifically with players — you can be tough on them, expect a lot from them, but not be somebody they despise.
“I think it’s important to connect to people. When you can do that, I think you can get more out of them. That’s part of my leadership style. It’s a combination of building trust and building that connection so you can be tough and they know it’s out of love.”
The Browns interviewed Williams on Tuesday, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell on Wednesday, Vikings interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski on Thursday and Saints assistant head coach/tight ends coach Dan Campbell on Friday.
Campbell has emerged as a strong candidate, but Dorsey promised a “very thorough, very deliberate” process. He’s expected to interview offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens and former Packers coach Mike McCarthy next week.