The Impact Of The Brian Flores’ Hire

There seems to be a very high number of disgruntled Steelers fans when it comes to the additions and subtractions of some of the team’s recent assistant coaches. The coaching tree Mike Tomlin came from was one filled with names such as Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden. However, as sterling as Tomlin’s record is, especially his streak of never owning a losing record, one record that seems to leave more to be desired is his direct coaching pipeline.

Looking across the league, coach Sean McVay of the Super Bowl champion Rams, for instance, has quite an impressive coaching tree, and his age makes it stand out even more. He currently has four NFL head coaches that branched off from being direct assistants of his, in Green Bay’s Matt LaFleur, Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor, Chargers’ Brandon Staley, and the freshly minted Vikings’ Kevin O’Connell. That is quite the resume for a young head coach such as McVay, who just a week ago supplanted Tomlin himself as the youngest SB winning head coach in history at 36 years and 20 days old. So indeed, there exists the idea, at least in the eye’s of the public, that the team doesn’t really put a great emphasis on the hiring of assistant coaches. But perhaps the recent addition of assistant Brian Flores might help change that.

In recent years, maybe even ever since acclaimed offensive line coach Mike Munchak left for Denver, the team doesn’t appear to be very driven when it comes to pursuing big name assistant coaches. Flores fits the bill in that regard, and it may result in Tomlin being more open-minded when it comes to the defensive play calling responsibilities, now that he has Flores and new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, both minority coaches, on board. It’s the very essence on which the Rooney Rule stands for.

Then, we can look at Flores’ defensive prowess from his coaching stint with the Miami Dolphins. Under Flores in 2019, the Dolphins surrendered 399 yards per game, and 31 points per game, both ranking almost dead last in the league. However, his defensive unit improved in 2020, and this past season, they ranked 16th by surrendering only 21.9 points per game, and 16th in yards allowed at 337.5.

Flores will no doubt look to improve the linebacker play, outside of freshly crowned AP Defensive Player of the Year T.J. Watt. Fellow outside linebacker Alex Highsmith appears on a high trajectory, with reports surfacing of him wanting to join T.J. and his brother J.J. for offseason workouts in Wisconsin. However, the inside linebacker play left plenty more to be desired, with Joe Schobert a potential cap casualty, and former top-10 pick Devin Bush showing a stark drop-off from his rookie and shortened sophomore seasons. Perhaps his knee injury was in his head, but nonetheless Flores will definitely have Bush ranked very highly on his “to-do” list when it comes to helping him rediscover his game. That, and helping fix a run defense that was dead last this past season.

The hire of Flores isn’t by any means a miracle cure, but it should have a trickle down effect on several things, and one could even make the reference that his hire looks alluring to potential free agents, in a league that is roughly 70% African American. To me, it not only does that, but it reveals that the team does place an emphasis on finding coaching talent externally, instead of the recent trends of promoting from within, with the results not so impressive.

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