Not that it was intentional, but no, Brian Flores and Zac Taylor did not cross paths during their nine days in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII. And yes, it might have been cool if they had, given the circumstances.
“I know,” Taylor says now.
There aren’t many people who could relate to what each coach was going through in the run-up to Rams-Patriots on Feb. 3. Both 30-somethings had, unofficially, landed head-coaching jobs. Both were, by league rule, forced to dance around that reality when asked about it. Both were occupied with the Super Bowl while the other six coaches who filled 2019’s openings were building staffs, assessing their rosters, and starting work towards free agency and the draft.
And now, two weeks later, Flores and Taylor are in a 23-day sprint to the scouting combine in Indianapolis. Flores’s old boss, Bill Belichick, a veteran of nine Super Bowls, has grown fond of saying that making it to the NFL’s championship puts you five weeks behind everyone else working towards the next year.
But Belichick doesn’t have to fill out an entire staff, establish protocols, learn an entire new roster of players, and go through the new coach dog-and-pony show. Flores and Taylor do. Oh, and they have to be ready to hit the ground running—Flores comes from a background in which coaches are very involved in scouting, Taylor’s going to a place where it’s always been that way—come Feb. 26 in Indy.
“The one thing that’s good here is there’s a lot of really good people from a support staff standpoint, from media relations to IT to equipment to nutrition to strength and conditioning to the training staff to our chefs, everyone does a really good job,” Flores said this week, from his office. “We’re trying to get the organization aligned and on the same page. It’s a lot going on.
“Meeting after meeting after meeting, trying to get to know everyone. I want to hear their philosophies, and their vision for their specific sub-programs, whether it’s training or IT or equipment, the crew that handles the practice field. There are a lot of people I have to get to know. I’m working hard to learn everybody’s name, that’s tough. I’m working at it, I’m studying that at night, along with studying the players.”
A lot of people in new jobs describe it as drinking from a fire hose. For Flores and Taylor, this must feel more like drinking from Niagara Falls.
In this week’s MMQB, we’re all over the big news of the week, including:
• Why the settlement between Colin Kaepernick, Eric Reid and the NFL probably can be explained in one word: discovery.
• How the franchise tag will affect free agency in 2019 (including union projections for all the tag numbers).
• Which quarterback has been present and accounted for in his team’s facility over the last few weeks, and why you should very much pay attention to it.
• Where the logistics of the Broncos’ trade for Joe Flacco are at.
• What scouts think of Kyler Murray ahead of Indianapolis.
And there’s a lot more, too. But we’re starting with the NFL’s newest head coaches, and the mutual challenge they’re in the midst of tackling.
As I talked to Flores and Taylor over the last few days, I looked for commonalities in how they discussed their respective situations. Both flew to their new homes on Feb. 4, the day after Flores’s Patriots beat Taylor’s Rams, and both will be en route to Indy a week from Tuesday.
There were a few. But two really stuck out. One was what each coach regarded as the best piece advice they got ahead of becoming a head coach for the first time. “Just be yourself and be patient,” Taylor said. “Be yourself,” Flores affirmed, almost as if he’d talked to Taylor about it beforehand. “It’s imperative. You try and be someone else, I don’t want to say people can sniff it out, but I think part of leadership is being authentic, being sincere, being transparent. If you’re not those things, it’s not leadership, in my opinion.”
And that dovetails into the second commonality. Flores told me he got that advice from Dino Mangiero, his coach as a high school linebacker at Brooklyn Poly Prep. Mangiero, in fact, was front-and-center at Flores’s introductory press conference, and someone the new Miami coach sees as “somebody I’d go to in any situation, and this one in particular. I’ve been calling him.”
Likewise, Taylor found a high school coach to lean on—he hired ex-University of Cincinnati staffmate Doug Rosfeld away from Archbishop Moeller, a storied prep powerhouse in Ohio, to be his director of coaching operations. Rosfeld’s role is, in essence, chief of staff, and, for now, to help the 35-year-old Taylor prioritize his scheduling, to ensure football work has its rightful place, and ease the transition.
There’s a lesson in this, too. In the end, there’s a simplicity to the job. It’s to lead an entire football team, which Mangiero and Rosfeld have done, and Flores and Taylor hadn’t until a couple weeks ago.
“Obviously, he’s never been a head coach in the National Football League,” Flores said. “I’m talking to him more about leadership. He’s somebody I trust.”
Alright, so there are differences in how Flores and Taylor are handling what’s in front of them. Let’s hit those now.
Flores Brings Familiar Faces From Foxboro
Knowing he hired Flores in New England, I brought up what Scott Pioli once told me about becoming a GM in Kansas City in 2009: The thing that surprises you most going from being No. 2 to No. 1 is what might cross your desk in a given day. On one hand, Pioli would say, he was hired to scout football players. On another, he’d become responsible for making sure the grass on the practice fields got cut.
As it turns out, Flores and Pioli actually had that conversation, more than once.