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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.

BREER:McCourtys Tell All About Super Bowl LIII, From Flores’s Plays to Hoyer’s Crucial Role

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.

ORR:A Look Back at the Firing of Bill Belichick

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.

“And not only Scott, Flores said, “but we’d had a few people leave the [Patriots] building that I’m very close to. I reached out to everyone and said, ‘Hey, I’m gonna have a lot of blind spots, where are those?’ I had a lot of conversations.

“I try to delegate as much as I can. But it’s important I have a say in what’s going on, and that they understand my thinking on whatever might cross my desk.”

You can certainly see how Flores prioritized that in his hiring. He worked together with new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea for a decade, and DC Patrick Graham for seven years in New England. Special teams coach Danny Crossman cut his teeth under Scotty O’Brien, another ex-co-worker of Flores and Belichick guy. And defensive pass-game coordinator Josh Boyer and assistant quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski were on that New England sideline in Atlanta two weeks ago, with Flores and O’Shea.

“Us having all worked together, we work well together, we’re aligned as far as the things we believe, our core beliefs,” Flores said. “So that’s good. But I think the entire group, along with the guys that have worked with me in the past, they’re all really good people, really good teachers, don’t have egos. And from that standpoint, everyone’s aligned. And I think they understand the vision we want to have.”


As for where Flores is now, he’s navigating four tracks from a football standpoint—working through the Dolphins roster, meeting with coaches to build a shell of what the team will be schematically and culturally, and getting film work from GM Chris Grier on both college players and free agents. The good news is that the staff was in place by the end of his first week. The rest has been, admittedly, a juggling act.

He’s had to find time for his other roles as head coach—he broke away from meetings two Fridays ago to speak at the Dolphins Cancer Challenge golf tournament, for example. And while he’s got a ways to go on the scouting end, Flores is starting to get a feel for his own roster.

“There’s a lot of young, talented players here,” Flores said. “I’ve seen guys in here working, that’s always nice to see. A lot of the players are here really year-round. They’re here, they’re working, I see them in the cafeteria, and I’m excited.”

He should be, of course. There are only 32 jobs like the one he has. And finally, the other night, the reality of that hit him, giving the 37-year-old a moment where things slowed down amidst the craziness, if only for a few minutes.

“I looked around and thought to myself, ‘This is crazy,’” Flores said. “Obviously, I worked for 15 years in New England, and thought about my background growing up in New York, and it hit me. I was excited. I was proud of myself in that moment. But at the same time, when you start to think about your accomplishments, complacency sets in.

“So you slap yourself in the face and say, ‘Why don’t you put on some more tape to watch?’ … This is definitely not the finish line for me. This is really the start.”

VRENTAS:Brian Flores and the Moments With the Woman Who Made Him

Taylor’s Start in Cincy: No DC, But a QB In Place

The biggest difference for Taylor between then (his previous 35 years on planet earth) and now (as one of those 32 NFL head coaches) is something he actually has felt every night.

“What I do notice is, Man, I sleep hard,” Taylor said. “When my head hits the pillow at night, it feels like five o’clock rolls around real quick. It used to be, I’d lay in bed and look at my phone and go through some stuff. Not anymore. When I lay in that bed, I’m out within about 20 seconds.

“I think, you think critically all day, you’ve got a lot of decisions to make, so you've got to make sure that you take a couple of seconds every day to relax your brain a little bit. But that’s been good. That’s not anything I didn’t expect.”

Taylor’s situation is different than Flores’s. Maybe because his candidacy as a head coach came about quicker—he was promoted from Rams assistant receivers coach to QBs coach at this time last year—and his staff has been slower to materialize. The Bengals are still looking for a defensive coordinator, which, given Taylor’s offensive background, will be a vital hire.

His approach hasn’t been quite the same either. He and his staff have met on scheme and philosophy, of course. But rather than chip away at everything at once, he segmented his football work. And so his focus up until late last week really was zeroed in on the Bengals roster. He’s completed that, so he does have an opinion on the individual players, and the group.

“There's good talent, and there's a good mix of young, first- and second-year players, and some good veterans,” he said. “And so it really is, it's an exciting team to get a chance to work with. Like any year, any year with any team, you’re always going to look to the draft to help strengthen your roster and free agency. But I am excited about the guys that we already have.”

And that goes for the quarterback too, in case you’re wondering. That came through when I asked if he feels Andy Dalton’s the right guy for his offense.

“I do,” Taylor said. “I've watched Andy for a really long time, dating back to his days at TCU. I’ve always been impressed with the way he plays the game. I've always known he’s a smart guy. We haven’t had a chance to meet on football or anything like that. But I do know that he'll be able to quickly master this offense. He gets the ball out on time, he’s accurate, he’s got good athleticism.”


That offense, Taylor says, will find its starting point in what Sean McVay’s Rams have done schematically over the last two years. But Taylor hired offensive coordinator Brian Callahan and his staff with evolution in mind. While each assistant comes from a West Coast offense background, they come from different branches of the tree, which Taylor hopes will lead to diversification.

And obviously not having a defensive coordinator yet isn’t ideal. Most recently, Saints secondary coach Aaron Glenn was blocked from interviewing, and Ohio State defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley turned an interview down. Things didn’t work out with more experienced names like Jack Del Rio and Mike Nolan.

But Taylor says he isn’t going to rush that one—“No [timetable], just need the right person”—and is leaning on secondary coaches Robert Livingston and Daronte Jones in interim.

As for what’s ahead, with his tape work on the Bengals roster done, Taylor got started on the draft this weekend. He still hasn’t watched free agents, but he’ll make time for that soon in a schedule that starts every day at Paul Brown Stadium at 6 a.m., with a film session with Callahan, then meetings with owner Mike Brown and personnel chief Duke Tobin.

“The day goes fast, you get a lot done, you always feel like you could get more done and you look up and all of the sudden it’s 4:30, and you’re like, ‘Where did all the time go?’” Taylor said. “But it’s been good. The most important thing is you put a plan in place every day of what you want to accomplish and where you want to be by this day with the scheme, where you want to be this day evaluating your roster, where you want to be by this date in terms of the draft and free agency.

“So everyone is following that plan and we know that we got plenty of time. It seems like we've got to be rushed but we really don't. The draft’s at the end of April, the players don't come until April 9.”

BENOIT:Ranking the NFL’s Neediest Teams Ahead of Free Agency and the Draft

The cool part, for Taylor, is he already has a comfort level with his surroundings. He was only at the University of Cincinnati for 11 months in 2016. But he and his wife identified with the area so quickly that they’re moving back into the area they left when they headed for California two years ago.

“The people that we met when we lived in Cincinnati, the Midwestern values—I'm from Oklahoma, my wife’s from Green Bay—we felt at home in the year we were here,” Taylor said. “I’ve lived in a lot of places, I've had four kids in four different states, to this point. Some places you go, when you’re driving back to your house, you’re just going back to your house. Here, we always felt like this was a home.”

That would be another reason why he’s sleeping pretty good at night.

What NFL Scouts Are Saying About Kyler Murray


We’ve covered Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray’s decision to focus on footballpretty thoroughlyover the last two weekson the site. I figured now is a good time to take a quick look at Murray the football player, through the eyes of a few scouts who’ve watched him over the last few months.

AFC Exec 1: “This kid is way better than Lamar Jackson—better arm, more accurate, better anticipation, better processor, better athlete. I think he’s better across the board than Lamar, Lamar’s just bigger. But that’s not irrelevant. … If I told you he was 6' 3", you’d be all in, but he’s not. He’s shorter than Russell Wilson, and Russell is a lot stockier. … He’s a really good player. He does all the quarterback stuff really well. He’s a great athlete. My hang up is his size.”