Brian Flores calls Vikings coordinator job 'great opportunity for growing'

EAGAN, Minn. -- Amid a job search this winter that included interviews for NFL head-coach and defensive coordinator positions, Brian Flores visited a Pittsburgh-area church. The pastor's message that day was clear: There are times in life when you can have control or growth, but you can't have both.

That message, Flores said Wednesday, encapsulated his decision earlier this month to drop out of the mix for the Arizona Cardinals' head-coaching job and accept the Minnesota Vikings' offer to be their defensive coordinator.

"That kind of hit me pretty good," said Flores, who spent the 2022 season as a senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers. "I just feel like this is a great opportunity for growing."

Flores' decision carried extra gravity in the context of the lawsuit he filed in February 2022 accusing the NFL and three teams of discrimination regarding his interview processes with the Denver Broncos and New York Giants and his firing by the Miami Dolphins after the 2021 season. Longtime NFL assistants Steve Wilks and Ray Horton later joined the suit, which the NFL is attempting to move to arbitration.

Flores also alleged that the Dolphins tried to incentivize him to lose games and participate in illegal tampering. The league disciplined the Dolphins last summer for tampering violations of "unprecedented scope and severity," according to commissioner Roger Goodell.

On Wednesday, Flores thanked Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill and general manager Monti Ossenfort for including him in their process, which ended Tuesday when they hired Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon to replace the fired Kliff Kingsbury.

Flores said he did not want to "dive too deep into" the circumstances surrounding the lawsuit. Asked about it, he said he considers himself more of a coach and a teacher but said he noticed the diversity of the Vikings' organization during the interview process.

"Obviously diversity is important to me as well," he said. "I'm not going to run away from that. But when I walk in this building, you see diversity really across the board in every department. That's exciting, too. The lawsuit is ongoing. But I'm where my feet are, and right now my feet are right here in [Minnesota]."

Flores was a special teams assistant for the New England Patriots in 2008 when the team drafted current Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell as a quarterback out of San Diego State. Flores said Wednesday that he and O'Connell are philosophically "aligned" on how they want to play defense.

Flores will be tasked with improving a unit that finished 2022 ranked No. 31 in yards and tied for No. 28 in points allowed per game. He said he is just beginning to evaluate how his schematic priorities can mesh with the Vikings' roster. When asked whether he will keep the team's 3-4 scheme from last season or change to a 4-3, he smiled and said: "Who are we playing? It's game-plan-specific. But it's a 3-4."