ATLANTA — Will Super Bowl LIII be Brian Flores’ final game as a New England Patriots assistant? He won’t say.
But his comments Monday night sure sounded like those of a man who plans to move on from the organization he’s called home for the last 15 years.
Asked directly about the widespread reports that he’ll be taking over as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach this offseason, Flores declined comment, saying it wouldn’t be fair to his players for him to focus on anything other than Sunday’s matchup with the Los Angeles Rams.
“Right now, all my focus is on the Rams,” the Patriots’ linebackers coach and de facto defensive coordinator said during Super Bowl Opening Night. “I’m doing a disservice to the players if my mind’s anywhere else but on this week, this game. And that’s kind of where I’m at. I love these guys. I love everybody that’s part of this organization. I’m locked in.
“I would say the one thing that I’ve done over the course of my career is I try to take things one day at a time. I try to improve every day. I try to win the day. And when you start trying to think about other things in the future, you’re not focused on right now. So I’m focused on our team, our players. That’s kind of my goal right now. That’s where I’m at.”
Flores wasn’t willing to discuss his future, but he had no problem reflecting on his past. After reminiscing about the season he spent sleeping on an air mattress and picking up dry cleaning as an entry-level scouting assistant in 2004, Flores delivered a two-plus-minute tribute to those who have helped him throughout his life and career.
“First, my parents,” said Flores, who joined the Patriots just months after playing his final season as a Boston College linebacker in 2003. “I’ve got two great parents — my mom, my dad. They’re strong, confident. They instilled core values in me that I keep today — integrity, honor, character, doing things the right way, being honest, telling the truth, working hard. Working hard — that’s kind of been my mantra my entire life.
“My mom was big on education. I tell this story every once in a while: I was learning how to read — I remember this very vividly — so I’m learning how to read, I’m sitting there, and I said, ‘Mom, I’m going to do this tomorrow.’ And she grabs my ear and she pulls me right back. She’s like, ‘You’re going to do this right now.’ That’s kind of the environment I grew up in, so I’d say it started there.
“And I had a lot of great coaches from Pop Warner to high school — my high school coach Dino Mangiero, he’s at Mater Dei Prep in Jersey now. This guy’s like a father figure to me. He’s somebody that I talk to on a weekly basis. I don’t make any decisions without having a conversation with him first.
“Going to BC, Tom O’Brien was the head coach there. Bill McGovern was my position coach, and he was incredible to me. And then now in New England, I’ve had a slew of mentors there. I’ll start with (former Patriots vice president of player personnel) Scott Pioli. He was as hard as anyone. If anybody knows Scott, he’s intense, he’s fiery, and I kind of learned from him how to deal in chaotic situations, because that’s kind of our building. And it was good for me.
“So Scott, and then going down to coaching to Scott O’Brien, Dante Scarnecchia, Matt Patricia — I could keep going here. Billy O’Brien. Billy O’Brien was incredible to me my one year on offense. Bill (Belichick), obviously. Bill’s one of the most intelligent and has as much football acumen as anyone I’ve ever been around, and I’m just fortunate to just be around him on a day-to-day basis and just pick up thing. I learn something new every day in this building, and I think those things have helped me immensely.
“And I’m just babbling right now. I’m sorry.”
Flores, 36, interviewed for head-coaching jobs with the Green Bay Packers, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns and Dolphins earlier this month. The theme of his meeting with the media Monday was gratitude.
“I’m very fortunate,” Flores said. “I really am. I’m fortunate to have been in this organization. I think about where I grew up. My parents are immigrants, and we didn’t grow up (with) a lot, and (the Patriots) took a shot at me. I got hired by Scott Pioli way back in ’04.
“I was getting coffee, getting dry cleaning, driving guys around, just trying to find my way. I slept on an air mattress that year. So just to be up for an interview — one, let alone four — was very humbling. I felt very fortunate. It was a great learning experience for me. I’m very fortunate.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images