Brian Flores is a hot head-coaching candidate, and the New England Patriots don’t have an obvious internal replacement for their de facto defensive coordinator if he opts to leave town.

So who takes Flores’ spot if he winds up joining one of the four teams who have interviewed him for a head-coaching job? Here’s one name to keep in mind: Greg Schiano.

Ohio State head coach Ryan Day announced Monday that Schiano, the Buckeyes’ defensive coordinator for the last three seasons, would be leaving the program to “pursue options in the NFL.” And though there have been no recent reports linking him to a job with the Patriots, his relationship with head coach Bill Belichick would make him a natural fit.

That relationship was forged when Schiano coached Belichick’s eldest son, Steve, who’s now the Patriots’ safeties coach, at Rutgers and continued when Schiano made the leap to the NFL, with New England hosting his Tampa Bay Buccaneers for joint practices in 2012.

When Schiano landed, then quickly lost the head job at Tennessee last November, Belichick defended his friend, saying he has “the utmost respect” for Schiano and “zero reservations” about his character.

“He’s one of the very best coaches I think in our profession,” Belichick said at the time. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Greg and the way he runs his program and the job that he does. … I think the relationship that he has with his kids, with his players and how well prepared his players are to come into this league is exceptional. …

“He’s done an awful lot. He’s helped me in a lot of different ways, and I have a lot of respect for him.”

What’s more, Schiano reportedly came close to becoming the Patriots’ defensive coordinator last season before deciding to remain at Ohio State. Flores wound up being promoted from within to replace the departed Matt Patricia, calling New England’s defensive plays this season despite not having the official DC title.

Even if Flores — who interviewed with the Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Green Bay Packers over the weekend — remains with the Patriots, it would not be surprising to see Schiano land a job on Belichick’s staff. Former Arkansas and Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema has been working for the Patriots this season under the title of “consultant to the head coach.”

Flores still is in the mix for the Broncos, Browns and Dolphins jobs. The Packers reportedly plan to hire Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, choosing him over Flores and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, among others.

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