Brian Flores

Bill Belichick-Patriots Separation Likely To Take Weeks To Finalize

The expectation around the NFL still points to the Patriots having a non-Bill Belichick HC for the first time since 1999, but Robert Kraft has kept his cards close to the vest. A process that likely will involve trade talks is not expected to be finalized especially soon.

Kraft has kept Belichick in the dark about his future, according to the Boston Globe’s Ben Volin, who indicates the two are scheduled to meet Monday. While owner-HC meetings the day after the regular season ends drove the term “Black Monday” into existence in the NFL, Volin adds the expectation will be for Kraft and Belichick to meet multiple times over the ensuing several weeks before finality arrives.

Belichick has sufficient credentials to avoid a Black Monday ouster, and the Patriots have long been expected to be aiming at avoiding an outright firing. It may come to that, as it is possible Belichick will not want to accept any additional power stripped — like a GM coming in to work alongside him — and would seek to be fired in order to be part of the coaching carousel on time. A drawn-out divorce would affect Belichick’s ability to land with another team. HC-needy teams can begin interviewing candidates on other staffs after the divisional round.

Kraft’s silence could point to demands from Belichick, Volin offers, in an attempt to salvage the situation. Kraft has famously intervened on multiple occasions in recent years, most notably in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, and the longtime owner solidified Jerod Mayo‘s place on Belichick’s staff with an extension this past offseason. Belichick giving into more demands from Kraft would not be ideal for the 24-year Patriots HC, but if there is not a strong market for his services, that would seemingly be an option the future Hall of Famer considers.

As of late December, Belichick wanted to stay in New England and was not planning to resign. Doing so would be a costly move with another season of top-tier coaching money on the table in the event he stays on for a 25th season or is fired. The longer he remains in limbo with the Patriots, the longer other teams move on to other HC candidates.

Mayo resides the front of the line to replace Belichick, per’s Albert Breer, who notes the extension he signed this offseason — after a conversation with Kraft led to the linebackers coach turning down a chance to interview for the Panthers’ HC job — parallels Belichick’s in running through 2024. A former Patriots linebacker who has been on Belichick’s staff for five seasons, Mayo would become the NFL’s second-youngest active HC if hired; at 37, Mayo is two months younger than Sean McVay.

Kraft’s intervention with Mayo does point to the longtime Boston-area resident being a serious candidate, and going in that direction would be rather interesting. It would ensure continuity but also keep the Belichick pipeline flowing, just without Belichick. On that note, Volin adds a Brian Flores return has also generated some buzz. Flores made his mark as a Belichick assistant for over a decade, finishing that 11-year run as the de facto defensive coordinator for a Patriots team that held the Rams without a touchdown in Super Bowl LIII. Flores, 42, is finishing up his first season as the Vikings’ DC.

With Flores and Mike Vrabel being on the radar — Volin still lists the Titans’ HC as the Pats “home run” hire, though it would take a notable trade package to pry him from the Titans — signs point to Kraft preferring someone familiar with the Patriot Way rather than a true outsider. An overhaul would make sense given the shadow Belichick casts, but a transition to a current or former assistant would be smoother. As for Vrabel, he reaffirmed his commitment to the Titans. But the Patriots are believed to be monitoring that situation, which has involved rumors of discord between Vrabel and rookie GM Ran Carthon.

Flores returning to Foxborough would also be interesting due to his discrimination lawsuit including a text from Belichick believing Flores would be the Giants’ HC hire in 2022. Belichick later said he misunderstood the situation, as another of his former assistants — Brian Daboll — became New York’s hire. Flores also backed out of the Cardinals’ interview process last year. The lawsuit has not impeded the former Dolphins HC’s career, and it would not surprise to see multiple teams reach out about their HC vacancy this coming offseason.

A Mayo promotion or Flores return would assuredly also come with Kraft hiring either a true GM or someone with similar responsibilities. It also is worth wondering if another organization would give Belichick GM power. While the Panthers and perhaps another NFC South team have interest in the NFL sideline staple, his recent run as the Pats’ de facto GM is largely responsible for their swoon. GM power — be it with the Pats or another team, possibly the Chargers — will be part of this equation, but the drama here looks likely to last for a bit.

AFC North Notes: Bengals, Steelers, Chubb

The Bengals and Steelers were not among the teams who made deals at the trade deadline, but each contender looked into buyer’s moves on defense. Specifically, the AFC North rivals were among the teams to pursue cornerback help, Jeremy Fowler of notes. Both the 49ers and Bills discussed Jaylon Johnson with the Bears, and Buffalo ended up parting with a third-round pick (in a pick-swap move) to obtain Green Bay’s Rasul Douglas. That marked the only move for a corner at the deadline, though the Chargers did send J.C. Jackson to the Patriots in early October.

Chidobe Awuzie‘s return from ACL surgery has not resulted in the veteran regaining his form, and the Bengals have used younger corners Cam Taylor-Britt and DJ Turner as their starters alongside slot Mike Hilton in recent weeks. Pro Football Focus does not grade any of Cincy’s corners in the top 60 at the position. The Bengals rank 25th against the pass. More reliant on their defense without a Joe Burrow-like pilot on offense, the Steelers sit 27th. Joey Porter Jr. has replaced Levi Wallace opposite Patrick Peterson, who is in his age-33 season. With Wallace, Peterson and Chandon Sullivan short-term fixes, Porter represents Pittsburgh’s only long-term cog here post-Cameron Sutton.

Here is the latest from the AFC North:

  • Joe Burrow has improved since the summer calf injury significantly restricted him early this season, but ahead of a pivotal Thursday-night matchup against the Ravens, the superstar Bengals QB was spotted wearing a brace or sleeve on his throwing hand. The Bengals shared video of their arrival in Baltimore but later deleted the tweet, though WCPO’s Caleb Noe spotted the fourth-year passer with the brace. This may not be especially important, as Burrow has not missed an NFL game due to injury since his rookie-year ACL tear. Seeing as the Bengals did not disclose a Burrow hand injury and deleted a video that may indicate one, this is worth monitoring.
  • The Steelers are 6-3 despite being outgained in all nine games this season. Kenny Pickett ranks 28th in QBR, and while he has been without Diontae Johnson and Pat Freiermuth for extended stretches, the 2022 first-round pick has not shown tremendous progress in Year 2. The subject of Matt Canada‘s job security continues to come up, after Mike Tomlin gave him a third year following Pickett progress late last season. With the offense still a chief concern in Pittsburgh, The Athletic’s Mark Kaboly does not expect Canada to be retained for a fourth year. That said, the veteran reporter indicates (subscription required) a dramatic Pickett improvement would be Canada’s vehicle to staying. If Canada is let go, he will be the second three-and-done Steelers OC. The team initially promoted Canada from within to replace Randy Fichtner in 2021.
  • On the subject of Steelers assistants, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac notes the team did not offer Brian Flores a promotion opportunity to convince him to stay. The Steelers did not dangle their DC job to keep Flores, whom Tomlin hired as linebackers coach following a surprising Dolphins dismissal. Viewed as a way for Flores to reestablish his value amid an ongoing discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and select teams, the Steelers stint proved effective. Despite the ongoing suit, Flores interviewed for the Cardinals’ HC job and received steady DC interest ahead of his Vikings hire. Teryl Austin is in his second season as Pittsburgh’s DC but has been with the team since 2019.
  • Head Browns physician James Voos performed Nick Chubb‘s second ACL surgery, the Browns announced this week. The team revealed the operation was successful, and the procedure will put Chubb on track to return in 2024. While two knee surgeries at this juncture of his career will introduce some hurdles for Chubb, a 2024 return was previously floated out as realistic. Chubb’s three-year, $36.6MM contract runs through 2024.

Latest On Brian Flores Lawsuit

March has been dominated by the flurry of free agent moves taking place around the league, but it has also seen an important development in the ongoing lawsuit led by Brian Flores. The ex-Dolphins head coach saw mixed results in a ruling on the matter of arbitration being used to settle his claims against the league and a number of its teams.

A federal judge in Manhattan ruled that Flores can pursue his racial discrimination suit against the NFL and the Broncos, Giants and Texans in open court, as detailed by Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press. The NFL had attempted to keep the matter an internal one, and handle Flores’ claims through arbitration.

That will be the route taken to determine his case against the Dolphins, however. The same is also true of co-plaintiffs Steve Wilks and Ray Horton, who joined the suit last April. The latter two added complaints against the Cardinals and Titans, respectively, for decisions affecting them in the past. Wilks argued in the suit that Arizona hired him in 2018 as a “bridge coach” with no long-term prospects of retaining the position. Horton has alleged that Tennessee conducted a “sham” head coaching interview with him in 2016.

Per the judge’s ruling, Wilks’ and Horton’s claims (as well as Flores’ outstanding ones against the Dolphins) will be handled through arbitration owing to their respective contractual statuses at the time the alleged malpractices took place. In a statement, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league will “move promptly with arbitrations… and seek to dismiss the remaining claims.”

He added, however, that the NFL “recognize[s] there is more work to be done” on the matter of diversity and inclusion. The judge’s decision was based in part on her concern about the hiring practices in the league, and added that this case has shined “an unflattering spotlight” on the NFL in this regard. Flores, who drew head coaching interest from the Cardinals before being hired as defensive coordinator of the Vikings, is now clear to test most of his claims in front of a jury.

No decision has been announced regarding whether or not NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will personally oversee the arbitration cases. It is expected he will do so, although the judge also noted she will have the authority to review his findings if he does not delegate to another member of the league. With a path now cleared to have elements of this case heard in open court, it will remain a storyline to watch in the near future.

2023 Offensive/Defensive Coordinator Search Tracker

As the head coaching carousel spun for several weeks, many teams made coordinator changes as well. Teams seeking new head coaches are conducting OC and DC searches, and a handful of other teams that did not make HC changes are also searching for top assistants.

This is a big year for offensive coordinator hires, with nearly half the league making changes. Here are the teams searching for new OCs and DCs. As new searches emerge, they will be added to the list.

Updated 3-1-23 (3:31pm CT)

Offensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals 

Baltimore Ravens (Out: Greg Roman)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Ben McAdoo)

  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach, (Rams): Hired
  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Interviewed

Dallas Cowboys (Out: Kellen Moore)

  • Brian Angelichio, tight ends coach (Vikings): Interviewed 2/2
  • Thomas Brown, tight ends coach (Rams): Interviewed
  • Jeff Nixon, running backs coach (Panthers): Interviewed
  • Brian Schottenheimer, offensive consultant (Cowboys): Hired

Denver Broncos (Out: Justin Outten)

Houston Texans (Out: Pep Hamilton)

Indianapolis Colts (Out: Parks Frazier)

  • Jim Bob Cooter, passing-game coordinator (Jaguars): Hired
  • Tee Martin, wide receivers coach (Ravens): Interview requested

Kansas City Chiefs (Out: Eric Bieniemy)

  • Matt Nagy, quarterbacks coach (Chiefs): Hired

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Joe Lombardi)

Los Angeles Rams (Out: Liam Coen)

New York Jets (Out: Mike LaFleur)

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Shane Steichen)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Out: Byron Leftwich)

Tennessee Titans (Out: Todd Downing)

Washington Commanders (Out: Scott Turner)

Defensive Coordinators

Arizona Cardinals (Out: Vance Joseph)

Atlanta Falcons (Out: Dean Pees)

Buffalo Bills (Out: Leslie Frazier)

Carolina Panthers (Out: Al Holcomb)

  • Ejiro Evero, former defensive coordinator (Broncos): Hired
  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): Interviewed
  • Marquand Manuel, safeties coach (Jets): Interviewed
  • Kris Richard, co-defensive coordinator (Saints): Interviewed

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans 

Los Angeles Chargers (Out: Renaldo Hill)

  • Derrick Ansley, defensive backs coach (Chargers): Promoted
  • Doug Belk, defensive coordinator (Houston): Interviewed
  • DeMarcus Covington, defensive line coach (Patriots): Interviewed

Miami Dolphins (Out: Josh Boyer)

Minnesota Vikings (Out: Ed Donatell)

New Orleans Saints (Out: Ryan Nielsen, Kris Richard)

  • Joe Woods, former defensive coordinator (Browns): Hired

Philadelphia Eagles (Out: Jonathan Gannon)

San Francisco 49ers (Out: DeMeco Ryans)

  • Vic Fangio, former head coach (Broncos): On radar
  • Chris Harris, defensive backs coach (Commanders): Interviewed 1/31
  • Kris Kocurek, defensive line coach (49ers): On radar
  • Steve Wilks, former interim head coach (Panthers): Hired

NFC North Notes: Fields, Pack, Vikes, Lions

Going into the Combine, the Bears are leaning toward keeping Justin Fields in place at quarterback. They are viewed as likely to trade out of the No. 1 overall draft slot, and Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports reinforces that the rebuilding team is leaning against exiting the first round with a quarterback. Fields finished a historically successful season as a running quarterback, but significant questions remain about his potential as a passer. The Bears will still meet with just about every top quarterback at the Combine, Jones adds, noting questions also exist about whether the team view this draft class as having a QB option head and shoulders above Fields. While the belief is Fields will have a shot at a third season in Chicago, questions will persist until the Bears trade the pick. Doing so would make them the first team to move out of the No. 1 spot since the Titans did so in 2016.

Here is the latest from the NFC North:

  • Aaron JonesPackers restructure will ensure he plays a seventh season in Green Bay — rare territory for modern Packers backs — and it will create considerable cap space for the team. Jones’ cap figure will drop from $20MM to $8.2MM, Rob Demovsky of tweets. Jones’ base salary will drop from $8.1MM to $1.1MM. Jones took a $5MM salary cut in exchange for a $8.5MM signing bonus, keeping him tied to the four-year, $48MM extension he inked before free agency in 2021. In 2024, the final year of Jones’ deal, Demovsky adds (via Twitter) his cap number will rise from $16MM to $17.7MM. The void years from Jones’ 2022 restructure remain on the contract.
  • Shifting to another 2017 running back draftee still on his second contract, Dalvin Cook will miss time this offseason because of shoulder surgery. The Pro Bowl Vikings back, whom Adam Schefter of notes underwent surgery this month, played shoulder pain for the past three-plus seasons, initially injuring it in 2019. Cook, 27, suffered a broken shoulder in 2019 and missed time in 2019 and 2021 as a result; he played all 18 Vikings games last season but battled a shoulder dislocation he sustained in Week 3. This surgery will likely knock Cook out for much of the offseason, with the Vikings announcing he is expected to make a full recovery “by the start of the regular season.” Two years remain on Cook’s five-year, $63MM contract.
  • Dalvin Tomlinson‘s two-year Vikings pact was set to void last week, but the team bought more time on this front. The Vikes pushed Tomlinson’s void date to March 15 — Day 1 of the 2023 league year — according to Field Yates of (on Twitter). This keeps $7.5MM from hitting Minnesota’s cap, though that amount will move onto the payroll if no extension is reached by March 15. If an extension occurs before that date, the Vikings will only be charged with $2.5MM in dead money, Yates tweets.
  • If Tomlinson does return, he will be a part of another 3-4 scheme. Minnesota had gone decades in a 4-3 alignment, but new DC Brian Flores confirmed (via the St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Chris Tomasson) the 3-4 look installed under previous leader Ed Donatell will remain in place. Although teams’ increased sub-package usage diminishes the importance of base sets, this is certainly notable given how long the Vikes were a 4-3 team prior to 2022, when their switch yielded disastrous results.
  • Shaun Dion Hamilton will move up from defensive assistant to the Lions‘ assistant linebackers coach, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. Hamilton is just 27, being one of the Lions’ cuts last summer, but moved quickly into coaching. Rather than hit the workout circuit, the former Washington sixth-round draftee opted to enter coaching early.
  • The Packers‘ run of extensions last offseason included executive VP Russ Ball, Demovsky tweets. Green Bay quietly extended Matt LaFleur and GM Brian Gutekunst, and Ball — a veteran cap guru elevated during the same offseason Gutekunst took over as GM — remains a key part of the franchise’s equation. Ball, 63, has been a critical part of the Pack’s front office since 2008.

2023 NFL Head Coaching Search Tracker

Last year, 10 NFL teams hired new head coaches. Following the Panthers, Broncos and Texans’ hires, this year’s vacancy count sits at two. Last year’s Saints and Buccaneers moves, however, showed these job openings can emerge at unexpected points.

Listed below are the head coaching candidates that have been linked to each of the teams with vacancies, along with their current status. If other teams decide to make head coaching changes, they’ll be added to this list. Here is the current breakdown:

Updated 2-14-23 (1:30pm CT)

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Brian Flores Informed Cardinals He Was Withdrawing From HC Search

Brian Flores is set for a Twin Cities relocation, taking over as the next Vikings defensive coordinator. The former Dolphins head coach’s quick decision here was somewhat surprising, considering he had a second interview for the Cardinals’ HC job lined up.

It is not believed Flores had been eliminated from the Cardinals’ search just yet. He instead informed the Cards he was not going to meet with them a second time and would accept the Vikings’ DC offer,’s Albert Breer tweets. Flores’ second Arizona interview had been scheduled for Wednesday, but the Cards are now onto other options. Arizona and Indianapolis remain on the hunt for head coaches, though the Colts’ search is more open-ended than the Cardinals’.

[RELATED: Kyler Murray Return May Be Delayed Until Midseason?]

Bigger-picture plans factored into Flores’ withdrawal. Next year’s lot of potential job openings represented part of the reason, per KPRC’s Aaron Wilson (via Twitter), Flores backed out of the Cards’ search. Higher-profile jobs might be available in 2024. The Chargers and Cowboys come to mind. While this was believed to be a factor for Sean Payton, next year’s coaching carousel also appears to be impacting other candidates’ decisions.

The team’s search may come down to two of its late additions. Giants offensive coordinator Mike Kafka is meeting with the Cardinals today, while Bengals DC Lou Anarumo‘s meeting is scheduled for Friday. Both are already on their second interviews, despite each having been added to the pool Jan. 30. Vance Joseph, Bengals OC Brian Callahan and Lions DC Aaron Glenn were not among the finalists for the job, though Flores taking a coordinator gig despite being included as a finalist came after other options passed.

Dan Quinn also backed out of multiple searches to stay with the Cowboys, and after interviewing with the Cardinals, Frank Reich accepted the Panthers’ HC offer. Then again, it is unknown how serious the Cardinals were on Reich, who was not a candidate in Denver or Houston. Payton was the biggest fish this offseason, but not much smoke emerged connecting the former Super Bowl-winning HC to Arizona’s vacancy. The Cards added Anarumo and Kafka to their mix days after Payton’s interview and just before he accepted the Broncos’ HC offer.

Despite his discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and a few teams, Flores interviewed for four HC jobs last year following his surprise Dolphins ouster. The longtime Patriots assistant spent this season as the Steelers’ linebackers coach. He was on the Cards’ radar both before and after the team hired ex-Pats executive Monti Ossenfort as GM. A Flores-Ossenfort connection loomed for weeks; no other teams interviewed him for their HC jobs this year. He was among a host of Payton backup plans. Anarumo and Kafka were not even part of the search at that stage.

Vikings To Hire Brian Flores As DC

Just after one of their preferred targets took a defensive coordinator job elsewhere, the Vikings have pivoted to their other finalist. Minnesota is hiring Brian Flores as their DC, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (Twitter link). The team has since announced the move.

Flores, 41, had been on the radar for a number of positions in this year’s hiring cycle, including both coordinator and head coaching opportunities. One of the former was with the Vikings, who moved on from Ed Donatell following a disappointing 2022 season for his unit. The team’s search for his replacement led them to a relatively short list of candidates, including former Broncos DC Ejiro Evero.

Minnesota was closely linked to Evero both before and after Denver let him out of his contract to move on to other opportunities. That opened the door to an interview with the Vikings, but the Panthers moved very quickly and hired him Sunday. That move was highly lauded for Frank Reich and his new staff in Charlotte, but it left Minnesota with only one of its two reported favorites available. It thus comes as little surprise that the next major coaching domino has fallen so soon after Evero found his new employer.

Flores spent 2022 as the Steelers’ linebackers coach and an experienced voice on Mike Tomlin‘s staff. Prior to that, he was the head coach of the Dolphins, a tenure which saw him help guide the team to consecutive winning seasons but be let go amidst tension with the front office. He is one of the plaintiffs in an ongoing lawsuit against the NFL and many of its teams alleging racial discrimination in its hiring practices.

After his one-year posting as a positional coach, the longtime Patriots staffer drew considerable interest this offseason, pointing to at least a coordinator position coming his way. Arizona — one of two teams yet to hire their new head coach in 2023 — had a second interview with Flores lined up for later this week, making him one of three finalists for that job. With his name now off that list, the Cardinals appear set to go with either Lou Anarumo or Mike Kafka as their next HC.

The Broncos, meanwhile, were said to be down to two finalists for Evero’s replacement after it was learned he would not be retained by new head coach Sean Payton. Flores was one of them, and Sean Desai the other. The latter should now be considered the favorite to join Payton in the Mile High city, as Flores prepares for the newest chapter of his coaching career.

The Vikings ranked near the bottom of the league in a number of defensive categories in 2022, including points and yards allowed (28th and 31st, respectively). Flores will thus face an uphill battle to lead the unit to an improved performance in 2023, though the team’s playoff berth under head coach Kevin O’Connell suggests even a small step forward could be enough to turn them into contenders.

Brian Flores Joins Finalists For Cardinals HC Job

9:45pm: In the newest update, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that “the Cardinals have informed several head coaching candidates that they are out of the running.” The three candidates who have been announced to be involved in the second round of interviews (Flores, Anarumo, and Kafka) are reportedly the team’s finalists for the position.

The three candidates who have not been included in the second round of interviews yet (Joseph, Glenn, and Callahan) are among those who have been informed that they are no longer being considered.

5:49pm: The Cardinals made it known that they had at least two candidates who would be advancing to a second round of interviews for their vacant head coaching position yesterday. Now Steelers defensive assistant and linebackers coach Brian Flores will join Lou Anarumo and Mike Kafka as a finalist in Arizona, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

This is the first name we’ve seen that lines up with an earlier report from last weekend. That report implied that, if the Cardinals were unable to bring in Sean Payton, whose rights were traded to the Broncos this past week, the team would be moving forward with Flores, Aaron Glenn, and Ejiro Evero for a second round of interviews. After yesterday’s announcement for Anarumo and Kafka, Flores’s inclusion is the first name that doesn’t come as a surprise.

Arizona is moving relatively slowly compared to the other franchises who have been working to hire a new head coach this offseason and, as a result, have missed out on a few promising candidates. Of the 10 candidates interviewed by the Cardinals, four are no longer available. Besides Payton, Dan Quinn made the decision to remain in Dallas as defensive coordinator, Evero has been hired as the defensive coordinator in Carolina, Frank Reich has been hired as the Panthers’ head coach, and DeMeco Ryans, who actually cancelled his interview, has taken the head coaching position in Houston.

That leaves Arizona with its three finalists (Flores, Anarumo, and Kafka), the rumored finalist who has not been announced as a candidate for a second interview (Glenn), Bengals offensive coordinator Brian Callahan, who interviewed this week, and their own defensive coordinator for the last four seasons, Vance Joseph. Anarumo is set to meet virtually with general manager Monti Ossenfort on Friday, while Kafka’s virtual interview is expected to take place on Tuesday.

Flores is expected to interview for the Cardinals’ job on Wednesday. The day before, Flores is expected to interview for the Broncos defensive coordinator position under Payton. He is also a top candidate for the Vikings defensive coordinator job.

With three finalists named for the position so far, here is the updated breakdown of the Cardinals’ interview process:

Broncos Request Brian Flores DC Interview

Brian Flores remains in the running for the Cardinals’ head coaching position, but teams have reached out to the Steelers assistant about defensive coordinator roles. The Broncos have joined that list.

Sean Payton‘s team has requested a DC interview with Flores, Ian Rapoport of tweets. This comes on the heels of a multi-day discussion with Ejiro Evero about staying on as Denver’s DC. While the Evero path may not be closed, the Broncos are now considering outside options as well. Evero indeed remains in the running for the position, Mike Klis of 9News tweets, but Payton is also exploring outside hires.

The Broncos and Flores have a unique past, which could complicate a hire. Flores included the team in his ongoing racial discrimination lawsuit. The former Dolphins HC included the Broncos as one of the original teams in the suit, alleging then-GM John Elway arrived for his 2019 HC interview an hour late and hungover. The Broncos called Flores’ account “blatantly false.”

Payton and George Paton are now in charge in Denver, with the latter’s role somewhat foggy given the team’s recent high-profile HC hire. Flores, who spent the 2022 season as the Steelers’ linebackers coach, has interviewed for the Falcons and Vikings’ DC positions thus far. He also met with the Saints last year about succeeding Payton, but New Orleans went with Dennis Allen.

The moving parts here certainly supply intrigue. Evero has interviewed for all five HC positions, but Broncos management wants him to remain the team’s DC. With Nathaniel Hackett hire still under contract, the Broncos blocked him from joining Flores in interviewing for the Falcons’ DC post. Ex-Payton staffer Ryan Nielsen has since filled it. Evero also joins Flores in being on Minnesota’s DC radar, but the Broncos could block that interview as well. Payton passing on Evero, of course, would open the door to that Vikings meeting going through.

Bill Belichick‘s de facto DC in 2018, Flores played a lead role in the Patriots securing their sixth Super Bowl championship. The Pats held the Rams to three points in Super Bowl LIII, becoming the second team to keep a Super Bowl opponent out of the end zone. This performance paved the way to Flores’ Miami hire. That produced two winning seasons and a rather notable 5-11 campaign — after the Dolphins gutted their roster amid a rebuild effort — that became the subject of an NFL investigation after Flores alleged Stephen Ross offered bribes for 2019 losses.

The league did not punish Ross as a result of Flores’ allegations, but it did strip the Dolphins of first- and third-round picks for attempting to replace Flores with Payton. The Payton-Tom Brady tampering scandal could conceivably loom as a factor in a Flores-Broncos partnership as well, adding another wrinkle to what would be one of the more interesting DC interviews in recent memory.