Brian Flores isn’t perfect choice, but should be next Giants’ coach

If you want Brian Flores as the next head coach of the New York Football Giants, the bad news is that he is not a perfect candidate.

The good news is that nobody else is either.

If former Giants assistant Sean Payton somehow made himself a free agent today, he would be the closest thing to an ideal fit. But that’s not going to happen.

So the Giants and their new general manager Joe Schoen have a tough call here, and the stakes are sky high. They have to get this hire right after Ben McAdoo, Pat Shurmur, and Joe Judge each went two-and-out. They have to find someone who can build a winner out of the ruins of 22 wins and 59 losses over the past five years.

Flores is the best available man for that job, and the Giants should hire him to replace his old New England colleague, Judge. As coach of the Dolphins, Flores won 19 games over the last two seasons with quarterbacks less physically talented than Daniel Jones. He beat former boss Bill Belichick four times in three years, and inspired his players to compete at a high level even when times were grim.

Raging against mounting evidence to the contrary, Judge kept insisting in the final weeks that his collapsing team was still fighting like mad. Flores? He didn’t have to persuade anyone that his 1-7 Dolphins hadn’t quit on the season or on him — they won eight of their last nine games, including a smackdown of Judge’s Giants.

Brian Flores
Brian Flores
AP

Flores was fired anyway by Miami general manager Chris Grier. One former New York coach of note, Jeff Van Gundy, once said that if your bosses “can’t get you on results, they get you on relationships.”

They got Brian Flores on relationships.

He didn’t have a good one with Grier, or with Tua Tagovailoa, or, apparently, with a procession of assistant coaches who either left or were fired, including a couple who decided to work for Judge instead. Flores will have to answer some tough and fair questions about all of that, and how he plans to ensure that communication breakdowns with his staff wouldn’t define his term as Giants coach.

John Mara nearly fired Tom Coughlin after the 2006 season before the co-owner convinced Major Tom to take something off his fastball in his dealings with the players and the press. Mara might want to make the same suggestion to Flores, who wakes up in a stance and radiates intensity 24/7. Someone might want to remind the former Dolphins coach that another man fired in Miami on relationships, Joe Girardi, won a championship in New York by following Coughlin’s kinder, gentler approach.

Flores must own his mistakes and grow from them.

But his pros far outweigh his cons. Flores is a born-and-raised leader out of the toughest of Brooklyn neighborhoods, Brownsville, where he once told me, “I never backed down from anybody.” He’s the proud son of Honduran immigrants who was, in the words of longtime friend Lance Bennett, “like a rose growing out of the concrete.” Flores fought his way to a Boston College scholarship, and then to a job in New England, where executive Scott Pioli and Belichick shaped him into the kind of football man and defensive coordinator who could win the Patriots a Super Bowl by holding a team that averaged 33 points per game (the Rams) to one lousy field goal.

He got fired from his first head coaching job, just as Belichick got fired from his, but the fact is Flores proved in Miami he knows how to inspire players to play consistently hard, and how to win games without the type of quarterback he preferred in the 2020 draft, Justin Herbert. Mara was said to be very high on the former Miami coach even before they spoke. Though Flores didn’t know Schoen, they have talked and found some common ground as process-driven achievers who want the same thing — another title in the big city.

Schoen’s guy in Buffalo, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, is likely the candidate to beat, given his outstanding work with Josh Allen and the sad state of the Giants’ offense. Daboll could end up reuniting with his former Alabama quarterback, Tagovailoa, and deploying his institutional AFC East knowledge in Miami, but you could certainly make a good case for him as the next Giants head coach. It’s just not as good as the case for Flores.

Like McAdoo and Judge before him, Daboll has never been a head coach. Can the Giants really afford to gamble on another rookie right now?

With a strong offensive coordinator at his side, Flores represents a greater degree of certainty that the Giants will finally become competent and relevant again in short order. For now, he wants to maintain a quiet and dignified candidacy for a dream job. In fact, my guess is he would’ve preferred that I didn’t write this column.

He’s from the Glenmore Plaza projects of Brownsville, after all, where nothing is given and everything is earned. Brian Flores has earned this moment. He is an imperfect candidate who has found his hometown Giants at the perfect time.