By Craig Ellenport | Aug. 30, 2018
Good item on MassLive.com this week about New England Patriots linebackers coach Brian Flores – who is referred to in the story’s headline as “de facto defensive coordinator.” Flores doesn’t have the DC title, but he is taking over play-calling responsibilities now that Matt Patricia has left to become head coach of the Detroit Lions.
Of course, head coach Bill Belichick has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL for nine years – serving in that role when the Giants defeated Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway and Jim Kelly in two Super Bowls. Suffice it to say Belichick remains heavily involved in that unit.
But Flores will be calling the defense. He may not have the coordinator title, but he’s doing what a coordinator does.
“It’s been good,” Flores said of the learning process. “Every game’s a new experience. But I think what it boils down to is the players that go out there and execute, and I think they’ve done a good job of that. As far as [play-calling]’s concerned, it’s been solid for me.”
The Patriots are one of four teams that do not have a full complement of coordinators on staff. The other three – the Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams – don’t have offensive coordinators.
In Houston, head coach Bill O’Brien calls the offense. Of course, O’Brien was Belichick’s OC in New England, so he’s just taking a page from his old boss. Head coach Kyle Shanahan calls the offense for the 49ers. For what it’s worth, tight ends coach Jon Embree also has the title of assistant head coach.
The Rams have head coach Sean McVay calling plays. Interestingly, while they don’t have an OC, they do have a run game coordinator (Aaron Kromer) and a passing game coordinator (Shane Waldron).
Alternatively, there are eight coordinators around the NFL who do not have play-calling responsibilities because their head coach maintains that role. Only one head coach handles the defensive play-calling – Minnesota Vikings HC Mike Zimmer (although there have been rumblings recently that he’ll cede that job to DC George Stewart).
Here are the head coaches who will be calling their teams’ offense (OC in parentheses):
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints (Pete Carmichael Jr.)
Doug Pederson, Philadelphia Eagles (Mike Groh)
Andy Reid, Kansas City Chiefs (Eric Bieniemy)
Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts (Nick Sirianni)
Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders (Greg Olson)
Pat Shurmur, New York Giants (Mike Shula)
Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears (Mark Helfrich)
It’s worth noting that three of these head coaches (Payton, Pederson, Gruden) are Super Bowl-winning coaches. Reid has been to the Super Bowl. The other three have a combined two years of head coaching experience.
For the eight coordinators who won’t call plays, at least the title looks good on the resume. It’s not easy getting a head coaching job without first being a coordinator, so they’ve got that going for them.