Players to watch in Super Bowl LIII
Brian Flores, the next Dolphins coach, has one more game left with the New England Patriots.
What a way to go out:
On the biggest stage in American sports against perhaps the greatest challenge of his coaching career.
Super Bowl 53.
And in the middle of it all: Flores, the 37-year-old son of Honduran immigrants tasked with outsmarting Sean McVay, the most hyped offensive mind of his generation.
“My philosophy is we can do whatever we need to do to win that specific game,” Flores said here Wednesday. “So this week, that’s my philosophy for sure.
“If we need to press the corners to win the game, we do that. If we need to play zone, we do that,” he continued. “We’ve got to play 3-4, we do that, 4-3, we do that. Whether or not you have the players who can do that, or can be that multiple, versatile, ultimately, it’s what they can do. It’s not about what I know, it’s what they can do. I’d like to be as multiple as possible, so that we’re not stuck in one thing, you do that in this league, it’s hard.”
Multiple is just another word for versatile, and the Rams are certainly that.
With all due respect to the Chiefs, the Rams were probably the most complete offense in the league this year. They ranked second in yards (421.1 per game), fifth in passing (281.7), third in rushing (139.4) and second in scoring (32.9).
Jared Goff was fourth in passing yards (4,688), tied for sixth in touchdowns (32) and eighth in passer rating (101.1).
Then there’s Todd Gurley, who led the league in rushing touchdowns (17) and ranked third in rushing (1,251) despite missing two games with a knee injury. Gurley clearly still wasn’t right physically in Los Angeles’ two playoff games, so McVay simply plugged in burly C.J. Anderson, who has averaged 83.5 yards per game off the street.
The Patriots, meanwhile, were not impressive statistically on defense in 2018: 21st in yards allowed (359.1), 22nd in pass defense (246.4), 11th in run defense (112.7) this season. And yet, they allowed the seventh-fewest points per game (20.3) thanks to their plus-10 turnover margin.
Put another way: If New England doesn’t turn Los Angeles over, it’s really hard to see how the Patriots head home with a sixth Lombard Trophy.
That was the thinking of one Las Vegas sharp in town for the game. He told the Miami Herald that he liked the Rams at even money and loves them getting a two and a half points. The Rams were consistently the No. 1 team in the league this year.
But if you want to make an argument for the Patriots, this is as good as any: They have the best quarterback (Tom Brady) and best coach (Bill Belichick) in NFL history.
Belichick is particularly great at in-game adjustments. The best example: When Patriots dug out of a 28-3 third-quarter deficit to stun the Falcons in Super Bowl 51.
“If you don’t make adjustments in this league, you’re going to be in trouble,” Flores said. “Whether or not guys can handle that, I would say our guys can. We’ve got a really good group, a smart group. They work hard, they work well together. They understand when we make adjustments, why we’re making them and how they can help us.”
Flores was part of that 2016 coaching staff, but did not make the defensive calls. This is his first year with that responsibility, and called it “a great experience. It was fun. I felt like I’ve had a lot of help along the way with our coaching staff.”
Starting Monday, however, he will be in charge of his own team. And his staff will be looking to him for help the way he has leaned on Belichick for more than a decade.
Chris Grier, the Dolphins’ general manager, believes he’s up to the task. They have been friends for years, crossing paths on the road when Flores was still a member of the Patriots’ personnel department.
Flores was the Dolphins’ first interview, and was likely their front-runner from the moment Adam Gase got fired.
“It was humbling,” Flores said of Grier’s overture. “Humbling, I would say is the first word that comes to mind. To be considered is humbling, I would say is a great experience.”
Soon, those friends will be colleagues.
But first, some unfinished business — and perhaps a place in football history — awaits.