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Working with Bill O’Brien helped inspire Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores and his defensive philosophy

The best way to build a defense is to understand offense.

Syndication: Palm Beach Post Allen Eyestone via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Miami Dolphins traded Laremy Tunsil to the Houston Texans shortly before the 2019 season.

In the short term, a devastating move for the Dolphins. Not only did the team lose its franchise left tackle, but also one of the team’s top receivers in Kenny Stills.

However, the team’s coach, Brian Flores, along with Chris Grier, the team’s general manager, stated how the trade was gearing the team for the future.

Fast forward two years and the Tunsil trade is viewed as a franchise-altering move for both the Dolphins and Texans. The Dolphins, now a budding franchise on the verge of becoming a contender of the playoffs, greatly benefited from the picks acquired in the deal.

The Texans, however, are ripping down the walls and rebuilding just years removed from being a championship contender. It may seem hard to believe, but the 2019 deal wasn’t the first time Bill O’Brien, the former Texans coach who pulled the trigger on the deal, had a positive impact on the career of coach Flores.

The third-year head coach was asked about his “hybrid defense” during a press conference on Wednesday and gave Bill O’Brien credit for inspiring him to build a flexible unit.

“I think I’ve always wanted to be multiple,” Flores said of the type of defense he wanted to run. “That’s something that for me – the one year on offense where I was a coach under Bill O’Brien and spent some time with them offensively, I would say I learned a lot from that year about how offensive minds think.”

Flores, known for his suffocating defense, was an offensive assistant on the New England Patriots back in 2010. O’Brien, at the time, coached New England’s quarterbacks.

“If you view the same thing or run the same coverage or run the same front or run the same of really anything, there is something or some scheme or something that’s going to beat it,” Flores said when explaining why he prefers a hybrid defense. “[Opponents will] find it and they will try to take advantage of it.”

Flexibility has been a buzzword since Flores arrived in Miami. The third-year coach searches high and low for not only smart players, but ones who can confuse opposing offenses with the ability to line up at different positions throughout the defense.

“I don’t think this is just what we do, but I think every team tries to have enough variety that no one can pinpoint, ‘hey, they are doing this,’ so we can attack exactly what they are doing.,” Flores said. “In order to do that, you have to have guys that are versatile and smart enough to basically change from one defense to another – one front to another front, one coverage to another coverage.”

The Miami Dolphins have shown that they’re not afraid to cut ties with players who don’t fit the vision. The team traded Minkah Fitzpatrick weeks into the 2019 season and moved on from players like Shaq Lawson and Kyle Van Noy in order to find the right guys for the system.

“It takes a certain type of player just from a versatility standpoint physically and then mentally to be able to do that,” Flores said. “It’s not easy to do and as a coach, you may want to be multiple and I think we all do, but you just may not be able to do that based on the guys you have.

“We’ll see if we have those guys. I’m not saying we do. I think it’s something that you learn over time. We’ll practice it and we’ll try to see how much they can handle. If they can handle a lot, then we’ll do a lot. If they can’t, then we’ll do what we feel like we can get accomplished.”

Brian Flores has spent years developing his system and O’Brien is in no way the mastermind behind his success, but it is interesting to hear how O’Brien had a part in inspiring the defense that allowed just over 21 points a game in 2020, the league’s fourth-best mark.