By GREG BEACHAM
The Associated Press
ATLANTA — Quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor isn’t allowed to talk about what will happen next week after the Los Angeles Rams’ trip to the Super Bowl is over and the Cincinnati Bengals hire their next head coach.
Brian Flores, the New England Patriots’ unofficial defensive coordinator, says it would be disrespectful for him to discuss what’s going on with his own career until next week, when the Miami Dolphins make their own head coaching hire.
Until then, these two assistants on the rise are making sure they’re doing everything possible to walk into their next jobs with a big, shiny ring.
The 35-year-old Taylor is widely expected to be hired by the Bengals to replace Marvin Lewis once the Rams’ season ends Sunday. While he couldn’t confirm the decision during the opening media session of Super Bowl week Monday night, Taylor used his first public comments since the interview process to praise Rams coach Sean McVay for his advice and leadership during their two years together.
“The important thing is to not allow it to be a distraction,” Taylor said of his head coaching interviews during the Rams’ playoff push. “Sean has been really great to let us take our day to handle that business, and then put it to rest and move on and remain focused. He wants to see the best for us, and so he’s been very helpful. That’s one of the many things you appreciate about Sean.”
Taylor spent one year as the University of Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator before joining McVay’s staff in 2017. He has risen rapidly in the NFL’s estimation along with just about everyone who has worked with, worked for or spoken to McVay, who has his long-struggling franchise in the Super Bowl in his second season.
Along with Taylor’s apparent success with the Bengals, former Rams offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur took over the Green Bay Packers three weeks ago. Current Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron also interviewed for unspecified head coaching jobs in the past month.
“Sean has been great,” Taylor said of his 33-year-old boss. “It is something that all coaches strive to do at some point in their career, but the important thing is to not allow it to be a distraction.”
An hour after Taylor gently deflected questions about his future, Flores did the same. Late in his 15th season with the Patriots as a scout and coach, the former Boston College linebacker wouldn’t address widespread reports that he will take over in Miami after the Super Bowl.
“Right now my vision is on Sunday’s game,” Flores said. “That’s where my head is at.”
That’s the same posture taken by former Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia last season when he interviewed for the Detroit Lions’ head coaching job during the Patriots’ playoff run. He then was swarmed with questions about his future heading into the Patriots’ Super Bowl matchup with Philadelphia.
New England lost the game on Feb. 4, and Patricia was officially named Detroit’s coach on Feb. 5.
Flores said he hasn’t been distracted by the ongoing speculation about his job status.
“I’m very good at compartmentalizing. Right now my focus is squarely on the Rams,” Flores said. “I love the guys on (the Patriots). To think about anything else aside from this game I think is a disservice to them. So that’s where I’m at.”
Flores would be the ninth former assistant to Bill Belichick to become a head coach. That group includes current offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, the former Denver head coach who was named Indianapolis’ head coach right after the Super Bowl last season, only to withdraw from the position later that day.
Flores started with the Patriots as a scouting assistant in 2004 after he sent a letter to all 32 NFL teams asking for a job and even offering to work for no pay.
“Brian has been with our organization for a long time in a lot of different roles,” Belichick said at media night. “He’s done a great job for me, and he has the respect of everybody in the organization.”