MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Their kids are friends, even were classmates in some cases. All their wives are close with one another. The group has won together, lost together, celebrated Super Bowl championships together.
And this weekend, they’ll all reunite — just on opposite sides.
Miami (5-7) plays host to the New York Giants (4-7) on Sunday, and the ties that bind run deep. The head coaches, Miami’s Brian Flores and New York’s Joe Judge, both worked for Bill Belichick in New England when the Patriots won their most recent Super Bowl. So did a slew of the coaches who are now on their staffs.
“Some of the tightest relationships you have in this business are the relationships you have when you’re broke, grinding with somebody,” Judge said. “Brian came into this league the same as I did. ... We were given the opportunity to work and had the opportunity to work our way up. He certainly did that and I had the opportunity as well to do that.”
Judge spent eight years with the Patriots before getting the chance to become a head coach with the Giants, starting in 2020. Flores was in New England for 15 years before his opportunity came with the Dolphins, starting in 2019.
“My son and his daughter were in the same pre-K class. We’re talking about people that I have great relationships with,” Flores said. “But on Sunday, we are going to compete. That’s what I know we are going to get from them and they know that’s what they are going to get from us.”
Flores and Judge keep in touch, using each other as sounding boards from time to time. It wouldn’t seem likely there’s much of that going on this week, of course.
“Those conversations are about our wives, our families,” Flores said. “Occasionally there’s something football-related that we can get into, a situation or something like that. But most of the time it’s not really football at the forefront. I would say we are friends first.”
This is far from just a Flo-and-Joe storyline. There are plenty of other links. But the head coaches are obviously on center stage.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Flo," Judge said. “I really, really do. He’s very, very intelligent, he’s got great command, he’s a great leader, his players play the right way, they respond the right way, he pushes through adversity. I think he does all the right things."
Giants quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski was with the Patriots for three Super Bowl titles, then left New England to be a coach under Flores in Miami in 2019, then left Miami to join Judge’s staff in New York. Dolphins defensive coordinator Josh Boyer was in New England for the last three Super Bowl runs. His predecessor as coordinator in Miami was Patrick Graham, who worked with Flores in New England until leaving for a job with the Giants in 2016, then ran the Dolphins’ defense in Flores’ first season there, then had interest in returning to the Giants when Judge got the job.
Graham’s wife and Flores’ wife are best friends. But when Graham suggested he might want to return to New York, Flores didn’t hesitate.
“From a football coaching standpoint, we’re more brothers than anything,” Flores said. “I have a lot of respect for him. I would never stand in the way of somebody doing something that they wanted to do. That was something that Pat wanted to do. I have a lot of respect for him and his family. ... I’m always going to support him.”
There are other links between the teams as well. Flores and three assistants all hail from either New York City or New Jersey. Assistant coaches Rob Leonard and Eric Studesville used to work for the Giants. Both sides have players who have worn the other team’s helmet.
Judge said having the ability to work with Flores, to study how he evaluated college talent and learn what he looks for in a player, helped him make the jump to the ranks of NFL head coach. Flores would say the same about Judge’s role in his own development.
“I take a lot of pride in watching them have success,” Judge said. “We’re playing the Dolphins this week, but there are a lot of guys, and Flo being one of them, that when we’re not playing them and they’re on the other side of the other conference, I do root for. I do pull for those guys.”
Just not this week.
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