Cleveland Browns inside linebackers coach Ken Flajole started his coaching career at the collegiate level, where he spent 21 years mentoring defensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs at eight different universities before taking his knowledge to the NFL level.
Since leaving the University of Nevada’s co-defensive coordinator/secondary coaching position after the 1997 season and joining the Green Bay Packers as a defensive assistant/quality control coach in 1998, Flajole has continued to teach the game to young athletes in pursuit of their goals on the football field.
Flajole brings 36 years of coaching experience to the Browns’ sideline.
“I consider myself a teacher,” Flajole said. “I’m going to demand effort, and I’m going to demand that guys be competitive. Sometimes, I’ll get a little short if we have a repetitive mistake, but most of all, I’m going to teach guys. I’m going to tell them, ‘This is the reason why we’re doing it.’
“I really want to teach them the game. I want them to be problem-solvers out on the field, so that when a team gives us a new play that we haven’t practiced during the week, that they can conceptually see it within the framework of the call and know how we’re going to have to defeat it.”
When it comes to teaching, Flajole took his time learning the game of football before imparting his knowledge to others.
One of Flajole’s teachers was former St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo. Flajole served as Spagnuolo’s defensive coordinator from 2009-2011 before joining the New Orleans Saints as a secondary coach in 2012.
“I’ve had a lot of great mentors, which has been a real blessing for me,” Flajole said. “I’ve learned something from every head coach that I’ve had an opportunity to work for. I’ve worked with some great defensive coordinators, learned a lot from some position coaches that I’ve been surrounded by. It’s been a great experience. It’s kind of a potpourri of everything that I know over the course of all these years that I’ve coached.”
From a teacher’s perspective, Flajole wants students capable of handling a high volume of information and processing quickly.
“The best evaluation I’ve got on a guy is if I can get him one-on-one and we can talk football,” Flajole said. “I can watch tape with him and I can ask him why he does what he does, and if he can spit back to me conceptually, what they’re trying to accomplish, it gives me a real flavor of if this guy’s got a mind for football.
“Defenses in the NFL can sometimes get overwhelming. You need a guy that, in my terms, has high-speed Internet. I’m trying to find out when I get a chance to visit with these guys, whether I’m going to a college workout on their campus or whether I get that moment of time with them at a Combine if this guy’s got high-speed Internet. If you’re a backup in this league, you don’t get many repetitions during the course of the week. When a guy goes down and your number’s called and you’ve got to go in, you’ve got to be ready to perform at a high level without a lot of repetitions.”
Flajole will coach a position group that was one of the Browns’ youngest in 2012. With injuries to key starters,
“They seem like a good group of guys,” Flajole said. “I’ve talked to every one of them. We get a chance to visit with them once just to see how they’re doing. They all seem like they’re good people, good character people. I’ve heard great things. I’ve heard the talent level is very good. It’s evident on film, so we’re anxious to get going and work with them.
“The previous staff did a tremendous job of getting them to run the football. I say that from the first man to the last man. I thought (they) did a marvelous job of getting all those guys to buy in and give effort to the football. That sounds like a simple thing, but I’ll promise you, not all 32 teams in the National Football League get that same kind of effort from all their players. I think that’s a real credit to the staff that was here before. I look at how they process things. I look for the physical-ness in the run game, their positioning, how they play in space in the passing game. I’ve been impressed. It’s a good group and we’re anxious to get rolling.”
After studying the game footage and helping defensive coordinator Ray Horton form the playbook, Flajole will now focus his efforts on building upon what the Browns accomplished last season.
“We’re not ready to kick off game one a week from now, but we are anxious to start working with the players,” Flajole said. “I think I speak for everybody on our defensive staff, that we hold our players in high regard. We’ll try to supplement the talent that we have through free agency and the draft, but we’re going to really hang our hat on the nucleus of the core players that are here to carry us next year and into the future.”