Brian Flores was one of nine NFL head coaches to get fired during or after the 2021 season, as the Dolphins late charge to finish 9-8 wasn’t enough to save his job in Miami, despite back-to-back winning seasons for the Dolphins for the first time in nearly two decades.
Flores’ firing wasn’t a shock but was to many further evidence of the difference in expectations placed on Black head coaches in the NFL to succeed quicker and at a higher level than their white counterparts if they are to keep a job. The Dolphins called Flores’ issue one of “collaboration,” painting him as a coach who was difficult to work with, and Flores has spent the past month seeking new employment, interviewing with the Giants and Texans, where he was expected to be one of the frontrunners for the Houston job.
However, on Tuesday, Flores filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL alleging discriminatory hiring practices after a debacle involving the Giants, with an assist from Bill Belichick, that made him want to step out and speak out about the ridiculous sham of an interview he had in New York.
Flores included text messages from Belichick that the Patriots coach sent him that were meant for Brian Daboll, who was introduced on Monday as the Giants head coach, that he received the day before his interview congratulating him on getting the job. Belichick then apologized, saying he “fucked this up” and meant to text Daboll that he heard from Buffalo and New York the job was his, meaning Flores was heading into an interview for a job that had already been given to someone else — but the Giants needed to meet the NFL’s Rooney Rule by interviewing a Black candidate.
It is damning evidence of something that has long been assumed — that teams were not using the Rooney Rule in good faith but instead making decisions and giving minority candidates an interview just to meet requirements. Flores details the sham of the interview, knowing he wasn’t going to get the job, as well as a previous instance from 2019 in which he interviewed with the Broncos when John Elway and Denver’s leadership showed up late and “disheveled” for the interview.
Thus, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, Mr. Flores was forced to sit through a dinner with Joe Schoen, the Giant’s new General Manager, knowing that the Giants had already selected Mr. Daboll. Much worse, on Thursday, January 27, 2022, Mr. Flores had to give an extensive interview for a job that he already knew he would not get—an interview that was held for no reason other than for the Giants to demonstrate falsely to the League Commissioner Roger Goodell and the public at large that it was in compliance with the Rooney Rule.
Incredibly, this was not Mr. Flores’ first sham interview that was held only in an effort to comply with the Rooney Rule. Indeed, in 2019 Mr. Flores was scheduled to interview with the Denver Broncos. However, the Broncos’ then-General Manager, John Elway, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Ellis and others, showed up an hour late to the interview. They looked completely disheveled, and it was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before. It was clear from the substance of the interview that Mr. Flores was interviewed only because of the Rooney Rule, and that the Broncos never had any intention to consider him as a legitimate candidate for the job. Shortly thereafter, Vic Fangio, a white man, was hired to be the Head Coach of the Broncos
Flores’ lawsuit aims to increase the number of Black individuals involved in the hiring process for front office and coaching positions, as well as pushing the NFL to create a committee to seek out Black investors who can add more diversity to ownership groups, understanding that the issue with NFL hiring practices starts with the lack of diversity or belief in the importance of it from the ownership level. There are a number of other allegations in the lawsuit that are fascinating, as Dolphins owner Stephen Ross allegedly offered him $100,000 for every loss in his first season, as Miami wanted to tank for the top-overall pick and later tried to get him to tamper for a top quarterback (it’s assumed to be Tom Brady, but not outright stated) on a yacht trip.
What comes from this is unknown, but it’s at the very least terrible PR for the NFL on Super Bowl week and a pretty courageous thing to do by Flores who very likely will find himself out of coaching at the NFL level for this — or at least out of head coaching candidacy.