The NFL isn’t even officially in its offseason yet, and we’ve already had a couple of bombshells drop. With Tom Brady being reported to retire, then claiming that he hadn’t yet decided, then actually announcing his retirement, even that now takes a backseat to a blockbuster lawsuit just filed on behalf of former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, who says in his suit that he understands he is jeopardizing the future of his career.
Filing for class-action status against the National Football League as a whole, as well as the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos, and the New York Giants, specifically, Flores, who spent the past three seasons as Miami’s head coach before being fired last month, makes a series of allegations, ultimately making the argument that the league remains “racially segregated” in critical ways and “managed much like a plantation”.
Flores alleges that Broncos personnel arrived late to his meeting when he was scheduled to interview for the then-vacant head coach position in 2019. He also claims that those in attendance, including general manager John Elway, appeared “completely disheveled” and had clearly “been drinking heavily the night before”.
He also alleges that his interview for the Giants’ head coaching position last month was similarly meaningless, and in fact maintains that he already knew at the time of the interview taking place that the team had already made the decision to hire Brian Daboll, which they did shortly after.
Essentially, he is making the claim that the Rooney Rule, which in its most recent iteration requires teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for any vacant head coaching position, is carried out mechanically and not in keeping with the spirit of the rule—they are token interviews that the teams do not take seriously and only conduct to fulfill the obligation.
There are specific actions that the suit seeks, including increasing the influence of black individuals in the hiring processes of NFL teams, increasing the objectivity of the hiring and firing process for head coaches, general managers, and coordinators, increasing the number of black coordinators, making head coach and general manager pay transparent, and incentivizing the retention of black general managers, head coaches, and coordinators.
Last year, the NFL instituted the incentivization of developing black coaches and executives by compensating teams who lose them to other teams in head coach or general manager roles in the form of two third-round draft choices. Already, one of the minority head coaches who was hired under this rule has been fired, that being David Culley in Houston.
The league and the teams involved all strongly denied Flores’ allegations, which include him accusing Dolphins owner Stephen Ross both of tanking and tampering. He claims that Ross offered to give him $100,000 per loss during his first season as head coach, in 2019, with the goal of securing the first overall draft pick. This was the year that Minkah Fitzpatrick was so upset with the organization that he wanted out.
It is also alleged that Ross covertly set up a meeting that he hoped to manufacture between Flores and a prominent quarterback, which would have been in obvious violation of tampering rules. The suit claims that Flores promptly left the scene after Ross informed him of his intentions.
There remain five head coaching vacancies around the league, officially. Thus far, four have been filled, and all four jobs have gone to white men—Daboll in New York, Matt Eberflus of the Chicago Bears, Nathaniel Hackett with the Denver Broncos, and Josh McDaniels with the Las Vegas Raiders. Reports indicate that Jim Harbaugh is likely to take the job with the Minnesota Vikings.
Byron Leftwich, who along with Flores and Eric Bieniemy are the only prominent black coaches being considered for head coaching positions this cycle, has previously been reported to have been close to landing the head coaching job with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but each day that passes without an announcement seemingly makes it less likely that it will happen.
There are currently three minority head coaches among the 27 occupied roles, with Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers being the only black head coach. Robert Saleh with the New York Jets and Ron Rivera with the Washington [soon to be] Commanders are the other two.