Last Saturday, after spending weeks on the open market, former Miami Dolphins head coach and Boston College football player Brian Flores finally found a job with the Pittsburgh Steelers as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach.
The signing came as a shock to many, as just a year ago, Flores led the Miami Dolphins as head coach to their first back-to-back winning seasons since 2003. The new job seems like a step down, as many viewed Flores as a strong candidate for open head coaching and defense coordinator jobs around the league.
Despite landing a new job, Flores is continuing his lawsuit against the NFL, the New York Giants, the Miami Dolphins, and the Denver Broncos for racial discrimination and violation of the Rooney Rule.
Instituted in 2003, the Rooney Rule states that NFL teams must interview candidates of color for head coaching and senior football operations positions. The rule was put in place to increase diversity in leadership roles in the league.
However, going into this season, there are only two Black and one bi-racial active head coaches, indicating that Black representation in top leadership roles is disproportionately low in a league composed of 70% Black players. This discrepancy puts the effectiveness of the Rooney Rule in question, as it is unclear if it is making a difference or if it is just in place for show.
When Flores parted ways with the Dolphins, he was in place to benefit from this rule as he sought another head coaching job. Flores was a busy man during his time on the coaching carousel, interviewing for jobs with teams such as the Texans, Bears, Broncos, and Saints.
But nearing the end of January, Flores received a text message from his former boss and head coach of The New England Patriots, Bill Belichick. Belichick congratulated Flores on securing the head coaching job for the New York Giants. However, at the time of receiving the text, Flores had not yet conducted his interview with the Giants, which was scheduled for the next day. After some back and forth conversation, it was revealed that the text message was meant for Brian Daboll, whom the Giants later announced to be their new head coach.
Flores was frustrated by the whole situation, not because he didn't get the job, but because he didn't even stand a chance at it. He was simply used by the Giants as a checkmark to say that they did their due diligence in interviewing minority candidates. But due to the accidental message from Bill Belichick, the Giants were exposed for their practices that violated the Rooney Rule.
Flores has since filed a lawsuit against the Giants for their alleged discrimination during their interview process. But Flores’ battles don't end there, as he is also filing a suit against the Denver Broncos and his previous employer the Miami Dolphins. According to Flores, the Broncos discriminated against him in a similar way to the Giants, conducting sham interviews to meet diversity standards.
But Flores' case against the Dolphins makes the further allegation that the team's owner attempted to tamper with games while Flores was head coach. When Flores signed on with the Dolphins, they were a lost franchise. The team had suffered their second consecutive losing season and had no future at the quarterback position.
Stuck in football purgatory, The Dolphins owner Stephen Ross opted for the strategy to tank for better draft picks, offering Flores up to $100,000 per loss during his first season as head coach. Flores was not on board with this plan and despite ending the season 5-11, the team became much more competitive at the end of the season, winning their last two games. Flores is also accusing Ross of asking him to illegally tamper with the free agency period in hopes to secure better signings.
At this point, Flores is in the very early stages of his legal battles, and there are no major indicators of how they may turn out. Regardless, Flores has exposed the NFL for their half-hearted attempt at promoting diversity, and all eyes are now on them to see how they will respond.