Brian Flores is playing a dangerous game with the NFL
LOS ANGELES, February 2, 2022 — The National Football League should be riding sky high right now. The Divisional Playoff round and the Conference Title Games combined to deliver six of the best playoff games in NFL history. The Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals won playoff games in epic fashion to reach Super Bowl (56) LVI. Unfortunately, controversy over black head coaches is threatening to give the league a black eye at the worst possible time.
Recently fired Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has filed a lawsuit against the league, alleging racial discrimination.
He has accused Dolphins owner Stephen Ross of offering to pay him to lose games and secure a better draft pick.
According to Flores, his refusal to comply had Ross labeling him “difficult to work with.” Former Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders and Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson has made the same allegation.
Flores and Jackson are playing a dangerous game with the NFL that risks backfiring and spreading collateral damage to other promising potential black head coaches. The allegations may contain a kernel of truth but also seem to contain some wild-eyed exaggerations if not outright fabrications.
The truth is that the NFL does have a problem.
There are 32 NFL franchises, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have the only black head coach in Mike Tomlin. A three percent black hiring rate would be a concern in an American society that is 15% black. Three percent is an outrage in a professional sports league where 70% of the players are black. This does not make the owners racist, but it does mean that their attempt to increase minority hiring is failing badly.
The Rooney Rule, named for the late Steelers owner and founder Art Rooney, was a good start. The Rooney Rule mandates that any NFL team with a job opening must give at least one minority candidate an interview. This does not guarantee them the job, but it does guarantee them a chance. The interviews must be real interviews, not token or sham interviews.
This is where the NFL is risking some exposure.
Flores has accused the New York Giants of conducting a sham interview with him.
The Giants hired the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Bill Daboll. Texts from New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick seem to indicate that Flores was interviewed only after the Giants had already decided on Daboll. If this is true, it would pervert the Rooney Rule.
The problem is other allegations from Flores miss the mark. Flores is accusing the Denver Broncos and their team president John Elway of conducting a sham interview with him as well. Accusing Elway of racism is laughable on its face. Before hiring and firing Vic Fangio, Elway’s previous hire was Vance Joseph, who is black.
Joseph and Fangio were both fired after posting losing records.
Jackson’s claims are even weaker. His lone season with the Raiders saw him go 8-8. He was hired by Al Davis, who was the poster child for diversity in hiring. Had Davis lived, Jackson would have almost certainly kept his job. After Davis died, his son Mark Davis hired Reggie McKenzie as general manager. McKenzie, who is black himself, fired Jackson and replaced him with Dennis Allen.
A black general manager fired a black coach and replaced him with a white coach.
Jackson is not suing the Raiders, only the Browns. He was fired because he had the worst winning percentage in NFL history.
He followed up a 1-15 season with an 0-16 season. After starting 2-5-1 in his third year, he was mercifully put out of his misery. Jackson inherited a winning quarterback in Baker Mayfield, yet benched him. His successor Kevin Stefanski got the best out of Mayfield and led the Browns to an 11-5 season and a road playoff win over archrival Pittsburgh. The idea that Jackson was paid to tank games is laughable.
More importantly, if Jackson is guilty of tanking rather than just bad coaching, he should be banned for life for violating the integrity of the game.
For now, there is no evidence any tanking occurred. NFL players have pride.
The worst two teams in football in 2021 won their regular-season finale rather than tank to guarantee themselves the top Draft pick.
Flores and Jackson were average at best. Flores is praised for turning around a 1-7 team and getting them to 9-8, but he was the coach that started 1-7. Jackson went 8-8 after inheriting a team that went 8-8.
Even if parts of their lawsuit have merit, Flores and Jackson are too flawed to be leading the cause.
If good coaches such as Jim Caldwell speak up, the equation will change.
Flores and Jackson are risking making matters worse. Joe Gillam in 1974 was the first black quarterback of the modern era. Yet his career collapsed due to drug use. It would be another 13 years before Doug Williams became the first black quarterback to win a Super Bowl. Had Gillam succeeded, the timetable for other black quarterbacks would have accelerated.
Dennis Green hired Tony Dungy, who in turn would eventually bring the NFL Lovie Smith and Herm Edwards. They all had success because they won football games and were eventually fired for losing them. When Dungy was fired from Tampa Bay, he had two teams openly fighting for his services. Owners want to win games.
If the tanking allegations are proven false, it obliterates the entire case.
In a courtroom, judges and juries are quick to conclude that a person lying about one aspect of a legal matter is lying about the entire matter.
The NFL does need to hire more black head coaches. A good start would be black owners. Black equity billionaire Robert Smith is making an attempt to purchase the Denver Broncos. Smith has Colorado ties.
As for Flores, his firing was about having a dysfunctional relationship with the general manager.
That same dynamic caused the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers to fire Marty Schottenheimer after a 14-2 season. The owner sided with the general manager over the coach. The late Dan Reeves was fired due to conflict with his quarterback Elway. Mike McCarthy was recently fired by the Green Bay Packers due to his conflict with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. All of the players in these situations are caucasian, and a simple case of the owners siding with their quarterback over their coach.
These power struggles are common in industries all across America and, as in this case, most have nothing to do with race.
Flores admits to setting his career on fire for what he believes is the greater good.
As for Jackson, he has nothing to lose. They are right that the league must hire more black head coaches. Plenty of qualified candidates exist. However, this does not mean that his specific legal case has merit. Flores and Jackson did not win enough games. Flores had tension with his general manager and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, just as Jackson did with Mayfield. Tagovailoa is black. The white owner and general manager of the Dolphins sided with a black quarterback over a black coach.
The best-case scenario for the game of football would be if more black head coaches were immediately hired. While simultaneously dismissing this particular discrimination case by mediocre coaches
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