There was obviously more than one reason why Brian Flores carried such a scowl on the sideline in his three seasons as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Not only were the Dolphins a dysfunctional organization with a so-called franchise quarterback whose stock dropped expeditiously after being drafted fifth overall in 2020, Flores was trying to survive in an NFL political structure that was never designed for him to flourish.
When he became a fired Black NFL coach, Flores’s chances of procuring a second head-coaching job so soon after his dismissal were minuscule.
Flores didn’t keep his emotions, experiences, and anger in check for a tell-all book in 20 years. He has decided to take legal action, filing an unprecedented lawsuit against the NFL, New York Giants, Denver Broncos, and Dolphins, likely realizing the league had no intention of replenishing its coaching positions with anything other than white males and he was being used as a pawn for teams to satisfy their minority interview mandate.
Four teams — the Broncos, Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, and Chicago Bears — have made head coaching hires, and all four have been white male assistants. Meanwhile, Flores, Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, and Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy — all Black — are still waiting for head coaching jobs.
Flores could have played the game that many of his Black coaching predecessors did. He could have remained quiet, caught on to an NFL coaching staff, possibly returning to the Patriots, and waited a few years for (maybe) his next opportunity. Instead, Flores became this generation’s Curt Flood, likely sacrificing his career and NFL coaching future to expose the league for its fraudulent attempt at diversity and fairness.
The NFL isn’t fair. Black coaches don’t get fair opportunities, and what’s worse, these coaches are being interviewed despite teams already having made decisions on the next white guy to lead their franchise. The Giants already had made a decision on Bills offensive coordinator and former Patriots assistant Brian Daboll (who shares a first name with Flores, a critical point here) before they were scheduled to interview Flores.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who is probably adding last names to all of his cellphone contacts as we speak, texted congratulations to who he thought was Daboll, according to the lawsuit, but instead texted Flores, who was set to interview in New York last Thursday.
Belichick obviously had inside information from one of his former organizations and knew Daboll was the choice before the Giants made the announcement. Flores wasn’t privy to this information and then realized the Giants were going to conduct what was basically a sham interview just to satisfy a quota.
This is something many Black NFL coaches and players have suspected — and some have known — for years but remained mum about because they weren’t ready to sacrifice their NFL careers and be blackballed: see Kaepernick, Colin.
“Put simply, the NFL took the position that white people simply have better baseline cognitive function than Black people,” the lawsuit states. “This is the very definition of racism — the assumption that someone is not as smart as another person because of the color of his or her skin. It also perhaps explains why the NFL and its Teams are so loath to hire Black Head Coaches, Coordinators, and General Managers (”GMs”), just as for years the League discriminated against Black quarterbacks.”
It was generally assumed Flores would be a hot head coaching candidate, despite his firing in Miami, because the franchise improved over his three seasons despite lacking a frontline quarterback or running back. It can be argued the reason for the firing was Flores’s team lost seven consecutive games this season, but the Dolphins also won seven in a row, including the season finale over the Patriots that affected New England’s playoff seeding.
The Dolphins then circulated that Flores was difficult to work with, didn’t get along with many in the organization, and was basically the “angry brother,” a tired, dilapidated, and inaccurate stereotype of Black men (people) who don’t seem approachable in the workplace because they don’t smile brightly or they focus on their jobs instead of fraternizing to gain acceptance.
It’s hard to see acceptance when you know in your heart you never will be viewed as an equal. The NFL has proven once again it doesn’t view Black coaches and front office executives as equals to their white counterparts. None of the four white coaching hires over the past week are household names past NFL diehards.
NFL teams are following the same hiring patterns, the well-regarded coordinator, the understudy of an all-time great head coach or the assistant whose team had a good season. This group, predictably, includes very few Black coaches. And Flores fully understood the fix was in once he got that text from Belichick.
Flores also claimed the Broncos sham interviewed him in 2019 when they already decided on Vic Fangio, and then also claimed that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 per loss in 2019 to gain a more favorable draft pick.
Five more teams — the Dolphins, Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints, and Minnesota Vikings — have head coach openings, and the likelihood of more than one hiring a Black coach is remote. All five have interviewed Black candidates — it was mandated — but Flores’s courageous lawsuit forces the league to again reflect upon its history of unfairness and discrimination.
And what was the league’s initial reaction? Denial. And its response was ridiculous, clueless, and wrapped in arrogance.
“Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time,” the league said in a statement. “We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”
In other words, Brian Flores (not Daboll) will likely pay the price for challenging the shield. The league is very comfortable in its tortoise pace toward true diversity because many in the league’s power structure believe the Black person’s only contribution to the NFL should be between those white lines.
Will the NFL listen to Flores’s concerns? Nah, not now. Instead, he’s likely to become a precautionary case, a martyr for other aspiring Black coaches to keep their mouth shut and wait their turn — if it ever comes.
Gary Washburn is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.