In late December, the Miami Dolphins became the first team in NFL history to go from a seven-game losing streak to a seven-game winning streak in the same season.
Their remarkable turnaround has been widely credited to one man: Brian Flores, their 40-year-old black head coach, who led the team to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2003.
So after the end of the season, Flores received a nice bonus and a contract extension, right?
Instead, Flores was promptly fired. In his place, the team hired a younger, less experienced replacement in Mike McDaniel.
Not only did Flores find success managing the Dolphins, but he won four Super Bowls as an assistant coach for the New England Patriots. He is clearly qualified to lead a team.
And Flores is far from the only black head coach to have suffered this fate.
The NFL’s hiring and firing process falls on the blurry line between equality and economics.
Shortly after his firing, Flores was interviewed for the position of head coach of the New York Giants. But he alleges it was a fake interview, as he had already received a text from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick before the interview that read, “I get it – I hear from Buffalo and NYG that you’re their guy. I hope it will work if you want it!”
That text was for another Brian: Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who got the job instead.
Flores is now launching a class action lawsuit against the NFL, Denver Broncos, Giants and Dolphins based on racial discrimination.
Flores also accuses Miami owner Stephen Ross of offering him a $100,000 bonus for every game he lost.
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In the lawsuit, Flores notes that he is not the only black person to have experienced potential racial discrimination and racist hiring practices.
Former Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson expressed his full support for Flores. Similar to Flores, Jackson claimed in an interview with sports center that the Browns gave him monetary incentives to lose in 2016 and 2017. Jackson claims he was forced to act on Cleveland’s four-year plan to pitch games in order to gain cap space and draft pick, which he was unaware of until after being hired.
The Browns and Dolphins deny those charges.
Unfortunately, it’s the Rooney Rule — a policy designed to protect people of color – who are largely to blame for this mess. This rule generally protects teams from allegations of racial bias as long as they are interviewing a person of color.
In 2003, the NFL instituted the Rooney Rule — named after late Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who pushed to implement diversity requirements into NFL hiring practices — which requires teams to interview at least one minority candidate each time a position becomes available.
But that did not work. Over the past 19 years, teams have hired 122 head coaches. Only 17 were people of color.
And until the Houston Texans hired Lovie Smith on Monday night, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was the only black head coach in the league.
In a 15-year coaching career, Tomlin has never had a losing season. But, he has been prematurely placed in the hot seat several times in the past. Sportswriter and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith says it’s down to his race, and he goes on to make a solid point: Mike Tomlin probably wouldn’t be coaching in the NFL if he wasn’t hired. by the Rooneys.
Coaches of color do not enjoy the same leniency and lucrativeness as white coaches and are more likely to be fired despite having a winning season.
The poor treatment of minority coaches in the hiring process is obvious, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Basically, the NFL has a responsibility to encourage and further encourage the hiring of people of color. The Rooney Rule fails to hold teams accountable and has been frankly ineffective in achieving its most basic goals.
A large majority of NFL team owners, general managers and coaches are white. Between Super Bowl LIII (2019) and LIV (2020), teams hired 31 new head coaches, general managers, offensive coordinators and defensive coordinators, according to Tides. Twenty-four of those positions went to white men.
It’s even more astonishing when you consider that in 2020, 69.4% of players in the league were people of color.
In contrast, the NFL only has three – Three – Black head coaches head into 2022.
From January 1963 to February 2020, only 18 different African American men and four Latino men served as head coaches. Only five people of color have entered the field as head coaches to kick off the 2021 season. O
The picture of hiring in 2022 is not much different from past years. Two black general managers have been hired this offseason in the form of Ryan Poles and Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, making seven of the 32 people with decision-making power in the league people of color. Eight of the nine head coaching vacancies have been filled, only two of them by minorities. Every team owner affirms the importance of minority representation in the media, but their actions do not align with this belief. If it’s so important to you, why not hire them?
The NFL needs to be better.
Let them lead.
Kayla Sterner is Associate Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com
Photo: Amy B. Heimberger/Wiki Commons