Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the NFL and three teams — the Dolphins, Giants and Broncos — on Tuesday, alleging racial discrimination, Marcel Louis-Jacques of ESPN.com reports. The Dolphins’ decision to fire him after three seasons, along with the Giants and Broncos choosing other candidates in 2022 and 2019, respectively, are at the root of this suit, which he filed in New York.
The Dolphins stunned most by firing Flores after back-to-back winning seasons, but the 2019 season — one in which the team was connected to tanking for the 2020 No. 1 overall pick — comes up frequently in Flores’ suit. The since-fired HC alleges Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him an additional $100K for each loss that season and that GM Chris Grier informed Flores that Ross was mad when the team’s wins down the stretch that season compromised its 2020 draft position. The Ross allegations are particularly explosive, and the Dolphins owner came up in another part of this lawsuit as well.
Miami likely fielded the NFL’s worst roster in 2019, having gutted it at the start of a rebuild, but Flores went 5-11 to push the team’s 2020 draft slot down to No. 5. The Dolphins were connected to Tua Tagovailoa for over a year, but they had changed course and wanted Joe Burrow after his record-setting Heisman campaign. Instead, the Bengals landed the LSU superstar and rebuffed the Dolphins’ attempt to trade up from No. 5.
Flores also alleged Ross wanted Flores to recruit a “prominent quarterback” at the end of the 2019 season — before free agency, which would have violated the NFL’s tampering rules. This, per Flores, included a meeting on a yacht before the legal tampering period. When Flores refused to go through with this meeting, he claims he was met with “treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with.” The Dolphins cited collaboration issues as part of the reason they fired Flores last month.
The unnamed quarterback is believed to be Tom Brady, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Dolphins were linked to Brady, whom Flores spent over a decade with in New England, but were not believed to be among the finalists for the future Hall of Fame passer by the time the tampering period began.
The Giants hired Brian Daboll over Flores, who called his interview process with the team “a sham” meant to comply with the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which mandates teams interview two minority candidates for HC positions. Flores, who spoke with the Giants before they hired GM Joe Schoen and later interviewed with Schoen and Co. in person, cites Bill Belichick texts about his pursuit of the job in his suit. In the messages, Belichick claimed that he had “Buffalo and NYG that you are their guy.” Flores’ former boss later texted his apologies for misunderstanding the situation. The suit claims Flores’ in-person meeting with the Giants came after they had already decided to hire Daboll, via the New York Post.
Flores also alleges members of the Broncos’ interview contingent, including former GM John Elway, arrived for his 2019 HC interview an hour late and hungover. The Broncos ended up hiring Vic Fangio to replace Vance Joseph that year, leading Flores to Miami. Calling Flores’ account “blatantly false,” the Broncos detailed their 2019 interview process with Flores (via the Washington Post’s Nicki Jhabvala, on Twitter). The Dolphins and Giants have also rejected Flores’ claims.
Flores conducted a second interview with the Texans on Monday, and the Saints did go through with their interview Tuesday at the Senior Bowl, ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett tweets. This lawsuit certainly complicates Flores’ chances of landing a job this year. His suit against the NFL aims, among other matters, for the league to increase the number of Black coordinators, incentivize the hiring and retention of Black GMs, HCs and coordinators and provide transparency of the salaries attached to GMs, HCs and coordinators.
“God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals,” Flores said. “In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”
The NFL called Flores’ claims meritless in a swiftly released statement. The league changed its Rooney Rule multiple times during Flores’ Miami tenure but currently features just one team employing a Black head coach. Two others — Washington and the Jets — employ minority HCs.
“The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations,” the NFL said in a statement, via Rapoport (on Twitter). “Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”