Brian Flores

AFC North Notes: Steelers, Pocic, Ravens

The Steelers are trending in the wrong direction to start the 2022 season, one which came with a number of questions on offense. After last week’s 38-3 loss to the Bills, though, no shake-up on the sidelines is expected.

When speaking to the media after the loss, head coach Mike Tomlin stated that he has been “highly involved” in the team’s offense, a unit led by Matt Canada. The latter has been the subject of plenty of scrutiny dating back to last season, his first as offensive coordinator. As Tomlin stressed, however, he will not make “changes for the sake of changes” with respect to the maligned play-caller (Twitter links via ESPN’s Brooke Pryor).

Through five weeks, Pittsburgh ranks 30th in the NFL in both yards (308.6) and points (15.4) per game. The underwhelming play of veteran signing Mitch Trubisky led to first-round rookie Kenny Pickett being installed as the starting quarterback, something which certainly didn’t produce the desired results in Week 5. He and the team face another tough matchup this Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Here are some other notes from around the AFC North:

  • Beside Tomlin, another high-profile coach who has had a hand in offensive game-planning has been Brian Flores. The former Dolphins head coach sat in on that unit’s meetings prior to the Steelers’ game against the Patriots, per SI’s Albert Breer. More generally, Breer notes, Flores has been operating as an “over-the-top assistant” with the offense, in addition to his primary responsibilities as LBs coach. The expanded role comes as the team “hopes” Flores is able to land another HC opportunity down the road.
  • As for the QB position, a deal could be coming soon. Mark Kaboly of The Athletic points out that, with Pickett having assumed No. 1 duties, it would make sense for Pittsburgh to move on from one of Trubisky or Mason Rudolph at the upcoming trade deadline (subscription required). The latter is a pending free agent and was the subject of trade talks this offseason, though the Steelers held on to him. Trubisky, meanwhile, is under contract for 2023 with a cap hit of $10.625MM.
  • The Browns have the league’s top rushing attack, something owing in no small part to the play of their offensive line. That includes center Ethan Pocic, who signed in Cleveland this offseason after five years in Seattle. When weighing the options presented by a modest free agent market, the 27-year-old chose to work with Browns o-line coach Bill Callahan. “As soon as I wasn’t going to get a big contract, a long-term contract, everything was pretty low, league minimum for the most part, I just went to the team with the best coaches and the best players,” he said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. After the season-ending injury suffered by Nick Harris, Pocic assumed a starter’s role and currently ranks as PFF’s fourth-highest rated center.
  • The first few weeks of the season have offered a glimpse into a new element in the Ravens’ offense. The team has implemented more looks from under center for QB Lamar Jackson, as detailed by the Washington Posts’ Jason La Canfora. Jackson operated almost exclusively from the shotgun prior to entering the NFL; Baltimore deployed plenty of pistol formations during the first four years of his career. 2022, however, has seen a dramatic uptick in his under-center looks, especially in the passing game – part of OC Greg Roman‘s attempts to diversify the team’s run-heavy offense. Overall, that has so far translated to just 213 passing yards per contest (23rd in the league), so the degree to which the team remains committed to this new element will be interesting to monitor as the season progresses.

Dolphins, Stephen Ross Not Punished For Tanking Allegations

While Tuesday morning’s news will significantly alter the Dolphins’ draft plans, the allegations of tanking brought forth by former head coach Brian Flores are now in the team’s rear-view mirror. The NFL cleared the organization of wrongdoing here.

The Dolphins did not intentionally lose games, nor did Stephen Ross instruct Flores to do so to improve the team’s draft slot, per the investigation (Twitter link via’s Tom Pelissero). Flores accused Ross of offering him $100K per loss in 2019. The NFL is not disputing Flores’ claim about the $100K offer but determined Ross’ proposal for losses was not to be interpreted as serious.

Even if made in jest and not intended to be taken seriously, comments suggesting that draft position is more important than winning can be misunderstood and carry with them an unnecessary potential risk to the integrity of the game,” Roger Goodell said in a statement. “The comments made by Mr. Ross did not affect Coach Flores’ commitment to win and the Dolphins competed to win every game. Coach Flores is to be commended for not allowing any comment about the relative importance of draft position to affect his commitment to win throughout the season.”

[RELATED: Dolphins Docked First-, Third-Round Picks For Tampering]

Flores, whose tampering accusations led to punishment for Ross and the Dolphins, said he wrote a letter to Dolphins executives indicating concern about the owner’s offer. Flores had also alleged that GM Chris Grier informed him Ross was mad when the team’s wins down the stretch that season compromised its 2020 draft position.

Although Ross will be tied to the tampering charge, the investigation’s other interviews did not lend support to Flores’ account he was given a serious offer to lose games for draft positioning. Such an offer, even coming in jest, acknowledged as fact does not look great for Ross — who is having a rather eventful day — but the longtime Dolphins owner nevertheless avoided a multi-penalty morning.

I am thankful that the NFL’s investigator found my factual allegations against Stephen Ross are true,” Flores said in a statement. “At the same time, I am disappointed to learn that the investigator minimized Mr. Ross’s offers and pressure to tank games, especially when I wrote and submitted a letter at the time to Dolphins executives documenting my serious concerns regarding this subject at the time, which the investigator has in her possession. While the investigator found that the Dolphins had engaged in impermissible tampering of ‘unprecedented scope and severity,’ Mr. Ross will avoid any meaningful consequence.”

Pertaining to the tanking accusation, the NFL determined the 2019 Dolphins — who had gutted their roster to begin a rebuild that year — “tried hard to win every game, including at the end of the year when they beat Cincinnati and New England, despite worsening Miami’s position in the 2020 draft.”

The Flores-led team’s upset wins late that season dropped Miami’s top 2020 draft choice to No. 5, when Tua Tagovailoa went off the board. The Dolphins were interested in packaging all three picks for Joe Burrow, but the Bengals were uninterested in that swap.

The independent investigation cleared our organization on any issues related to tanking and all of Brian Flores other allegations,” Ross said in a statement. “As I have said all along, these allegations were false, malicious and defamatory, and this issue is now put to rest.”

The Dolphins’ roster purge led the likes of Ryan Tannehill, Laremy Tunsil, Minkah Fitzpatrick and others off the roster in 2019. Given the product the team was putting on the field to start that season, one that began with a 59-10 loss to the Ravens, Flores helming that Dolphins iteration to a 5-11 record made for a major surprise. It also prevented the Dolphins from securing the Burrow draft slot. The three-year Dolphins HC certainly did not accuse players or his staff of trying to lose games, making the upset over the Patriots moot with regards to his accusation Ross offered him bonuses for losses. But Tuesday’s report including that as evidence is nonetheless interesting.

Flores has also sued the Dolphins, along with other teams and the NFL, for racial discrimination during their hiring processes. Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have joined that class-action lawsuit. That matter remains ongoing, but the $100K-per-loss saga is now behind the Dolphins, who will deal with the consequences from the tampering penalties in the coming years.

Latest On Brian Flores Lawsuit

Earlier this week, there was another update in the matter of the Brian Flores-led lawsuit against the NFL and six of its teams. As expected, the league attempted to have the matter moved to arbitration

Just as that came as no surprise, Flores and his fellow plaintiffs Steve Wilks and Ray Horton are likewise taking the expected step of trying to stop the league from doing so. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that they made a direct request to the league to provide “certain information… that will be relevant to the issue of whether arbitration is appropriate.”

Since the initial request was denied, the plaintiffs have now asked the federal court overseeing this case to compel the NFL to provide said documentation. A six-page letter they sent includes a detailed list of the particular information requested, ranging from general procedures regarding arbitration and the circumstances necessitating it, to more specific materials detailing commissioner Roger Goodell‘s involvement in previous legal matters.

One of the other interesting requests made includes that for “all documents regarding any statements or communication among NFL senior executives regarding the plaintiffs, the lawsuit, and the allegations in the complaints.” Another is for “all documents supporting or undermining the contention that the plaintiffs agreed to arbitrate their claims with the NFL,” which attempted to use the precedent set by arbitration as standard procedure when making its case to resolve the issue privately.

As Florio details, another aim of the plaintiffs is to question Goodell on the matter of arbitration, including the issue of whether or not he could represent a neutral adjudicator in the case. Given Flores’ earlier remarks, that also comes as little surprise, as it represents a further attempt to keep the matter in public for as long as possible.

With forced arbitration, my case will be litigated behind closed doors, confidentially and without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he said in March. If he and his legal team have their way, though, that situation could be avoided.

NFL Attempts To Move Brian Flores Lawsuit To Arbitration

The latest development in the ongoing legal dispute between Brian Flores and the NFL is a notable, if unsurprising, one. The league formally requested a federal court send the matter to arbitration, as detailed by Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic

The move was widely expected, as the NFL clearly stated its intentions of doing so much earlier in this process. As its filing indicates, arbitration is the “preferred venue” for the league to settle disputes such as this one. It argues that little precedent exists for courts to handle the internal matters of sports leagues, which, it further states, is the purview under which Flores’ bribery allegations against Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (along with his other claims) should fall.

The league is also attempting to get former coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton – who joined Flores’ suit as co-plaintiffs in April – to “sever their cases and file separate arbitration claims.” Just as those decisions come as little surprise, so to does the response made by Flores himself.

“With forced arbitration, my case will be litigated behind closed doors, confidentially and without transparency, essentially done in secrecy,” he said in March, knowing arbitration would be a strong possibility. Given the scope of his allegations made against the league in general, and the Dolphins, Texans, Giants, Broncos (and, after the addition of Wilks and Horton, the Cardinals and Titans), public proceedings would understandably be the plaintiff’s preferred avenue.

Flores was hired by the Steelers as the team’s linebackers coach in February, less than a month after his lawsuit was filed. Kaplan notes, however, that his contract has yet to be formally signed off by commissioner Roger Goodell, something which is standard practice for NFL employment contracts. He adds that the pact “had a minor adjustment [made to it] shortly before the filing, but nothing that will hold it up.”

As a busy offseason for the league continues with respect to off-the-field issues, this legal battle could take a notable turn in the near future if its move for arbitration is allowed to go through. Even in that event, this appears set to remain a significant storyline.

Brian Flores Amends Lawsuit, Adds Accusations Against Texans

While Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have joined Brian Flores’ racial discrimination lawsuit, Flores himself has amended his original complaint. It adds the Texans to the list of teams against which specific allegations are made (the others being the Dolphins, Broncos, Giants and, now, the Cardinals and Titans). 

[RELATED: Wilks, Horton Join Flores’ Suit]

As detailed by ESPN’s Kevin Van Valkenburg, Flores alleges that Houston “retaliated” against him during their recent head coaching search as a result of his decision to file the lawsuit. His amended complaint notes how the team pivoted towards Lovie Smith – whom they ultimately hired – immediately after their decision appeared to be narrowed down to either Flores or former quarterback Josh McCown. As it reads, “the Texans were rightfully concerned that if it hired Mr. McCown over Mr. Flores, it would bolster Mr. Flores’ allegations of systemic discrimination against Black candidates”.

In a statement, the Texans have responded to the accusations. “Brian Flores was among the first candidates we held a formal interview with for the position and he remained a candidate until the very end” it says in part. “It was a very fluid process… we are proud of our decision and will vigorously defend [it].”

Alterations have also been made to Flores’ allegations against the Dolphins. Included among those is a memorandum he wrote in December 2019 to multiple members of the team’s front office, including general manager Chris Grier, related to the “alarming demands to lose games” made by owner Stephen Ross (Twitter link via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport). In it, Flores “detailed the toxicity which existed within the organization and explained the unreasonable position he was being placed in”. PFT’s Mike Florio reports that said memo was provided to the league one week ago.

As well, the amended suit accuses the Dolphins of “asserting baseless claims” (Twitter link via Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post). One of those is the demand for Flores to repay wages paid by the team because they were given “on the condition that he wouldn’t sue the Dolphins”. Flores denies any such agreement was made during his departure from the team.

Flores initially sued the NFL generally, and the Dolphins, Broncos and Giants specifically in February. He has since been hired by the Steelers as the team’s linebackers coach, but made it clear at the time that he would not drop the suit. Today’s developments confirm that this matter is far from being resolved.

Steve Wilks, Ray Horton Join Brian Flores’ Lawsuit; Allegations Made Against Cardinals, Titans

Two additions have been made to the class-action lawsuit filed by Brian Flores. Panthers secondary coach Steve Wilks and former NFL staffer Ray Horton have joined the suit, making allegations against the league, but also the Cardinals and Titans, respectively. 

As first reported by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Wilks’ allegations stem from his time as head coach of the Cardinals. The 52-year-old held that title for one year, the 2018 season. As the new complaint details, Wilks “was hired as a ‘bridge coach’ and was not given any meaningful chance to succeed” (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). It adds that Wilks “was unfairly and discriminatorily” fired after the team went 3-13.

Central to that point is the fact that general manager Steve Keim was away from the team during the preseason leading up to that campaign as a result of a DUI, and has since been given a contract extension. As Florio notes, Wilks also preferred the team trade up to draft Josh Allen that year; it was with the Cardinals’ ultimate selection, Josh Rosen, that Arizona and Wilks had that losing season. The allegation details how his replacement, Kliff Kingsbury, “has been given a much longer leash” during his tenure alongside Kyler Murray, despite the former’s lack of NFL experience and college success.

Horton, 61, alleges that in 2016 he participated in a “sham interview” for the Titans’ head coaching position. He had previously been the defensive coordinator of the team for two seasons, but they hired Mike Mularkey. As noted by the complaint, the latter had already been told he would be hired before the “fake” process of interviews (including with Horton, to satisfy the Rooney Rule) began, and stated as much in a recent podcast interview (audio link via Pro Football Focus’ Ari Meirov). Horton most recently coached in Washington in 2019.

In the aftermath of these developments, Flores (who has himself made changes to his complaint), Wilks and Horton have made brief statements (Twitter link via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler). Both the Cardinals and Titans have rebuffed the assertion that their respective decisions were discriminatory.

Steelers Hire Brian Flores As LBs Coach

Less than a month after filing a lawsuit against the NFL and four of its teams, Brian Flores has landed a job. The Steelers announced Saturday they added the former Dolphins head coach to their staff.

Flores will serve as a senior defensive assistant on Mike Tomlin‘s staff, heading up the team’s linebacking corps. Prior to going to Miami in 2019, Flores finished his lengthy New England tenure as the Patriots’ linebackers coach.

I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL,” Tomlin said. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”

Flores is not dropping his suit against the NFL, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Not long after the Giants hired Brian Daboll, Flores filed his racial discrimination suit. The NFL is investigating the Dolphins as a result of Flores’ claim that owner Stephen Ross offered him six-figure bonus payments for losses in 2019. Flores also named the Broncos and Texans in his explosive suit. All four organizations have denied Flores’ accusations.

The three-year Miami HC and 15-year New England assistant was not on Pittsburgh’s interview list for its recently filled defensive coordinator position. The team promoted Teryl Austin to its DC post last month. The Steelers, who are coming off their fifth straight season leading the NFL in sacks, will now feature one of the more experienced defensive staffs in modern NFL history. Flores went 24-25 as Dolphins HC but led the team to back-to-back winning seasons to close out his tenure. The Dolphins have since replaced him with former 49ers OC Mike McDaniel.

The Bears, Giants, Saints and Texans each interviewed Flores for their HC jobs during this cycle, one that came after the Dolphins surprisingly cut his tenure short hours after the team finished a rare sweep of the Patriots. Despite Flores’ lawsuit, the Texans included him among the finalists for their HC position. The team, however, went with an off-the-board hire by announcing Lovie Smith‘s promotion. Flores soon included the Texans as the fourth team in his suit.

This move will also reunite Flores with Minkah Fitzpatrick, whom the Dolphins traded early in the 2019 season. Miami drafted Fitzpatrick in the 2018 first round, prior to Flores’ arrival, and the talented safety clashed with Flores and his staff a year and change into his career. One season remains on the All-Pro defender’s deal, though the Steelers can be expected to extend him this year. The Steelers will also face the Dolphins next season.

Latest On Texans’ Coaching Staff

In 14 months, Lovie Smith has gone from being dismissed as the University of Illinois’ head coach to securing a third shot as an NFL HC. The Texans officially hired Smith on Monday, and the veteran defensive-minded coach will pull double duty in his next assignment.

Smith, 63, will retain defensive play-calling responsibilities, Field Yates of tweets. The former Bears and Buccaneers HC had been in the college ranks for five seasons prior to resurfacing as the Texans’ defensive coordinator last year. Now, he will wear two rather important hats for the rebuilding team.

GM Nick Caserio said Tuesday that Smith’s hire did not take place because of Brian Flores‘ lawsuit against the NFL, via the Houston Chronicle’s Brooks Kubena. Flores and Josh McCown were believed to be the final two in the running for the job. The longtime quarterback having never coached in the NFL likely played into Smith’s hire, but Caserio predictably indicated the team had not made a decision until it landed on Smith. Caserio did not deny McCown remained in play for another role with the team, though Smith already has his offensive coordinator in place.

Pep Hamilton is in line to call Houston’s offensive plays, being promoted from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator. While Hamilton’s rise was on the radar before Smith entered the equation, Smith said keeping the Texans’ QBs coach was “a must.” One of Smith’s first acts as Houston’s head coach was communicating to Hamilton his importance for developing Davis Mills. A year after overseeing Justin Herbert‘s rise to Offensive Rookie of the Year as Chargers QBs coach, Hamilton helped Mills show promise down the stretch.

Pep has an expertise when you look at his background,” Smith said Tuesday. “What he did in Los Angeles with Herbert to where he did with Davis here. He is a fundamental coach who has a defensive mentality on toughness. I am so excited about him being on our staff and to see what he is going to do.”

Smith is moving quickly on his assistants as well. The Texans are hiring George Warhop as their offensive line coach and Hal Hunter as his assistant,’s Aaron Wilson tweets. Warhop, 60, has now been employed as an O-line coach by a fourth of the NFL’s teams. From 1996 through last season, Warhop has been with the Rams, Cardinals, Cowboys, 49ers, Browns, Buccaneers and Jaguars. Warhop’s Tampa Bay stay began when Smith arrived in 2014. Warhop coached the Jags’ O-lines for the past three seasons.

Hunter, 62, has extensive experience as well, including at the coordinator level. He spent the 2012 season as the Chargers’ offensive coordinator, moving up to that post after coaching the previous six Bolts O-lines — groups that helped LaDainian Tomlinson secure first-ballot Hall of Fame entry. Hunter was last in the NFL as the Giants’ O-line coach from 2018-19.

Houston is also hiring Tim Berbenich as its tight ends coach, Fox 26’s Mark Berman tweets. This will be new territory for Berbenich, who spent last season as the Raiders’ running backs coach. In 19 seasons as an NFL assistant, Berbenich has primarily coached running backs, wide receivers and quarterbacks. He was a Colts staffer during each of Hamilton’s three years as Indianapolis’ OC.

Saints To Name Dennis Allen As New Head Coach

The final head coaching vacancy has been filled. The Saints have informed defensive coordinator Dennis Allen that he’ll be the team’s new head coach, reports ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter).

Allen was thought to be the favorite for the gig considering his familiarity with the franchise and the continuity he’d provide in a post-Sean Payton era. As SiriusXM’s Adam Caplan reports (on Twitter), Allen isn’t expected to make many (if any) changes to the coaching staff, while Albert Breer of TheMMQB notes (on Twitter) that the new HC also has a strong relationship with the scouting department.

The 49-year-old’s coaching career started in Atlanta, but he took on a bigger role once he moved to New Orleans, eventually becoming their secondary coach (which saw him earn his lone Super Bowl ring). He later became the Broncos defensive coordinator before getting hired as the Raiders head coach in 2012.

His tenure with Oakland didn’t last very long. Early on in his third season in charge, he was fired, and he finished his tenure as head coach with an 8-28 record. Allen ended up returning to the Saints, and after a brief stint as a senior defensive assistant, he became their defensive coordinator in 2015.

In his seven seasons in the role, Allen rehabilitated his image. He was on the HC radar last offseason, and he was a candidate for the Bears head coaching gig this cycle. Once Payton left New Orleans, he seemed like a natural replacement for the Saints. While he received some strong competition from the likes of Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, and former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores (per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Twitter), Allen was ultimately chosen as the 11th full-time head coach in franchise history.

Texans Moving Towards Hiring Lovie Smith As Head Coach

One day after his name was added to the list of finalists for the job, defensive coordinator Lovie Smith is close to being officially hired as the head coach of the Texans. As Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports (via Twitter), Houston is “moving towards” hiring Smith. 

[Related: Texans Considering Lovie Smith For HC]

The 63-year-old has gone from being out of the picture with regards to the vacancy to the likely hire in a matter of hours. While it was believed that the three finalists for the position were former Dolphins HC Brian Flores, Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and recently retired quarterback Josh McCown, it came out recently that the latter two were out of the running for the position.

The presence of Flores as a finalist came, of course, with the fact that his lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams was ongoing. Flores has made it clear he would carry on with the suit even if he had been hired by Houston or any other team. That won’t be the case, in Houston at least, as the Texans are sticking with an internal candidate to replace David Culley.

Smith brings a wealth of experience to the table, having been a head coach for 16 of the past 18 years between the NFL and NCAA ranks. His longest stint on any one sideline was as HC of the Bears between 2004 and 2012. That stretch included a Coach of The Year award, along with a Super Bowl appearance not long after. From then on, though, his time in Chicago generally went downhill; an unsuccessful two years as the HC in Tampa Bay (which came after interviewing in Houston) certainly didn’t help his chances of another opportunity to lead an NFL team. 2021 was his first and only season as the DC in Houston, a year in which the defense did show signs of improvement.

Meanwhile, Rapoport’s colleague Mike Garafolo tweets that McCown could still find himself on the Texans’ sideline this year. While that is a “possibility”, he adds that “those talks have yet to really happen”. He also states that Pep Hamilton is expected to remain on staff, becoming the new offensive coordinator.

With Smith seemingly in place, here’s what appears to be the final look at the Texans’ HC search: