Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross talks with Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, October 18, 2020.

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Judge clears portion of Flores v. NFL discrimination suit to proceed

Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores’ discrimination lawsuit was cleared to move forward by a federal judge in New York on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan said Flores could advance systemic discrimination claims against the Denver Broncos, Houston Texans and New York Giants.

However, the claim against his former employer, the Miami Dolphins, and co-plaintiff claims from Ray Horton and Steve Wilks, are being funneled to arbitration. The ruling puts the matter directly into the hands of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who can elect to serve as arbitrator in the case or opt to appoint one.

Douglas Wigdor, Flores’ attorney, summarized the district court ruling as a win and a loss.

“We are pleased that Coach Flores’ class claims of systematic discrimination against the NFL and several teams will proceed in court and ultimately before a jury of his peers,” Wigdor said in a statement. “We are disappointed the court compelled arbitration of any claims before Mr. Goodell as he is obviously biased and unqualified to rule on these matters. We expect him to delegate those matters to a truly neutral arbitrator as a matter of fundamental fairness.”

Flores was 24-25 as head coach of the Dolphins, who fired him in what was later revealed as part of a plan by ownership to lure Sean Payton, then under contract with the New Orleans Saints, to Miami. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was fined, suspended and the Dolphins lost their first-round pick in the 2023 draft as a result.

Flores’ lawsuit claims that from owners to general managers and beyond, “systemic racial discrimination in the hiring, retention and termination of NFL coaches and executives” is pervasive in the league.

The NFL said on Wednesday they look forward to moving ahead with arbitration as laid out in the collective bargaining agreement.

“We intend to move forward promptly with arbitrations as directed by the Court and to seek to dismiss the remaining claims,” the league said in a statement provided by spokesperson Brian McCarthy.

Historically, the NFL goes to great lengths to avoid the discovery phase permitted in a public court system jury trial.

The NFL argued in court that all of the matters should be limited to resolution by arbitration as part of a confidential review and hearings. The matters related to Wilks, and the Arizona Cardinals, and Horton’s claim against the Tennessee Titans, along with Flores’ dispute with the Dolphins all are covered by the terms of their employment contracts with those teams, Caproni ruled Wednesday.

But Flores can forge ahead seeking a jury trial against the other three teams.

“This case shines an unflattering spotlight on the employment practices of National Football League teams,” Caproni wrote in the ruling. “Although the clear majority of professional football players are Black, only a tiny percentage of coaches are Black.”

Flores spent last season as senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He interviewed with the Cardinals for their head-coaching vacancy but withdrew to become defensive coordinator of the Vikings in February.

Flores accuses the Broncos and Giants of inviting him for what he considered “sham” interviews. Flores revealed that he received a congratulatory text intended for Brian Daboll from the Giants that was sent by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. But Flores hadn’t interviewed with the Giants yet. The team hired Daboll.

He also claims the Texans retaliated against him for filing the lawsuit.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores watches from the sideline during the second quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals to interview Brian Flores

Brian Flores plans to interview to become head coach of the Arizona Cardinals this week.

The Cardinals are searching for a new general manager and head coach, firing Kliff Kingsbury earlier this week and turning the page after a playoff appearance in 2021.

Arizona was 4-13, ending the regular season with seven consecutive losses, in 2022.

Flores also interviewed to become defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns this week.

Flores served as assistant head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers last season after being fired by the Miami Dolphins in January 2022. He jumped into the head-coaching cycle one year ago, but the outcome of the process with the New York Giants led to a lawsuit against the NFL.

Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL and highlighted three teams — the Dolphins, Giants and Denver Broncos — for racial discrimination in hiring practices. In Flores’ lawsuit, he alleges — among other claims — that Stephen Ross, owner of the Miami franchise, offered him a $100,000 bonus for each loss in an attempt to secure a top draft pick.

Flores shared a text from Bill Belichick that showed the New England Patriots coach mistakenly sent Flores a congratulatory message on getting the Giants’ head coaching job. The message was sent before Flores interviewed for the job and was intended instead for Brian Daboll, who ended up getting the position. That text message exchange is at the crux of Flores’ lawsuit.

–Field Level Media

Steve Wilks only got one season in Arizona.

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Steve Wilks, Ray Horton join lawsuit against NFL

Black coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton have joined Brian Flores’ class-action discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and various teams.

Both released statements Thursday.

Wilks, 52, currently the secondary coach/defensive pass game coordinator for the Carolina Panthers, is the former head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. He claims he was a “bridge coach” when he was fired after one season and a 3-13 record in 2018.

“This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront,” Wilks said in his statement. “Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, remain employed, as white coaches and candidates. That is currently not the case …”

In his complaint, Wilks states that he had to coach without a general manager “during a critical time of the preseason” when Cardinals GM Steve Keim had been suspended following a DUI arrest. Further, he says Keim “had engaged in fireable conduct” but the team instead chose to extend Keim and buy out three years of Wilks’ contract. The Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury to replace Wilks.

Kingsbury “has been given a much longer leash than Mr. Wilks and, to his credit, has succeeded,” reads Wilks’ complaint.

Horton, who turns 62 next week, last coached with Washington in 2019 as defensive backs coach. He claims to have had a “sham” interview for head coach with the Tennessee Titans in 2016. Horton was a defensive coordinator for four teams, including the Cleveland Browns twice, from 2012-16.

Horton interviewed for the Titans’ head coach opening the same day the team hired Mike Mularkey, who later would say on a podcast that he was informed he would be the pick “before they went through the Rooney Rule.”

“When I learned from Coach Mularkey’s statements that my head coach interview with the Titans was a sham, I was devastated and humiliated,” Horton said in his statement. “By joining this case, I am hoping to turn that experience into a positive and make lasting change and create true equal opportunity in the future.”

At the time, Horton pushed back on an assertion made by then-Fritz Pollard Alliance chairman John Wooten that Horton was “insulted” by the interview.

“It was about a four-hour interview where great ideas were exchanged that I was told will be implemented in the Tennessee Titans organization. I couldn’t have been insulted by it, because it went well,” Horton told The Tennessean in a story published Jan. 17, 2016.

Flores filed the lawsuit on Feb. 1 against the NFL, New York Giants, Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos along with John Doe Teams 1-29. He was fired by the Dolphins on Jan. 10 after a 24-25 record in three seasons as head coach.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2021; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Houston Texans defensive coordinator Lovie Smith against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Texans announce ‘additional’ talks with Lovie Smith

The Houston Texans announced Monday that they have “completed additional discussions” with Lovie Smith about their head coaching vacancy.

The team has reportedly moved on from Josh McCown, considered a finalist for the job to replace the fired David Culley. Brian Flores also remains a finalist for the position but has not had recent contact with the club, per reports.

Philadelphia defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, who also twice interviewed for the job, was informed over the weekend that he would not be hired.

Smith, 63, spent the 2021 season as the Texans’ associate head coach and defensive coordinator under Culley, who was fired after Houston went 4-13 in his only season.

The Texans would be Smith’s third NFL head coaching job. He has an 89-87 regular-season record, including 81-63 with the Bears from 2004-12, taking the club to Super Bowl XLI. He was 8-24 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2014-15.

Smith returned to the college ranks after his departure from the Buccaneers. He was named head coach at the University of Illinois but failed to rejuvenate the long-struggling program and was 17-39 from 2016-20.

The Texans offered Smith an opportunity to return to the NFL as a coordinator in 2021. Houston finished 31st in total defense but showed signs of improvement late in the season, allowing an average of 24 points in the final four weeks after giving up an average of 27.4 points in its first 13 games.

–Field Level Media

Jan 9, 2022; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores watches from the sideline during the second quarter of the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores: Suing NFL about ‘integrity of the game’

Less than three hours after former Miami Dolphins Brian Flores’ lawsuit became public, the NFL issued a statement vowing to defend against claims it says “are without merit.”

On Tuesday, Flores sued the league and its teams, contending the NFL fosters hiring processes that racially discriminate. Flores, who is Black, was fired by the Dolphins last month.

In the blockbuster lawsuit, Flores said he was offered $100,000 per loss in 2019 by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who wanted to “tank” to improve draft position and build a contender, and that his refusal to go along with the plan resulted in him being fired at the end of the 2021 season with a 24-25 career record. Further, Flores asserted he received a congratulatory text message from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick that plainly shows his interview with the New York Giants was “a sham.”

That’s because Belichick revealed he meant the text for another Brian — Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was hired by the Giants — and not Flores, also a former Belichick assistant. The text from Belichick hit Flores’ phone three days before Flores would interview with the Giants.

“It was a range of emotions. Humiliation, disbelief, anger,” Flores said Wednesday on “CBS Mornings.”

“I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am in football, to become a head coach. To go on what felt like a sham interview, I was hurt.”

Flores said he grasps the notion that the suit against the NFL could prevent teams from hiring him.

“If change comes, and I never coach again, it’ll be worth it,” he said later Wednesday morning in an ESPN interview.

The 58-page complaint does not identify or name an additional 40 individuals prepared to join the class-action suit.

The Giants said in a statement Tuesday that Flores was in the running to be head coach right up until the decision was made to hire Daboll.

“We are pleased and confident with the process that resulted in the hiring of Brian Daboll. We interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is, Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the eleventh hour. Ultimately, we hired the individual we felt was most qualified to be our next head coach,” the statement read.

Seated with his attorneys in the live interview Wednesday, Flores said he wants to continue coaching but felt compelled to pursue action because his story is “not the only one” when it comes to black coaches being interviewed to satisfy the Rooney Rule. The NFL adopted the Rooney Rule to assure minority candidates were being interviewed for top NFL vacancies. In 2020, the NFL made adjustments to the rule adding requirements for interviewing minority offensive and defensive coordinators and general managers.

“This game’s done a lot for me. I didn’t grow up with a lot,” said Flores, who turns 41 this month. “To attack the integrity of the game, that’s what I felt was happening in that instance.”

In 2019, Flores said Ross made it clear losses would be very valuable to him and put a dollar figure on accepting defeat.

“That was a conversation about not doing as much as we needed to do to win football games,” Flores said Wednesday. “‘Take a flight. Go on vacation. I’ll give you $100,000 per loss.’ Those were his exact words.”

Attorneys for Flores told CNN they will present corroborating evidence of multiple claims made in the suit.

Flores’ suit asserts violation of civil rights statues or discrimination in regards to hiring and firing practices for coaches and executives.

“In certain critical ways, the NFL is racially segregated and is managed much like a plantation,” Flores says in the suit.

There is currently one Black head coach in the NFL — the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin. Flores interviewed with the Houston Texans and New Orleans Saints, who haven’t named a head coach during the ongoing cycle.

Flores said Wednesday he informed the Texans and Saints of his intentions to file the suit.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll prior to the game against the Miami Dolphins at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Giants’ next coach odds: Brian Daboll tops deep list

New York Giants co-owner John Mara vowed to take his time in rebuilding the team’s leadership from “the ground up” after firing coach Joe Judge on Tuesday.

That was immediately followed by another word: “again.”

Judge became the third consecutive coach to be fired by the Giants after only two seasons at the helm. And his departure came a day after embattled general manager Dave Gettleman announced his retirement.

Mara and co-owner Steve Tisch began interviewing general manager candidates Wednesday and plan to fill that void first. That GM will be tasked with rebuilding a team that has reached the playoffs just once since winning the Super Bowl after the 2011 season.

While the GM has yet to be identified, the early list of favorites to replace Judge is heavy on respected offensive minds.

That includes offensive coordinators Brian Daboll (Buffalo), Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City), Byron Leftwich (Tampa Bay) and Josh McDaniels (New England) along with former Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson.

Daboll was installed as the +350 favorite by BetMGM, and those odds have shortened to +325 as he leads with 30.8 percent of the bets and an overwhelming 70.1 percent of the early money wagered at the sportsbook. It helped that Bills assistant GM Joe Schoen was the first to interview with the Giants on Wednesday.

Pederson has the second-shortest odds at +400, followed by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who has moved from +500 to +550 despite being tied with Daboll with 30.8 percent of the early tickets backing him.

Flores is a Brooklyn native who was a long-time assistant for the Patriots. Then again, Judge also came from the Bill Belichick coaching tree.

Bieniemy, who interviewed for the Giants’ job two years ago, is +600 followed by Leftwich and current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh at +700. McDaniels is being offered at +800 followed by current Giants defensive coordinator Patrick Graham at +900. Graham is close to Judge and is considered a longshot.

Three other names that could quickly emerge depending on the GM hire are Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinators Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) and Dan Quinn (Dallas). Each currently has +1000 odds at BetMGM.

Daboll is the sportsbook’s biggest liability with the heavy early action supporting him. Harbaugh is third with 15.4 percent of the bets, while Leftwich had the third-most money backing him at 8.5 percent compared to Harbaugh’s 5.0.

Mara and Tisch are set to hire their fourth head coach since 2016 — following Judge, Pat Shurmur, Ben McAdoo. The Giants went 4-13 in 2021.

All of the losses and uncertainty created a fan base short on patience and trust. Mara said he grasps that he hasn’t given fans a reason to believe the Giants will get it right, and senses the franchise has a bridge to rebuild with fans.

“That’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2021; East Rutherford, N.J., USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores during a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Bears’ next coach odds: Brian Flores early favorite

Brian Flores does not appear destined to be out of work long.

Fired by the Miami Dolphins on Monday following three seasons, Flores has already emerged as the favorite to fill the Chicago Bears’ head coaching vacancy. He is being offered at +160 by BetMGM, ahead of Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier (+600), while Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus both had +650 odds Thursday afternoon.

Bears chairman George McCaskey is leading the five-person committee searching for Chicago’s next coach and general manager.

Thus far, the deep group of reported head coaching candidates includes a variety of offensive and defensive minds.

One key question is whether Flores is seen as a good fit with whomever the new GM is going to be. The second is whether the Bears will be Flores’ first choice.

Houston reportedly fired coach David Culley on Thursday, and Flores is close with Texans general manager Nick Caserio from their years together with the New England Patriots. Flores is also being offered at +550 to replace Joe Judge with the Giants and +800 to replace Mike Zimmer with the Vikings.

Flores has been backed by the most bets to be named the Bears’ next coach with 21.3 percent at BetMGM. Frazier, whose odds opened at +500 on Thursday morning, has been supported with the most money wagered at 33.2 percent, making him the sportsbook’s biggest liability.

Daboll’s odds had lengthened from +600, while Eberflus had the biggest move with his odds shortening from +1400.

Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson is being offered at +800 and has drawn 17.0 percent of the bets and 19.9 percent of the money. He interviewed for the position on Wednesday while the Bears have also interviewed several GM candidates.

–Field Level Media

Dec 19, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores waves at fans after winning the game against the New York Jets at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Bears interviewing Brian Flores

Brian Flores cleaned out his office at Dolphins headquarters and began planning for an interview with the Chicago Bears.

The Bears are conducting their first round of head coach interviews over video networks this week. NFL Network reported Tuesday that Chicago was the first confirmed interview for Flores.

Flores, 40, was fired by Miami owner Stephen Ross on Monday after going 24-25 in three seasons with the team. The former Bill Belichick assistant had a seven-game winning streak — and a seven-game losing streak — and went 2-0 against the New England Patriots in 2021.

The Bears fired Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace on Monday. Nagy went 34-31 in four seasons with the Bears.

Bears owner George McCaskey, CEO Ted Phillips and consultant Bill Polian are teaming to vet head coach and GM candidates. An undetermined number of finalists will meet with the team’s brass in-person, and McCaskey said he was willing to hire “the right coach” before choosing a GM if needed.

A general manager hire would have “complete football responsibility” but Phillips remains involved in vetting the Bears’ potential move away from Soldier Field to suburban Arlington Heights.

–Field Level Media

Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, shakes hands withMiami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) before the start of the game against the New York Jets during NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens.

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Head coach Brian Flores fired by Dolphins

Head coach Brian Flores was fired by the Miami Dolphins on Monday.

In three seasons, Flores had 24 wins and posted a 9-8 record in 2021 to follow up a 10-win campaign in 2020.

But the former New England Patriots defensive coordinator suffered through a 1-7 start and had two seven-game losing streaks in three seasons.

FOX Sports reported Flores might not have been fully on board with making a quarterback change from Tua Tagovailoa this offseason, and owner Stephen Ross is believed to have his hopes set on acquiring Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson or another veteran.

Flores was 24-25 in three seasons with the Dolphins. He had no experience as a head coach but was strongly endorsed by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

“I made a decision today to part ways with Brian Flores,” Ross said Monday in a statement issued by the team. “After evaluating where we are as an organization and what we need going forward to improve, I determined that key dynamics of our football organization weren’t functioning at a level I want it to be and felt that this decision was in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins. I believe we have a talented young roster in place and have the opportunity to be much better in 2022. I want to thank Brian for his hard work and wish him nothing but the best in his future.”

–Field Level Media

Miami Dolphins Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) greets teammates before the start of the game against Indianapolis Colts during NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens.

QB Tua Tagovailoa could return for Dolphins in London

Injured quarterback Tua Tagovailoa went through an on-field workout on Monday and could be back for the Miami Dolphins this week.

Head coach Brian Flores said Tagovailoa was impressive moving around the field and passing in his first extensive work since being sidelined with fractured ribs.

“I’ll see what the week of practice looks like,” Flores said of activating Tagovailoa from short-term injured reserve.

The Dolphins won at New England in Week 1 but are off to a 1-4 start with the Jacksonville Jaguars up next Sunday in London. Jacksonville has lost 20 consecutive games.

Jacoby Brissett replaced Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback and could still see action if Tagovailoa isn’t ready to play. Pain tolerance, Flores said, will be the main consideration when determining which quarterback will start.

Brissett, however, played with a severe hamstring strain during Sunday’s 45-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was taken to the locker room on a cart before returning to the game. Flores said Brissett’s status will be determined this week.

Brissett was 27-of-39 passing for 275 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception against the Bucs.

Tagovailoa hasn’t played since Week 2, when he left the field in the first quarter after taking a shot from Bills pass rusher A.J. Epenesa.

He completed 17 of 31 passes with one touchdown and one interception in two games this season.

–Field Level Media