The NFL’s diversity issue resurfaces

The lack of minority head coaches is under scrutiny after Flores allegations

Adrian Kraus/AP

On Feb. 1, former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and three teams over allegations of racism in their hiring protocols.

The three teams being sued by Flores are the Denver Broncos, the New York Giants and the Miami Dolphins. Flores accused the Broncos and Giants of not truly considering him as a coaching candidate and proceeding to hire white coaches. 

Flores’ allegations bring forth the commonly resurfaced topic of the lack of diversity found in NFL coaching today. In a league with 32 teams, only five teams have minority head coaches. Two of these minority coaches were hired this month, after Flores’ allegations came forth. 

Of the 18 teams not in the playoffs this year, nine teams had head coaching vacancies. Of the nine, only two minority coaches were hired: Lovie Smith for the Houston Texans and Mike McDaniel for the Miami Dolphins. 

There’s a clear issue when it comes to the hiring process because teams only feel the need to fill the weak Rooney Rule. The Rooney Rule, established in 2003, requires teams to interview candidates that are ethnic-minorities. 

This rule is flimsy at best. In Flores’ case, all a team needs to do is interview an ethnic-minority candidate, but they don’t have to actually give them any consideration. 

Flores believes this to be the case, as the head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, congratulated him for getting the Giant’s head coaching job. The problem is that Flores had not even interviewed for the Giant’s coaching job yet. Belichick meant to congratulate Brian Daboll, who had gotten the Giants coaching job. 

The Giants seemingly decided on Daboll before even interviewing Flores. This supplies evidence to the diversity problem and indicates that teams could possibly be discriminating against minority coaches. 

This issue isn’t isolated to Flores. Along with him, top coaching candidates from the past few seasons were Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. Like Flores, all these coaches were interviewed in the past few seasons and none were hired. 

The argument  made against these claims is that the coaches interviewed were simply not fit for the role. When you consider the prestige of some of the aforementioned coaches, this doesn’t make any sense.

Two of the top coaching candidates mentioned have won Super Bowls in the past few years; Bienemy won with Kansas City in 2019, while Morris just won one on Feb. 13. Although not a Super Bowl winner, Frazier’s Bill’s defense have made deep playoff runs in consecutive years.

An interesting comparison can be made to the NBA because the numbers show stark differences. Fifty-three percent of coaches in the NBA are ethnic minorities, while 16% of coaches in the NFL are ethnic minorities. The NBA has two less teams than the NFL as well, making this discrepancy even more concerning. 

To bring this back to the lawsuit, the issues brought against Flores’ old team brings about concerns of wrongful termination. Flores alleges that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was angered when the team began to win in the 2019-20 season, as he wanted to vie for a better draft position to possibly select a franchise quarterback. Ross also allegedly offered Flores $100,000 for each loss. 

Flores was fired by the Dolphins on Jan. 10, 2022, after back-to-back winning seasons. On Saturday, Feb. 19, the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that they hired Flores as a senior defensive assistant and linebackers coach. A position that Flores seems vastly overqualified for. 

After this lawsuit and many other examples of diversity issues, it is clear that the NFL has many, many issues to work through when it comes to diversity in their coaching.