Brian Flores is gainfully employed again. But is it for the right reasons?
Almost exactly three years to the day that the NFL settled its collusion case with Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, Brian Flores was hired as the Pittsburgh Steelers senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach, just weeks after he filed a 58-page class-action lawsuit against the NFL, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos alleging discrimination regarding his interview process.
The timing of this can’t be a coincidence, can it? Let’s not act like this doesn’t feel like the NFL learned from how it fumbled the handling of Kaepernick and Reid’s situations, as the Rooney’s — the family that owns the Steelers and for who the Rooney Rule is named — now have a Black head coach in Mike Tomlin and the face of how Black coaches are mistreated in Flores.
However, the most puzzling and fascinating aspect of this situation is that it took until the conclusion of last season — Tomlin’s 15th as a head coach — for him to have a Black coordinator on staff. Teryl Austin replaced Keith Butler as defensive coordinator earlier this month, as that’s who Flores will directly report to along with Tomlin.
The idea that Tomlin finally decided to promote Austin and hire Flores so quickly doesn’t pass the smell test given things he’s said in the past. For instance, take this quote from last year when Tomlin spoke about how the fact that Eric Bieniemy keeps getting passed over for head coaching positions was a “head-scratcher” to him.
“I don’t have an answer for you as to how to make it better,” Tomlin previously said. “The optimist in me says things will get better, but there’s been no evidence in the recent cycles to back that up. Without evidence, all we have is hope. We just haven’t been able to move the needle.”
A Black coach that hadn’t hired a Black coordinator at the time publicly saying how he couldn’t understand how a talented Black coordinator hadn’t been given a shot was beyond insulting.
If the NFL was hoping that the noise around Flores would go away because Tomlin threw him a bone — or was “encouraged” to hire him — they’re dreaming. The Steelers’ new assistant coach is back in the news after an interview with Bryant Gumbel of HBO’s Real Sports, in which he discussed how he reportedly missed out on millions by refusing to sign an NDA with the Dolphins, which allowed him to speak freely about his experiences.
“To Coach Flores’ credit, he wasn’t gonna sign that, because he wanted — it wasn’t about the money,” Flores’ attorney Doug Wigdor told Gumbel. “If it was about the money, he would have signed it. What he did instead was he filed this lawsuit so that he could help other coaches, now ... and in the future.”
The part where Flores’ lawyer says he did it “so that he could help others coaches” speaks volumes when you realize that Flores had a Black defensive coordinator in Patrick Graham in year one in Miami and a Black co-offensive coordinator in Eric Studesville in his final season, while it took Tomlin almost 16 years to get one.
Progress is dependent on your point of view.