Tag Archives: Miami Dolphins

How the Brian Flores Lawsuit Shed Light on Media Critiques about Hiring Black Head Coaches in the NFL

By Gavin J. Davidson

Gavin J. Davidson is a second-year graduate student in Sport Administration at BGSU from West Point, MS. He is interested in most major sports but football is his primary sport interest.

March 16, 2022

Brian Flores Timeline

The NFL has had an historic lack of diversity in its head coaching ranks since the league was formed in 1920. Until 2003, there were only five Black head coaches hired in the league. To increase the chances of minorities getting an opportunity to coach, the league issued the Rooney Rule, which is named after former Steelers’ Chairman Dan Rooney. The Rooney Rule requires “every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one or more diverse candidates before making a new hire.” In the beginning, most mainstream media applauded the NFL’s efforts to bring greater diversity to the league. The positive reception of the rule allowed it to be extended to general managers and front-office positions in 2009. Jason Lewis considered the rule to be making a positive change, saying, “The rule has been controversial, but it has been effective.”

While Lewis praised the Rooney Rule, he pointed out that sham interviews had occurred. In 2003, the Detroit Lions were fined for not interviewing a minority candidate for their head coaching vacancy. In 2010, the Washington Commanders (then Redskins) hired Mike Shanahan while the Seattle Seahawks hired Pete Carroll to be head coaches for their respective football teams. Since the teams predetermined that they wanted Shanahan and Carroll, they interviewed minority candidates late in the process just to be in compliance. In 2013, Maloni and Diegel suggested that nepotism had trumped the Rooney Rule reporting that in the first ten years of the Rooney Rule, coaches’ relatives would often get jobs on their family’s staff and/or be promoted from within.

When the league saw that it was reverting to the problem of a lack of diversity in the coaching ranks, they adjusted by making additions to the rule. Michael David Smith detailed some of the additions to the rule in 2020, including a second minority candidate added to the hiring pool, no internal promotions, extending the rule to coordinators’ jobs, and adding an incentive program. An additional amendment rewarded teams for developing minority talent who became a head coach or GM in the league. If a team lost a minority coach or an executive to another team, then the original team would get a third-round compensatory pick for two years, and if they lost both in the same year then they received a third-round compensatory pick for three years. The NFL also required teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for a head coaching position and one for a coordinator position. There must also be one minority or female candidate interviewed for senior level positions.

As the rule became less effective, media narratives began to change. Instead of commending the Rooney Rule for helping to even the playing field for minorities, some in the media concluded that the league was finding ways to maintain the status quo, making the rule now useless. So, what factors contributed to changing media narratives about the Rooney Rule? The lawsuit filed by the former Head Coach of the Miami Dolphins certainly highlighted its ineffectiveness.

On January 10, 2022, Brian Flores, the Dolphins’ head coach for the past three seasons, was fired because he was considered “too difficult to work with,” according to the lawsuit filed on February 1, 2022. Coach Flores did not have an unsuccessful tenure when you look at his record with the team. He compiled a 24-25 record with a winning record in the last two seasons. Despite not making the playoffs in three years, Flores inherited a rebuild that may have overperformed based upon national media experts’ expectations reflected by their preseason predictions.

After Coach Flores departed, he had multiple interviews for head coaching vacancies in the league. When the Giants released Joe Judge, Flores was among those considered for the position as head coach. Three days before his interview, his former coach, Bill Belichick, sent him a congratulatory text on getting the job. Being confused about the message, Flores wanted to confirm that Coach Belichick was texting the right person. After Flores reached out to him, Belichick realized that he congratulated the wrong guy, and it was Brian Daboll who was getting the job. Flores had not even been interviewed yet. Despite the news from Belichick, Coach Flores went to the scheduled interview as a show of professionalism, assuming that the only reason he got the interview was because he was the minority candidate and the Giants needed to comply with the Rooney Rule.

Based on what transpired in January, Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL, the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants, the Denver Broncos, and other NFL teams for racial discrimination. As a result, the Dolphins documented what they believed were Flores’ flaws. Ryan Yousefi explained the reasons why the Dolphins fired Coach Flores, claiming that Flores was ineffective when it came to Human Resources. As evidence, the Dolphins said Flores had more offensive coordinators than the number of years he was head coach, while some players reportedly did not like the way he coached, and the offense had struggled since Flores took over.

The New York Giants proceeded to hire Coach Daboll, confirming Flores’ suspicion that his interview was a “sham.” To seek justice, Coach Flores sued the NFL for racial discrimination in its hiring practices. Flores’ lawsuit referenced previous articles about the Rooney Rule that supported his stance on racial discrimination. Most of the articles were dated in 2020, which meant that these observations came after adjustments to the rule had been made.

One of the key articles that critiqued the lack of diversity in the NFL was written by Jemele Hill in The Atlantic. Hill’s perspective is insightful because she not only discussed the lack of diversity for head coaches but also a lack of diversity within the pipeline that lead to becoming a head coach. Most head coaches were once offensive coordinators. Most black coordinators were defensive coordinators, making it difficult to gain a promotion. Most offensive coordinators earned their position after being a quarterback coach. There are very few black quarterback coaches in the NFL, which gives them less chance of going through the pipeline to become a head coach. Hill also compared Flores to Joe Judge, the former Giants head coach, pointing out that Flores had a better resume than Judge when considering the two coaches’ credentials. It seems that the Giants were not taking that into consideration since they had hired Judge but allegedly only interviewed Flores to fill the Rooney Rule requirements.

After the lawsuit came out, Heidi Schmidt reported that Roger Goodell admitted that the NFL’s diversity initiatives had not been successful, saying “We must acknowledge that particularly with respect to head coaches the results have been unacceptable.” Whenever there is a situation that makes the NFL look like it fails in its commitment to have a diverse organization, they have tried to implement new policies to move towards their goals. According to NFL executive Troy Vincent, who reported to the Associated Press, “We’ve been working on this every single day since the hiring cycle ended a year ago and we have to do better… We have high expectations that we should see positive results because the work has been put in.” While NFL executives have said that they want diversity, they have yet to prove they want it by their hiring practices. The ownership seems to act primarily when they get pushback on issues, they do not feel are important to them. Meanwhile, they send Commissioner Goodell out to take the heat while the owners continue to dodge scrutiny for their actions.

The lawsuit Flores brought against the NFL shows the power of media because some of the main points Flores is making come from articles that document the League’s shortcomings. A problem arises when the media does not call out the league for its failure to achieve equity. The league will continue to maintain the status quo unless someone addresses them. If more writers investigate the problems that are going on, then change will happen. Jemele Hill’s journalistic insights can provide the impetus for the league to pursue the diversity that it claims to desire. More members of the media must act on the inequalities of the situation for changes to take place and need to hold the authority accountable when there is blatant disregard for the rules. There also needs to be greater representation of diversity within the media. If everyone in the media comes from the same background, then there will be no call for change because everyone sees things the same way.

The Miami Dolphins’ Approach to Team Building

By Ben Kelley

November 18, 2019

Ben is a first-year undergraduate BGSU student from Uniontown, Ohio. He is a sport management major and a journalism minor. His primary interests include professional and collegiate football.

Is there an approach to team-building synonymous with the 2016-2017 Cleveland Browns and the 2008 Detroit Lions? One might say ‘tanking’ and point to the historic amount of losses each team endured as part of a master plan to acquire higher draft picks. Higher draft picks usually equate to better players to choose from in the draft, and better players usually mean a championship squad. In 2008, the Lions would lose all sixteen of their games and were awarded with the first overall draft pick. The Browns used the same plan in 2016 and 2017, winning one game in two years and getting two first overall picks during that span.

With the 2019 Miami Dolphins showing an inability to remain competitive paired with a willingness to trade away talented players, sports media have pointed to the Dolphins as the most recent example of a team willing to ‘tank’ for future talent. One article makes no haste in proclaiming the tank: “The Dolphins organization is not trying to be a contender in 2019. Its goal all year has been to load up on cap space and draft picks in lieu of wins.” (Stites, 2019, para 3). Another article stresses the importance of a Dolphins’ loss to another winless team, the Washington Redskins: “We’re not going through this suffering to not get the first spot [of the 2020 NFL Draft]. Are we all in agreement that this loss must happen?” (Noa, 2019, para 2).

However, sports media is mislabeling the Dolphins intentions. The team is not trying to lose for the sake of draft picks – the Dolphins are trying to follow a blueprint that is not necessarily ‘tanking’ to build their championship core.

First, look no further than Dolphins’ head coach Brian Flores. Flores’ resume includes four championship-winning seasons as a coach for the New England Patriots, including the 2018-2019 season where he served as the defensive play-caller (Brian Flores, 2019). With his success in New England, Flores knows what kind of a team is needed to win, and he will most likely try to implement New England’s winning culture in Miami.

Second, Miami currently has a young core of players, including cornerback Xavien Howard and quarterback Josh Rosen. Howard, who made the 2018 Pro Bowl as a Dolphin, was recently extended to the 2024 season on a $76.5 million contract (Stites, 2019). Rosen, a first-round pick in 2018, was acquired via trade before the season for a 2019 second-round draft pick (Stites, 2019). If the Dolphins are trying to throw their own games, then why would the team spend big money and draft capital for a Pro-Bowl cornerback and potential franchise quarterback?

While the Dolphins’ 2019 season looks like a classic example of tanking, the team is not aiming to lose as many games as possible. The team is making calculated decisions to build a championship team – and is giving out big contracts and trading draft assets to do so. The team’s young core of players has already won two games this season and could win a few more before the end of the season.

References

Brian Flores. (2019). Miami Dolphins. Retrieved from https://www.miamidolphins.com/team/coaches-roster/brian-flores

Noa, K. (2019, October 10). Quite possibly the most important game for the 2019 Dolphins. The Phinsider. Retrieved from https://www.thephinsider.com/2019/10/10/20908650/quite-possibly-the-most-important-game-for-the-2019-dolphins

Stites, A. (2019, September 29). How the Dolphins are tanking the 2019 season, in 3 steps. SBNation. Retrieved from https://www.sbnation.com/nfl/2019/9/15/20861089/miami-dolphins-tanking-2019-draft-picks-cap-space


Reflections on Laremy Tunsil’s Historic Draft Slide

by Brendan Ripley-Barasch

The 2016 NFL Draft was held this past Thursday night in Chicago and there were some surprises to say the least. A couple of things that may have shocked some fans included linebacker Myles Jack falling out of the first-round, CB Eli Apple being drafted at No. 10 by the New York Giants, and the mind-boggling amount of former Ohio State Buckeyes taken in the first-round. But one thing that took everyone by surprise was how far offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil fell.

                                                                                    Image via http://www.clarionledger.com

A dramatic series of events led to Tunsil falling all the way to the Miami Dolphins at No. 13. This player, who was once seen as the number one overall prospect in the draft, saw his downfall begin moments before the draft. Exactly thirteen minutes before the start of the draft, a video was posted to Laremy’s verified Twitter account that showed the former Ole Miss Rebel smoking what is assumed to be weed from a gas-mask bong. After a couple of minutes the video was taken down and the account was then deactivated. The video may have only been up for a few minutes but the damage was done and once again the power of social media was demonstrated.

Even after Tunsil had been selected by the Dolphins the mayhem continued. After the pick, an image was uploaded to Laremy’s Instagram account that showed text messages supposedly between Ole Miss Assistant Athletic Director John Miller and Tunsil. The conversation consisted of Tunsil seeking money from Miller to pay his mother’s rent and electric bills. Last season at Ole Miss, Laremy served a seven-game suspension stemming from similar accusations where he was found guilty of accepting improper benefits.

When it was all over, Laremy was still drafted in the top twenty but his fall cost him millions of dollars. In an article from ESPN titled Video kept Ravens from drafting Laremy Tunsil with No. 6 overall pick, writer Jamison Hensley discusses how the video impacted the Baltimore Ravens evaluation of Tunsil. The author writes, “The Baltimore Ravens would have taken Ole Miss offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil with the No. 6 overall pick were it not for the gas mask video that surfaced.” Even though he only talks about one team, it is probably fair to say the twelve other teams that passed on the prospect were thinking similarly. In the same article, Hensley writes something that ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported, “According to Schefter, Tunsil lost $7 million by falling seven spots in the draft.” Not only did this social media blunder tarnish the player’s image, but it also caused him to lose a lot of money.

It was very hard to watch this young man’s life just unravel right in front of us on one of the biggest stages in professional sports. But this is just the latest case of athletes suffering at the hands of social media. Recently it has been reported that the Dolphins believe Tunsil’s former financial adviser is who hacked into these accounts and posted the image and video. During the draft, ESPN analyst Jon Gruden gave his opinion on the issue, “We live in a glass house these days. … There’s a lot of money and people’s futures at stake. I hope this doesn’t come back to haunt Tunsil. Hopefully it’s a learning experience for him. He’s gotta clean this up if he wants to play in this league.” With this statement, Gruden echoes mine and surely many others opinions.

Following the draft, Laremy Tunsil admitted to the media that he had in fact taken money from an Ole Miss coach and that the screenshots were real. It is unclear whether the NCAA had already been aware of these actions since they had already suspended the player last season for the same reason. Now that Tunsil had admitted such a thing to an audience of millions, the NCAA will surely continue their investigation with the university.

This event is one of the most publicized examples of an athlete being punished for things that had been posted to their social media accounts. Obviously it is unfortunate for Tunsil to fall all the way to No. 13, but he is saying all the right things starting with accepting full responsibility for his actions. The player has a bright future ahead of him in the NFL but this will follow him for many years to come. It cannot be emphasized enough how big of a role social media plays in forming a person’s image and it is crucial for athletes as well as regular people to realize how to properly use these platforms. It is my hope that other athletes learn from this and don’t make the same mistake Tunsil did.