After suing the league and standing up for his rights, Brian Flores is back in the top-tier of NFL coaches. According to ESPN, he will become the Minnesota Vikings new defensive coordinator. In February 2022, Flores sued the NFL and multiple teams, including his former employers, the Miami Dolphins, “accusing the league of racial discrimination in how it hires and fires coaches and executives.” The league has long been accused of gatekeeping coaching, general manager and ownership positions when it comes to Black people.
Using his lawsuit to call out the NFL for its alleged racial discrimination was extremely brave of Flores, as he knew he was destroying his career. Fortunately for Flores, Pittsburgh Steelers’ head coach Mike Tomlin brought him on as the team’s senior defensive assistant/linebackers coach.
“Early stages of our interaction, I wouldn’t even have thought of broaching the subject, because I just thought that would have been disrespectful to his talents,” Tomlin said on The Pivot podcast. “I thought this dude was head coach capable, and there were head coach jobs available, so I won’t have conversations with this dude about being anything other than that. When the opportunities started to dry up is when the conversation changed. I’m not gonna let this dude sit out. No.”
Thinking back to Mike Tomlin's conversation on @thepivot last year about hiring Brian Flores. Had no plans to initially but realized Pittsburgh was the only place willing to give him a job.
"I'm not gonna let this dude sit out. No."
Pittsburgh his bridge to Minnesota. Respect. pic.twitter.com/4x9rULLzq2
— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) February 6, 2023
Minnesota sorely needs Flores’ expertise as it ranked 31st out of 32 teams in yards allowed last season. Though the Vikings had a record of 13-4, won its division and made the playoffs, many of those wins came down to the final minutes, with the team finding it difficult to hold a lead. If Flores manages to turn around Minnesota’s defense, that will put him back on the head coach carousel, but obviously there are those who will never forgive him for suing the league.
The other notable name still waiting for a head coaching opportunity is Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. During the Super Bowl LVII Opening Night press conference, Kansas City’s superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes was asked about Bieniemy not getting a chance to lead a team, and he’s just as confused as the rest of us.
“It’s so past deserved. He’s done everything the right way. He’s been a part of this offense and this team for so long. Holds everybody accountable, is creative in making up plays for us,” Mahomes said. “I don’t know why he hasn’t been hired, but it’s been great for us, because we’ve had one of the best coaches in the league for way long past due and winning a lot of games with us.”
Patrick Mahomes said a head-coaching job is “past deserved” for Eric Bieniemy: pic.twitter.com/YbcMeYq7C4
— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) February 7, 2023
While he’s disappointed to repeatedly lose out on opportunities. Bieniemy is focused on the fact that he’s once again returning to the biggest stage.
“Well, when you’re playing in the Super Bowl, it’s an outstanding feeling,” he said during the press event. “So, that’s the only feeling that I know. And, you got to understand, I interviewed this year with the Indianapolis Colts. Last year, I interviewed with the Saints after the AFC Championship Game. It’s unfortunate that things haven’t quite worked its way out, but think about this: I’m going to my third Super Bowl in the past four years. Who wouldn’t want that?”
Unfortunately, the NFL’s history of excluding Black coaches and executives doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon, because until the owners want to address the problem honestly—with real solutions, and not just PR band-aids—the old boys network that only lets certain people through the door will stay in place. But in the meantime, the league really wants you to enjoy the big game, its dynamic starting quarterbacks, Rihanna’s halftime show, Sheryl Lee Ralph singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” during the pregame ceremonies.
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