Sean Pendergast

NFL Coach Suing Houston Texans Lands Job With Pittsburgh Steelers

Brian Flores landed a job with the Steelers amidst filing a lawsuit against the NFL.
Brian Flores landed a job with the Steelers amidst filing a lawsuit against the NFL. Screen grab from YouTube
The NFL head coaching cycle closed a little less than two weeks ago, and in terms of sheer numbers of openings and the storylines swirling around the hiring cycle itself, it's safe to say that this might have been the most newsworthy head coaching job-fest of the last several years.

In the end, many things held true to recent form. First, the style of coach most often selected was the young, innovative, offensive assistant — Mike McDaniel, Kevin O'Connell, Josh McDaniels, Nathaniel Hackett, and Brian Daboll represented a majority of the hires, and that's a trend that began a few years ago when Sean McVay, now a Super Bowl champion as head coach of the Rams, took the league by storm.

The other trend is an unfortunate one for the league, and that is that, despite the league's stated efforts to boost the odds of minority coaches getting hired, two of the nine spots were filled by coaches of minority or multiracial backgrounds, including the Texans' hiring Lovie Smith. This trend was the focus of a lawsuit filed by former Dolphins head coach (and finalist for the Texans' head coaching vacancy, more on that in a moment) Brian Flores, who sued the league for what he alleges are racially discriminatory hiring practices.

We have covered the Flores lawsuit in this space, so it's worth noting as a follow up that Flores DID indeed land an NFL coaching job over the weekend, joining Mike Tomlin's staff as a defensive assistant coach:
Here was Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin on the hire:
“I am excited about Brian Flores joining our coaching staff given his history of developing and teaching defensive players during his time in the NFL,” Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said in a statement. “Brian’s resume speaks for itself, and I look forward to him adding his expertise to help our team.”
When you arrive at work on Monday (assuming you're one of the fortunate ones whose employers have reopened their doors), your sports fan coworkers will likely be discussing this development in some fashion, so let's hit the highlights here on what this all means:

What now with the lawsuit?
Just because Flores is getting a job doesn't mean that everything has been resolved to his satisfaction (or his attorneys', or other potential plaintiffs joining what could become a class action lawsuit). It would be awfully empty for Flores to drop his lawsuit after getting a job, when he went on the media circuit two weeks ago saying something to the effect of  "this was bigger than just [him]." So, the lawsuit remains a full steam ahead endeavor for Flores and his legal team, as they indicated on Saturday:
Houston Texans were added to the lawsuit last week
We didn't do a specific post on this occurrence last week, so maybe you hadn't seen, but the Houston Texans were added as a specific defendant in Flores' lawsuit. Initially, the lawsuit had been targeting three teams specifically (the Giants, Dolphins, and Broncos) and had lumped the other 29 teams in as one massive "fourth defendant," if you will. Well, because the Texans did not hire Flores, he saw their actions as "retaliatory," i.e. he alleges they didn't hire him specifically because he is suing the league,  and added them as a stated defendant, like the Giants, Dolphins, and Broncos. While the Texans process of arriving at Lovie Smith as their next head coach was unconventional, to say the least, some of Flores' stated goals to make the hiring process better for all minorities ring a little hollow when he is suing a team that hired a Black head coach.

The Steelers make sense as a landing spot for Flores
There were plenty of people saying that Flores would never coach in the NFL ever again, that his only chance to ply his trade would be at the high school or collegiate level. Well, that was shot down quickly with the Steelers' hiring him over the weekend. Granted, it's not as a head coach or even a coordinator, but he is drawing a paycheck from one of the 32 teams that are named in some small way in his lawsuit. The Steelers are a logical landing spot, though, as the Rooney Rule, which was the league's first attempt at making a concerted effort to give minorities a better chance of getting hired, was named after former Steelers owner Dan Rooney. Ironically, Flores' lawsuit exists because the Rooney Rule has not come close to achieving its stated objectives and, Flores contends, it needs a massive overhaul.

Head coach again? Never say never.
So what does this all mean for Flores? While he is two levels down the food chain from where he was with Miami, going from a head coach down to a position coach, he IS employed by the NFL again. Since there were people creating Doomsday scenarios for Flores' career as recently as last week, and he was hired fairly quickly, I would put Flores' chances of becoming a head coach in the NFL again at a strong :never say never" level, at least, right? One thing people who saw Flores' NFL career as dead last week are forgetting — there are probably some NFL owners who, despite being named tangentially in the lawsuit, actually AGREE with the premise of Flores' lawsuit and would like to see substantive change in the league's hiring policies.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts the morning drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the pre-game and post game shows for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast