Eight days ago, the Brian Flores lawsuit expanded to include two more plaintiffs. The new allegations arose from, among other things, shockingly candid remarks from former Titans coach Mike Mularkey, who admitted to getting the job as a result of a sham interview process.
Meet the Press Reports, a production of NBC News, has taken a closer look at the situation. The episode, which is available on Peacock, includes comments from Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy, former Raiders and Browns coach Hue Jackson, and Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
Of the three, Frazier is the one who is currently employed by an NFL team. He’s the one who has most recently interviewed for head-coaching jobs. His willingness to speak out carries with it the greatest risk to his short- and long-term career prospects.
Says Frazier during the episode, “There has to be a massive change of heart with ownership in order for this to be rectified. Because at the end of the day, it’s only the owners that can change this. It’s not the Commissioner . . . it’s not committees. It’s the decision makers.”
Frazier is right. The sport is run by rich and powerful people who are used to getting what they want. In most cases, those people enter the process knowing the person to whom they want to entrust such a critical position.
Thus, the “massive change of heart” must commence with a change in how the process unfolds. As Dungy has argued, interviews shouldn’t begin until after the Super Bowl. This will (or at least should) get most (or at least some) owners to refrain from picking their next coach before they’ve fired their current one.
It’s obviously going to take more than that. Maybe an enormous verdict against the NFL and multiple teams in the Flores case is needed to get the attention of the owners. Maybe an independent monitor (as requested in the Flores complaint) is needed to ensure that owners are doing the right things.
Ideally, the league would be less concerned about approving new owners who show up with the biggest bag of cash and more concerned about approving new owners who can be relied upon to follow the letter and spirit of the rules, and not to constantly look for loopholes or exceptions — as plenty of teams have done over the years when it comes to the Rooney Rule.
If the league won’t insist on change, maybe the players should. Consider this thought from Dungy, as told to Blayne Alexander of NBC News “I think the players need to hold the league accountable . . . and those African American players go in and say, ‘Hey Mr. Owner, you need to do a thorough search. And you need to consider strongly these African American coaches . . . not telling you who to hire, but if you don’t consider them then I don’t want to play here.” . . . That’s going to get the owners’ attention.”
Something needs to get their attention. Nothing has yet. Until that happens, nothing will change.