Jets HC Robert Saleh Opens up on Brian Flores, NFL Hiring Process

Brian Flores

Getty Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores at MetLife Stadium on November 21, 2021.

It has been a busy few days in the NFL between Tom Brady’s retirement, different head coaching hires, and a lawsuit that could change the entire landscape of the NFL forever.

Of course, I’m referring to the official complaint filed by Brian Flores, in which the ex-Miami Dolphins head coach is suing the NFL, as well as the Dolphins, Denver Broncos and New York Giants organizations for “racial disparities … in the hiring and retention” of Black head coaches, coordinators and general managers.

While all this has been occurring, the New York Jets have been down in Mobile, Alabama, coaching the 2022 Senior Bowl. Despite being somewhat out of the loop, head coach Robert Saleh was asked about Flores’ lawsuit during a press conference on February 2.

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Saleh on Flores: ‘Phenomenal Coach… Good Man’

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It didn’t take long for reporters to address the topic of Flores and his court filing. The moment Saleh opened the floor for questions on Wednesday, the first few focused on his thoughts on the matter.

“We’ve been so busy here, I haven’t been able to look at it in-depth,” the Jets HC responded when asked about the legal complaint, “so I wouldn’t be able to comment on that right now.”

Although Saleh himself is not an African American, he is currently one of three minority head coaches in the NFL as a Muslim American — Pittsburgh Steelers HC Mike Tomlin and Washington Commanders HC Ron Rivera are the others. That gives him in a unique perspective on this discussion.

Saleh was willing to speak on his relationship with Flores and the NFL hiring process as a whole.

“Just from my interactions with B-Flo [Flores], he’s a phenomenal coach, always gives us a headache anywhere he’s ever been, and just a stand-up guy to talk to pregame and postgame. And really appreciate all the interactions that I have with him, he’s a really really good man,” Saleh voiced about Flores.

When asked about the “challenges the NFL still has” in creating a more fair and balanced hiring process, the Jets HC did not shy away from the moment.

He stated: “Everyone has their own philosophy on how it can happen and how it can happen better, but I could sit here for hours and talk about our experiences here with the Jets and what we try to do but I do think with the leadership of Troy Vincent and all the different people at the NFL office, I know they’re working diligently to try and rectify and thrust minorities into prominent roles. Is it tough right now? For sure, but I know the NFL is trying hard and eventually it’s going to get there.”

Although the Jets three coordinators are not minorities, Saleh does employ a fairly diverse staff. New York currently has 10 assistant coaches of a mixed or minority background.

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Statement From Flores, NFL

The official court document from Flores’ attorney details a 58-page lawsuit against the NFL and the aforementioned franchises that the ex-head coach had frustrating experiences with.

Those specific complaints alleged that the Broncos front office showed up hungover to a “sham interview” in 2019, the Giants offered Brian Daboll their HC position before conducting a scheduled interview with Flores, and that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross attempted to “pay him $100,000 for every loss” during the 2019 season, among other issues.

The overal intent of this legal action is much larger, however. In the preliminary statement, the lawsuit read:

While racial barriers have been eroded in many areas, Defendant the National Football League (“NFL” or the “League”) lives in a time of the past. As described throughout this Class Action Complaint, the NFL remains rife with racism, particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of Black Head Coaches, Coordinators and General Managers. Over the years, the NFL and its 32-member organizations (the “Teams”) have been given every chance to do the right thing. Rules have been implemented, promises made—but nothing has changed. In fact, the racial discrimination has only been made worse by the NFL’s disingenuous commitment to social equity. As such, in the face of the risks associated with combating racism and injustice, and in particular standing up to organizations as powerful as the NFL and its Teams, Mr. Flores has determined that the only way to effectuate real change is through the Courts, where the NFL’s conduct can be judged by a jury of Mr. Flores’ peers. A judgment that is long overdue.

Flores followed this announcement with a statement of his own. “God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals. In making the decision to file the class action complaint, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game I love and has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”

ESPN NFL insider Field Yates shared the NFL’s official response to Flores’ court filing. It read: “The NFL and our clubs are deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities throughout our organizations. Diversity is core to everything we do, and there are few issues on which our clubs and our internal leadership team spend more time. We will defend against these claims, which are without merit.”

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