Cardinals, Steve Wilks’ firing named in Brian Flores’ lawsuit against NFL
Feb 2, 2022, 9:39 AM
(AP Photo/John Amis)
Former Arizona Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks’ one-year stint with the team was mentioned Tuesday in ex-Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL and three of its teams over alleged racial hiring practices.
Under “notable examples of discriminatory conduct,” Arizona’s firing of Wilks after just a season at the helm, and subsequent hire of Kliff Kingsbury, was among the multiple situations noted in the lawsuit.
Wilks went 3-13 in 2018 as the Cardinals head coach before being let go in 2019. Arizona finished the season dead last in every offensive category, including total offense (241.6 yards per game) and points scored per game (14.1).
On the defensive side, Wilks’ forte, the Cardinals gave up the most rushing yards per game (154.9) in the NFL and allowed 26.6 points per contest, the seventh highest mark in the league.
It was his first season, and he was not given any time to develop the team or culture and he was stuck with numerous burdens not of his own making — he had a rookie quarterback in Josh Rosen (ninth pick), the team GM (Steve Keim) was suspended for five weeks following a DUI during training camp and the Cardinals had numerous injuries to key players. Mr. Keim, a white GM, kept his job, but Mr. Wilks was fired.
The lawsuit adds that despite Wilks’ replacement in Kingsbury going 5-10 with 2019 No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray in his first season on the job, the former Texas Tech coach “was given more time to improve.”
Since Kingsbury’s 5-10 start, the head coach has seen steady improvement and clinched the team’s first playoff berth since 2015 this past season.
The lawsuit filed Tuesday is seeking class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unidentified individuals.
Flores, 40, was fired last month by Miami after leading the Dolphins to a 24-25 record over three years. They went 9-8 in their second straight winning season, but failed to make the playoffs during his tenure.
According to the lawsuit, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross told Flores he would pay him $100,000 for every loss during the coach’s first season because he wanted the club to “tank” so it could get the draft’s top pick.
The lawsuit alleged that Ross then pressured Flores to recruit a prominent quarterback in violation of the league’s tampering rules. When Flores refused, he was cast as the “angry Black man” who is difficult to work with and was derided until he was fired, the suit said.
Flores said he had conversations with general manager Chris Grier that Ross was upset that Miami was compromising its draft position by winning too many games. Flores said he also talked repeatedly with Ross, who said the team didn’t need to win right then and the coach was under contract.
Former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores joined @GetUpESPN to discuss his decision to sue the NFL and three teams, alleging racism in hiring practices.
"We need change. … We need to change the hearts and minds of people making those decisions." pic.twitter.com/HnlTHtZ2t5
— ESPN (@espn) February 2, 2022
“That’s not something you make up,” Flores said of those conversations.
What drove Flores to file the lawsuit was a string of text messages with New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick three days before his scheduled Giants interview, leading Flores to believe Brian Daboll already had been chosen as the new coach.
“It was humiliating to be quite honest,” Flores said. “There was disbelief, there was anger, there was a wave of emotion for a lot of reasons. I think this is why we filed the lawsuit.”
Flores said he understands this lawsuit may keep him from ever coaching again. He’s being called the NFL’s Rosa Parks in taking on the league’s hiring practices, and Flores called that a humbling comparison.
“That gives me more confidence that we made the right decision here and that we need to continue to fight for that change,” Flores said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.