The lawsuit brought by former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores has rocked the NFL world for several days now; alleging that owner Stephen Ross attempted to pay him to tank football games, that the New York Giants had decided to hire Brian Daboll as their head coach before even giving him an interview, and the Denver Broncos showed up hungover to his own interview on the alleged intention of not taking it very seriously. It’s the kind of lawsuit that has brought out other stories of institutional racism and hiring malpractice to the forefront of the league.
Now, an agent for one former Detroit Lions coordinator is alleging the team failed to do its own due diligence and paid lip service to the Rooney Rule when it had already made up its mind on who to hire as their next head coach.
On Tuesday, in an Associated Press profile on former Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, claims were brought forth that the Lions, under general manager Bob Quinn, only interviewed Austin to fulfill the Rooney Rule, which states NFL teams must interview black and ethnic-minority coaches, and had always intended to hire Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia.
Austin’s agent, Eric Metz, made the claim that the team had not interviewed Austin in good faith.
“(Former Lions general manager) Bob Quinn knew he was hiring Matt Patricia and used Teryl to comply with the Rooney Rule,” Austin’s agent Eric Metz said in a note to the AP on Wednesday. “Didn’t work out well for the Lions. Never should’ve fired Jim Caldwell.”
Following Jim Caldwell’s firing as head coach in 2017—after four seasons and two playoff appearances—the Lions interviewed Austin along with Jim Bob Cooter, Pat Shurmur, Mike Vrabel, and Winston Moss.
Austin has had 11 interviews with NFL teams, and in those 11 interviews, he has never been successfully hired.
In 2018, Steve Wilks explained that he turned down an interview with the Lions because he believed that the job already belonged to Matt Patricia. Wilks was then the defensive coordinator for the Carolina Panthers.
It doesn’t matter if Quinn only had Patricia in mind from the get-go: nepotism can still qualify as institutional racism if it is excluding qualified minority coaches from receiving legitimate well-intentioned interviews. The issue from the Flores case right now, and the anecdotes that are following from black coaches like Hue Jackson, is that ownership isn’t always looking for the best candidate, or in some cases, doesn’t even care if their coach can best win football games.