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Mac Engel: NFL probe of Brian Flores’ claim of ‘tanking’ is a lame diversion from real issue

FORT WORTH, Texas — The NFL’s season was a few hours old when we learned the league is investigating a sports’ sin that someone in our backyard was only too rich enough to admit routinely happens.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is in deep stuff amid the allegations by former Dolphins coach Brian Flores that he was asked to deliberately lose games.

Flores is probably telling the truth, but the Dolphins have been so bad, how can anyone tell?

If the NFL is smart, it will follow the NBA model as it handled Mark Cuban regarding the accepted practice of tanking.

Flores has filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL for racial discrimination; among his many allegations includes statements that Ross offered him $100,000 per loss in order to secure a higher draft pick.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Ross’ place as an owner is in jeopardy. The league’s potential discipline could result in Ross being forced to sell his majority stake in the Dolphins.

Do not buy this lame PR re-direct.

The NFL’s issue is not whether Ross told his head coach to deliberately lose. The issue is that 32 owners can’t seem to hire but one or two Black head coaches when the vast majority of the players are Black.

That’s the real problem here.

Tanking is not.

Only Cuban openly admitted that the practice exists, because it must.

In February of 2018, Cuban appeared on the “House Call With Dr. J” podcast, hosted by Hall of Famer, Julius Erving.

The Mavs were charging towards a 33-49 overall record, and even with Dirk Nowitzki the team was unwatchable.

Cuban was hyped about visiting with Dr. J, and he couldn’t help himself.

“I’m probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, ‘Look, losing is our best option,'” Cuban said on that show.

“[NBA commissioner Adam Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again. This was, like, a year and a half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that’s the key to being kind of a players’ owner and having stability.”

Cuban was right.

Although Cuban is one of the big reasons why Silver succeeded David Stern as NBA commissioner, Silver still fined Cuban $600,000.

Cuban’s sentiments were not new in 2018, either.

In May of 2017, he appeared on “The Dan Patrick Show” and said, “Once we were eliminated from the playoff [contention], we did everything possible to lose games.”

In both years, Cuban and then GM Donnie Nelson felt their only chance to contend again was to land a high draft pick. In 2018, the Mavs drafted Trae Young with their lottery pick, and shipped him to Atlanta in exchange for Luka Doncic.

That’s why Stephen Ross wanted Brian Flores to lose games — to get a Luka.

The NFL is littered with tales of a few meddlesome owners who tell their coaches to run a certain play, or to keep a certain player. The owner is normally smart enough not to tell his coach to deliberately lose.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has told many a coach, “We’re doing this,” but never would he tell one of them they needed to mail it in during a game.

Flores was right to reject such a dumb request.

It’s one thing if the coach or player deliberately tries to lose a game, for that threatens the integrity and jeopardizes the legitimacy of the product with the consumer, not to mention relationships in a locker room.

It’s quite another if management gives the coach a roster so bad that it has no chance of winning.

This practice has existed for decades, long before “tanking” became a verb.

In the 1984-85 NBA season, the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks could not lose games fast enough to obtain the top pick in that draft to select Georgetown center Patrick Ewing.

Speaking of Indiana, in 2011 the Colts lost quarterback Peyton Manning to season-ending neck surgery and, unintentionally, “Suck For Luck” became a thing.

The Colts finished 2-14, and selected Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

Even though head coach Jim Caldwell didn’t have Manning during that woeful 2011 season, the Colts still cleaned house and fired Caldwell, who is Black.

There are not many Black head coaches in the NFL right now.

That is the real issue NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to address, but he can’t. He does not have the power to mandate a team, or teams, to hire Black head coaches.

Nor will he ever. Nor should he ever.

Brian Flores alleging his boss told him to lose games is a bad look, but teams have been losing now to win later for decades.

Don’t let this little issue distract you from the NFL’s real problem, which Flores is right to point out, and the league has no clue how to solve because the solution is up to the individual owner rather than the NFL.

Attorneys for Brian Flores say NFL execs are not interviewing Black candidates in good faith.

Attorneys for Brian Flores say NFL execs are not interviewing Black candidates in good faith.

Then-Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores looks from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 7, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

Then-Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores looks from the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Hard Rock Stadium on Nov. 7, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS)

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