Former Dolphins head coach Brain Flores filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday alleging racial discrimination in the NFL hiring process.
Flores claimed the NFL suffers from systemic racism and accused the league and multiple teams (Giants, Broncos) of sham interviews and improper hiring practices, calling into question the NFL’s Rooney Rule. The Rooney rule requires NFL teams to interview two external minority candidates for vacant head coaching jobs.
The NFL currently has only one active Black head coach, Mike Tomlin of the Steelers. White men have been selected for the six openings that have been filled thus far this offseason, with the Saints, Texans and Dolphins still searching.
As part of the suit, Flores claims that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered to compensate him $100,000 per loss in his inaugural 2019 season in order to secure a top draft pick in the 2020 draft. Flores claims he refused to do so, and the team finished 2019 with a 5-11 record that kept them out of contention for the top pick.
Ross, the Giants and Broncos have all denied the allegations.
Former Browns coach Hue Jackson reportedly could be joining the class-action suit. Though Jackson has stopped short of saying he was incentivized to lose, he stated on ESPN on Wednesday that he was “put in a situation where I could not win.”
Jackson went 1-31 in his first two seasons before being released in his third year – the year the “plan” in Cleveland finally involved “talking about winning or losing.” Browns owner Jimmy Haslem has also denied the accusations that he paid Jackson to lose.
Flores’ allegations and Jackson’s comments open the possibility that those teams could have affected bettors during the 2019 and 2016-17 seasons, respectively.
Naturally, this raises a lot of questions.
If it is true that Jackson was, in fact, indirectly incentivized because “there was a substantial amount of money made within what happened in this situation every year at the end of it,” how much did that potentially affect the bankrolls of bettors?
Could they always count on a loss? What about a cover? Who else could have been incentivized?
Or more importantly: Who else could have known what was being incentivized?
Let’s take a look back at the seasons in question from a betting perspective.
The Dolphins were underdogs in every single game that season, so bettors found themselves betting on how badly the Dolphins would lose.
Miami finished the season with a 5-11 record straight-up (SU), and went 9-7 against the spread (ATS), according to teamrankings.com.
You made a small profit if you bet the Dolphins to cover the spread in every game.
Here are the five games the Miami Dolphins won (and covered) in 2019:
Week 8: 26-18 win over the Jets; Spread: Miami +3.5
Week 9: 16-12 win over the Colts; Spread: Miami +11
Week 12: 37-31 win over the Eagles; Spread: Miami +10
Week 16: 38-35 win over the Bengals; Spread: Miami +2
Week 17 24-17 win over the Patriots; Spread: Miami +18
Week 12’s win stands out since the Dolphins staged a 14-point comeback with 11:13 left in the third quarter to stun the Eagles. The Dolphins’ Week 17 win also gave the Chiefs home-field advantage en route to their Super Bowl victory.
Here are the remaining games Miami covered:
Week 5: 17-16 loss to Washington; Spread: Miami +6
Week 6: 31-21 loss to the Bills; Spread: Miami +17
Week 7: 27-14 loss to the Steelers; Spread: Miami +14
Week 14: 22-21 loss to the Jets; Spread: Miami +5
The Dolphins certainly didn’t appear to be tanking for a draft pick, as they won five of their last nine games while covering six times. That’s generally the prime time to be more motivated to lose to secure a better draft pick.
Their late-season improvement is what ultimately cost them the opportunity to draft Joe Burrow, this year’s AFC Championship QB, rather than Tua Tagovailoa.
Over the course of the next two seasons, with a combination of Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jacoby Brissett under center, Flores led the Dolphins to a winning record (19-14) while covering the spread 60.6% of the time (20-12-1).
The Dolphins were underdogs in 19 of their 33 games played from 2020-2021.
Now, let’s take a look at the Browns’ 2016-2017 seasons.
There was only a single win across the two seasons in Week 16 of the 2016 when they defeated the Chargers, 2017. A Christmas Eve miracle!
The Browns were only moneyline favorites once over 32 games. They lost that game to the Colts, 31-28, on Sept. 24, 2017, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The Browns, unlike the Dolphins, struggled to cover spreads during those two seasons, going 8-24 ATS. If you bet against the Browns covering in all 32 games in 2016-201, you had a 75% win percentage, and a pretty big bankroll. The wise play was to fade the Browns, who were much easier to predict than the Dolphins.
These allegations come at a poor time for the league, as the NFL is embracing and investing in sports wagering. It calls into question the integrity of the game, as fans and bettors alike should be able to assume both teams have the desire to win.
In the three and half years since the U.S.Supreme Court struck down the 1992 federal law that banned commercial sports betting in most states, more than two dozen states have legalized sports betting.
Goldman Sachs recently predicted the sports betting industry could grow up to 40% annually, reaching up to 39 billion in annual revenue by the year 2033.
Last month, New York State bet 1.1 billion dollars in just the first three weeks of January after allowing online sports betting. Eight more states could join the others this year, while a dozen states may never legalize sports betting due to complex tribal relationships and political opposition.
If the allegations in Flores’ class-action lawsuit turn out to be true, the implications could be substantial for the league and bettors.
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