How Often Do NFL Owners Pay Coaches to Tank for a Better Draft Position?

We might be about to find out

Former Browns head coach Hue Jackson addresses the media
Former Browns head coach Hue Jackson addresses the media.
Don Juan Moore/Getty

Included in the allegations of racist hiring practices made in a lawsuit filed by former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores against the NFL on Tuesday is the claim that Miami owner Stephen Ross offered to pay Flores to lose games during the 2019 season to tank for the first pick in the draft.

Flores, who was fired earlier this offseason after leading the Dolphins to back-to-back winning seasons, claims he refused to take Ross up on his offer of a $100,000 bonus for every loss, and the team ended up with the fifth pick in the draft instead of the first.

If true, those allegations are incredibly damning for Ross, as offering a financial incentive to lose would clearly compromise the integrity of the games being played as well as their results. With sports betting now legal in more than 30 states in the U.S., questions about outcomes in the NFL being legit are not what the league wants at all.

But those questions are going to keep coming as another former Black NFL head coach, Hue Jackson, has also come out and hinted he was paid to lose games while in charge of the Cleveland Browns. Jackson, who went 3-36-1 in two-and-a-half seasons with the Browns, including an 0-16 record in his second season, led the Browns to consecutive No. 1 draft picks in the 2017 and 2018 NFL drafts, which turned into defensive end Myles Garrett and quarterback Baker Mayfield. On Twitter, the current head coach at Grambling insinuated that it was no accident.

“It won’t stay hidden much longer,” Jackson wrote. “It can’t. What’s crazy is I tried to tell you all yet you didn’t want to listen because of all the losing involved.”

In a subsequent Twitter thread, the director of Jackson’s foundation, Kimberley Diemert, said there are records that show Jackson and team executives Sashi Brown, Paul DePodesta and Andrew Berry — who is now the general manager of Browns — were paid bonus money to tank in 2016 and 2017 and the NFL is aware of it.

It’s worth noting that the lawsuit Flores filed against the NFL and its 32 teams is a class action, so other plaintiffs are allowed to join the litigation. Jackson’s comments suggest he’d be willing to do that, and he may not be the only former coach willing to team up with Flores in his fight.

“This Brian Flores lawsuit against the NFL is going to resonate throughout sports and be a significant moment in the history of the league,” Yahoo senior NFL reporter Charles Robinson posted on Twitter. “I’ve spoken to two other coaches who believe they have the receipts to be a part of the class. This could be a tsunami before it’s all over.”

Though the NFL dismissed Flores’s claims as having no merit, the league should be bracing for a tidal wave.

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