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HomeSportsRon Rivera Criticizes Cardinals Handling of 2018 Fired Head Coach

Ron Rivera Criticizes Cardinals Handling of 2018 Fired Head Coach


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Ron Rivera prepares to take the field before the game against the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.

The Arizona Cardinals were named in the recent NFL lawsuit by former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.

Flores filed a class-action lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday, February 1 against the NFL and all 32 of its clubs. The lawsuit specifically alleges the New York Giants interviewed Flores in January for its vacant head coaching job to satisfy the NFL’s Rooney Rule.

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He also alleges the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins and other teams including the Cardinals of recent examples of discriminatory conduct.

The Broncos, Dolphins and Giants have since strongly denied Flores’ accusations.

A current NFL head coach voiced his opinions on the matter but also brought out key information on the Cardinals’ situation.


Veteran Coach Chimes In

The lawsuit by Flores gave out examples of discriminatory practices in the processes of head coaching.

Flores used Wilks’ 2019 firing after one season as an example of a “double standard” that black head coaches must fight against.

In 2018, the Arizona Cardinals hired Steve Wilks, a longtime NFL coach for several franchises. He led the team to a disappointing 3-13 record in his first season. However, 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 (9th 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 next Head Coach, Kliff Kingsbury, went 5-10 in his first year with Kyler Murray as a rookie quarterback (first pick), and he retained his job and was given time to improve.

Washington Commanders head coach Ron Rivera has a history with Wilks, who worked under the veteran coach. Wilks spent time as Rivera’s defensive coordinator in Carolina and was also assistant head coach during their Super Bowl run in 2015.

Rivera told Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated on February 4 that Wilks was dealt a bad hand from the Cardinals organization.

“The hard part for him there, he was the last guy hired,” Rivera said. “So all the guys that were on his coaching list, they were already locked in. He had to hire guys that he really didn’t want to have to hire. He had to keep guys he didn’t want to keep.”

There is the belief that offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was selected by GM Steve Keim. Others that weren’t selected by Wilks were offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, linebackers coach Larry Foote and defensive coordinator Al Holcomb.

2018 was Wilks’ first shot as a head coach. Rivera suggests the locker room was loyal to the previous coaching staff.

“In fact, that’s what got him, some of those guys that were kept, were the guys that everybody was coming back to and whispering about, ‘This, that and the other thing.’ And that causes a problem.”

Wilks was fired after a 3-13 season before bringing in his own coaches. Rivera stressed the importance of patience from the Panthers in giving him a third season.

“My first two years were hard, but we had shown progress, we were going in the right direction,” he said. “He didn’t listen to people saying, ‘Oh well, he’s failed. Move on. Hire yourself a legitimate coach.’ Because I got one more year, I was able to show it. And it all came together.”

The Cardinals weren’t the only team accused of being harmful in the head coaching process. The Detroit Lions and Houston Texans were named in their mistreatment of Jim Caldwell and David Culley.


Rivera Can Relate to Flores

According to Rivera, he once had a “sham” interview, similar to Flores’ interpretation of his Giants interview. Rivera, of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent, heard the job was being offered by someone else before his interview.

“That kind of struck me as, ‘Really, O.K., well, you know what? I’m not going to take my time and go up there and interview,’” Rivera said. “And then the next day they announce this is the guy. Because if you go up there and you interview, and you’re the last guy, and the very next day they bring somebody in, to me that would’ve felt really s*****, to be honest with you. That’s why I didn’t do it.”

Connections go a long way in any business, including the NFL. Rivera brought up the idea of coaches talking to owners and general managers more often.

“They’re going to hire who they know, people like them,” Rivera said. “Well, hell, then let’s try to put people in front of them so they can get to know them and they can be more comfortable with them. One of the things that I’ve said before is when they have the owners’ meetings, why wouldn’t they do something where they bring in the next group of guys, the next 10 to 20 guys and put them in front of the owners, put them in front of the GMs?”



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