Five years ago this month, William Stephen Belichick was entered as a possible material witness in the Aaron Hernandez double-murder trial. Ultimately, those proceedings came and went without the New England Patriots coach being called for testimony.
Because the more Flores speaks, the more he appears to point to Belichick as being a significant witness — and possibly even a participant — in some of the systemic problems plaguing the NFL’s hiring process. That’s what Flores suggested this week on the National Public Radio podcast “The Limits.” That notion went a little further beyond Belichick’s texts being included as an exhibit in the lawsuit. If you’re unfamiliar with those texts, Belichick mistakenly texted Flores what appeared to be congratulations on getting the New York Giants head coaching job. The problem: Belichick thought he was speaking to Brian Daboll, the Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator, and not Brian Flores, who had yet to have his interview for that same Giants job.
A fairly expansive lawsuit was filed in the wake of that interaction, firing off what amounts to three major allegations: Overall systemic racial discrimination against Black NFL coaches; Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross incentivizing “tanking” by offering Flores $100,000 for each loss he accrued in 2019; and Ross trying to influence Flores to tamper with a player who has been identified in media reports as Tom Brady.
Belichick’s part in the bomb blast of claims: He let the cat out of the bag when it came to Daboll’s hiring, effectively proving that the league’s minority interview mandates are little more than a sham. Flores went further on Thursday, telling “The Limits” podcast that Belichick didn’t just let the cat out of the bag with Daboll’s hiring — he also played a part of getting the cat into the bag in the first place.
As Flores framed it in the interview:
“I think there are back channel conversations and back channel meetings that are had that oftentimes influence decisions. I think [the Giants hiring process] is a clear example of that. Bill Belichick is a clear example of that. His resume speaks to that. It was clear to me that decision was made with his influence. That’s part of the problem. That needs to change. There needs to be a fair and equal opportunity to interview and showcase your abilities to lead and earn one of those positions.”
That’s a massive statement from Flores. He has gone from saying, “Bill Belichick accidentally tipped me off to a sham interview” to “Bill Belichick played a part in the system that has created sham interviews.”
Whether that’s the case or not will be debated. Both Daboll and Flores coached for Belichick, so there’s bound to be some natural overlap when two coaches who shared time in the same Patriots program are later vying for a position with the Giants. Naturally, there would be an assumption that Belichick would get a call, particularly given that it has already been reported that Belichick was influential in helping former special teams coach Joe Judge win the previous Giants head coaching search.
This time, however, the Giants put out a statement declaring sternly: “Mr. Belichick does not speak for and has no affiliation with the Giants.”
So how was Belichick involved? Was he asked to give an assessment of two coaches or did he play a part in fixing Daboll’s hiring? Is he merely an important reference figure on the head coaching circuit, or is he one part of a larger machine that has facilitated exponentially more white head coaches than Black ones? Those are questions that would surely be litigated if this lawsuit moves into a courtroom.
What can’t be litigated now is whether Flores’ assertion moves Belichick deeper into the folds of the legal process that we could see play out. The verdict on that is clear. It absolutely does.
If this advances to the discovery process, Flores’ attorneys are going to try to showcase whatever role Belichick played and how he came to know whatever he knew about Daboll and the Giants’ job. And the way you do that is to find out who else Belichick might have been texting, calling or emailing. It means he would almost certainly be deposed in this case and also very likely be called as a material witness.
That’s another fascinating aspect in this, Bill Belichick the legendary coach who answers what he wants, when he wants, and if he wants, being transformed into Bill Belichick the sworn-under-oath witness who has little choice but to explain himself. That might be the most intriguing witness box examination of an authority figure since Jack Nicholson’s Nathan Jessup told Tom Cruise’s Daniel Kaffee “you can’t handle the truth.”
One way or another, Flores is blazing a legal path toward whatever truth ultimately gets thrust into the light at the end of this. And it’s becoming more evident that part of that light is getting tilted into Belichick’s direction, whether he wants it or not.