Tennessee Titans added to Flores Lawsuit after podcast resurfaces

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports /

Last week the news came out that the Tennessee Titans were added to a list of teams that are included in Brian Flores’ lawsuit after former Titans’ defensive coordinator Ray Horton joined the suit accusing the team of conducting a sham interview.

The lawsuit alleges that in 2016 when the Tennessee Titans were looking to fill the head coaching position that Horton’s interview was “illegitimate” and “an orchestrated attempt to make it appear that the Titans had complied with the Rooney Rule”.

Steve Wilks and Ray Horton are the latest to sign onto Flores’ high profile lawsuit alleging discrimination within the NFL’s hiring practices.

Horton has signed on following the resurfacing of comments made by former Titans head coach Mike Mularkey on the podcast Steelers Realm on September 22nd, 2020.

What did the former Tennessee Titans coach say?

After being asked, “if you could turn back the clock… would there be anything in your coaching career that you would have done differently?”

Mularkey explains:

"“I have always prided myself in doing the right thing in this business and I can’t say that’s true about everybody in this business. It’s a cut-throat business and a lot of guys will tell you that, but I allowed myself at one point when I was in Tennessee to get caught up in something I regret, and I still regret it. But the ownership there, Amy Adams Strunk and her family, came in and told me I was going to be the head coach in 2016 before they went through the Rooney Rule. And so I sat there knowing I was the head coach in ‘16 as they went through this fake hiring process knowing a lot of the coaches they were interviewing, knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that everything they can do and they have no chance of getting that job – And actually, the GM Jon Robinson he was in on the interview with me, he had no idea why he was interviewing me I had the job already. I regret it cause I pride myself… in doing the right thing and I always said that to the players and here I am the head guy not doing it and I’ve regretted that since then. It was the wrong thing to do. I’m sorry I did that but it was not the way to go about it. I should have interviewed like everybody else and got hired cause of the interview and not early on. That’s probably my biggest regret.”"

The Tennessee Titans have since denied that the interview process was fake saying: “Our 2016 head coach search was an open and competitive process during which we conducted in-person interviews with four candidates and followed all NFL rules. The organization was undecided on its next head coach during the process and made its final decision after consideration of all four candidates following the completion of the interviews.”

The other candidates interviewed that year were Taryl Austin, Doug Marrone, Ray Horton, and Mike Mularkey.

Horton was the Defensive Coordinator for the Titans between 2014 and 2016. After interviewing for the head coach position Horton left and was hired as Defensive Coordinator for the Cleveland Browns.

The Titans join the growing list of teams named on the lawsuit that now includes: the Arizona Cardinals, Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants, and the Denver Broncos.

Horton’s accusation against the Titans focuses on the implementation of the Rooney Rule which requires every team to interview a minority candidate for all head coach, general manager, and top assistant positions.

The Rooney Rule is designed to increase diversity in the NFL’s hiring process which has been historically filled by white men despite the fact that around 70% of the league’s players are people of color.

That being the case, there is a vastly disproportionate number of white head coaches in a league where the players are primarily people of color.

The NFL and the teams listed in the lawsuit have all denied any wrongdoing.