Steve Wilks, Ray Horton join Brian Flores lawsuit, with claims against Cardinals, Titans
As expected, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores has added two plaintiffs to his landmark lawsuit against the NFL.
Former Cardinals coach Steve Wilks (pictured) and former NFL assistant coach Ray Horton have joined the action, with claims against the NFL generally and allegations against the Cardinals and Titans, respectively.
Wilks alleges that the Cardinals hired him as a “bridge coach” without giving him a meaningful chance to succeed. Wilks points out that he had to operate without a General Manager “during a critical time of the preseason” (Steve Keim had been suspended following a DUI) and Wilks was “stuck with an unready rookie quarterback drafted by [Keim] contrary to Mr. Wilks’ suggestion.” (Wilks says that he wanted to trade up to draft Josh Allen in 2018, not Josh Rosen.)
Wilks also alleges that he was fired after one year, “even though [he was] dealt a difficult hand.” Wilks points out that Keim “had personal responsibility for the team’s performance” and “had engaged in fireable conduct,” but wasn’t terminated. Wilks notes that the Cardinals had to buy out three years of his contract, while Keim had only one year remaining on his deal. The team chose to pay Wilks to not work, and to extend Keim’s contract.
Wilks further alleges that he was replaced by a white coach, Kliff Kingsbury, who “has been given a much longer leash than Mr. Wilks and, to his credit, has succeeded.” Wilks doesn’t point out that the Cardinals have regressed during each of Kingsbury’s three seasons, capped by a 10-2 start in 2021 followed by a dramatic collapse and a one-and-out playoff appearance.
Among his allegations, Wilks contends that Keim was involved in negotiations on a new contract with running back David Johnson, and that “there is evidence of Mr. Keim’s input and participation during his so-called suspension.”
Wilks also alleges that Keim and owner Michael Bidwill were “pissed” that the Cardinals won a late-season game in 2018 against the Packers, given that it may have compromised the team’s ability to secure the first overall pick in the 2019 draft.
Wilks is currently the defensive passing game coordinator and secondary coach of the Panthers.
Horton claims that, in 2016, he received a “sham interview” with the Titans. The team hired Mike Mularkey instead, and he later said during a podcast interview that the Titans told him he would be the coach, “before they went through the Rooney Rule.”
“And so I sat there knowing I was the head coach in 2016, as they went through this fake hiring process knowing . . . a lot of the coaches that they were interviewing, knowing how much they prepared to go through those interviews, knowing that everything they could do and they had no chance to go that job,” Mularkey said, via the amended complaint. “And actually, the GM Jon Robinson, he was in an interview with me. He had no idea why he is interviewing me, that I have a job already. I regret it. . . . and I regretted it since then. I am sorry I did that, but it was not the way to do that. Should have been interviewed like everybody else and got hired ‘cause of the interview not early on.”
Horton, who most recently worked for Washington in 2019, is not currently employed by any NFL team.
The league surely will have a response to these allegations. Hopefully, it won’t provide a statement that the claims are “without merit” before later saying things that contradict the knee-jerk effort to disclaim liability.