During his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference in 2006, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was asked about the progress of the Rooney Rule, which was created in 2003 to mandate interviews to minority candidates for all head coaching vacancies.

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Of the eight openings after the 2005 season, only one minority interviewee had switched jobs — New York Jets coach Herm Edwards taking the Kansas City Chiefs vacancy.

“I think the Rooney Rule is working,” Tagliabue said. “But we need to continue to be aggressive on this issue of minority hiring, not just for head coaches, but … in many, many different ways. We need to be measured by what we do and what we achieve rather than what we say.”

Sixteen years later, the reckoning has arrived.

The NFL finally will be measured by what it does instead of what it says, thanks to the class-action suit former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores filed Tuesday claiming racial discrimination by the league and three of its teams — the Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos.

Flores alleged in the suit he not only was denied the Giants head coaching position but “was humiliated in the process as the New York Giants subjected him to a sham interview in an attempt to appear to provide a Black candidate with a legitimate chance at obtaining the job.”

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The smoking gun is a series of texts from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick to Flores prematurely congratulating Flores for getting the Giants job. Belichick, seemingly flustered by modern technology, apparently accidentally texted Flores instead of the actual hire, Buffalo Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, before Flores had interviewed for the job.

It’s the stuff of a made-for-Netflix original but with real people in high-profile positions now under the microscope.

The Rooney Rule might have been created with good intentions, but there is little evidence it has worked. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin is the NFL’s only Black head coach, while the first four coaching hires of 2022 were white men. According to the suit, only 15 head coaching positions out of 129 vacancies since the Rooney Rule was implemented have been filled by Black candidates — or 11% in a league in which 70% of players are Black. The numbers don’t lie, yet the charade goes on.

“The Rooney Rule is also not working because management is not doing the interviews in good faith, and it therefore creates a stigma that interviews of Black candidates are only being done to comply with the Rooney Rule rather than in recognition of the talents that the Black candidates possess,” the lawsuit states.

Flores, fired by the Dolphins after a 9-8 season, still interviewed with the Giants despite word from Belichick the job was going to Daboll.

So why bother?

“I think there’s still hope. Maybe call it the audacity of hope,” Flores told CBS Mornings on Wednesday. “I have a belief that there’s good in people. I just do.”

Nevertheless, Flores’s attorney, Douglas H. Widor, told CBS they already had decided to file the class-action suit before Flores’ interview with the Giants.

Flores also is a candidate for the New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans openings but said he has told the teams he will not drop the lawsuit, which almost assurdly means he has no chance of being hired.

While documenting a number of qualified Black coaching candidates who weren’t hired after interviews and others who were hired but allegedly put on “a short leash,” the suit also pillages the NFL for its hands-off treatment of former Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden, who is referred to as “embodiment of the NFL’s acquiescence to racism” for the racist and homophobic emails Gruden sent that eventually led to his departure during the 2021 season. Instead of the Raiders issuing “an unequivocal rebuke and a for-cause termination” after the emails surfaced, the suit claims they “allowed him to graciously resign and claim that it was due to his desire not to be a distraction.”

The suit doesn’t mention specific numbers but alleges that “upon information and belief, in general Black coaches at all levels are paid less than similarly qualified white coaches.” It was well-documented in 2006 that Lovie Smith was the lowest-paid head coach in the NFL in the year he took the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl.

Flores likely ended any possibility of ever coaching in the NFL again by filing the suit, and some of his claims might be difficult to prove, including the allegation Denver Broncos then-GM John Elway and other team executives appeared “completely disheveled” during his job interview in 2019. The suit alleges it “was obvious that they had drinking heavily the night before.” But it’s going to be their word — and the Broncos have denied the allegation — against Flores’.

Perhaps the biggest bombshell — the allegation that Dolphins owners Stephen Ross asked him to tank games at the cost of $100,000 per loss — opens another can of worms for the league. The NBA fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 in 2018 for saying they planned on tanking. If it’s proven Ross offered Flores money to lose games, could it lead to a suspension or even Ross’ ouster?

This is just the beginning, and it all starts to play out in the build-up to the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event and creator of water-cooler talk in the country. Coming on the heels of two of the greatest playoff weekends ever, it was supposed to be a chance for the NFL to take a bow for its undisputed status as the national pastime. Now the Flores lawsuit will dominate the conversation.

And we probably can expect more examples of alleged “sham” interviews for NFL jobs by Black coaching candidates. Former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said on ESPN’s “First Take” on Wednesday that he was scheduled to interview with the Carolina Panthers in 2002 when the network reported John Fox would get the vacancy. The Panthers told Lewis the report wasn’t accurate, and Lewis went through with the interview. Fox then was hired.

Lewis said he knows you must “prove that you’re worthy to become the head coach” and didn’t level any charges.

“You’re appreciative of the opportunity, but what was supposedly going to happen (Fox’s hiring) ended up happening in that case,” he said.

Hopefully the class-action lawsuit will go to trial instead of ending up in a settlement, like the grievances against the league filed by former players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, who claimed the NFL denied them jobs for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of systemic oppression.

A trial could provide a fascinating look at the NFL’s hiring practices since the Rooney Rule was implemented in 2003, when there were three Black head coaches. It seemingly would force league executives to explain under oath why so few Black candidates have been hired in the last 19 years despite the rule, which has expanded to include interviews for assistant coaches and general managers.

The NFL rightfully has been proud of the existence of the Rooney Rule. Now it’s time to find out whether it was just for show.