NFL to host accelerator program at upcoming league meetings, aimed at increasing

For the third consecutive year, the NFL will host a few dozen coaches for its accelerator program that will run concurrently to the league meetings in Nashville next week.

Twenty-seven coaches from diverse backgrounds with a variety of NFL and college experience will take part in the program, which is aimed at increasing the diversity in the highest ranks of the NFL coaching profession.

The program will see the coaches interact with NFL team owners and decision-makers over the span of a few days while also engaging in programming geared toward their experience levels.

One of the biggest, and perhaps most surprising, names on the list of Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores.

The former Dolphins head coach from 2019 through 2021, Flores filed a class-action lawsuit in 2022 against the league and teams alleging racial discrimination. That lawsuit appears destined for league arbitration, according to a source.

Flores, who went 24-25 with the Dolphins over three years, did not get a head-coaching interview this past cycle. In April, he told reporters “there’s no way to know” whether his lawsuit impacted his chances. But he has said he hopes to be a head coach in the NFL again some day.

“I do the best I can where I’m at and wherever the chips fall, they fall,”¬†Flores said in April. “That’s what I tell the players. If you prepare the right way and you do everything you can possibly do to have success, you’re going to have peace with that. You don’t always win. That’s the crazy thing about football.”

Jonathan Beane, the NFL’s Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, tells CBS Sports a panel of two head coaches, two general managers and four league executives helped choose the candidates this year. Nearly 80 coaches were nominated by teams, and that group invited nearly 40 coaches.

“He [Flores] was selected by his club because he’s a great coach and he’s done a great job,” Beane says. “He’s been a head coach before and this is the kind of opportunity where he’s able to engage with the clubs and ensure that he is in their mind if a decision needs to get made. Everyone on this list deserves to be on this list, especially Coach Flores.”

The league has adjusted its program curriculum over the years. In 2022, the league had both coach and GM candidates at its program in the spring. Since then, the NFL has split the programs: putting the GM candidates at the December meetings when less is on their plate (and just before the hiring cycle), and the coaches in the spring.

But with so much movement in the NFL coaching cycle this offseason, many coaches who were invited to participate are unable to go to Nashville due to their team’s organized team activities schedules.

One new element the league is introducing to the program this year is a networking event solely for the participants. In the past and again next week, the coaches will have an informal networking session one night with team owners and decision-makers, which will be followed by a formal “speed dating” networking session during the league meetings.

This year, the NFL plans to take the participants to Top Golf where the coaches can network with their peers.

“We want those relationships to deepen. There are mentors that could be mentoring. There are mentees that can be mentored,” Beane says. “There are relationships where they could be competing against each other now, but they could be on a team together at some point. And because of that relationship they’ll be able to lean on each other and trust each other a little more.”

Last year’s program had 40 participantsbut it didn’t turn out any head coaches the following cycle. Two participants became coordinators this past year out of the group: Patriots defensive coordinator DeMarcus Covington and Seahawks defensive coordinator Aden Durde.

But the league did see improvements in head-coach hires when it comes to diversity. Raheem Morris, Dave Canales and Jerod Mayo got top jobs in a cycle that had seven head-coach openings. And the league is hoping for more breakthroughs with this program.

“We are happy with the results of the last cycle as it pertains to the hiring of diverse talent, and, in particular, Black head coaches, but those coaches did not participate in an accelerator,” Beane says. “But all you have to do is look at the list of individuals who have participated in the past and those participating now and certainly have gotten the interviews and certainly are considered top contenders. We’ve got to get that big break.”

Full list of accelerator participants:

Israel Woolfork (Cardinals), Marquice Williams (Falcons), Al Holcomb (Bills), Eric Washington (Bears), Brandon Lynch (Browns), Lunda Wells (Cowboys), Michael Wilhoite (Broncos), Scottie Montgomery (Lions), Jerrod Johnson (Texans), DeAndre Smith (Colts), Dave Merritt (Chiefs), Rod Wilson (Chiefs), Mike Caldwell (Raiders), Marcus Brady (Chargers), Nate Scheelhaase (Rams), Brian Flores (Vikings), T.C. McCartney (Patriots), Mike Kafka (Giants), Ron Middleton (Jets), Shawn Jefferson (Jets), Michael Clay (Eagles), Charles London (Seahawks), Karl Scott (Seahawks), Thad Lewis (Buccaneers), Dennard Wilson (Titans), Pep Hamilton and David Shaw.

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