The Texans on Monday announced the hiring of former Bears and Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith, making the former defensive coordinator the fifth minority coach to hold a top NFL job amid the league's public struggle to diversify staffing. But one of Smith's competitors for the job, former Dolphins coach Brian Flores, doesn't believe Houston made its decision based on merit. Flores' attorneys suggested in a statement later Monday that the only reason the Texans hired Smith over Flores is because the latter has a pending lawsuit against the NFL alleging racial discrimination in hiring practices.

"Mr. Flores is happy to hear that the Texans have hired a Black head coach, Lovie Smith, as Mr. Flores' goal in bringing his case is to provide real opportunities for Black and minority candidates to be considered for coaching and executive positions within the NFL," attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and John Elefterakis wrote. "However, we would be remiss not to mention that Mr. Flores was one of three finalists for the Texans' head coach position and, after a great interview and mutual interest, it is obvious that the only reason Mr. Flores was not selected was his decision to stand up against racial inequality across the NFL."

Texans general manager Nick Caserio said Tuesday that the lawsuit had nothing to do with the Texans' decision to promote Smith, who spent the past season as Houston's associate head coach and defensive coordinator.

"Didn't affect us at all," Caserio said during a press conference announcing Smith's hire. "Speaking specific to Brian, I've known Brian a long time. Personally and professionally, I have a lot of respect for Brian as a coach and a person. He was a part of this process. He's been a good coach in this league for a number of years. Part of my responsibility was to spend time with as many quality candidates as possible, and Brian was one of those.

"As it pertains to the individual lawsuit, I would say from the beginning of when we started our process, call it January 14 to now, there was multiple conversations throughout the course of, say, the last few weeks with a number of different candidates. That was pretty fluid. This process, in and of itself, was very fluid. This process is pretty fluid, right? You have to take information in. I would say (whatever) conversations with Brian after that took place, so they didn't really affect the process at all. A lot of it was me taking information, processing a lot of information, talking to various, different people in different parties, different candidates, and ultimately arriving at an end point that I thought made the most sense for our organization. And that's what we did."

NFL Media reported earlier Monday that Flores had remained a final candidate for the Texans' vacancy despite his lawsuit, though Smith only emerged as a known candidate late in the search process. Flores also interviewed for the Saints' opening recently, but New Orleans also turned to an internal successor on Monday, reportedly informing defensive coordinator Dennis Allen he would take over for Sean Payton.

The Texans were not directly named as a primary defendant in Flores' class-action lawsuit against the Broncos, Dolphins, Giants and NFL, which accused teams and the league of unfairly conducting "sham" interviews for minority coaching candidates. But all 32 teams were listed as potential defendants in the case, meaning Houston would've still been a potential legal target of Flores even if the team had hired him as its next head coach.