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A League Seventy Percent Black With Only Five Coaches of Color

The NFL continues its lack of diversity after only hiring one black coach out of one of seven open positions

By Branden Pierce, Staff Reporter

Photo Courtesy of Buccaneers.com

The NFL recently finished their coaching carousel for the 2021 offseason where many teams look to take a new direction. There were seven coaching vacancies this time around with the Philadelphia Eagles, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars and Los Angeles Chargers. 

However, even still this time around the NFL didn’t improve on its lack of diversity at the head coaching position. The NFL has been criticized for years for its lack of diversity in the front office even though their league consists of 70% people of color, according to The Washington Post

This inability to diversify their league in the front office has led to the implication of rules such as the Rooney Rule, which was implemented to require teams with a head coaching vacancy to interview one or more diverse candidates. The NFL also approved an additional resolution past November to reward teams with draft picks for developing a minority candidate that is hired by another franchise. 

Nevertheless, the results of the past coaching hires have led many people in the NFL to believe that these interviews for candidates of color were “token interviews”. Simply saying “teams would still hire whomever fit their perceived notion of what a head coach should be and look like”, according to USA Today

The perceived notion that owners have about what a head coach looks like has gone under much scrutiny. Mainly because many have tried to uncover why Black coaches with far better resumes than those of their white counterparts, don’t receive jobs for these head coaching vacancies. 

Temple University Human Resources Management professor Patrick McKay says, “The vast majority of league owners and top executives is White. Leaders across industries tend to hire people from their own social group and racial group”, according to The Washington Post.

McKay continued stating, “you have these nebulous statements like, ‘He provided a better fit.’ Which is code for, ‘he looks like me so I’m more comfortable around him.”

Many have started to notice this especially with the increased hiring of minority general managers (GMs) in the NFL which is a position of much more power than a head coach. However, it’s not a front-facing position, meaning people rarely see their GMs and from most fans’ perspectives they probably don’t even know who the GM is. 

No one is trying to take away from the gains minorities have made in general management in the NFL. However, many are questioning how prominent coaches such as Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs, Todd Bowles of the Buccaneers, ex-Lions coach Jim Caldwell, ex-Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, and even Leslie Frazier of the Bills have not landed head coaching jobs. Even though, they by far have better resumes than most if not all the other coaches hired recently. 

One of the new head coaches hired, Urban Meyer, is a prominent and very successful collegiate head coach of many years. However, Meyer has no coaching experience in the NFL and there is a list of names in the history of NFL college coaches who tried to leap into the NFL and failed, according to NFL.com

Another coach Brandon Stanley, the new coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, inherited the best job available in this head coaching carousel. Taking upon a team that in many eyes has the talent to win now. However, coach Stanley has a very short resume when it comes to football as just five years ago, he was coaching college Division III football, according to NFL reports. 

Again, no one is saying coach Stanley will do a bad job; however, he is easily the riskiest out of all the coaching hires and not only did he land a head coaching job but, the heading coaching job of a pretty talented football team. Something that cannot be said for many Black coaches who receive jobs as head coaches in the NFL. 

It’s no surprise that when Black coaches land a job in the NFL as a head coach it’s unlikely that it’s a good one. Black coaches are put in an environment where they are most likely unable to succeed. A prime example of this is David Culley, the only Black coach hired this offseason for the Houston Texans. Culley, unlike his other hired head coaching counterparts, is inheriting undoubtedly the worst coaching job available. 

The Houston Texans are not only coming off of a miserable season in which the team finished 4-12. However, the team is also in great flux and uncertainty with Quarterback Deshaun Watson, arguably the best player on the Texans squad, who recently requested a trade. To make matters worse, the team doesn’t own its high first-round draft pick which could’ve been used to acquire a replacement for Watson. 

Though many people want David Culley to be successful he is facing incredible odds for his first coaching job. This is where the frustration from many Black coaches in the NFL and other minorities in the NFLPA comes from, as we watch a white coach who was coaching Division III five years ago get the best job available and the only Black coach hired, receives the worst coaching job available. 

Brooklyn Law School professor, Jodi Balsam, who worked for the NFL as an in-house lawyer from 1994-2006 told The Washington Post, “Diversity hires alone are not the solution if you have a team that does not provide the environment for the diverse hires to succeed.”

Nonetheless, the NFL did not make the strides that many had hoped it would, especially with the current state of the country and the league. However, many still believe that people of color gaining more positions of power can be achieved by breaking the stereotypical thinking of owners. 

The question is how due to the league’s “copycat league” approach. What this entails is that the owners need a mindset change and that by seeing current people of color lead teams to be successful, other teams will eventually follow suit, according to USA Today

This is primarily the reason most people were ecstatic about the NFL’s latest Super Bowl LV. It  consisted of four out of six Black coordinators for both teams — three being part of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. 

Two aforementioned coaches in Eric Bieniemy and Todd Bowles took part in this meaningful Super Bowl, adding to their already lengthy resumes. 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the winners of this year’s Super Bowl becoming the first team ever to win a Superbowl with all three Black coordinators. 

Nevertheless, the question still lies: Will this motivate NFL owners to drop their stereotypical thinking and hire more minorities as head coaches in the NFL? 

Though we have to wait to see, it’s undeniable that Black coaches are continuously building their resumes, making it increasingly harder for NFL owners to continue to overlook them.