Black men in NFL leadership positions are expected to win at a faster rate than their white counterparts while generally being afforded much less time on the job.
In the 54th year of the NFL/AFL merger (1966) there is still a shortage of African-Americans in these positions. From (2006-2010) we saw a stretch where black coaches (Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, Jim Caldwell and Mike Tomlin twice) led five teams to Super Bowl appearances, winning 2 rings with the aforementioned Dungy being the first African-American head coach to win a Super Bowl.
Minority GM’s Get No Respect
Minority GMs (Jerry Reese and Rod Graves in 2007 and 2008) and (Jerry Reese and Ozzie Newsome 2011 and 2012) were also featured in four Super Bowls between 2006-12.
From 2012-15 a black QB started in the Super Bowl (Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson twice and Cam Newton). And there have been 3 Black QBs who’ve been NFL MVP (Cam Newton, Patrick Mahomes and LaMar Jackson). With the way he’s begun this season it’s highly plausible Russell Wilson could become the fourth.
That’s some of the good I’ve given you, but too often, Blacks in these three positions — which are considered the most vital to any franchise — aren’t given ample time to make a mark.
Black NFL head coaches get shown the door much more quickly than their white counterparts: https://t.co/ARgKGoQP58
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) January 5, 2018
Black Quarterbacks Have To Be Superstars For Roster Spot
I remember when it was time to discuss the 2018 NFL Draft and former Bills and Colts GM Bill Polian egregiously said that LaMar Jackson couldn’t play quarterback and would have to switch positions because he was too short.
Bill Polian on Lamar Jackson: "I think he’s a wide receiver and a dynamic wide receiver."
Us once again: pic.twitter.com/m4D6f8yqeW
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) January 19, 2018
We all knew it was hogwash and borderline slander because Jackson is taller and better than most prospects, especially the guy that went No. 1 overall in Baker Mayfield. We now see that there was no competition at all between the two quarterbacks. Meanwhile, Jackson was the last quarterback chosen in the first round.
That wasn’t the first time Polian lost his marbles. In 2017, he said he believed Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson would have trouble translating well to the NFL game. No wonder I haven’t seen him much on the different football programs he used to frequent.
More often than not the black QB isn’t given the same time to develop as his white counterparts at the position. Look at the debacle in DC with Dwayne Haskins who’s caught in a web of complete “Nepotism” and lack of belief that he could play after just 4 games with this staff.
That’s been the case with many other Black quarterbacks. Once upon a time, they were criticized for not being polished pocket passers and often forced to abandon their natural playmaking talents trying to fit into a system that didn’t appreciate their special skill sets.
With the influx of dual-threat quarterbacks leading spread systems, now it’s the opposite. A lot of young Black quarterbacks are taught to systematically abandon any solid mechanics they’ve already learned and become dual-threat guys, which stunts their growth and development as future pros even more.
A good coach will adjust his development and scheme to fit his personnel. Most times Black signal-callers aren’t afforded this crucial part of their development.
Black Coaches Get The Quick Hook
Before you try to debunk my notion as it pertains to head coaches let me say Marvin Lewis aside, most aren’t given enough time to build and develop.
Let’s look at 2018 when Vance Joseph (Broncos), Steve Wilks (Cardinals) and Todd Bowles (Jets) were all relieved of their duties. All were not given ample time to fix the mess from the previous regime. And the guys who took over for them haven’t faired much better, with much improved weapons — most significantly at quarterback.
Let’s look at Wilks, who was fired after one season in the desert and replaced with a college coach Kliff Kingsbury who was very unimpressive in his days at Texas Tech with a losing record.
Kingsbury’s claim to fame was that he coached the great Patrick Mahomes. Kingsbury gets the Cardinals job, they add Kyler Murray, DeAndre Hopkins and Isiah Simmons in back-to-back off-seasons and finally have winning talent.
Joseph was screwed pretty well in the Mile High city as well. He took the fall for the incompetence of John Elway, who consistently flunked in finding a successor to Peyton Manning. Elway’s failures became Joseph’s ticket out of Denver as a fall guy.
Elway even admitted he didn’t give Vance enough talent to work with. From journeyman QBs to bad drafting. Enter Vic Fangio a guy with a ton of experience but none as a head coach, to fill the seat left by Joseph.
Former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who was also cut loose during the Black Coaching Purge of 2018, he was always in a no-win scenario with the hapless Jets whom he made a formidable team on the defensive side of the football, but was never given the weaponry from management to fully succeed on the offensive side of the ball.
Out goes Bowles and in comes Adam Gase, the guy who flunked miserably in Miami. All he’s done so far is destroy the confidence of his supposed franchise quarterback, alienate his team and release star back LeVeon Bell.
He hinted that he might give up playcalling duties but quickly changed that tune. Maybe he should give up coaching altogether.
The Curious Case of Jim Caldwell
What about the Lions firing Jim Caldwell after going 9-7 and hiring the very overrated Matt Patricia simply because he’s a fruit plucked from Bill Belichick’s coaching tree. This means nothing at all as Bill’s former assistants have floundered as head coaches.
Of 17 Black Head Coaches who have coached at least 1 season, four (23.4%) have been fired from winning teams. Of 174 white coaches hired since 1978, only 6.9% (12) were fired from a winning team.
That puts the Caldwell firing in context. Caldwell went (36-28) with two playoff appearances in 4 seasons in the “MotorCity”. Patricia (10-25-1) and Gase (7-14) are true signs of “White Privilege”.
If it isn’t just privilege it’s that combined with “Nepotism,” which is how Jay Gruden kept a job so long in Washington despite his complete incompetence at administrating and “leading men.”
Fifteen years to the day that the Indians signed Robinson, the Raiders tapped Art Shell to lead their franchise, making him the first black head coach in modern pro football. While some in the press compared Shell to Jackie Robinson, the black football coach had to downplay race.
“It is a historic event; I understand the significance of it, Shell said. I’m proud of it, but I’m also a Raider. He added I don’t believe the color of my skin entered into this decision. I was chosen because [Davis] felt I was the right person at the right time. ”
This was football.
Shell’s new status, however, revealed what would be an all too often reality for black football coaches. Shell inherited a mess. The Raiders were 1-3 when they fired Mike Shanahan. In short, the black coach became the clean-up man, all but assuring that that same man that was the last hired, would eventually be the first fired.
It took Jim Caldwell sixteen years in coaching before he earned his first head coaching job.
When Caldwell, a Joe Paterno disciple, took the head job at Wake Forest in 1993, only two other black men coached Division 1 football, Temples Ron Dickerson, and Eastern Michigans Ron Cooper. The latter two were clean-up men. Temple was 3-19 the two years prior to Dickerson’s arrival and EMU was 6-26-1 over the prior three years. That’s the scraps black coaches get. While Caldwell walked into a better situation, Wake Forest was 8-4 in 1992, the team returned only 10 starters. After being fired, Dickerson and Cooper never received another full-time head coaching job in Division 1 football.
They were one and done.
8 Is Enough
The NFL had a record number eight minority coaches at the start of 2017, which tied the record set in 2011, when it appeared as if minority head coaches would reach double digits in the next couple of years, bringing an end to any anachronistic ideas about the leadership and intellect of a minority head coach.
Today there are only three Black coaches: Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Brian Flores (Dolphins) and Anthony Lynn (Chargers) and just two Black General Managers (Cleveland’s Andrew B as the league has never had a Black majority owner. Grier and Flores gives Miami the only black GM/HC combo in the entire league.
The Washington Football Team made history by becoming the first franchise to hire a Black Team President in Jason Wright. The fact that he won’t have any real influence on football personnel operations takes the luster off of that hire a bit. The league has never had a Black majority owner.
All in all, the QB position currently is being played by some real African-American dynamos in Mahomes, Jackson, Wilson, Murray, Watson, Teddy Bridgewater and Dak Prescott. There’s never been so much talent (being allowed) to play the position. Hope to see this trend continue.
Rooney Rule Needs Some Juice
As for the GM/HC positions let’s stop acting like the “RooneyRule” is gospel because it isn’t in any way, shape or form. There’ still huge problems and systemic racism in hiring practices face by minority candidates for leadership gigs in the NFL.
Teams still hire who they want in the end and most of these teams are historically structured to hire based on familiarity and cultural comfortability. Let’s hope the coaching and executive carousel brings qualified Blacks to the forefront and they’re given the opportunities their counterparts are afforded daily.
Don’t let some Black faces behind center on Sundays fool you. We still have a long way to go with changing the entire corporate culture in the NFL.