Minority coaches not getting opportunities to run offenses

AP

A decade ago, Cyrus Mehri and the late Johnnie Cochran demonstrated that the NFL was doing a poor job of giving African-American coaches fair opportunities to progress to the highest levels of the sport.  Mehri and Cochran made such a compelling case that the NFL installed the “Rooney Rule,” which requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for every head-coaching vacancy.

Today, only a minority of head coaching jobs are filled by members of minority groups, with five African-American head coaches (Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin, Romeo Crennel, Lovie Smith, Leslie Frazier) and one Hispanic head coach (Ron Rivera).  That’s six, out of 32.

As Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports explains, only one of 32 teams has an offensive play-caller who also is African-American.  And as of a few weeks ago, the number was zero; Jim Caldwell inherited those duties in Baltimore once Cam Cameron was fired.

“We are very, very conscious of this issue, and it’s something that needs to be addressed,” John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, told Silver. “We have alluded to it and spoken to it directly, and we feel our only course of action is to push more people up the pipeline.”

And that seems to be the biggest problem.  African-American coaches aren’t being positioned to naturally mature into the role of play-caller on offense.”Really, the reason why there aren’t a lot of guys calling plays is that you have to have people ascending to quarterbacks coach and jobs that lead to coordinator positions.  And that’s simply not happening,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told Silver.  “There are a lot of good coaches who aren’t getting those opportunities.”

As Silver points out, only two NFL quarterbacks coaches are African-American:  Karl Dorrell of the Texans and Craig Johnson of the Vikings.  Curtis Modkins serves as offensive coordinator in Buffalo, but head coach Chan Gailey calls the plays.

“This is the biggest travesty that’s taking place in this league, and every black coach is well aware of it,” an anonymous African-American assistant for an AFC team told Silver.  “They don’t promote you from running backs coach or receivers coach to offensive coordinator.  When guys do get coordinator titles, they have to be position coaches at the same time, and they don’t get paid as much as other coordinators, because they’re not the play-callers.  And in a lot of cases, guys believe they’re really there for locker-room reasons, to ‘take care of’ the minority players.”

Eventually, the absence of a pipeline of African-American offensive minds will make it hard to find viable African-American head coaches, since all current minority head coaches have defensive backgrounds.

“The whole thing we have to do in terms of building this pipeline is make teams more conscious of the fact that [position coaches] want to get involved,” Wooten said. “I tell these running backs, receivers and quarterbacks coaches, ‘Go to the head coach and general manager and tell them you want this as an opportunity to learn.’  You learn by being in game plan meetings, when plays are being installed.  You listen and learn.”

Real change may come only if the Rooney Rule, which since its adoption has been extended to G.M. positions, is also applied to coordinator jobs.  However, Wooten isn’t recommending that.

“I just feel that the head coach has to have the right to select his people,” Wooten said.  “If they can’t see who’s the best out there for them, they’re gonna perish anyway.”

Wooten is right, but the Rooney Rule doesn’t require minority candidates to be hired.  It only requires them to be considered, an important reality given that head coaches immediately tap into their network of friends, cronies, and (sometimes) family members when filling out their staffs.  If nothing else, requiring coaches to interview at least one minority coordinator candidate will help position coaches become better prepared to interview for coordinator positions — and eventually to get them.

In the end, it’s a simple analysis.  If the NFL believes the Rooney Rule remains viable ten years later when the number of minority head coaches has expanded to six, the NFL should take a hard look at whether the Rooney Rule should be applied one level lower, given that the number of minority play-callers is one and, as of the first of the current month, it was zero.

83 responses to “Minority coaches not getting opportunities to run offenses

  1. how come there are so few white WRs, start a rule for that or RBs. This is a crock, minorities are not calling plays and head coaching because they are not qualified plain and simple. No one is being over looked due to color maybe 20 years ago but not today.

  2. Lovie Smith has the opportunity EVERY Sunday, but opts to let the Ron Turners, Mike Martzs and Mike Tices of the world control his destiny.

    One playoff appearance in the last six years will get you fired with most owners Lovie Smith.

  3. I would get rid of the Rooney Rule. Too many organizations are making a joke out of it, which is leaving minority coaches out of head coaching positions.

  4. Best guy for the job regardless of race. I love Tomlin and the Rooney Rule is good for football. But teams will hire the best candidate plain and simple.

  5. “Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin, Romeo Crennel, Lovie Smith, Leslie Frazier”

    How many of those need to be fired due to performance? Half? It’s not about race, it’s about winning.

  6. However, Wooten isn’t recommending that.

    “I just feel that the head coach has to have the right to select his people,” Wooten said. “If they can’t see who’s the best out there for them, they’re gonna perish anyway.”

    _________________________

    Just like the owners have the right to choose the head coach they want. An owner should not have to interview a minority candidate before hiring a coach he already has in mind. Stupid rule

  7. The problem is not hiring a African-American coach, the problem is getting rid of them if they are incompetent.

    Look what Notre Dame went through getting rid of Tyrone Willingham.

    Yes, you, Michael Wilbon.

  8. It’s partially just demographics too. Our country is 72% white, 12% african american, and 16% hispanic. The % of coaches by race in the league closely match the demographics (except for hispanic). Of course there are going to be more white coaches, because there’s 50% more white people in the US . . . just seems like common sense. The larger the population, the larger % of a workforce they will make up.

  9. “Minority coaches not getting opportunities to run offenses”

    —————————————-

    kind of a spurious headline. There’s nothing in this article that shows minorities are being denied opportunities just that there aren’t any.

    Too many people nowadays want to jump to a conclusion without doing the hard work of proof.

  10. We need a Rooney Rule for cornerbacks. The lack of opportunity for white cornerbacks over the last 25 years has been disgraceful.

    Yep, there’s some serious ‘scriminashun going on here. Someone call the ACLU.

  11. Since we’re speaking equality, former caucasian players/coaches aren’t getting opportunities in player development positions as there is only ONE out of the 32 teams. Just sayin.

  12. not good enough that 71% of players are black, they want the coaching positions too. not going to be happy until the whole league is black. where is the rule for white/ Hispanic and Asian players for rb or receivers. Im sure people are getting mad that of the top 10 receivers in the nfl prob half of them are white.

  13. Seems to me oline coaches would be the better choice for a coordinator as they have to understand how running backs, tight ends and receivers need to fit into the offense than just the one position coach. Reid was oline and has done well as head coach – Castile was oline in Philly and I think Warhop at cleveland is only minority line coach in league. Cleveland’s line is solid and getting better. Great job there coach. I like how you coach them up – they play hard and knock guys off the ball – go brownies!!

  14. “And that’s simply not happening,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told Silver. “There are a lot of good coaches who aren’t getting those opportunities.”

    Isn’t it a pity that there are no good reporters left in the world? A good reporter would have followed up with: OK, coach Lewis. You fired Leslier Frazier (African American) as your D-coordinator two years into the job, to be replaced by Chuck Bresnahan (white guy) and subsequently Mike Zimmer (also white guy). When Bob Bratkowski (white guy) was fired as offensive coordinator at the end of 2010, you replaced him with Jay Gruden (white guy). So…

    …how come YOU are not availing yourself of all these good minority coaches out there who need an opportunity?

  15. Can we just make every player, coach, member of an organization, and owner all african-american? Or would people start complaining about the fans race too?

  16. lecken82 says:
    Dec 28, 2012 10:55 AM
    It’s partially just demographics too. Our country is 72% white, 12% african american, and 16% hispanic. The % of coaches by race in the league closely match the demographics (except for hispanic). Of course there are going to be more white coaches, because there’s 50% more white people in the US . . . just seems like common sense. The larger the population, the larger % of a workforce they will make up.
    ________________________________

    That is absurd! You’re supposed to look at the demographics in the NFL. If you do you would find those statistics way different. The NFL is mostly black and latino. What does the statistics of he US have to do with that?

  17. How about the best person for the job, regardless of race. What color are Marvin Lewis, Leslie Frazier, Lovie Smith, and Mike Tomlin’s offensive coordinators?

  18. “The whole thing we have to do in terms of building this pipeline is make teams more conscious of the fact that [position coaches] want to get involved,” Wooten said. “I tell these running backs, receivers and quarterbacks coaches, ‘Go to the head coach and general manager and tell them you want this as an opportunity to learn.’ You learn by being in game plan meetings, when plays are being installed. You listen and learn.”
    _________________________________

    I take it no one read this part right? This is the smartest remark I have read all day. He’s not telling the NFL to make a change in the rules. He’s holding the position coaches responsible to let their owners know they are interested in being coordinators.

    So before you go into the standard comment lines about:

    Affirmative Action
    Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson
    White CB’s WR’s and RB’s
    the Rooney Rule being unfair

    Listen to what the man has to say first…please.

  19. packerfanslivevicariouslythroughtheirfootballteam says:
    Dec 28, 2012 11:37 AM
    What team would pass on an amazing mind and student of the game (and with that a shot at a title AND cashing in) because of skin color? I can’t think of any team that dumb.
    ____________________________

    At least not dumb enough to be honest about it and tell you that’s why they didn’t hire a person. No one is going to admit it.

  20. For those who want to get rid of the Rooney Rule, do you have a better idea? You can’t just get rid of rule that was put in place for a reason. You have to fix the reason it was put there in the first place. Getting rid of the Rule would just bring back the problems that were presented when the rule was created. There are 6 minority Head Coaches, who probably benefited from the rule at some point in their careers. Do you really believe that number will increase, now that a owner doesn’t even have to look at a minority coach to hire them? No. We’ll just go back to the problems we had before. There will be owners who will have no problem hiring a minority coach. But, there won’t be enough. That will even consider it.

  21. For everyone attacking marvin lewis and other african american head coaches,

    1. you don’t actually understand the problem

    2.Lewis works for the cheapest owner in the leauge I’m sure he woukd love to have hired hue jackson but his owner shot it down.

  22. Blackandbluesivision:
    Are you serious! So if the majority of investment bankers are white so should the management? It’s crazy to say that since most the nfl is AA so should the coaching staff.

  23. The guy in this article isn’t asking owners to hire more minority position coaches to OC positions. He’s asking the position coaches to take a more productive role in moving themselves UP to OC positions. He’s asking for Personal Responsibility.

  24. Whites being overrepresented in coaching is immediately considered bad, a crime, a travesty and an injustice.

    Blacks being overrepresented in on field positions is (*crickets*, *tumbleweeds blow by*) not a problem at all and does not need to be remedied.

    If the demographics of the NFL for all coordinators has to match the USA’s demographics shouldn’t the players “look like America” as well?

  25. I think minorities should stop crying about what is owed to them. Earn it instead of crying about not having it. People like this are a waste of space.

    Any owner is going to pick the person who gives them the best chance to win. Now stop crying and go ask for handouts somewhere else

  26. I still don’t understand why people look past Ron Rivera as being a minority Head Coach hire – as he was. He was part of the Rooney Rule candidates over the years.

  27. The problem w/ all these arguments is that, in sports, a black man is almost always the best man for the job. White establishment is trying to maintain their hold over coaching in the NFL despite the fact that a decreasing number of white men are even qualified to play the game. I don’t mean to say Belichek isn’t qualified but I am saying that the Warren Moon of Offensive Coordinating is out there and being denied the opportunity to coach QBs and subsequently become the next great OC. To argue about racism it helps to understand it.

  28. Race should never be an option. I’m Caucasian and if it was all black OCs I don’t think they should say we need to hire more whites. Bottom line is that nfl teams want to win owners , players, and coaches know they get the most revenue when winbing. I wish real careers had this mentality instead of bringing race as an issue and if anything whites are being discriminated against because race is an issue instead of the best man for the job race is an factor

  29. You are all just white guys tired of hearing about an infrastructure designed to keep you on top. It’s not a problem for you because you benefit from it every day. You need to look a little closer and ask yourself if you really believe that Josh McDaniels is the best man for any job. There are a lot of great Black and Hispanic American Football players who deserve an opportunity to teach their craft and they are passed over by white men based on Nepotism. Take a dose of reality.

  30. When Rob Parker made his idiotic comments, there was a justified outcry in this group. I think he should have been fired. He made bigoted comments that have no basis. There is no room for that on television.

    But when Mike Silver wrote an intelligent article on how blacks don’t get equal opportunities to coach, the bloggers here immediately get their collective panties in a bunch.

    That says something about you when you can hurl rocks at a Rob Parker (and he deserved them), but have no problems with the lack of minority coaches in the NFL (and college).

    Be consistent!

  31. anthonyspinali says: “….There are a lot of great Black and Hispanic American Football players who deserve an opportunity to teach their craft and they are passed over by white men based on Nepotism. Take a dose of reality.”

    Can you give us a list of the people you consider to be the top Black and Hispanic prospects.

  32. I totally agree that its time to start imposing affirmative action on sports. After all, if 10% of the population is black and 10% of the NFL coaches are black but 90% of NFL players are black, its not hard to see where the problem is.

    Why aren’t Al Sharpton, Jessie Jackson and the ACLU all over this?

  33. The whole idea is that these minority coaches aren’t being given opportunities for us to even know who they might be. Read the article again. If they were being given opportunities then we would know their names. I’m not trying to be cynical, I genuinely believe that the comments below this article are actually proof that there is a problem. How can we even know who the best man for the job is when only white guys get to be position coaches?

  34. White players are passed over for lack of talent. Black coaches are passed over for lack of whiteness. Get real do you think this isn’t a problem is because you think there’s no way a minority is qualified? That’s the definition of racism…

  35. 6/32 that is double the % of the population. What would make them happy 100%. what about Greg Jennings last year saying that he thinks Jordy Nelson does not get the credit he deserves because he is white.

    Also I find an interesting use of terms here “play calling” I know that Buffalo Offensive co-coordinator is black but he does not call the play. I guess it makes for a better number if they say play calling compared to Offensive Coordinators. Might be harder to make the point.

    How about this number. How many Offensive line men are white? I bet of the good teams over 50% of them are. They need to stop that. We can’t have 80% of the population having 50% of a job.

  36. I’m still waiting for the first Native American to coach a team.
    Open your eyes there is not just two races in this world. Quit trying to segregate with these kind of topics mike
    Smh.

  37. H’mm I see my comment about nepotism and the good old boy network wasn’t posted. lol Hue Jackson and Denny Green are better than 70% of the current O coordinators

  38. Gosh! They’ve already have the best golfer , the best basketball players, football players, track and field athletes, and hockey is ruled by Canadians and soviets, baseball by Latinos/ Dominicans…can we PLEASE hold onto something!!

  39. The more you guys post about the Rooney Rule, the more ignorant people act. Guys NOTHING in the rule says the teams HAVE to hire a minority candidate, just that they need to interview at least one. The intent was to add to the network some quality assistants to the pool instead of recycling the good-old-boys. Everybody lost their minds when Pittsburgh chose Mike Tomlin over Ken Weisenhunt, that choice seemed to pay off pretty well. So STOP trying to make the rule something it is no…a hiring quota.

  40. KIR – Denny Green might be a better OC than most of the other OCs, however the problem is that he doesn’t want to be an OC, he wants to be a HC.

    And he isn’t a very good HC.

  41. Why do people always use this as an excuse? Affirmative action was the worst idea ever because it gives people this excuse that because they are black they are always Being treated unfair

  42. BTW, seabronco posted these African Americans should earn the position bla bla bla. Can you please tell me how they do this when they are mostly frozen out of the interview process by people skirting the Rooney Rule?

  43. anthonyspinali says: “White players are passed over for lack of talent. Black coaches are passed over for lack of whiteness. Get real do you think this isn’t a problem is because you think there’s no way a minority is qualified? That’s the definition of racism…”

    But, how do you explain the fact that black head coaches are also passing over minorities when filling positions? Marvin Lewis hired Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden as DC and OC when those positions opened up, Mike Tomlin hired Todd Haley, Love Smith hired Mike Tice and before him Mike Martz. Presumably, Lewis, Tomlin and Smith do not have issues with people who have a “lack of whiteness”, so why aren’t they hiring minorities if there’s tons of talent out there?

  44. All employment should be best person for the job. However if you want to go the affirmative action route regarding black people lets see. Black people represent 12% of the population of the U.S.A. So that amounts to about 4 head coaches out of 32 teams.

  45. Stick to football. All people care about is can the coaches successfully coach their team to a winning record irregardless of their color.

  46. You’ll be looking for Caldwell to be fired when they play a team that hasn’t quit like the Giants have. Ryan Lindley would have passed for 300 yards against the Giants.

  47. Whoa there fella. Wasn’t there a lot of whining that black coaches weren’t becoming head coaches? I seem to remember lots of coordinators who became head coaches after the Rooney rule. Now. you want a rule for coordinator jobs? How’s this, earn a job instead of whining about it. Don’t like it, quit. Oh yeah, did the Chiefs interview anyone else or just give the job to Crennel? Where’s the outrage over that?

  48. I am personally offended that no cheerleaders have been named head coach in the NFL. I demand this inequality be addressed, or else. Unleash the annoying lawyer Gloria whatshername to seek justice and right this wrong!

  49. anthonyspinali says:
    Dec 28, 2012 1:35 PM
    White players are passed over for lack of talent. Black coaches are passed over for lack of whiteness. Get real do you think this isn’t a problem is because you think there’s no way a minority is qualified? That’s the definition of racism…
    ——————————————-

    So you’re saying that teams put the best players on the field, regardless of race, but then hire lesser qualified coaches just to preserve “whiteness”?

    Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds?

    If the owners truly wanted to put a “white” face on their respective franchises, they surely wouldn’t pay tens of millions of dollars to rosters composed largely of non-white players.

  50. It may sound ridiculous to you. However, it’s not ridiculous because it’s true. Happens all the time in my profession and in my home town. It’s not an attempt to preserve whiteness so much as a desire not to work with minorities.

    My wife is a real estate agent who is often asked if a neighborhood is a “black” neighborhood. She’s technically not supposed to answer that. But think of the connotations.

    No one’s saying that the best person shouldn’t get the job. We are saying that, in some cases, the best people already aren’t getting the job due to subtle racism.

  51. To everyone crying about black people getting frozen out of the interview process and owners wanting a white face on their franchise get a life. If anything unjust is happening its whites getting passed up because race is an option. I know if I thought an organization was treating my race unfairly I would ban it. Bottom line race should never be a factor in an interview process. If I thought the majority was a differ race and they said oh we need more of this minority to make things fair your automatically picking the less qualified person

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