Rod Graves: NFL having only three African-American coaches is “shameful”

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The question of whether the Rooney Rule is working may be best resolved by the proof that is, or isn’t, in the pudding. The NFL currently has only four minority coaches. Three — Mike Tomlin, Brian Flores, and Anthony Lynn — are African-American.

“We’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of the [NFL], yet we have only three head coaches of color,” Fritz Pollard Alliance executive director Rod Graves told Ken Belson of the New York Times. “For all the hoopla that football has become in this country, that kind of progress, or lack of, is shameful.”

One of the NFL’s top executives doesn’t disagree with Graves.

“When you look at the demographics, it’s embarrassing,” NFL senior V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent told Belson.

The NFL has even fewer African-American General Managers, and the Texans riled up Rod Graves last year when creating a G.M. vacancy, interviewing a pair of minority candidates, and not hiring anyone for the job after the obvious effort to lure Nick Caserio away from the Patriots fell through.

As to coaches, the biggest problem is that minority candidates aren’t being groomed to become head coaches. With NFL teams typically looking for coaches with an offensive background, the league needs more African-American quarterback coaches and offensive coordinators.

“We have to make sure we’re doing everything we can do to build a pipeline of play callers and quarterback coaches, who will eventually get to offensive coordinator and head coach,” Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill told Belson.

Two prominent minority offensive coordinators are Eric Bieniemy of the Chiefs and Byron Leftwich of the Buccaneers. Bieniemy has been passed over through two hiring cycles (unless he gets the Browns job) despite running one of the best offenses of the generation and working for a head coach who has spawned not a coaching tree but a forest. Leftwich’s name has yet to be mentioned for a step up, even though he coordinated an offense that generated more than 5,100 passing yards this season.

From time to time, the possibility has been raised of extending the Rooney Rule, which requires at least one minority candidate to be interviewed for every coaching vacancy, to coordinator positions. That idea has never gained much traction, possibly because of the land rush for assistants that occurs when a coach is hired.

Until the pipeline to head coaching jobs is filled with more minority candidates, the numbers won’t easily change. And the situation will continue to be “shameful” and “embarrassing.”

The environment continue to be ripe, frankly, for litigation. Because, however, any coach who would sue the league and/or one or more of its teams would have to be prepared to sacrifice the balance of his coaching career, it’s unlikely that any coach will claim discrimination based on race, age, or any other characteristic protected by law.

So, basically, in the unique, insulated, and small industry that is pro football at the highest level, the fact that there isn’t an abundance of employment alternatives protects the NFL and its franchises from the kind of courtroom accountability that has forced companies to change their ways when it comes to hiring, product safety, or any other individual legal rights that may be violated in the name of doing business the way the owners of the business please.

Without that threat — and absent African-American team owners — any improvements will be temporary and fleeting.

29 responses to “Rod Graves: NFL having only three African-American coaches is “shameful”

  1. Ron Rivera just got rehired so you can add him but don’t expect much to change when it still comes down old white men making the hiring decision. Not saying they are racist but subconsciously people like people who are like them.

  2. So they should just hire more minority coaches simply to reflect more diversity, regardless of their qualifications? That’s called reverse discrimination. It comes down to winning football games = i.e., money and any owner is going to hire who he feels is the best person for the job, regardless of skin color.

  3. So if they hire a minority just to hire a minority, that means that a qualified non minority is overlooked just because of their color. How is that any better? If things are meant not to be divisive, stop pointing out race and hire the best candidate available.

  4. How many coordinators for minority head coaches in the last few years were people of color. Not many, if mike tomlin, marvin Lewis,et all don’t seem to care why should anyone else?

  5. It’s unconscious bias at work. We all have it. If given the choice to fly in a 747 with a male pilot or a female pilot, I bet you all would be more comfortable with the male pilot, even if the woman is equally qualified (and probably works twice as hard).

    I think NFL owners are simply more comfortable with white head coaches, and will dig deep into coaching ranks and colleges to find them, rather than hiring well qualified black coaches. It’s not going to change until we demand it.

    If consumers were all to band together and demand it, and start boycotting teams like the Giants that hire no-name white coaches over well-qualified black coaches, we would quickly see change.

  6. Buy an NFL franchise and you can hire whoever you want. And if you’re smart, you’ll hire whoever gives you the best chance to win, not just hire a guy because he’s African-American

  7. It seeme like the premise is that the league is made up of mostly african american players, so the coaching should resemble that. What seems to be getting overlooked is that most of the more highly regarded coaches never played in the NFL. Belichick, Andy Reid, McVay, Tomlin, Carroll, Shanahand never played and Payton only made it as far as being a replacement player

  8. Well I guess its time for some people of color to buy a team so they can hire whomever they want……

  9. Well, perhaps this explains why the Chargers coach kept his job after that horrible 2019 underachieving performance. That stated, it sure seems that the number of three seems low.

  10. So who are all the great candidates that are getting turned down? And don’t tell me Marvin Lewis, Jim Caldwell, or that former Browns coach who is a solid DC yet flopped big as a head coach.

  11. Please quit assuming that every talented successful coordinator deserves an automatic head coaching gig. How did Wade Philips work out?

    And then there is the Hall Of Fame flops. How did Mike Singletary pan out as a head coach. Bart Star?

  12. Owning ur own business, hire who u want. 70% of nfl players are black so where is the complaint not enough whites? Enough is enough…hire who u want.

  13. The United States African-American population is about 12.3%. The percent of African-American head coaches in the NFL is just over 9% (3/32). Mathematically speaking, this is not shameful.

  14. It would be interesting to know which, if any, teams have never employed a minority as an OC, DC, HC or GM. If there are any, that would be the place to start looking for answers.

    They need to get more minorities in the assistant coach pipeline so they can work their way up the ladder.

  15. The demographics of the league doesn’t matter. The pool of candidates should be coming from the coaching staffs. That is the demographic.
    If you want to change a culture create a program to set a coordinator up to be a successful Headcoach.
    And please, make the program blind to race not bound to it; the best coaches should be hired on skill not skin.
    Yellow, green or purple, if the man can coach; I will be proud he is leading my team.

  16. Figure out a measuring stick for teams. How about something like is one of the last 4 or 5 coaches (20/25% of hires) or a recent GM (decision maker) a minority hire?

    You are left with a handful of possible targets for consideration.
    – Atlanta
    – Buffalo
    – Dallas
    – St Louis/LA
    – Denver
    – Tennessee

    You can’t really count New England, New Orleans, or Seattle because they have had 1 or 2 coaches for like the last 20 years (Seattle had 1 year of Jim Mora in the middle) Pittsburgh fits this similar mold, but with a long term minority candidate.

    Is Cleveland required to hire a minority candidate after 3 recent minority hires in these roles?

  17. Trust No One says:
    January 8, 2020 at 10:19 pm
    It would be interesting to know which, if any, teams have never employed a minority as an OC, DC, HC or GM. If there are any, that would be the place to start looking for answers.

    They need to get more minorities in the assistant coach pipeline so they can work their way up the ladder.

    4 3 Rate This

    I think the answer to your question is that all 32 teams have had at least 2 minority hires between GM/Head Coach/DC and OC.

    I agree 100% that it’s a pipeline thing (college and pros)
    The NFL should have an internship program which could represent the demographics of the current players. The players union should reach out to the 100s of players who wash out of the NFL every years and consult them about their interest in a pathway to coaching.

    Its not about giving Raheem Morris or Leslie Frazier another HC job. Its about an extra 200+ minority coaches entering the workforce and working their way up over the next 10 years.

  18. Frankly who the heck cares what color the coach is as long as he can motivate the players and win! As i alljobs you should be hiring for skill not for race.

  19. I am curious for your explanation as to why you feel teams need to hire a minority? I think hiring one for the sake of having one in staff is ridiculous. Maybe just maybe while they’re some very good athletes they don’t make good coaches. I’m sure a lot of you would agree that most don’t make good analysis in television. Just because you played doesn’t mean you belong on a sideline or in front of a camera. Let’s face it by the time you retire if you don’t have the knack for coaching you’re probably never going to develop it.

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