As the 2021 coach and G.M. hiring cycle continues, the man who runs the Fritz Pollard Alliance has expressed his disappointment regarding the opportunities given to Black coaches and executives.
“Thus far, the NFL hiring cycle of 2021 has not changed the rate of hires for Blacks as Head Coaches and primary football executives,” Fritz Pollard Alliance executive director Rod Graves said in a statement. “This follows the 2020 Racial and Gender Report Card issued by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (Dr. Richard Lapchick), which gives the NFL failing (or near failing) grades in racial hiring for leadership positions. People of color represent sixty-nine percent (69%) of the players and thirty-five percent (35%) of assistant coaches. In contrast, the NFL has one president, three general managers, and three head coaches who are Black.”
The league office has worked hard to promote minority candidates. Of the five head coaches hired during the current cycle, one minority coach has been hired (Robert Saleh of the Jets). No Black head coach has been hired.
“There are many outstanding Black men and other men and women of color in the NFL,” Graves said. “The pipeline is as strong as it has ever been. The issue is not in the sufficiency of numbers; the problem is in the limited number of leadership opportunities given.
“The disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling. It is unfortunate that the performances of coordinators like Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Leslie Frazier, and Joe Woods, may not meet what appears as ‘ever-evolving standards’ for becoming a Black Head Coach in the NFL. The prospect for second chances is proving to be even more elusive. The same applies to executives like Jerry Reese, Rick Smith, Reggie McKenzie, and others. All capable of providing the vision, leadership, and expertise to lead a championship effort.”
The Rooney Rule mandates certain standards when it comes to interviewing candidates. Nothing stops an owner from locking onto a white candidate and hiring him after checking the boxes of the Rooney Rule. That’s what the Raiders did three years ago with Jon Gruden. That’s what the Jaguars did this year with Urban Meyer.
Fear of litigation forced the establishment of the Rooney Rule a generation ago. There is no current fear of litigation, or other more meaningful changes would be made. Ultimately, it could take the reality of litigation — and a public trial in open court — to make a real difference.