Following their NFC Championship loss on Sunday to the Rams, the San Francisco 49ers are making coaching moves. The first move reportedly was asking assistant head coach and tight ends coach Jon Embree to take a big 60 percent pay cut.
Embree, who was sent packing after he refused to devalue himself, joined the Niners as part of HC Kyle Shanahan’s first staff in 2017. Before joining the 49ers, Embree was a position coach with the Buccaneers, Bears, Chiefs, and Washington. He also spent two seasons as the head coach at the University of Colorado.
The timing of this is extremely awkward in light of the current Brian Flores lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, Broncos and Giants for discrimination in the hiring and treatment of minority coaches.
NFL reporter Solomon Wilcots broke the story and added the caption:
“Being asked to take a 60% pay cut is how they now fire minority coaches today.”
On Tuesday @49ers fired Asst. H.C & TE coach Jon Embree who developed 5th rd pick @gkittle46 Being asked to take a 60% pay cut is how they now fire minority coaches today. #NFL #49ers pic.twitter.com/x3Mq2ntF3q
— Solomon Wilcots (@SolomonsWisdom) February 2, 2022
Odd Man Out
Qualified Black coaches have been continually overlooked in favor of their white counterparts, and while this story may not reek of that, it’s no secret that the Niners have two up and coming coordinators in defensive guru DeMeco Ryans, who’s Black and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel who’s white.
Rumors circulating around the team suggests that San Francisco wants to make one of them the assistant head coach in an effort to keep them around. Ryans basically had the Vikings job if he wanted it, but he decided to stay with the 49ers. And a young, white OC is always worth his weight in gold in the NFL.
That’s where in lies the massive 60 percent pay cut they reportedly wanted Embree to accept.
I can confirm that Jon Embree will not return to the 49ers next season. The 49ers will need to find a new tight ends coach. Embree, 56, had the additional title of Assistant Head Coach and, obviously, George Kittle flourished under his tutelage.
— Matt Barrows (@mattbarrows) February 2, 2022
NFL writer Stephanie Mack thinks it could be DeMeco Ryans being promoted.
“I’m speculating, but the scuttlebutt was DeMeco was getting the assistant HC role and Embree was losing it. With loss of duties, it may make sense. But I have no problem asking the question. The 49ers need to be forthright and transparent about it at this juncture.”
In addition, it’s strange that an NFL organization that is bleeding money wants one Black coach to take a pay cut that is way above the usual reduction in order to pay for the other Black coach who may be taking his position. That’s a whole other cultural calamity. It’s almost unfathomable, same as what Flores said Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross asked him to do.
The 9ers getting rid of tight ends coach Jon Embree is puzzling. The tight ends didn't lose the championship game. And if it's true the 9ers asked him to take a 60 percent pay cut, that's a very poor show. I wrote "if".
— Lowell Cohn (@LowellCohn) February 3, 2022
But an employer asking anyone in any profession in the world to take a 60 percent slice in pay is basically just asking you to leave quietly. It’s safe to say the 49ers didn’t read the room well. In this instance, it speaks to the mistreatment and undervaluing of Black coaches by white upper management.
This is not the first time Embree’s appeared to be the victim of a controversial coaching decision. He’s all too familiar with the challenges of being a Black coach and how quickly the temperature can change.
Embree’s last year in the college ranks also ended unceremoniously and with him being handled disrespectfully by the university that employed him.
When Embree sat down behind a microphone following his dismissal as Colorado’s head football coach, he couldn’t resist the chance to address the sport’s discouraging track record of minority hiring practices.
Embree, then 47 years old, addressed the elephant in the room, the lingering statistic that follows the firing of any one of the disturbingly low numbers of black coaches in college football.
“You know we don’t get opportunities. At the end of the day, you get fired and that’s it, right, wrong or indifferent,” said Embree… We get bad jobs and no time to fix it.”
A lot of people felt the firing was too soon, considering Embree cared deeply for his alma mater and despite his 4-21 record was successfully replenishing the talent pool and morale following previous coach Dan Hawkin’s 19-39 tenure.
He just wasn’t getting it done on the field yet. Buffs coaching legend Bill McCartney accused Colorado of straight up racism. And acknowledged the unlikelihood of Embree getting another FBS gig. At the time, former Notre Dame coach Tyron Willingham was the only black coach to ever get fired from a FBS team and hired by another.
Embree’s loss appears to be DeMeco Ryans’ gain.
Earlier this week Ryans, a head coaching candidate for Minnesota and Oakland, removed his name as a candidate and said he would be focusing on the 49ers D. Ryans led a top-ten defense this season that held three of the league’s top-ten offenses (Dallas, Green Bay and Los Angeles Rams) to a combined 47 points in three playoff games.
Seems like someone else may be in line for that Assistant Head Coach title. Possibly Ryans, or maybe McDaniel in an effort to retain him.
If Embree was asked to take a demotion and subsequent pay cut, not surprised it ended parting ways. https://t.co/YSDaK8so84
— Danny G (@DannyG_49) February 2, 2022
George Kittle Developed Into All-Pro With Embree
Kittle, a fifth-round selection from Iowa in 2017, credits Embree with his development as a player and a man. He credits Embree for his very unexpected career trajectory. Kittle is a three-time Pro Bowl player. For his efforts Kittle was signed to a five-year, $75 million contract extension in 2020. As a rookie, every time Kittle would run out of bounds, Embree would fine him $10. That adds up for a fifth-round pick. Kittle responded to lead the tight ends in yards-after-catch in 2018 and 2019.
George Kittle led all tight ends last season with 873 yards after the catch. Travis Kelce finished second with 574. Kittle benefited heavily from Kyle Shanahan's designed openings. pic.twitter.com/kwWKVXJWeB
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) June 26, 2019
Kittle made this statement about Embree at the signing of his massive deal.
“He’s just helped me so much: I was terrible my rookie year. I mean, I was an okay player. But he helped just understand the game. The basics of it. The basics of the offense. He does such a good job of breaking things down to make it easy to understand.”
How does Embree get rewarded for developing the 49ers’ most dangerous passing weapon? With a severe pay cut of course and a subsequent parting of ways. Life in the NFL is tough for a brother, and Black men don’t seem to stay in season too long.
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