This NFL offseason’s hiring of minority coaches is like a Digital Underground song and the owners have once again played the roles of Humpty Hump, because all around the NFL it’s just the same old song. No minorities hired among the league’s 14 new head coaches and front-office bigwigs, so far.
The number of black NFL HCs has actually decreased to three with Cleveland axing Romeo Crennel and the Chicago Bears Lovie Smith getting kicked to the curb off of a 10-6 season and getting no love after interviewing for a few of the previous vacancies.
The most controversial snub has been Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who was considered an in-house front runner for the Cardinal’s HC opening, before it was awarded to former Colts OC and interim coach Bruce Arians. Horton’s situation blurs the eyes, though. He grinded in the NFL for 19 years as an assistant and then to see the number of high-risk college guys like Doug Marrone (Buffalo Bills) or cats with minimal coaching experience like Gus Bradley (Jacksonville) get a shot, you start to scratch your dome and wonder, “what part of the game is this?”
Horton, now the corn roll-rocking defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, is still considered a future HC, but seven of the eight HC vacancies were claimed by dudes who specialize on the offensive side of the rock, so this new trend doesn’t bode well for him.
The NFL has received its share of props for gains made in hiring minority coaches since 1989, when the Raiders made Art Shell the NFL’s first black HC, but that progress has been backsliding of late, and minority hiring at the college level have been equally scant. According to The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES) recent annual report card on the hiring of minority coaches at the Division I level , just six of the 39 hiring searches in the 2011-2012 hiring cycle resulted in the hiring of minority coaches, and there were no “big-splash” minority hires so far in 2013.
Since 2003, The Fritz Pollard Alliance has worked with the NFL to get more qualified brothers a shot at coveted coaching positions. FPA Chairman John Wooten told the Shadow League that his organization is “very disappointed with the hiring process as a whole this offseason.”
When asked what actions the organization planned to take moving forward, Wooten said, “We have a plan in place that we’ll reveal shortly to address the issues.”
Wooten couldn’t get into the specifics of the plan, but, when pressed a bit as to the details, he said, “The thing we are mainly concerned about is we already have very capable candidates for these jobs. We have to make sure that we can systematically push them up the pipeline into these positions, in a way that everyone will support.”
Wooten’s response seemed to be an indirect shot at the NFL’s Rooney Rule, its luke warm effectiveness and the half-hearted way teams acquiesce to its demands to seriously interview at least one minority candidate. In ’02, the year the Rooney Rule hit the scene, there were already two black head coaches. Where’s the progress?
Wooten acknowledges the numbers are disheartening, but says his organization is the real deal Holyfield when it comes to attacking these issues.
“We’re not discouraged to the point that we’re going to sit in a corner and whimper or cry about it,” insisted Wooten. “We're going to get back to what we did in the past (to increase minority hiring). We know what needs to be done and how to do it.”
The FPA is in the midst of pulling up its sleeves and getting to work. Good. Then maybe deserving black coaches can begin to get an honest crack at finding work.