The Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears both hired Black GMs in Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Ryan Poles last month. Those hirings raised the total of Black GMs across the league to a record number of seven.
You’d think that more Black representation in executive leadership would lead to more Black coaches hired, but the odd thing is both hired white head coaches with no experience when there were overqualified Blacks available.
The first question you have to ask is did either GM make the hire?
Poles hired Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus, and Adofo-Mensah chose Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, whom he couldn’t officially hire until the Super Bowl was over.
The two finalists for the Vikings’ GM job were the Browns’ VP of football operations Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and Chiefs’ executive director of player personnel Ryan Poles. With Poles expected to be in Chicago, Adofo-Mensah now is the favorite to become the Vikings’ GM.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 25, 2022
All the while, there’s Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who’s been the preeminent offensive guru in the NFL the past four seasons. Bieniemy interviewed for 15 jobs since 2019, landing none.
Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, who was thought to be the favorite in Jacksonville, was passed over for Super Bowl-winning coach Doug Pederson, which in reality is a solid move. However, he’s ridiculously qualified for more than one of the nine job openings this past season. Others, like former head coaches Todd Bowles and Raheem Morris, are also overqualified Blacks not being given the time of day to lead a franchise again.
— Around The NFL (@AroundTheNFL) February 2, 2021
Owners Are Starting To Hire Coaches Before GMs: Setting A Backward Precedent
The Vikings and Bears both began their respective coaching searches prior to naming a GM. After making GM hires, both moved swiftly to hire coaches that were essentially interviewed by someone other than the newly-hired GM.
This is backward, as it is vital that the GM and head coach share the same vision. The best-run organizations do it the correct way; they hire a GM, who then hires his guy, which assures that both are pulling in the same direction.
Matt Eberflus: Another White Guy With No Experience
The Bears hired a defensive guy in Matt Eberflus, when they needed an offensive-minded head coach who can continue to develop their 2021 first-round draft pick (Justin Fields).
This move reeks of ownership already having this in place prior to Poles being hired, but he was positioned publicly as the guy who made the call, so it looks like he made the decision. Poles is smart and comes from the well-run Chiefs organization, and if anyone knows the importance of having the right pieces in place to develop a franchise QB, it’s him. He had a front-row seat daily, observing the development and success of Patrick Mahomes.
Bieniemy Or Leftwich Are Obvious Choices To Develop Justin Fields
Bieniemy and Leftwich would do wonders for Fields as offensive gurus and QB developers. Reportedly, Poles told ownership if he took the job he would have to have the final say on who’d be the head coach. Sounds good. If you believe it.
We have hired Chiefs' Executive Director of Player Personnel Ryan Poles as our General Manager.
Welcome (back) to Chicago, Ryan! 🐻⬇️
— Chicago Bears (@ChicagoBears) January 26, 2022
In an interview with Albert Breer of MMQB, Eberflus offered an explanation as to why he believes he was hired. “Familiarity” and “comfortability” are phrases that always seem to outweigh compatibility and capability and eventually eliminate Black candidates from the equation.
Eberflus and Poles have a longstanding relationship and conversed often, as they share the same agent. After one of their hour-long convos, they realized they shared the same views and ideas about style of play, personnel and overall football philosophy.
“I was just like, man, that was really good. And he said the same thing after talking to him later. And we just kept our conversations going and the relationship going, and sure enough, this year during the cycle, he was up for a bunch of jobs, and I was up for a couple jobs and it just worked out.”
— 🅿️at McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) January 27, 2022
Kevin O’Connell: Another White Guy That Looks Two Years Removed From College
In Minnesota, this move of hiring Kevin O’Connell looks like the same turn of events. Ownership had a candidate in mind prior to hiring Kwesi Adofo-Mensah. The team was reportedly heavy on Niners defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbs was very successful during his tenure as the Niners head coach. But all that changed overnight, and the name Kevin O’Connell began to surface as he interviewed with ownership prior to the GM hire.
This is an unsettling trend that’s unfortunately becoming more prevalent. KOC has history with Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, as he was his QB coach in Washington during the 2017 season. With Adofo-Mensah heavy into analytics, the KOC hire doesn’t seem all that odd, as he’s pretty big on analytics as well but has more knowledge on the football side.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) February 16, 2022
On the team website here’s what Adofo-Mensah had to say about his hire:
“He understands what is critical to leading a team that wins at the highest level, and he has an ability to simplify the complex, which will help us in problem solving in all football areas. He is a genuinely positive person who will help create a high-energy internal environment.”
Kwesi Adofo-Mensah has been hired as the #Vikings General Manager.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) January 27, 2022
This Hiring Practice Needs To End: Owners And Their Huge Egos Are To Blame
This is a trend that needs to end, as the two most recent instances of this backward hiring practice was the Jaguars hiring Urban Meyer to make a splash hire, and then naming Trent Baalke the GM.
Meyer lasted 13 games before being fired. In Carolina, owner David Tepper thought he was smarter than everyone else and hired Matt Rhule as head coach and gave him control over football decisions. Rhule and his decisions have cost them draft picks and salary cap space, while Rhule desperately searches for a quarterback.
Owners are billionaires with inflated egos who often feel like whatever they do is right. In most instances they have no idea how to run a team, which is why having a competent GM is vital. Ask the Cowboys, who have a meddlesome owner who wants to make football decisions. Those decisions have kept Dallas out of the Super Bowl for more than two decades. Rolling the dice with splashy coaching hires and then backfilling the GM gig is not the way the process was designed to work.
Black GMs Ain’t Looking Out
Nine teams made hires and only one Black was brought into the head coaching ranks, Lovie Smith with the Texans. Six of those hires have no head coaching experience and the only one with qualifications on par with Bieniemy and Leftwich is Doug Pederson.
Black GMs are apparently being shamed or shammed into hiring unqualified white candidates while extending the practice of ignoring the NFL’s race problem when it comes to minority hires. Why?
Possibly to maintain an appearance of neutrality, which is something white NFL owners couldn’t care less about. With the proliferation of Black general managers around the league, one would infer that over time the number of Black head coaches would increase. So far that’s not the case.
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