Black NFL Head Coaches Still Victims Of A Short Leash

The short leash for African-American NFL head coaches will continue this offseason with the expected firings of Todd Bowles, Vance Joseph and Steve Wilks. 

Of the head coaches expected to be fired in the NFL’s annual coaching carousel, three are Black; Todd Bowles (Jets), Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos) and Steve Wilks (Arizona Cardinals).  

Don’t get it twisted. I fully understand that the NFL is a Janet Jackson league. Coaches constantly get moved in and out, but you can’t ignore the numbers as it pertains to minority head coaches.

With Cleveland already firing Hue Jackson short of three seasons at the helm, after the dust settles, Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn, and Marvin Lewis would be left as the league’s only African-American head coaches.

This is shameful, considering that over the last decade — with the help of The Fritz Pollard Alliance Rooney Rule, its database of qualified candidates of color, new programs designed to aid in developing minority coaching talent, as well as the organization’s constant dialogue with NFL owners —  we’ve seen a deeper pipeline of minorities being interviewed for plush NFL gigs.

There’s also more of them getting training at the college level as offensive/defensive coordinators and filling NFL assistant coach slots.

The problem is that it’s not resulting in increased hiring of NFL head coaches and it certainly isn’t helping Black HCs with job security. There’s still a blatant disparity between the opportunity and level of commitment that black head coaches and their white counterparts are given.

I offered statistical proof in a January 2018 story entitled, “Even When They Win, Black NFL Head Coaches Get Fired.

Jets fourth-year head coach Todd Bowles is expected to be fired after three consecutive losing seasons and just as the franchise QB he never had arrives.

Denver head coach Vance Joseph was never fortunate enough to get that franchise quarterback to lead his new Broncos regime.

Back in January, Team GM and President of Football Operations John Elway admitted that he hasn’t provided Joseph with winning talent. Denver hasn’t lost like this in decades, but is it really Joseph’s fault? He’s stuck with journeyman Case Keenum as his quarterback and is expected to do battle with the likes of Patrick Mahomes Jr. and Phillip Rivers twice a season.  

The great Don Shula would have problems winning those matchups.

Reports are that Joseph, a well respected and talented coach within NFL circles, will be fired after just two seasons.  

Two seasons is not enough time to rebuild a franchise that was stuck on stupid after winning the Super Bowl with a washed Peyton Manning. They threw the bag at the sack artist Von Miller, but never fortified the offense. They never found that cornerstone quarterback that is essential for any Super Bowl contender.

Elway was extremely high on Joseph when he first hired him and I don’t think a couple of struggling seasons should change his perception. Elway needs to step HIS game up, but Joseph will undoubtedly be the scapegoat, another African-American coach who was not given the resources needed to actually win.

Fortunately, he already has a job waiting for him as Marvin Lewis’ defensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Thank goodness for Lewis, who also hired Cleveland’s former HC Jackson to his staff.  

Without Lewis having a Teflon grip on his job and widespread hiring powers with the Bengals, black talent such as Jackson and Joseph would be floating around wondering how they’re going to feed the family.

At least Joseph got two seasons out of it. Reportedly, Wilks will be out as Cardinals head honcho after just one season. 

The Cardinals hired him back in January following his stint as the Carolina Panthers’ defensive coordinator. Reportedly, Wilks is being fired because the organization hasn’t seen the improvement in defense that his resume commanded. The Cardinals are ranked 15th in the NFL in defense, which is middle of the pack, but it’s the strongest part of the team.

I don’t see how the organization can blame Wilks for the ineptitude offensively. They fired the offensive coordinator, Larry Fitzgerald is 100 years old and so is David Johnson. Josh Rosen is a rookie quarterback who is playing in an offense with very few weapons. His first year on a team that was destined to win three games was expected to be rough, but Rosen’s done enough to assert himself as the future of the Cardinals.

Wilks was supposed to be allowed the opportunity to take his franchise quarterback and build a winning culture in Arizona. It’s unfathomable that one season would change the organization’s opinion of Wilks, considering the lack of talent on the Cardinals roster.

What about the white first-year coaches that bombed?

Back in September I wrote the story, “Apparently, 8 is Enough For Minority NFL Head Coaches.”

“The NFL had a record number eight minority coaches at the start of 2017, which ties the record set in 2011, when it appeared as if minority head coaches would reach double digits in the next couple of years, bringing an end to any anachronistic ideas about the leadership and intellect of a minority head coach.

Unfortunately, seven years later, just 25 percent of the head coaches are minorities in a league that is 70 percent, Black.

8 minority coaches seem to be enough for NFL owners.”

I feel so silly now. To imagine I was upset that there were only eight minority head coaches in the league. It seems I should have been rejoicing.

Now we are going into an offseason that will leave the league with fewer black men in leadership positions and the opportunity given to men of color to lead NFL teams is looking bleak as ever.

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