The NFL’s racial hiring problem is a bigger issue than you may realize, and John Elway epitomizes it.
If Elway were black, he would have been fired a long time ago. But if we’re being honest, if Elway were a black man he wouldn’t have gotten the job, to begin with.
A recent report from this week chronicled how Elway is at a crossroads as the man in control of the Broncos. The team is coming off back-to-back double-digit losing seasons for the first time since a streak from 1963 to 1967 in which they were 15-53. And since Peyton Manning retired, the Broncos only have one winning season (9-7 in 2016) under Elway.
And while some will point to Elway being responsible for all three of Denver’s Super Bowl championships (2 as a players, 1 as GM), I will bring up the fact that since Elway took over in 2011, if it wasn’t for Manning, Tim Tebow would be the Broncos most successful postseason quarterback Elway’s had, on top of the fact that he’s on his fourth head coach.
When one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time runs your franchise, you would expect that quarterback play would be a strength. But under Elway, guys like Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, and Case Keenum are the others who have lined up under center not named Manning or Tebow.
“This is on me too. I’m responsible too,” said Elway to ESPN. “And we have looked at everything — at all of our decisions, personnel, and coaching.”
To be clear, John Elway shouldn’t be punished for something that’s a systemic issue throughout the NFL. However, given what’s happened on his watch in Denver, he is a great example of the opportunities people of color still do not get to obtain in this country.
The fact that there are only three black head coaches in the NFL is statistic that’s often discussed, but it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to proving just how far the league needs to go when it comes to minority hiring when you realize that Miami Dolphins’ Chris Grier is the lone black GM in the league.
Because if being the best quarterback in the history of your franchise means you get to one day be the general manager, then Grier wouldn’t be a chocolate chip in a sea of milk at GM gatherings.
However, I’m not the only one that’s paying attention to these occurrences in the NFL. The Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that promotes minority hiring throughout the league, was in the news this week due to concerns they have about the Rooney Rule and how Houston Texans are handling the interview process as they search for a new general manager.
The Texans brought in Ray Farmer and Martin Mayhew, two black men, for interviews, but then failed to hire Nick Caserio, a white man, away from the New England Patriots. And while the Texans did comply by the rules, it’s concerning that they don’t have any people of color working in upper management in their front office.
“Our concern is the same concern we would have with any club is that they’re checking the box with no real intention of hiring one of those minority candidates,” said Rod Graves, Executive Director of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, on Wednesday’s episode of ESPN’s “Outside The Lines.”
“In our opinion that circumvents the spirit of the rule. And that’s the biggest concern that we have.”
With football being America’s biggest sport, the concept of race is something that will always be a part of it. And that is especially highlighted when you have the low numbers of minority head coaches and general managers in the league with almost 80% of the players being black.
Back in January, ESPN released a report that focused on all the head coaching hires that had taken place under the Rooney Rule. Nine days later, the Washington Post reported that since the NFL anthem protests began, white fans like white players more and black players less. And last month, the league and the Black College Football Hall of Fame came together to hold their inaugural quarterback coaching summit in Atlanta to address the lack of minority hiring in when it comes to offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches.
From being a starting quarterback to coaching on the sidelines to running a front office, black men aren’t getting the same opportunities that their counterparts are getting, and John Elway just happens to be the poster boy for privilege right now.
Because I guarantee you that if Chris Grier had the last three seasons that Elway had, he’d be currently unemployed.