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When it comes to minority hiring, owners and general managers are out of excuses now.
ATLANTA – On Monday night, a group of black men met inside of a hotel conference room to openly discuss one of the NFL’s biggest issues: diversity in coaching.
General managers, former NFL coaches, and current college coaches met for the inaugural Quarterback Coaching Summit, a program that was put together by the league and the Black College Football Hall of Fame.
A combination of panels and sessions that will take place on the campus of Morehouse College will make up the two-day summit that was designed to get more minority coaches noticed, as last season proved that NFL teams are looking to hiring offensive coordinators and quarterback coaches to lead their franchises.
Earlier this year on Black Monday, we saw five of the league’s eight minority coaches fired. There are only four minority head coaches in the league. Three of them are black with Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Anthony Lynn with the Chargers in Los Angeles, and newly hired Brian Flores with the Miami Dolphins. Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera serves as the only Hispanic coach in the NFL.
In January, a report revealed that minority coaches are leading winning teams more often than white coaches, while also landing on the hot seat more often than their white counterparts. But that still hasn’t had any effect on how 16 of the head coaching jobs in the league are held by men that are viewed as “offensive guys,” which is the side of the ball that’s dominated by white candidates.
“First and foremost, this is about sharing philosophies, experiences, and what it takes,” said Troy Vincent to a small group of media members on Monday night. Vincent currently serves as the league’s Executive Vice President of Football Operations.
“Over the last two years, we’ve always been challenged with someone saying that there’s no talent and no pipeline. I’ve heard that,” said Vincent. “Well, they’re assembled in this room today…..let’s debunk that myth of ‘they don’t exist.”
The lack of minority coaches on the offensive ball isn’t new, as I asked Vincent if he could remember the first time he had one. The list was short, as Vincent mentioned his time with the Philadelphia Eagles where current Stanford head coach David Shaw was a quarterback coach for the team in 1997. Vincent also mentioned noticing men like Sherman Lewis and the late Dennis Green who both had tons of experience working with running backs, wide receivers, and as offensive coordinators.
“When I came in it was defense-dominated, and that’s where you saw most of the coaches of color,” Vincent explained.
Monday night was a chance for media members to be a fly on the wall to some of the conversations that minority coaches are having on the collegiate and pro level when it comes to advancing in their careers. The first-panel discussion of the night highlighted that as it included current and former general managers like Ozzie Newsome (Ravens), Rick Spielman (Vikings), Chris Grier (Dolphins), Jerry Reese, and Dick Daniels.
“This book and these names will go back to Baltimore,” said Newsome as he held up a program from the summit that included all of the attendees. “I didn’t know that it was this many African-Americans that were involved in coaching quarterbacks, and offensive coordinators on the college level. Now I do, and now I can act on it.”
“Now I have me a bible that I can use.”
Former NFL pro and current FOX Sports college football analyst Reggie Bush found Newsome’s comments to be mind-blowing as even a black general manager was having this issue in 2019.
“When I was coming out of high school I wanted to play for Tyrone Willingham because he was a black coach,” Bush explained. “It had nothing to do with Stanford or when he left to go to Notre Dame, it was because I wanted to play for a black coach. One of my coaches at USC, who I attribute to one of the reasons why I won the Heisman Trophy, was Todd McNair who is a black coach.”
Bush went on to name other former black head coaches like Jim Caldwell, Marvin Lewis, and Hue Jackson who were in the room, as he wants a better ecosystem for black coaches, which led to Jackson bringing up the idea of creating an official protocol.
“Somebody has to say, ‘that guy is ready. He’s gone through a protocol. He’s graduated through all these things we needed to see. He’s ready to go,” said Jackson. “Because it’s hard unless someone gives you a chance.”
From the failed anthem policy that was announced last year at the Owner’s Meetings to Commissioner Roger Goodell dodging questions at the Super Bowl about diversity and the Colin Kaepernick effect, over the last 13 months, Atlanta hadn’t been a place that the NFL did well when it came to discussing and dealing with diversity.
But on Monday night, it finally felt like the league was making a step in the right direction. With all of the public relations nightmares that the league has experienced over the last few years, it would seem like diversity hiring would be the easiest problem to fix, given that approximately 80% of the players are black.
Diversity is a simple fix, but it’s also a choice. And as Vincent said earlier in the evening, “diversity is good for business.”