NFL’s Black Coaching Purge Of 2018 Was Unneccesary

The Black coaching purge of 2018 saw five of the seven African-American coaches in the NFL fired and replaced with white coaches: 

Marvin Lewis (Bengals, 6-10), Vance Joseph (Broncos, 6-10), Todd Bowles (Jets, 4-12), Hue Jackson (Browns, 7-8) and Steve Wilks (Cardinals, 3-13) were all dumped in favor of less experienced, white coaches. 

In one emphatic offseason, NFL owners eradicated most of the African-American head coaches, amidst racial unrest, Colin Kaepernick closure and a delicate relationship between the owners and its 70 percent black player population.

In the end, seven of the eight gigs were filled by men whose resumes (with the exception of Bruce Arians) lacked actual head coaching experience.

Brian Flores was the only Black head coach to land one of the openings. To the naked eye, it seemed as if the NFL owners were attempting to whitewash a head coaching crop that had gotten too diverse for them.

Steve Wilks Replaced By Kliff Kingsbury

The firing of Wilks in Arizona after only one season was particularly troubling. In the NFL, many coaches flop in their first year yet remain employed. Wilks probably had the least talented team in the league and was thrown into a terrible situation. 

His quarterback was garbage, as No. 1 pick Josh Rosen wasn’t ready to ascend to franchise player status after just one season. The Cardinals organization basically scrapped the entire plan, finally got themselves a franchise quarterback and a game-changer in Kyler Murray, but that was after they fired Wilks, hired first-year coach Kliff Kingsbury and upgraded several other key positions on the field.

The Cardinals are 3-5-1 under their new regime and slightly improved, but they have Murray now and the coach has the full confidence of the organization. 

Wilks is now the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns and his reputation is forever stained. He wasn’t given a chance to do anything in Arizona. He was the fall guy in a tank season and that sucks.

See how they do brothers? 

Vance Joseph Replaced by Vic Fangio

Vance Joseph, who has 12 years of coaching experience on the defensive side of the ball in the NFL, is currently the Cardinals defensive coordinator. He is another victim of having no quarterback to lead his team. John Elway is still living off the Super Bowl he snagged with an aging Peyton Manning and ferocious defense in 2015. The Broncos legend has admitted to failing to provide Joseph with the resources needed to succeed in his two seasons as Broncos head coach (2017-18). 

Joseph was highly-touted and handed a deteriorating, aging squad coming off six straight winning seasons. Joseph was asked to work miracles with journeyman and retread quarterbacks. 

He was destined to fail, and after a 5-11 and 6-10 season, the 47-year-old defensive whiz with so much leadership potential was canned in favor of 61-year-old Vic Fangio, a 40-year coaching veteran with 32 seasons of NFL experience — as an assistant. 

Fangio hasn’t done any better and at 3-6 he’s looking at the same 6-10 record that Joseph had.

Hue Jackson replaced by Freddie Kitchens

Cleveland Browns fans wanted Hue Jackson gone and his miserable record made it easy to get rid of him. But here you have another coach, who was basically fired just as his franchise quarterback came to town. 

Baker Mayfield was among many folks who were glad when Freddie Kitchens took over, but despite an array of talent that the franchise hasn’t had in decades, the Browns are 3-6.

 Kitchens has been a disaster with managing games, calling plays and everything else. His franchise quarterback — the kid whose 2018 success earned Kitchens the job — has regressed miserably and is among the worst signal-callers in the league despite having Odell Beckham Jr., Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry at his disposal. 

Todd Bowles Replaced By Adam Gase

The Jets franchise is always looking to blame the coach. Todd Bowles wasn’t given much to work with, but the NY fans expected miracles. As soon as the Jets get their franchise quarterback, they got rid of Bowles who had to suffer through miserable offensive talent and trash quarterbacks. 

Bowles was 4-12 with a janky Jets squad in 2018. He started 10-6 in his first season with a real squad and then as the Jets deteriorated so did his winning record. He got blamed for the front office ineptitude. Then The Johnson’s brought in wide-eyed Adam Gase who had a losing record as a Miami Dolphins head coach and is having one of the worst seasons in Jets history at 1-7. The Jets recently lost to the winless Dolphins, who are trying to lose games. 

Not much of an upgrade there. 

Zac Taylor Replaces Marvin Lewis

Marvin Lewis spent 16 years in Cincinnati making that franchise respectable. He had his share of playoff appearances and navigated the franchise through some turbulent waters on and off the field. He was known as the Teflon Don of NFL coaches because every year the fashionable thing was to call for Lewis’firing whether he deserves it or not. 

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was at the front of the parade calling for Lewis’ firing, even as it was clear that quarterback Andy Dalton was regressing. 

Well finally Lewis stepped down in 2018 and Zac Taylor, the inexperienced, head coach who replaced Lewis is 0-8 and staring a one-and-done in the face. 

Taylor’s disastrous season and Lewis’ value as a special advisor to Herm Edwards at Arizona State, has actually raised Lewis’ chances to nab an NFL head coaching spot in the future.

Black Coaches Still An Endangered Species

Lovie Smith is still coaching college ball despite his 81-63 record and Super Bowl appearance over the first 9 years of his 11-year NFL coaching career. He hasn’t coached an NFL squad since leaving Tampa Bay in 2015. 

Guys like Leslie Frazier (four seasons as Vikings HC 2010-2013) and Raheem Morris (3 seasons as Tampa HC 2009-2011) have never gotten another head coaching job.

If you ask me, Black coaches got the shaft in 2018. Look no further than the failure of their placements as proof of a biased lack of confidence and trust in Black coaches by the white owners and GM’s who make these hires. 

When Black coaches are awarded head coaching positions, they are often put in no-win situations, scapegoated for inept front office leadership or forced to oversee tank jobs like the talented Flores in Miami. 

Even successful head coaches like Super Bowl winner Mike Tomlin catch the flurry of those wanting to cut a brother down whenever he’s not performing off the charts. 

Let’s see how many of these first-year disasters end up getting fired after one season. So far their lack of success is proving that the 2018 Black Coaching purge should have never happened. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.