People love to believe that numbers never lie. When in actuality, numerals deceive people all the time without the proper context.
For example, four Black coaches lost their jobs last season on Black Monday. This year, there wasn’t a single Black coach that was let go during the post-Week 17 round of firings.
The numbers will lie and call that progress. When in reality, there was no progress to be made since five Black coaches lost their jobs in total last season. You can’t fire people, this year, when the majority of them were let go, last year. So instead of looking at this as an improvement, let’s call it what it really is: pathetic.
Freddie Kitchens is out in Cleveland after only one season (6-10) in which he couldn’t get things turned around with one of the most talented rosters in the league, especially on the offensive side with the likes of Baker Mayfield, Jarvis Landry, Nick Chubb, and Odell Beckham Jr.
Pat Shurmur was fired in New York after the Giants went (9-23) in his two seasons at the helm, as the team will embark on their third head coaching search in five years.
Jason Garrett’s future won’t be decided until Tuesday afternoon, at the earliest, as it’s been reported that his status as the Dallas Cowboys head coach was still in limbo as of Monday evening. In 10 seasons, Garrett has accumulated an 85-67 record, but his teams have gone 2-3 in the postseason, causing Cowboys’ fans to clamor for a change.
And then there’s the case of Matt Patricia, the most recent example of White privilege in the NFL. Earlier this month, Detroit Lions owner Martha Ford announced that she was keeping Patricia and wrote a letter to season ticket holders about how they “deserve a winning team.”
This is the part where I remind you that Ford and General Manager Bob Quinn fired Jim Caldwell, the team’s first and only Black head coach, on New Year’s Day in 2018 because his 9-7 record that season wasn’t good enough, all while Patricia has only won 9 games in total in his two seasons in Detroit. Caldwell’s 56.3% winning percentage in his four-year tenure exceeded that of any Lions coach in the last 60 years.
Not only is it harder for Black men to get head coaching jobs in the NFL, but they also have to deal with “always being on the hot seat,” and rarely get a second chance to prove themselves. A recent report from the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University and the Paul Robeson Research Center for Innovative Academic & Athletic Prowess at the University of Central Florida College of Business researched just how hard it is for Black coaches to get, and keep, a job.
One of the main culprits has been the disregarding of the Rooney Rule. When Roger Goodell was named Commissioner in 2006, there were a total of seven minority head coaches and four minority general managers in the league.
The NFL had a record number eight minority coaches at the start of 2017, which tied 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.
Today there are only three Black coaches and one Black general manager, as the league has never had a Black majority owner.
Over the last two seasons, we’ve watched as the Oakland Raiders have spat in the face of the Rooney Rule by hiring Jon Gruden as head coach and Mike Mayock as general manager, while only bringing in minority candidates to interview for the jobs after the fact.
It’s another example of the culture within the league that continually denies diversity.
However, things could be changing for a few minority coaches. It’s been reported that the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers have requested permission to interview Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. And it’s believed that Ron Rivera could be named the newest coach of the Washington Redskins, or another team, in the coming days.
With Mike Tomlin pulling off one of his best coaching jobs to get the Pittsburgh Steelers to 8-8 this season, Anthony Lynn having a winning record (26-22) with the Chargers in Los Angeles, and Brian Flores having the backing of the front office in Miami after a 5-11 season, it feels like all the current Black coaches have some type of job security.
With the potential additions of Bieniemy and Rivera, as well as other minority candidates possibly landing a job, there’s a chance that some sort of balance could be restored after 2018’s Black Monday gutted far too many talented Black coaches.
However, even if more Black coaches lead NFL teams next season there isn’t much to celebrate. Because anytime a league that’s approximately 70% Black has single-digit Black coaches, it sends a message that we have the talents to play the game, but lack the intellect to coach it.
And that’s a fact that’s based on numbers that have never lied.