We Don’t Look At What Color We Are When We Coach Against Each Other” | Todd Bowles Doesn’t Want His Matchup Against Mike Tomlin To Be About Being Black

(Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This weekend, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Steel City. There has been substantial drama surrounding Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady‘s personal life amid his potential marital issues. The Steelers’ abysmal 1-4 start to the season has also been troubling to the reputation of a coach known for having no losing seasons. So the game’s narrative should be about whether Mike Tomlin will get back in the win column against a Tom Brady-led offense.

Instead, it has been framed as a battle between two Black head coaches, Todd Bowles, head coach of the Buccaneers, and Tomlin. When coach Bowles received the question during a press conference about the pending matchup, he did not feel the point.

“I have a very good relationship with Tomlin,” Bowles said on Thursday in response to a question about competing against Tomlin. “We don’t look at what color we are when we coach against each other. We just know each other. I have a lot of very good white friends that coach in this league as well.

“And I don’t think it’s a big deal as far as us coaching against each other. I think it’s normal. Wilks got an opportunity to do a good job, hopefully he does it. And we coach ball. We don’t look at color.”

Tomlin and Bowles are two of four Black head coaches in the NFL, with Tomlin having the longest tenure of the two. Lovie Smith is at the helm of the Houston Texans, and former Carolina Panthers defensive pass game coordinator Steve Wilks was named interim head coach on Monday following the firing of Matt Rhule. These four Black men hold the top coaching positions in professional football. However, like all coaches, they want to focus on winning, not just their “achievement” of making it in football.

Bowles is in his first year as head coach in Tampa Bay after the move of Bruce Arians to the front ofice. Ironically, Bowles was asked by the media whether he understood that “representation matters,” in professional football, as if he and every other Black coach hasn’t been aware of the Rooney Rule.

“Well, when you say, ‘See you guys,’ and ‘Look like them and grew up like them,’ means that we’re oddballs to begin with,” Bowles said. “And I think the minute you guys stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well.”

Former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores blew the lid off the roof of NFL coaching diversity facade when he exposed his treatment as a head coaching candidate by the Denver Broncos and New York Giants. He also revealed that the Dolphins owner wanted him to throw games to secure a higher draft pick slot for a financial incentive but at the cost of his coaching record and integrity.

Now Flores is suing the league, three franchises, and unidentified individuals, alleging discrimination and racism in hiring practices. Among the complaints in the filing, Flores said he participated in two “sham” interviews with teams that attempted to comply with the Rooney Rule in name only, citing the Giants and Broncos.

Todd Bowles has a point, but polarization in America and sports entertainment can mean hype capitalization, which aids monetization. That will keep the race questions alive.


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Rhett Butler is a Boxing Writer Association of America Journalist, Play-By-Play Commentator, Combat Sports Insider, and Former Mixed Martial Arts and Boxing Promoter. The New York City native honed his skills at various news outlets including but not limited to: TIME Magazine, Money Magazine, CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, and more. Rhett hosts the PRITTY Left Hook podcast, a polarizing combat sports insider's take featuring the world's biggest names.