The effectiveness of the Rooney Rule has once again been called into question, as Black coaches have been overlooked, ignored and shut out of the offseason coaching carousel in 2019.
There were five head coaching jobs available this offseason and some experienced and viable head African-American head coaching candidates thirsting for a shot at one of the NFL’s 32 coveted leadership positions.
Eric Bieniemy would be an ideal fit in Cleveland, an antidote for both the team’s cultural malaise and offensive underachievement. https://t.co/uiCWiO9pv3
— Post Sports (@PostSports) January 8, 2020
With experienced and winning leaders such as Marvin Lewis and Jim Caldwell available, and budding superstar play-callers such as Eric Bieniemy and Byron Leftwhich and Kris Richard (Defensive Coordinator) ready to elevate to that next level, so far, the league’s owners have gone with white, inexperienced coaches, with the exception of Ron Rivera, the league’s only full-blooded Latino coach.
Dallas hired Mike McCarthy. Rivera, who twice won NFL Coach of the Year honors in Carolina and also took the Panthers to a Super Bowl was scooped up by the Redskins. Carolina was bugging and gave $70 M’s to Baylor coach Matt Rhule to replace Rivera.
The Giants interviewed Bieniemy and Richard, but perplexingly decided on Patriots wide receivers coach Joe Judge. Black Twitter and the anointed mouth pieces of Black consciousness scolded the NFL.
coach was black. That was the point. I’m quite sure there are legitimate head-coaching candidates who are positional coaches. The real issue is the issue of fairness NOT being accorded to black coaches. No knock on the Joe Judge’s of the world whatsoever. Be well, my brother. https://t.co/p9yse2pKmu
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 7, 2020
Cleveland is still one of the least-coveted destinations for coaches seeking employment, but the franchise does have its QB of the future and a talented roster. Maybe they will go Black. The Browns once broke racial barriers when they hired Hue Jackson as head coach and Ivy Leaguer Sashi Brown as GM.
That leaves us with three Black head coaches: Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh Steelers), Anthony Lynn (San Diego Chargers) and Miami Dolphins HC Brian Flores, whose parents are from Honduras. They are Garifuna, a mixed African and indigenous people originally from the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. The Garifuna, are also called the Black Caribs
Flores’ hire in 2018 was the silver lining in a disappointing situation as the NFL’s Black Coaching purge saw five African-American coaches fired in 2018 and replaced with white coaches.
When all the black NFL head coaches are getting fired on Black Monday pic.twitter.com/UVTb9LLZ2S
— Master (@MasterTes) December 31, 2018
ROONEY RULE HOLDS NO WEIGHT
The Rooney Rule is under fire and deservedly so, because it’s being straight up ignored.
The rule was designed by The Fritz Pollard Alliance (FPA) and mandated by the league to provide minority coaching candidates with better opportunities to secure a head coaching gig by forcing any team looking for a new head coach to interview at least one minority candidate.
Legend has it, Mike Tomlin got his job that way.
In 2013, after no minorities were chosen to fill 15 head coaching and front office positions, the FPA had asked the NFL to expand the Rooney Rule to include coordinators, assistant head coaches and team presidents in an effort to increase the pool of potential minority candidates.
For a while, the rule seemed to be incrementally working. At the beginning of the 2018 season, there was an all-time high of 8 minority head coaches. There was optimism that the NFL head coaching minority ranks would reach double-digits by 2020. Unfortunately, in a post-Colin Kaepernick world, this season showed that NFL owners are moving in the opposite direction
By the end of 2018, the following Black head coaches were fired: 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).
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. Though the NFL has made significant strides in hiring Black head coaches over the last twenty years because of the Rooney Rule, the recent firings were sobering.
You Want Names, We Got Names: FPA Ready For NFL List
They Fritz Pollard Alliance even developed a “Ready for NFL” to locate qualified minority headcoach and front office candidates that the owners might be overlooking.
The list highlights minority candidates that the organization feels is capable of running an NFL team or front office.
Other qualified minority candidates recently submitted by John Wooten and the FPA to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell include Tampa Bay Bucs talented OC Byron Leftwhich and special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong, Vikings DC George Edwards, former Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier, former Bucs head coach Raheem Morris, Kris Richard and Eagles assistant head coach Duce Staleyand Pats linebackers coach Jerod Mayo.
As is often the case with Black head coaches, the ones that were previously fired are long shots to land a head coaching job with another team, a la Lovie Smith. They will all have to take a step back, while most will never get the opportunity again.
ROGER GOODELL HAS FAILED BLACK COACHES
In 2006, when Commissioner Goodell was hired, there were seven minority coaches and four minority general managers. Despite the extensive list of qualified Black candidates and a much deeper pipeline of minority coaching talent, today there are just three minority HCs and one minority GM (Chris Grier, Dolphins) after Ravens head honcho Ozzie Newsome retired.
Hot names of the past who never got a chance to be hired — or even received a brief chance at the gig — are now almost forgotten. Teryl Austin, assistant defensive and secondary coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers has interviewed for eight head coaching jobs over the last three years and he’s still on the grind.
Harold Goodwin was the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator from 2013-17. He was a hot coaching candidate and interviewed for a ton of jobs over the past two seasons, but now he’s offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for the Tampa Bay
Guys like 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. Josh McDaniels, and his 11-17 head coaching record however, reportedly has his pick of the litter.
There’s no shortage of qualified African-American head coaches, coordinators or front office candidates. NFL owners aren’t willing to move the needle at the rate these guys deserve. I guess it’s back to the drawing board for the Fritz Pollard Alliance and the many qualified African-American coaches who continue to get ignored, short-hooked and excluded from plush leadership gigs in the NFL.