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The NFL Should Love The Idea Of Hiring A Woman Head Coach

Fans need to set aside their deep-seeded misogyny to think outside the box.

Over the weekend the social media and reactionary news outlets helped fuel a rumor that former United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been tabbed as a possible candidate to coach the Cleveland Browns.

However, it was only a matter of hours before both Rice and the Cleveland Browns came forward and announced that they were mutually disinterested in that prospect.

Though Rice has never coached a football team before, she is one of the most prominent football minds in contemporary society. 

https://theshadowleague.com/cleveland-browns-gm-considering-woman-for-head-coaching-vacancy/#.W_LQ7-hKjIU


In 2013, she was selected as one of 13 members of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. The following year, she reportedly told ESPN that she watched upwards of 15 games per week. Also, she hired Ty Willingham as Stanford’s head football coach when she served as the university’s Provost.


Despite the fact that she and the Browns have no interest in one another, the conversation that has arisen has at least opened some eyes to the possibility of it.

“Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a great leader, possesses the highest possible character and also happens to be a Browns fan,” Cleveland General Manager John Dorsey told ESPN. “I have the utmost respect and admiration for all she’s accomplished and was honored to meet her for the first time earlier this season. Our coaching search will be thorough and deliberate, but we are still in the process of composing the list of candidates and Secretary Rice has not been discussed.”

“I love my Browns — and I know they will hire an experienced coach to take us to the next level,” Rice said in a statement posted to her Facebook page. “On a more serious note, I do hope that the NFL will start to bring women into the coaching profession as position coaches and eventually coordinators and head coaches. One doesn’t have to play the game to understand it and motivate players. But experience counts — and it is time to develop a pool of experienced women coaches.


“BTW — I’m not ready to coach but I would like to call a play or two next season if the Browns need ideas! And at no time will I call for a ‘prevent defense.'”

Though Rice’s statement had an appreciative tone, she did take the opportunity to speak on the dearth of women coaches in the National Football League.


https://theshadowleague.com/any-given-saturday-week-8-condoleezza-rice-is-overqualified/

The NBA League Office has the best record for people of color (36.4 percent, up 1.3 percentage points) in men’s professional sport. In fact, professional staff positions at the NBA Office had the best representation of women (39.6 percent, up .8 of a percentage point) out of all of the graded categories for the NBA in this year’s report.

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The NBA was the first league to have three owners of color leading its teams. Also, there were seven women who served as team presidents/CEOs during the 2017-2018 season, the highest in men’s professional sports.

In 2016, Jennifer Welter became the first woman to hold an NFL coaching gig when she became assistant coach under linebacker coach Bob Sanders.

In 2017, Kathryn Smith became the first woman to coach full-time in the NFL when she was named a Special Teams Quality Control Coach for the Buffalo Bills. Katie Sowers is not only the first openly gay coach, but the NFL’s first full-time female coach for the San Francisco 49ers and this season Kelsey Martinez was named strength and conditioning assistant coach for the Oakland Raiders.



These are baby steps, but forward motion is better than no motion at all. However, it will take a great deal for owners and fans to set aside their deep seeded misogyny to welcome a woman as a head coach.


Each of these women are setting a precedent that many hope will no longer be unique in a few years.

When it comes to crossing the gender lines to coach, men do this frequently in NCAA basketball and there are indicators that we’ll see a woman head coach in the NBA within the next five years. However, there are currently dozens of men coaching women’s NCAA basketball and no women coaching men’s NCAA basketball.

In 2003, Tennessee State University athletic director Teresa Phillips coached one game after the men’s basketball coach was suspended and much of the team was suspended for a fight. TSU lost to Austin Peay, but Phillips was named one of the “101 Most Influential Minorities In Sports”. But 15 years later and we’re still waiting for a woman head coach to be hired on full-time to coach a men’s team in Division I basketball.

What this dynamic shows is that, even in the much more progressive sport of collegiate and professional basketball, the hypocrisy regarding who can and cannot coach is stark. Simultaneously, it also shows us how far behind the NFL is when it comes adding women in positions that could have an impact on players and gameplanning.


Just this summer Becky Hammon was promoted and is now sitting in the front row alongside with top assistants Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina and Popovich himself.

If I were a betting man, I would place coins on Hammon becoming the first woman head coach coach in the National Basketball Association. Her fighting acumen is well-documented. Now, let me tell you a little somethin’ somethin’ about Hammon’s winning pedigree.

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The South Dakota Player of the Year went under-recruited out of high school, but eventually chose little regarded Colorado State. She would become a three time All-American and Colorado Sportswoman of the Year her senior, one in which she led the Rams to a 33-3 record while advancing to the Sweet Sixteen and becoming WAC Mountain Division player of the year. She also became the WAC’s all-time leading scorer.
Not bad for being “too small” and “too slow” coming out of high school.

Despite those mammoth numbers, even the WNBA was underwhelmed. She went undrafted but signed with the New York Liberty in 1999.


She would eventually replace the aging vet Teresa Weatherspoon as the lead guard. Hammon was a very accomplish WNBA player by 2008 having earned several All-Star appearances, and several All-WNBA first and second team honors, but did not get invited to try out for the U.S national team for a second time, Becky announced she’d be claiming a roster spot on the Russian national team to compete in Beijing and became a Russian citizen the same year.


Hammon, of Russian parentage but born stateside, was criticized by then women’s national team coach Anne Donovan in 2008, who questioned her patriotism.

Last season, Becky was interviewed for a general manager position with the Milwaukee Bucks, but was not among the finalist.

Yet, through every thing, she stands on the verge of making history in the near future. Indeed, it is through the many abrasions of adversity that the finest jewels are polished to a perfect shine.

The question begs to be asked; If the NBA is five or more years away from hiring a woman head coach, how far away is the NFL? Very, very far.

But do female fans not deserve to see NFL coaching leadership that they can relate to? After all, women comprise 45 percent of the fans of the National Football League. Also, the NFL has launched an initiative to try to attract more young female fans.



The league currently has female coaches, two female officials and three female owners, as well as a chief security officer.  According to Reuters, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans have the biggest female fan base.

 Within a society that believes in the tenets of American idealism, a shift in beliefs is triggered by a singular catalyst that causes a crescendo of change.


Though it is quite difficult for even the most progressive among us to fathom a situation in which a woman coaching and dictating strategy in the National Football League, we’d be kidding ourselves in not respecting the leadership abilities of women as comparable to men in any field. 

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A 2014 study by Business Insider actually suggests women are BETTER leaders in the corporate world than men. And though coaching is an entirely different bull to wrangle, the intangibles of leadership have proven to be universal.

According to Dr. Richard Lapchick’s annual report on race and gender hiring practices in professional sports, the NBA League Office has the best record for people of color (36.4 percent, up 1.3 percentage points) in men’s professional sport. In fact, professional staff positions at the NBA Office had the best representation of women (39.6 percent, up .8 of a percentage point) out of all of the graded categories for the NBA.



Also, there were seven women who served as team presidents/CEOs during the 2017-2018 season, the highest in men’s professional sports.

In 2016, Jennifer Welter became the first woman to hold an NFL coaching gig when she became assistant coach under linebacker coach Bob Sanders.

In 2017, Kathryn Smith became the first woman to coach full-time in the NFL when she was named a Special Teams Quality Control Coach for the Buffalo Bills. Katie Sowers is not only the first openly gay coach, but the NFL’s first full-time female coach for the San Francisco 49ers and this season Kelsey Martinez was named strength and conditioning assistant coach for the Oakland Raiders.

Each of these women are setting a precedent that many hope will no longer be unique in a few years.
But, do you know what could help this a long? If fans would stop being such big-ass, whiny crybabies every time a woman is considered for a groundbreaking hire.

The current echo chamber effect provided by social media makes the consternation and trolling of the progressively defunct ghouls and goblins that decry forward movement seem far more numerous than they actually are. So any hire of a woman head coach in the NFL or NBA would require a brave man in power to ignore norms, media, fans, and contrarian staffers in order to pull the trigger and change history.  



Sadly, what the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick by the league owners shows us is that the NFL’s primary barometer is the sensibilities of old white men. And, historically, they’re the demographic least inclined to champion change.

Starting his career as lead writer for EURweb.com back in 1998, Ricardo A Hazell has served as Senior Contributor with The Shadow League since coming to the company in 2013. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, the South China Sea Morning Post, the Root and many other publications. At TSL he is charged with exploring black cultural angles where they intersect with the mainstream.