(ThyBlackMan.com) Entering Week 10 in the NFL, the only undefeated team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, was coached by a Black man in Mike Tomlin. Tomlin has been one of the NFL’s most successful head coaches since earning the Steelers’ job back in 2007 at the relatively young age of 35 years old. Unfortunately, Tomlin, the Miami’s Brian Flores, and Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn are the only Black non-interim head coaches in a league where over half the on-field talent is Black. Houston’s Romeo Crennel and Atlanta’s Raheem Morris are interim head coaches after their team’s previous head coaches were fired in-season. The National Football League has had trouble with its subpar history of giving Black men opportunities to lead football teams as head coaches or as general managers to build teams.
This is despite the successes of Black men like Tony Dungy, Lovie Smith, the late Dennis Green, and Tomlin over the last couple of decades. The often-discussed Rooney Rule has made a difference historically but it seems that things have regressed regarding the prospects of Black head coaches in recent years which is why the NFL had to implement a bold new step to try to change things.
The NFL has announced that it has approved a proposal incentivizing developments on minority coaches and executives. According to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, NFL “Teams that lose a minority coach or executive to a head coach or general manager job with another team will receive a third-round compensatory pick for two consecutive years. If a team loses a minority coach and an executive to HC and GM roles, that club will receive a third-round compensatory pick for three consecutive years.” This proposal is different from the proposal that circulated back in May 2020 that considered improving draft picks for teams that hire minority candidates as head coaches or general managers. It wasn’t enough to hire a Black head coach, a NFL team was potentially getting a Black coach and an extra fourth round pick for hiring him. This idea was panned by many people when it was publicized.
The new proposal is an improvement because it puts the focus on NFL teams hiring and developing quality minority assistant coaches. Ideally, the right thing is to want advancement for employees even if it means that employee leaving for another NFL team but getting a possible third round NFL Draft pick is an incentive meant to curb the structural racism that still exists in hiring. Although Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians has some ignorant ideas regarding social protesting, he has been an advocate for minority coaches including his own offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich. The frustrating example of the NFL’s failure to consider quality Black coaching assistants has been Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who has been passed off numerous times for head coaching positions over the last couple of years despite his pedigree and work with superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
One of the main problems regarding the NFL’s current way of hiring head coaches can be explained by NFLPA executive committee member Sam Acho, who said on ESPN Radio’s Sunday Morning back in May, “The problem with the NFL is that there’s so much cronyism; it’s all about who you know. Oftentimes, NFL coaches aren’t the best coaches; they’re not. Oftentimes, people talk about the politics and the business of football; it’s about who you know, and no one wants to talk about it.” You can bet that there will be people watching the next few head coaching and general manager cycles to see if the numbers improve.
Staff Writer; Mark Hines