As another NFL hiring cycle begins Monday, the league’s frustrated black assistant coaches remain eager to get into the game significantly.
During recent hiring periods, which traditionally begin as most clubs cut ties with head coaches on the first day after the regular season ends, black assistants have had significantly fewer opportunities than their white counterparts to reach the top rung of the league’s coaching ladder. It stirs resentment among them toward the band owners, who rely largely on black bodies to power their multi-billion dollar industry.
In interviews with The Undefeated over the past several years, many black assistants have decried double standards in hiring, particularly expressing anger that white assistants clearly have, to put it mildly, an easier route to the head coach’s office.
Despite ongoing efforts by the league’s office to encourage owners to expand their thinking regarding mass recruitment across club football operations, the numbers remain poor. With the Las Vegas Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars positions open for head coaches during the season and up to five more positions potentially vacant soon, the club’s owners have another chance to make tangible progress toward leveling the playing field. N. Jeremi Duru hopes that they will seize this opportunity and take advantage of it.
American University Sports Law Professor and author of the definitive book on the struggle that led to the creation of Rooney’s Rule, Advance Ball: Race, Reform, and the Search for Equal Training Opportunities in the NFLDoro feels a transformation is underway, albeit still very slowly, after the short and disastrous reign of former Jacksonville coach Urban Mayer.
Prior to this season, Jaguars owner Chad Khan quickly broke into Mayer, who won three college national championships while at the University of Florida and Ohio State. Unfortunately past the match on the field and a major embarrassment to the organization off, Mayer had a 2-11 record and was sent off in December with four games remaining in the season. Duru said Khan indicated that he would lead Jaguar’s current training research in a very different way, demonstrating the kind of growth that could lead to positive change across the entire employment landscape.
“In the last session, the Jacksonville Jaguars focused on Urban Meyer as if he was the only candidate who could do the job there. It seemed pretty clear from the start that the job was theirs…and by any objective assessment it was a train wreck,” said Duru. [Khan] The process is going the right way. This time, he’s taking his time, he’s rolling.
“He is interviewing a wide range of candidates, some of color and some of no color. He appears to be participating in a process designed to find the best candidate. … If other clubs can learn from the lesson the Jacksonville Jaguars have learned, there is hope. in that [more clubs] They will pursue a process designed to get the best candidate and not just the person they thought they were looking for.”
Black assistants will be pleased if the Jaguars’ quest for Meyer becomes a cautionary tale that helps more of them receive legitimate interest in the slots. So far, their disturbing story is as familiar as the outright racism on display.
Of the seven openings for head coaches at the start of the 2020-21 cycle, one black man has filled in. Over the previous four sessions, there were 27 openings. During that time, three black men became head coaches.
In the 32-team NFL this season, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin and Houston Texans’ David Cooley were hired in January 2021 after serving as the Baltimore Ravens’ assistant coach and wide receiving coach, and Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins (who’s Afro-Latino They were the only black coaches in the league. Ron Rivera of the Washington soccer team is Latino.
In addition, the New York Jets in the previous session hired former San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, a Lebanese-American who has the distinction of being the first Muslim coach in the NFL. that is great. Anything that moves the ball when embed indicates progress.
When it comes to providing opportunities for qualified black coaches, the NFL gets confused time and time again. The league has never had more than eight Black coaches in any season. In the overwhelmingly Black League – whose on-field workforce reached a record high of 69.7% during the 2016 season – this is unacceptable.
In an encouraging development, three black general managers were appointed during the previous cycle: Terry Fontenot of the Atlanta Falcons, Brad Holmes of the Detroit Lions and Martin Mayhew of Washington. With these moves, he increased the number of black GMs in the league from two to five (the NFL never had more than seven). There has been significant progress recently in commercial operations at the club level. In August 2021, Jason Wright became the first black team president in the NFL, and took control of Washington before the league’s 101st season kicked off.
However, even Commissioner Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations for the league and the Goodell League in the ongoing fight for employment equity, conceded that the NFL could not claim victory due to a handful of positive developments. There is a lot of work to be done in an effort to make the league more diverse from the front office to the field.
“We have taken steps to create a workplace culture that aims to eliminate prejudice, enhance confidence, develop skills and provide opportunities,” Vincent wrote in a text message to The Undefeated. “We are always looking to improve by promoting change that reflects the values of the game. Bottom line: You should not ask for interviews with people of colour, minority or gender.”
Over the past two years, substantial changes have not affected Rooney’s staff training base. Twisting the arm in the back room didn’t produce major changes either. Black Aides acknowledge that there is a lot that Goodell can do.
The NFL’s hiring problem is still more acute at the club level – and the owners now have another chance to show if they’re interested in fixing it.