Mike Preston: With so many NFL openings, it’s past time for more Black coaches to be hired

Black coaches are good enough to be coordinators in the NFL, but not head coaches. That’s the message the league has been sending, with hopes that it will change this year.

There were eight openings soon after the regular season ended Jan. 9, leaving the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Mike Tomlin as the only Black head coach among the league’s 32 teams. Since then, there has been speculation about who will get hired and who has been interviewed, but that’s business as usual this time of year.

And then no Black coach gets hired.

Almost as tiring is the repeated line about “why do teams have to hire Black coaches? Why don’t they just hire the best candidate for the job?”

That sounds good in theory, but maybe that question should be asked to the owners. Did former Jacksonville Jaguars coach Urban Meyer and current Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule have more professional experience than defensive coordinators Todd Bowles of Tampa Bay and Leslie Frazier of Buffalo?


The last time we checked, the Bills had the No. 1 defense in the NFL, followed closely by the Buccaneers, who put together the model that everyone copied after Tampa Bay beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 31-9, in Super Bowl LV nearly a year ago. Coincidentally, the coordinator of the Chiefs’ high-powered offense, Eric Bieniemy, is Black. Other Black candidates include Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, Los Angeles Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores and former NFL coaches Jim Caldwell and Marvin Lewis.

If the Dallas Cowboys fire coach Mike McCarthy and the Arizona Cardinals get rid of Kliff Kingsbury, there could be as many as 10 openings around the league. It would be embarrassing if there weren’t several new Black coaches, but league owners don’t care. They’ve gotten around the “Rooney Rule,” which requires a team to interview at least two external minority candidates for a head coaching job and one for a coordinator’s position. They have no interest in giving an opposing team another draft pick for hiring a minority candidate from a rival organization. Very seldom have teams hired a Black coach for a second stint (see Art Shell, Marvin Lewis).

According to the Associated Press, since the “Rooney Rule” was instituted in 2003, only 27 of 127 head coaching vacancies (21%) have been filled by minorities.

NFL owners are still a thriving “good ole boys” network. Most of them have only one concern, and that’s money. Take a look around the league. It’s usually the same five or six teams that win consistently because they care as much about winning as making a profit. A lot of the owners want the CEO type, which is why NFL coaches appear to be getting younger. They believe in analytics and are more concerned about what’s on social media than what’s in the playbook.

Most of them also happen to be white.

That’s not to say that some Black coaches don’t fit the same descriptions; they just happen to be a different color. The big-name media plays its part, too, often hyping assistants for head coaching positions because they have the same agent. Few coordinators have gotten more publicity recently than Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.

NFL players talk about the hiring discrepancy all the time because 70% percent of the league is Black. According to recently published statistics, 3,798 of the league’s 5,177 coaches and personnel staff are minorities.

Yet right now, there is only one Black head coach.

There were three until the Miami Dolphins fired Brian Flores after a second straight winning season and the Houston Texans let go of David Culley after just one year despite the former Ravens assistant returning respectability to a franchise in turmoil.

Both of those coaches should be candidates this year, along with Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Marcus Brady, New England Patriots linebackers coach Jerod Mayo, Cowboys defensive line coach Aden Durde and Buccaneers linebackers coach Larry Foote. Bieniemy has led one of the best offenses in the NFL for four seasons, but teams still refuse to hire him. Leftwich didn’t become a hot prospect until quarterback Tom Brady arrived in Tampa Bay. So, was it more Brady or more Leftwich?

Regardless, there are more than enough Black candidates to fill all of these open head coaching jobs.

But again, this is the NFL. On any given Sunday, anything can happen. Except for having a Black coach on the sideline.

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