The NFL’s Rooney Rule that mandates teams looking for a new head coach to interview at least one Black candidate today resembles a Peanuts comic strip. Team general managers and owners are like Lucy holding the football, and Black coaches are Charlie Browns watching head-coaching jobs perennially snatched from beneath them under the guise of an inclusive interviewing process.
Seven recent head-coach job openings — zero Blacks hired.
Andy Reid was hired four days after being fired. Former college coach Chip Kelly met with two teams, returned to Oregon, and falsely told his bosses that he was staying put, then bolted off to Philadelphia to replace Reid.
Lovie Smith was one of two Blacks who were fired among the seven NFL coaches let go on New Year’s Eve, and the only one of the dismissed seven who previously won a Super Bowl. He’s still out of work.
Historically, 17 Blacks have been hired as NFL head coaches since 1989. Only seven of them got a second chance from another team after being let go. Only twice in league history have there been more than five Black coaches in the league at the same time (seven in 2006 and 2011). Today, only two Black head coaches remain: Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier and Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati.
If non-Black coaches were hired with the same infrequency, with the same one-and-done fashion, the outrage would be felt from sea to shining sea.
We can only suppose that the reason the mainstream media haven’t called out this elephant in the room is that they’re scared of the big bad NFL. Sports radio and ESPN would rather talk about paint drying on the wall than how teams are practicing coaching apartheid using the Rooney Rule as cover.
The Atlanta Black Star’s Curtis Bunn strongly calls the Rooney Rule, in place since 2003, “a ruse.” I’d call it a sham, being run by the NFL decision makers like some high-stakes con game.
White coaches get first-class seats in the hiring pipeline, while Black coaches must travel by the Underground Railroad to barely get a sniff of an interview. Successful Black college coaches — even those who win bowl games like Kevin Sumlin, who coached the first freshman Heisman Trophy winner, and David Shaw, whose Stanford squad won this year’s Rose Bowl — are passed over or rarely discussed as NFL coaching prospects by so-called media geniuses.
A 2010 study by University of Iowa researchers suggested that the NFL should recruit more Blacks to be hired as coordinators, “pipeline” jobs supposedly designed to groom future head coaches. Two years ago there were eight Blacks in coordinator positions; only one was promoted to head coach — Romeo Crennel, who was fired after one year by Kansas City.
“If the league introduced African American coaches into the front of the pipeline instead of at the end, more [would be] likely to be hired as head coaches,” said Iowa Professor John Solow.
Evidently the pipeline is always clogged for Blacks, but NFL teams consistently use Drano to clear it out for Whites.
I don’t advocate hiring a Black coach simply because he’s the same skin color as I, but if three-fourths of your players are Black, then what does this say? We can play but can’t draw X’s and O’s? We can tackle, run and catch, but we can’t design game schemes?
Only one NFL team honestly admitted they had their man and didn’t want to waste time bringing in Blacks for a job that didn’t exist. That was the Detroit Lions, who were fined for getting around the Rooney Rule. Such honesty I applaud. It’s better than the NFL acting like Sonny and Cher — the beat goes on.
Hear it? Whenever a bell rings, it means another White man was hired as NFL head coach. What a wonderful life! Meanwhile, another Black man lies flat on his back like Charlie Brown, once again duped into a Rooney Rule interview with a round-trip ticket to no chance of getting the job.
The biggest problem with the Rooney Rule is that it only requires an NFL team to interview a Black man, not hire him. It’s tiresome hearing knuckleheads say Blacks can sharpen their skills in these faux head-coaching interviews, putting themselves in front of decision makers like walking a fashion show runway.
This type of thinking makes the Rooney Rule the ruse and sham it currently is.
Did you know…?
Name the former NFL Black coaches who were hired more than once. (Answer in next week’s “View.”)
Answer to last week’s question: Penn State’s Alex Bentley two weeks ago became just the fifth player in Big Ten history to record 1,500 points, 500 assists and 250 steals in her career. One of the five is from Minnesota. Name her.
Tamara Moore of Minneapolis achieved this feat at Wisconsin.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.