WASHINGTON – Before we get to the two teams that punched their ticket to New Orleans, let’s touch on a topic that’s generated quite a bit of attention in the last week.
And no, it’s got nothing to do with Manti Te’o.
Last week, the NFL’s annual game of musical chairs came to a close when Bruce Arians landed a seat as the Arizona Cardinals head coach. Arians was the last of eight coaches to be hired to a new head coaching post for the 2013 season, making white coaches a perfect 8-for-8 in this hiring cycle.
That’s right. Not a single minority hire despite a quarter of the league looking for a new coach.
As a minority, I’ve been sensitive toward the Rooney Rule — the NFL’s now decade- old requirement that teams interview at least one minority candidate for any vacant head coaching position. I thought it was necessary back then, but in recent years I thought the good had been done and the rule didn’t necessarily need to be on the books anymore.
Boy, was I wrong.
This year, Black Monday claimed two black coaches (no pun intended) that couldn’t land gigs elsewhere (Lovie Smith and Romeo Crennel). With no coaches hired to replace them in the NFL lexicon, that now leaves the league at just three minority coaches: Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, and Carolina’s Ron Rivera.
Meanwhile, the ink wasn’t even dry on Andy Reid’s pink slip before he made the move to Kansas City. Chicago’s Marc Trestman spent the last few years coaching in the CFL after a so-so 17 years in the NFL as an assistant. Chip Kelly (Philadelphia) and Doug Marrone (Buffalo) made the jump from college even though neither has NFL experience above the assistant level (Kelly has no NFL experience).
While I’m baffled that nobody thought enough of Lovie Smith to hire him ahead at least half of the guys that ultimately landed gigs, I don’t think there’s anything nefarious or racist at play here. I have no reason to believe the eight owners that hired the men they did to coach their respective teams did so for any reason other than they were deemed the best men for the job.
But let’s be real, here. The NFL is a “good ol’ boys” network for the most part, and owners and GMs tend to hire the guys they already know. While I’m all for hiring who you think is the best man for the job, regardless of skin color, I’m also staunchly in favor of expanding the pool of available candidates — and making sure that pool includes more diversity and less nepotism/favoritism.
Part of the issue at hand is current trend in the NFL. As laid out brilliantly here by ESPN’s Jeffrey Chadiha, a big reason for the decline in minority coaches is the NFL’s dramatic shift toward offense. The fact of the matter is, offensive coaches are gobbling up the head coaching jobs these days. It’s increasingly important to be able to develop and relate to quarterbacks, and if you can, you’re in huge demand.
In today’s NFL, offensive coordinators and QB coaches are mostly white. Every single minority head coach in the league in 2012 is a former defensive coordinator.
So it seems to me, ensuring that the Rooney Rule trickles down to coordinator positions is necessary. It appears there’s already movement within the league to make that a reality.
If you read Chadiha’s column, he makes a great point: There’s no minority assistant on offense carrying the “genius” label. There never has been. Perhaps with more minority offensive coordinators, we can take steps to change that.
Whatever the case, change needs to be made. Minorities being 3-for-32 in the NFL head coaching ranks is unacceptable — especially when there’s no seat at the table for a man like Lovie who’s won 56 percent of his games and took a team to a Super Bowl with Rex “The Human Turnover” Grossman at quarterback.
OK, here’s the final NFL recap of the season. Try not to cry.
Niners 28 Falcons 24
Welp…thanks for nothing, Atlanta. I picked at least one Super Bowl team correctly in each of the last three seasons, and you were my last hope to make it a 4th. More importantly, this was likely the last, best chance for Tony Gonzalez to get a ring before hanging up the cleats. If this is indeed it for his illustrious 16-year career, at least he goes out having tasted a postseason victory at least once.
Congrats to San Fran for making their first Super Bowl trip in 18 years. With Colin Kaepernick at the helm, and a relatively young and hungry defense, this is probably won’t be their last trip to the big dance with this core group.
Ravens 28 Patriots 13
Well, I told you last week that Joe Flacco had to outplay Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in successive weeks for Baltimore to advance to their 2nd Super Bowl. He did. And they are. Give him credit, and give credit to the defense for waking up after a so-so regular season.
As for New England: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … the seemingly unending benefit of the doubt for the Bill Belichick/Tom Brady tandem needs to die. They lose at home, they lose on the road, they lose in Super Bowls, they lose. It’s been nearly a decade since their last title — they’re human. Very human.
Oh, and before I forget: HarBowl. Get used that word. You’re going to hear a lot of it over the next two weeks.