While the National Football League has plenty of diverse talent on the field, you’d be hard-pressed to see that reflected in the sidelines.
The New York Times reports that in the 2019 off-season the number of minority head coaches shrunk from eight to four. When it came to general managers that number went from four to two. This led to Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, giving the NFL its lowest grade in 16 years in the annual report he puts out that tracks the hiring of minorities and women in the league. The only minority head coaches at the moment are Mike Tomlin of the Steelers, Anthony Lynn with the Chargers, Brian Flores with the Dolphins and as of today Ron Rivera with the Washington Redskins.
This drought of talent is partially explained by the process of which head coaches are selected, one that tends to favor offensive coordinators and coaches for quarterbacks. Many black coaches are typically selected for jobs involving the defensive line. When it comes to coaches for quarterbacks, there were only two black coaches in the 2019 season.
This is a problem the NFL is working to solve. In 2003 the league introduced the Rooney Rule to help increase diversity across coaching staffs and front offices. The rule requires that each team interview at least one minority candidate from outside the organization when hiring a head coach, assistant coaches or senior executives. This rule hasn’t led to much change, though, with there never having been more than eight minority head coaches at any time in the league. Additionally, the NFL has seldom penalized teams for violating the rule.
The Quarterback Summit is an event that the NFL has held for the last two years. The event allows young men of color to network with head coaches and offensive coordinators, learn how to develop quarterbacks and tape mock interviews. The goal is to do away with the notion that there just isn’t enough diverse talent in the coaching pools by actively helping to bring up the next crop of diverse talent.
Additionally, some head coaches are taking the initiative on their own. Bruce Arians, former head coach for the Arizona Cardinals, saw that more opportunities were needed. Four years ago, he set up the Bill Bidwill Coaching Fellowship, a program that pays former players from minority groups to coach for up to two years. Since then, over a dozen more teams in the league have established similar programs. Byron Leftwhich, a former backup quarterback, interned with the program in 2016. The following year, he became the quarterbacks’ coach, and in 2018 he backed the offensive coordinator. He followed Arians to Tampa Bay when he was selected as head coach. It should be noted that the Buccaneers are the first team to have black coaches as offensive, defensive and special teams coordinators with 11 of its 30 coaches being minorities.
Personally, I hope these efforts will prove more and more successful as time goes on. There is an abundance of diverse talent on the field and the fact that has yet to be reflected in the coaching staffs is a shame. The talent is always there, it’s just a matter who gets the opportunity.