NFL coaches still lack diversity

Aliyu Saadu | Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Associated Press

There were seven NFL head coaching positions available after the 2020 season, but only two of the people who were subsequently hired were not white. The Houston Texans hired David Culley, who is Black, and the New York Jets hired Robert Saleh, who is Lebanese American. 

Saleh was previously the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers. The Jets’ hire made him the first Muslim head coach in NFL history.

Culley has been an NFL coach for 27 years. He has served as a wide receiver coach, assistant head coach and quarterback coach for multiple teams throughout the course of his career. 

Even with Culley’s hire, there should be more Black head coaches in the NFL. Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy was one of the highly touted head coaching candidates but did not get hired.

In 2003, the NFL introduced the “Rooney Rule,” an NFL policy requiring every team with a head coaching vacancy to interview at least one diverse candidate. Since the creation of the “Rooney Rule,” there have been 22 Black head coaches hired. 

According to the Undefeated, a 2019 study found that minority coaches are likely to be on the “hot seat” 52.4 percent of the time, while their white counterparts are on the hot seat 28.7 percent of the time. Another statistic showed 40 percent of head coaches were former offensive coordinators, and at least 77 percent of coordinators were white.

“There are many outstanding Black men and other men and women of color in the NFL,” said Rod Graves, Fritz Pollard Alliance executive director, in an interview with CBS 4 Boston. “The pipeline is as strong as it has been. The issue is not in the sufficiency of numbers; the problem is in the limited number of leadership opportunities given. The display in opportunities is mind-boggling.”

 The first full-time Black NFL head coach was Art Shell in 1989. There have been only three minority head coaches who have won a Super Bowl.

Author N. Jeremi Duru chronicled the struggle that led to the creation of the “Rooney Rule” in his book, “Advancing the Ball: Race, Reformation, and the Quest for Equal Coaching Opportunity in the NFL.”

“I’m deeply disappointed,” Duru said in an interview with The Undefeated. “I’m deeply disappointed. I’m deeply disappointed because the NFL, the league spent the offseason truly committed to this issue and, in the end, the owners didn’t seem to move the needle in response to the NFL commitment. The league office is moving in the right direction. The problem, it seems, are individual clubs.”

The NFL says it is trying to address diversity, but all NFL owners are white. Black players are the majority in the NFL, yet teams still do not hire many Black head coaches.

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