NFL owners are making life easier for Brian Flores’ lawyers.
Almost exactly nine months to the day after the Houston Texans were on the verge of hiring Josh McCown — a former player who’d been moonlighting as an assistant high school coach in his free time — Colts owner Jim Irsay shocked the sports world on Monday when he bypassed two former head coaches on his staff to hire Jeff Saturday to take over for the recently fired Frank Reich.
Saturday’s claim to fame is that he was Peyton Manning’s longtime center in Indianapolis, and he would parlay that into a successful career in television. Saturday’s only coaching experience came at the high school ranks when he led Hebron Christian (Georgia) to a 20-16 record during his tenure from 2017-2019, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, it gets worse. Check out some of the things that were said by Irsay and Saturday during his introductory press conference on Monday.
“Why am I a candidate for this?” — Saturday.
“We were fortunate that he was available,” — Irsay.
“I came in, nobody expects anything. I’m here. Nobody expects anything. Hopefully it’ll go extremely well. But I have no preconceived notion that I’m gonna be some spectacular anything,” — Saturday.
“Yes he is fully experienced enough. Yes he is fully capable,” — Irsay.
If you hadn’t figured it out by now, McCown, Irsay, and Saturday are all white. Why is that important here? Because only white men get opportunities they’re consistently unqualified for — and then get championed by the people who put them in the position that they will ultimately fail at. It’s the only way to explain how Saturday, a 14-year NFL veteran and six-time Pro Bowler, has become the first NFL head coach without any experience on the college or pro level since 1961.
This is the world that Black coaches live in, as Irsay’s decision to choose Saturday has shown us what owners so often mean when they use the excuse of picking a coach “they’re comfortable with” or “would have a beer with.” NFL owners would rather lose with white coaches they consider friends than interview or hire Black coaches that could make their teams competitive. This is the epitome of white privilege.
However, what makes this situation even more maddening for Black coaches is that if Irsay would have chosen someone like Reggie Wayne — a Colts legend that’s on staff and who was a better player than Saturday — to be the interim head coach, it would have been a death sentence for him, given how it’s historically gone when Black coaches get hit with the interim tag.
Before Monday, since 2010 there had been 14 instances in which a white coach served as the interim. That list includes Darrell Bevell (twice), Rich Bisaccia, Bill Callahan, Joe Philbin, Steve Spagnuolo, John Fassel, Dan Campbell, Pat Shurmur, Tony Sparano, Jim Tomsula, Doug Marrone, Mike Mularkey, and Jason Garrett. Of that group, Marrone, Mularkey, and Garrett were chosen to stay on as head coaches. However, in that same time frame, there was never a time in which a Black interim coach was replaced by another Black coach.
Just last month, Steve Wilks — who along with Ray Horton is part of Brian Flores’ class-action lawsuit against the NFL, alleging racist hiring practices — was named the interim head coach in Carolina after Matt Rhule was fired.
A white head coach was fired. A Black assistant was elevated to interim. A white owner had this to say at the press conference.
“I had a talk with Steve, no promises were made, but if he does an incredible job, he has to be in consideration.”
A Black coach with previous head coaching experience has to be incredible just to be considered in Carolina, while a white guy with no experience who has spent the last few years on ESPN gets to be an interim coach in Indianapolis with support from the owner.
The NFL should send Brian Flores a blank check and immediately settle.
On Sunday, the Colts and Raiders will meet in the White Privilege Bowl as Jeff Saturday will make his debut with a Colts team that’s 3-5-1 against a 2-6 Las Vegas squad that’s led by another white head coach who had no business getting hired. Someone has to win. And sadly enough, whoever does will be celebrated for beating one of the worst teams in the league.