The 2023 NFL season is around the corner. That means that the never-ending and exhausting conversation around the lack of Black head coaches in the league will soon be a hot topic — again. And since idiotic owners would rather keep choosing the Nathaniel Hacketts of the world instead of guys like Eric Bieniemy, Mike Vrabel decided to step up.
The white Tennessee Titans head coach is letting his Black assistant head coach/defensive line coach Terrell Williams run the entire show when they face the Bears in Chicago on Saturday.
This is what using your white privilege for good looks like.
“I think this is a great opportunity for him and for us and everybody involved …” Vrabel told reporters. “We’ll go into the game with things that we think we need to try to get done, and I’m sure he’ll try to do that, and I’ll help him where need be. But I do think it’ll be a great opportunity. (It’s) well-deserved. And so, this is something I wanted to do.”
The Titans are one of the few bastions of diversity within the league. Their General Manager — Ran Carthon — is Black. The team also has a good mix of white and Black assistants on staff, and it features a woman. Lori Locust serves as their defensive quality control coach.
“Mike Vrabel gets it and not only that is Empowering his people. Love this! Well done Vrabs,” tweeted ESPN’s Ryan Clark.
On the surface, the move could be viewed as a simple gesture. But it’s the simple things that matter the most, especially when it comes to this topic. Besides, if it was that “simple,” more white coaches would have a history of doing this. Since 2000, the NFL has averaged seven head-coaching changes a year. And yet again, this season the league will only feature three head coaches who identify as Black due to Mike McDaniel. The Miami Dolphins head coach identifies as a “human being” with a Black dad. Let’s respect his wishes.
To further put things into perspective, when the XFL announced the eight men who would be serving as head coaches last year when the league returned in 2023, four of them were Black — giving them more Black head coaches than the NFL. Hines Ward, Terrell Buckley, Reggie Barlow, and Rod Woodson joined Wade Phillips, Bob Stoops, Anthony Becht, and Jim Haslett while the NFL and multiple franchises were being sued by Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton for their alleged racist and discriminatory hiring practices.
A few weeks ago, we received an update on the Flores case as Judge Valerie Caproni in Manhattan federal court reiterated her stance on allowing Flores to proceed with his trial against the league, Denver Broncos, New York Giants, and Houston Texans in open court.
Expect the NFL to settle sooner than later.
In 1921, Fritz Pollard became the NFL’s first Black coach and it was viewed as a great example of progress. 102 years later, the NFL only has two more Black coaches than it did when Pollard was on the sidelines. Racism has been at the core of the NFL for more than a century.
A new low was hit when Brian Flores risked his career by suing the league. A sliver of positivity took place when Mike Vrabel decided to step out of the way so that Terrell Williams can show the world what he can do in a meaningless game, which also means so much.
The Rooney Rule was killed a long time ago. Something new has to be done to create change. A white coach in Nashville may have figured out the first step to what that looks like. If Black coaches are going to get better opportunities in the league it isn’t going to come from the owners. It’ll be from their white colleagues — who have more than enough privilege to spare.