The Diversity Dozen: 12 Black NFL assistant coaches who deserve more attention

The Diversity Dozen: 12 Black NFL assistant coaches who deserve more attention

Duce Staley
Duce Staley
Image: AP

With the start of the 2021 NFL season seven months away, the conversation about the lack of Black head coaches tends to go dormant after the Super Bowl, as those potential candidates aren’t eligible to be hired for another 11 months.

However, just because it isn’t a constant point of discussion right now it doesn’t mean that it lacks importance, especially when the most tenured Black head coach in the league has never hired a Black coach to be one of his coordinators.

This month’s Super Bowl was highlighted by the diverse staffs of the Buccaneers and the Chiefs, led by Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and both of Tampa Bay’s coordinators in Byron Leftwich (offense) and Todd Bowles (defense).

As we get ready to close out Black History Month, here are 12 other Black assistant coaches in the NFL that deserve some shine and recognition.

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Leslie Frazier, Assistant Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

Leslie Frazier, Assistant Coach/Defensive Coordinator, Buffalo Bills

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Frazier has over two decades of coaching experience and won Super Bowls as a player and an assistant. When it comes to coaching, most know Frazier from this time with the Vikings — when he was interim coach in 2010, and stayed on until the 2013 season. As a former defensive back, most of his coaching experience is on that side of the ball as he has a 21-32-1 record as a head coach with one playoff appearance.

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Troy Brown, Running Backs/Kick Returners Coach, New England Patriots

Troy Brown, Running Backs/Kick Returners Coach, New England Patriots

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There’s a reason why Brown is coaching two different positions. During his playing days with the Patriots, Brown played wide receiver, cornerback, and returned kicks in a career that featured three Super Bowl wins, a Pro Bowl appearance, and being inducted as a member of the Patriots Hall of Fame. With the way the game is played now, Brown is someone to look out for as football becomes more of a position-less sport.

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Tee Martin, Wide Receivers Coach, Baltimore Ravens

Tee Martin, Wide Receivers Coach, Baltimore Ravens

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Martin will always be known as a great Jeopardy! question, as he’s the National Championship-winning quarterback from the University of Tennessee, not Peyton Manning. After years of working his way up the totem pole as an assistant on the offensive side from preps to the Power 5 programs like Kentucky, USC, and Tennessee, Martin has finally made it to the NFL.

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Ike Hilliard, Wide Receivers Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

Ike Hilliard, Wide Receivers Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers

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After being a stud receiver for the Gators during his college days and a solid pass-catcher in the league, Hilliard got his coaching start in the NFL in 2011 with the Dolphins. Since then, he’s coached receivers with Washington — twice — Buffalo, and the Steelers. Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Chase Claypool have all been under his tutelage.

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Pep Hamilton, Quarterbacks Coach, Houston Texans

Pep Hamilton, Quarterbacks Coach, Houston Texans

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Hamilton has coaches practically coached offense everywhere, literally. The list goes: Howard University, Jets, 49ers, Bears, Stanford, Colts, Browns, Michigan, the XFL, and Chargers. With only one stint as an NFL offensive coordinator (Colts, 2-13-2015), it’s beyond time for Hamilton to be given an opportunity again with all the respect he has on the college and pro levels along with his extensive resume.

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Lovie Smith, Defensive Coordinator, Houston Texans

Lovie Smith, Defensive Coordinator, Houston Texans

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After spending five seasons as the head coach at Illinois, Smith is back in the NFL. Many remember him from his days as the head coach of the Bears, as he and Tony Dungy (Colts) made history in Super Bowl XLI as the first two Black coaches to ever meet in the NFL’s crown jewel. Smith will be running the defense in Houston under new Texans’ coach David Culley, who is only one of three African-American head coaches in the league.

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Charlie Strong, Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars

Charlie Strong, Assistant Head Coach/Inside Linebackers Coach, Jacksonville Jaguars

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After a coaching career that started in 1983, Strong is finally in the NFL. After a long college career, which included being the head coach at Louisville, Texas, and USF, Strong is working with Urban Meyer again as the duo worked side-by-side for years at Florida winning two national titles. Strong is coming off another championship as he served as a defensive analyst for Alabama last season.

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Duce Staley, Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach, Detroit Lions

Duce Staley, Assistant Head Coach/Running Backs Coach, Detroit Lions

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Depending on whom you ask, Staley should be the Eagles’ new head coach. After being a fan favorite for years on the field, Staley became one on the sidelines in Philly as he joined the staff in 2011. But after being bypassed for promotions multiple times, Staley left town is now second-in-command in Detroit.

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Antwaan Randle El, Wide Receivers Coach, Detroit Lions

Antwaan Randle El, Wide Receivers Coach, Detroit Lions

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If Randle El were born a decade later, he would have been an NFL quarterback and a quarterback coach right now. After playing QB at Indiana, he switched positions to make it in the league, as many Black quarterbacks had to do back then. After a very solid career as a wide receiver and kick returner, Randle El is headed into his third season as an NFL assistant and is coming off a Super Bowl win with the Bucs.

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Ronald Curry, Wide Receivers Coach, New Orleans Saints

Ronald Curry, Wide Receivers Coach, New Orleans Saints

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For people of a certain age, Curry will always be thought of more for basketball than football. The former two-sport high school All-American was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American game and won the dunk contest, as he played point guard and quarterback at North Carolina. After a switch to wide receiver and an 8-year career, Curry has coached offense in San Francisco and New Orleans.

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Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams

Raheem Morris, Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams

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Last season, Morris was put in a no-win situation as he served as a placeholder for the Falcons as he took over as interim coach midway through a dismal year, finishing with a 4-7 record. After spending time as the Bucs head coach from 2009-2011, Morris is back coaching defense which he has been for the majority of his coaching career.

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Ken Norton, Jr., Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

Ken Norton, Jr., Defensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks

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He’s a living legend that has four Super Bowl rings. Three as a player and one as a coach. He’s proven that he can play and coach the game at a high level, but for some reason, his name is never mentioned when there are head coaching vacancies. With stops at USC, Seattle, and Oakland on his resume, Norton is a name that people are more than familiar with as a player, but not enough as a coach.

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