As “Black Monday’’ sits in the NFL’s rear-view mirror, the ongoing conversation around the lack of African-American head coaches continues. The Rooney Rule isn’t working. The Fritz Pollard Alliance is frustrated. And as Roger Goodell and Troy Vincent, the NFL’s head of football operations, sit inside the league’s headquarters, they have to be wondering what else they can do.
Quite frankly, the reason why the league continues to have diversity issues falls squarely on the owners. The math tells us that if they would hire more general managers and team presidents of color, then it would trickle down to those hires hiring more head coaches of color, who would, in turn, hire more coordinators of color, which would place more candidates of color in the pipeline.
A 2019 report from ESPN revealed that minority coaches were leading winning teams more often than white coaches, while also landing on the hot seat more often than their white counterparts. The data proves that minority coaches can do the job, and that’s not even including how big of a role they’ve played in players’ lives and careers.
“Black coaches have meant a lot to me, and they’ve made me who I am,” former Rams defensive back Lamarcus Joyner told me at Super Bowl LIII. “I was raised in that community and I learned all my morality, my integrity, my principles, and my foundations of being a player and a man from black coaches. I’ve always taken that with me, and that’s why I go back (to my community) and give back, and help out.
“It would be a great thing (to see more black coaches in the NFL). This country is doing a lot of great things with diversity and the more diverse it is, the better it is for all people. It shows a sign of equality.”
Fortunately, next week’s Super Bowl will be an example of how valuable women and Black coaches are, as both sidelines will be filled with minorities in coaching attire.
Kansas City’s staff includes:
- Eric Bieniemy (the billboard for how overqualified Black candidates get passed over) – offensive coordinator
- Terry Bradden – defense quality control coach
- Greg Carbin – assistant strength and conditioning coach
- Greg Lewis – wide receivers coach
- Sam Madison – defensive backs/cornerbacks coach
- Deland McCullough – running backs coach
- Dave Merritt – defensive backs coach
- Dan Williams – assistant to the head coach
Tampa Bay’s staff includes:
- Harold Goodwin – assistant head coach/run-game coordinator
- Todd Bowles – defensive coordinator
- Byron Leftwich – offensive coordinator
- Keith Armstrong – special teams coordinator
- Mike Caldwell – inside linebackers coach
- Antwaan Randle El – offensive assistant
- Larry Foote – outside linebackers coach
- Maral Javadifar – assistant strength and conditioning coach
- Roger Kingdom – speed and conditioning coach
- Lori Locust – assistant defensive line coach
- Todd McNair – running backs coach
- Kacy Rodgers – defensive line coach
- Kevin Ross – cornerbacks coach
- Keith Tandy – defensive/special teams assistant
The impressive list of coaches and staff members that Bruce Arians and Andy Reid have put together mean even more when you realize that other head coaches in the league don’t value diversity in the same way.
February 7 will also be a historic day for women working in the NFL. Last year, Katie Sowers became the first woman to coach in the Super Bowl as an offensive assistant with the 49ers. This year, Maral Javadifar and Lori Locust will continue that legacy as part of Tampa Bay’s staff. Sarah Thomas will also make history as the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl. In 2015, Thomas became the first woman to be a full-time NFL official and was the first to officiate a playoff game (2019).
Progress can be beautiful when given the opportunity.