The NFL playoffs are now in motion, and the Super Bowl is on the horizon. But the NFL continues to has an image problem that just seems to never go away: its lack of Black head coaches despite the fact that the on the field workforce is at 70 percent. After Houston canned Lovie Smith following one season that ended with a 3-13-1 mark, the NFL goes into 2023 with a total of only TWO Black head coaches. One, Todd Bowles of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is in his first year with that franchise and got them into the playoffs as the NF South champion, albeit with an 8-9 record. The other, Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, continued his amazing record of never having a losing year in 16 seasons. His team closed strong to finish 9-8, but barely missed the playoffs.
Depending on how you want to classify him, Miami’s Mike McDaniel could be considered a Black coach, but he prefers to cite himself as bi-racial, being the son of parents in an interracial marriage. There is an interim Black head coach Steve Wilks, who finished the season as the Carolina Panthers’ interim head coach and will have a chance to interview for the full-time position. Carolina finished 6-6 during his time as interim coach, but already other names are being suggested for the position.
There are currently head coaching openings at Indianapolis, Denver, Arizona, Houston and Carolina. No one knows whether the fallout from last Saturday’s disappointing Los Angeles bungling of a 27-point lead and losing 31-30 to Jacksonville will cost Brandon Staley his job. Nor is it known whether any other team will decide to fire its head coach prior to the draft. But if nothing else changes, those are the available positions.
Now that Sean McVay has returned to the Los Angeles Rams, it is widely known that Sean Payton is the number one name available.Though still under contract to New Orleans, the Saints have given Payton permission to speak with other teams, and he’s already interviewed with Denver. It’s pretty much a given that Payton will get at least one of those jobs. Another unknown concerns whether any team now in the playoffs might fire its current coach if the owner is unhappy with the final result. Dallas’ Jerry Jones is one such owner. Jones desperately wants another Super Bowl, and if by the time this is published Dallas has been eliminated, that may well be another coaching position that is open.
The top Black candidate for a head coaching job is Kansas City offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Eric Bieniemy. He has interviewed multiple times for available positions, and just last week had an interview with the Indianapolis Colts. The Buccaneers Byron Leftwich has also been an offensive coordinator for many years and has been highly recommended for jobs by no less than Tom Brady. But for whatever reason, so far neither has been hired.
At this point, the league has probably done all it can do in terms of trying to encourage owners to voluntarily improve their hiring procedures. They have tried to tighten the Rooney Rule requiring teams to interview minority candidates, and even expanded the requirement to all executive and head coaching positions.
But none of that seems to have resulted in more Black head coaches being hired. Another problem that may be directly tied to the situation is the lack of Blacks in general manager r player personnel positions with hiring power. Now some improvement has been made in that area to be sure. There were a record seven Black general managers in the NFL this past season, and five of the last six general managers hired in the NFL have been Black.
That’s real progress.. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, so far it has not made much dent increasing the total of Black head coaches. Perhaps that will change in the days and years ahead, but unfortunately there’s little indicator so far that things are going to improve.