Addressing Diversity in the NFL Coaching Ranks

Jairo Alvarado

The lack of diversity among NFL head coaches is a constant topic of conversation. NFL insiders have said it's going to take more than the Rooney Rule to diversify the league's leadership.

In a league where nearly 70 percent of the athletes strapping up their helmets are part of a minority-race, Black players lead the way.

That is not the same regarding head coaching positions.

As we near the start of the 2020 NFL season, only three minority head coaches will take the reins of an NFL team--Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins, and Anthony Lynn of the Los Angeles Chargers.

SI's Raider Maven spoke with two Black NFL assistant coaches, regarding the lack of diversity among head coaching positions, and their answers might surprise you.

One NFL coach said: "I do not believe it's about racism, at least from hatred of people of color. It might have been in the past; I don't know, I am speaking of now. Teams hire based on comfort, and the people that they know, and the people who have had personal friendships."

The coach went on to say: "It is about people in general. You hire who you are comfortable with. I didn't get my current job because of my color; I got it because my boss knows me as a man and coach, and we fit. But that fit came after countless hours working together and late-night delivered meals."

They suggested that all people, inside and outside of coaching, need to broaden their friendship and spend time developing relationships outside of the people who look like them.

The other coach said: "I remember going home one day and my wife telling me we were going to the home of another coach. He's a Caucasian coach. We got along, but I wouldn't say we were friends. Our wives had become close. It was a birthday party for their child, and we got invited. That day in his pool, we got to know each other as men, and I now work for him. Not because of my skin color, but because he thinks I am a damn good coach, and I could help him win."

Fritz Pollard, the first black head coach in NFL history, was given a chance to coach nearly a hundred years ago.

Tom Flores, the first Latino head coach, was given a chance to coach.

Owners gave minority coaches an opportunity based on their resumes. In modern times, the great Al Davis gave an opportunity to not one minority head coach, but two: Art Shell and Tom Flores. Flores would claim two of the three Super Bowl victories in Raiders franchise history.

The 2019 Racial and Gender Report Card released last October, gave the NFL a grade of D+ in the area of hiring people of color for head coaching positions, down 12.5% in this area from a year ago and marking its lowest point total in the last 15 years.

On the other hand, assistant coaches received an A-plus grade, although decreasing from 35.5 percent to 33.6 percent in 2019.

Blacks held 29.6 percent of the assistant coaching positions, a decrease from 30.9 percent in 2018. The percentage of white assistant coaches in 2019 was 62.3 percent compared to 62.6 percent in 2018.

If a key to dealing with racial issues in our country from the neighborhood to the football field is building relationships, then the answer isn't another mandate from the NFL. Perhaps the solution is as simple as reaching out to people, getting to know people as individuals.

Who knows how powerful a barbecue and swimming can impact your life?

We aren't making light of difficult questions, but easy answers often impact severe problems. The key is to keep the conversation moving as we find solutions and fix the problem.

Tell us what you think in the comment section below.

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