Black coaches face impossible odds to hold onto jobs

As I write this, there is only one black head coach in the NFL. One.

And that one black head coach in a 32-team league — Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin — has never had a losing season in his 15 years at the helm.

This is the standard to which black coaches are held. An almost impossible.

The Houston Texans fired David Culley on Thursday, after just one season in the job and three days after putting him through the dog and pony show of sitting in front of the media on Monday and talking like he was getting a year 2.

Culley would never get a 2 year, not if you read the writing on the wall. There was a report last year, before the ink even dried on Culley’s contract with the Texans, that he was simply keeping the seat warm until fellow career quarterback Josh McCown , whose entire coaching resume reads as “high school assistant,” takes the gig after being fast-tracked through the experience-gaining process.

To imagine. Culley was 66 when he got his first shot at being an NFL head coach. He endured untold bigotry as Vanderbilt’s first black quarterback, spent his entire adult life coaching, including more than 25 years as an NFL assistant. And even before he posted a family photo in his new office, there was an idea that he shouldn’t get too comfortable with because the team leaders might have already chosen his successor.

Beyond that, he received a terrible roster, lacked Houston’s star young quarterback, and somehow got a team that almost everyone thought was 0-17 to four wins, the one of them on the AFC’s No. 1 seed and another on a team that was in the playoff mix until the last second of the final game of the regular season.

We have to wonder if Culley should have even taken the job, given what a clown show the Texans have been since Cal McNair became the owner of the control team and installed Jack Easterby, a power-hungry fanatic who doesn’t have a day of experience as a football coach, talent evaluator. or salary cap guru, as someone with great influence within the organization.

But for better property or worse — and these days there seem to be a lot more — there are only 32 head coaching jobs in the NFL. If you have the chance, you almost have to grab it. I can’t blame Culley for that.

A black NFL head coach like David Culley has to move mountains to get the same treatment as white coaches. And even then, too often it is not enough. (Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports)

On Monday, the Miami Dolphins fired Brian Flores after his second straight season, the first time in nearly 20 years that this team has exceeded .500 in consecutive years.

Flores’ situation is frustratingly familiar, reminiscent of Jim Caldwell, who had made the ever-pitiful Detroit Lions a competitive and winning team, only to be fired for failing. enough. Caldwell’s replacement went 13-29-1.

These are just two of the men hammering home the fact that there really is no lead for black coaches. Like my grandfather, who wasn’t allowed to sell the cars to the dealership, only to clean and detail them, these coaches are often given a mop and bucket for the bigger messes. Clean it up, is the directive. Unexpectedly, when they start to put things away, they are gone. Modest success is not sufficient success.

The past few years offer little hope that black coaches will ever gain ground. Not just because they have to be near perfect to get a job in the first place and a big winner or they’ll be gone, but because over the past five hiring cycles, three-quarters of the 40 head coaches hired were from attacking midfielders.

Of the 33 offensive coordinators this season (the Dolphins had coordinators), only five weren’t white. There were four black quarterback coaches, the position that is usually promoted to coordinator.

These are not numbers that inspire confidence that there is change coming.

For all the interviews with NFL Vice President Troy Vincent saying the league knows there’s a problem when it comes to the shortage of non-white coaches, he works for the team owners, everything like commissioner Roger Goodell and all the other members of the league office.

It’s clear that these NFL franchise owners are in favor of black men doing one thing: busting their heads and bodies as players, for their own entertainment and their own bank accounts. Until the players retire and want their due. Then club owners have their lawyers and doctors use a vile practice called race-norming to tell them that their black brains weren’t as good as the brains of white players anyway, so they don’t shouldn’t have or certainly shouldn’t have that much money to help them live their lives as comfortably as possible.

Year after year, their actions show that playing football is all most of them think black men are capable of. It’s no different from the not-too-distant past when GMs and coaches didn’t believe black men could be quarterbacks on the racist pretense that they weren’t smart enough or good enough leaders. Many of these men now have sons, sons-in-law and nephews in the offices and on the staff.

Don’t tell me it should be about hiring the best person for the job. Don’t tell me if you don’t believe that of the 122 head coaches who have been hired since 2003, only 19 non-white men were the “best person for the job.”

Don’t tell me that team owners should be color blind because there are years and years of evidence that they are not. They see black coaches and they keep looking.

Eric Bieniemy is experienced, successful, mentored the best young quarterback in the league and has the full support of the highly respected head coach he works with. He has interviewed 13 times over the past few years. There was never a single real reason he wasn’t hired.

The audacity to paint “END RACISM” in the end zones of stadiums when you had to codify diversity in your interview practices. The nerve to play the moving African-American spiritual “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” when so many people continue to just tick a box, sit down with a few non-white coaches a year to fulfill the Rooney Rule letter when you’re not interested in his mind. And now they don’t even need to rush for a plane ticket and a hotel suite to reluctantly fulfill the obligation; it’s free through Zoom.

Annual Lists of Qualified Non-White Applicants. Almost annual adjustment of the Rooney rule. “Incentives” to get teams to promote and develop coaches and front office executives of color.

A prank, all that. For a league supposedly ruled by optics, franchise owners don’t care that a growing number of people see how bigoted and backward they are. That in a brutal sport where roughly 70% of the players are black, only one head coach is.

It’s a common adage among black people: you have to work twice as hard to get half as far.

Unless you’re black and an NFL coach. Then it doesn’t matter how hard you work.

You’re really not going anywhere.

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