June 14, 2020

A lack of diversity at NFL head coaching ranks

Lila Bromberg

Head coaches of color are a rarity in the NFL, with only three at the moment. I hoped that number might increase this offseason as teams like the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers searched for someone new to take the helm. Assistant coaches such as Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy and Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator had all the qualifications. Instead, the teams chose to go with white men with much less impressive resumes. While the news was upsetting, it, unfortunately, wasn’t all that surprising. Scott Brooks, the associate director of the Global Sport Institute at Arizona State University, provided a detailed glimpse at his eye-opening research that showed the systematic trends in place that make it so much harder for coaches of color to reach the top ranks of the NFL. Since 2009, nearly 40 percent of head coaches hired were offensive coordinators, while 29 percent left other head coaching positions. But the most common position held by men of color in the NFL is the defensive coordinator at 50 percent. In 2018, only three percent of offensive coordinators were non-white.

“That trajectory is a very important thing,” Brooks said. “If that’s the common or the best pathway and you don’t have many blacks there, then how do you expect the normal route is going to exclude them without doing anything. It’s going to continue to limit their numbers.”

Brooks’ discussion allowed me to realize even more so that proposed plans such as new incentives to the Rooney Rule won’t create progress. Rather, coaches of color need to be put in a better position to succeed within the league’s common trajectory. Though there isn’t a clear answer of how the NFL will get to that point, conversations about erasing racial stereotypes, such as the one we had Wednesday, between top executives seems like a great place to start.

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