NFL And The African American Coaching Dilemma

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: September 3, 2005

EL CERRITO, CA.—The National Football will begin its full schedule of games on Sunday September 11, 2005 and it seems the more things change the more they remain the same.

Four years ago The National Football League passed a new regulation regarding the hiring and firing of team head coaches. This new law request that at least one minority candidate be interviewed.

Presently there are five African American head coaches in the National Football League.

Over seventy five per cent of the players in the National Football League are African American.

That is an increase of one since last year.

The current African American Head coaching roster in National Football League includes,

Herm Edwards of the New York Jets

Tony Dungie of the Indianapolis Colts

Denny Green of the Arizona Cardinals

Lovie Smith former defensive coach of the St. Louis Rams now will lead the Chicago Bears

And Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals

Only the Bears and Bengals have had losing records since the coaching change.

The Colts and Jets have been in the playoffs four times in seven years.

The coaching carousel continues with African Americans not getting an opportunity to showcase their outstanding coaching skills. African Americans can’t get in the door because team owners have decided who they want to lead their teams. The National Football League has to police itself and at the present time it is doing a very bad job. Teams are finding ways to either avoid the new law or totally ignore it.

Four years ago The National Football League fined the Detroit Lions for not following the new league hiring policies of interviewing at least one minority. The Lions openly stated time and time again that the former San Francisco head coach Steve Marruicchi would be their choice for the head coaching position. The Lions interviewed a few candidates, but not one was a minority coach. Many African American coaches chose not to return the Lions phone calls because of the prior statement made by the Detroit team. The owners of Detroit had found their candidate and it was Marruicchi. The league fined the Detroit Lions for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars for not interviewing any minority coach. The owner from Detroit protested and stated that the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco Forty-Niners should also be fined.

The Dallas Cowboys hired Bill Parcells former head coach of the New York Jets, Giants, and the New England Patriots. Parcells will be the head coach of Dallas but they broke the new NFL law. The Cowboys did interview minority coaches knowing all the time that they were going to hire Parcells. This action Subverted and undermined the new NFL hiring practices.

Three years ago The San Francisco Forty-Niners followed the Cowboys and Lions path by hiring Coach Dennis Erickson from Oregon. Like the Dallas Cowboys, The Forty-Niners made phone calls to minority applicants. Dennis Green former coach of the Minnesota Vikings now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals had a telephone interview with The Forty-Niners. Thus letting San Francisco off the hook. It is my opinion that this is a very shabby and shameless way to get around the new NFL law. The Forty-Niners repeated this process this summer. Dick Nolan’s son relieved Coach Erickson of his coaching duties. This team “By the Bay” continues to subjugate the NFL interview rule.

White team owners are going to hire individuals they know and are comfortable with thus creating and keeping the “good old boy network” in tact. If African American coaches are not interviewed each time a job opens, then how will owners ever become familiar with qualified, trained, and talented Black coaches? This is what the National Football League is trying to promote but it cannot regulate the team owner’s personal choice. If the National Football League had more African American team owners then they probably would have more African American coaches. Presently only the Minnesota Vikings are actively seeking minority ownership. Diversity is a beautiful thing.