African American Football History

By Gary Norris Gray
Updated: January 19, 2007
CALIFORNIA—In 1968 the last year of Reverend Doctor Martian Luther King Jr’s life not a single African American walked the (NFL) National Football League sideline as a coach or as a team general manager.
The Reverend Doctor Martian Luther King Jr. would be very pleased with the National Football League’s 40 year progress hiring African American head coaches and general managers. Last week America celebrated Dr. King’s birthday this week African Americans will celebrate two Black coaches leading their teams to victory in their conference championships.
The National Football League is currently putting on a show for the other profession sports organization. Major League Baseball and National Hockey League should be taking notes on the art of diversity. There will be two African American head coaches who will lead their teams to their respective division championship. This has never happened therefore it will increases the chances by 50 per cent that an African American Head Coach will walk the sidelines of the Super Bowl the first weekend of February 2007.
This week the New York Football Giants increased the number of African Americans at the upper level management by hiring Jerry Reese as the team’s new general manager. Reese will join the second Black general manager, Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens.
This past season 2006-2007 seven African Americans done the head coaching position. The highest number in league history, but in 2007-2008 the number will drop to four.
Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengels, Dennis Green of the Minn. Vikings, Art Shell of the Oakland Raiders, Herm Edwards of the New York Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, Tony Dungy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Indianapolis Colts and lastly Ray Rhodes of the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, all of these men took there teams to the playoffs and made their teams respectable. Only one African American has not mastered the task. Coach Romeo Crennel of the Cleveland Browns has not gotten his team into the playoffs the past two years. Art Shell last year got a second chance in Oakland with a sub par Raider team and Dennis Green this year finally got his release from the horrid Arizona Cardinals team. Crennel, Shell, and Green did not receive the help from owners like Bidwell (Ariz.) and Davis (Oakl.) to make their teams winners. They were not given the draft choices to make their teams competitive. Of the three only Green got a valid first round star Matt Linhard Quarterback from the University of Southern California.
This shows America and the National Football League that African Americans men are just like everybody else and can lead teams to championships. More African American assistant coaches should be considered for the last three head coaching positions in the NFL if they want their teams to join the playoff party next January.
The NFL playoffs have been a joy to watch this year because three of the four current African American head coaches made the playoffs. Tony Dungy’s Indianapolis Colts, Herm Edward’s Kansas City Chiefs and Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears. Only coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengels missed the playoffs by one game. Dungy and Edwards had to play each other in the first round, AFC wild card game with Chicago’s head coach Lovie Smith in the stands watching his two friend’s team battle on the football field.
The Colts will play the New England Patriots for the American Football Conference title while the Chicago Bears will play this years national sentimental favorite New Orleans Saints for the National Football Conference title.
Many young African American males thought this day would never happen. African Americans have come a very long way in the National Football League. From Cleveland’s Running back Marion Motley in the 1940’s to Marlin Briscoe Quarterback of the Denver Broncos of the 1960’s and powerhouse running back Jim Brown of the Browns and late 1960’s to the present day coaching wonders.
Enjoy it just like we all enjoyed the night Doug Williams quarterback of the Washington Redskins broke all of the Super Bowl passing records or when Marcus Allen ran for a rushing record 90 yards for an Oakland Raider touchdown.
Maybe the Martin’s Luther King’s DREAM is coming true in the National Football League.