The Plight Of Black Football Coaches (Part One)

By Desi Cortez
Updated: December 1, 2007

DENVER — While Cleveland’s Romeo Crennell is safe from the bulldogs and dobermans in the pound, Marvin Lewis’ ass, for one, is on the chopping block in Cincinnati.

Never-mind Lewis’s rebuilding of one of the leagues tug-boats, the Bengals. While single-handedly over-hauling Cincy into a speedy cruiser, Marv’s failed to keep his boy scouts in-line off the field, and not succeed in halting anyone from crossing the Bengal’s goal line on the field.

The man-child in Oak-Town needs to go back to college, where his name is being mentioned. This boy-wonder isn’t the answer. Nor do they have the right answer in the Big Apple — the Jets are way off-course.

St. Louis, Miami, Atlanta, Buffalo, Tampa and Atlanta — all going down, fast. In Tampa, the jury’s still out on the blond haired boy genius, who’s the perfect example of an unproven golden boy given a team to guild, a couple of times

Which leads me to ponder: How the hell is Dick Jauron a head coach in the NFL?

The probable scenario playing out in the head coaches musical chairs; Former Raider Head Coach Bill Callahan — who was shown the Cornhusked-lined door in Lincoln by Sir Tom Osborne, will have a head coaching job — back in the NFL — before a real monster-of-the-midway, Mike Singletary does, who’s biding his time as an assistant in with the 49ers. Another Black man whose, long overdue the helmsmanship of an NFL team.

And when Callahan’s back, behind the wheel of an NFL team, it will serve as yet another example of the good ol’ boy country club which is the NFL.

If I owned a team, or merely consulted an owner of one, I’d pull his ear to the flipping obvious; when bringing-in potential head coaches, they all have a certain common minimum of experience: they’re all more or less qualified. So, amongst a number of intangibles, you must examine the ability of the coach to relate to, ultimately communicate his philosophy to your players.

Somewhere in those calculations — it matters if the coach is Afro-American, especially if 70% of your team is also. It may not be the No. 1 reason why you hire a guy, but it should calculate into the Top 5 or so.

Think about this; what if the Packers were all white? A question would be tossed about; Can a black coach relate to them? But, more-importantly, can they relate to a Black coach?

Such a conversation is not allowed when discussing white coaches communicating with Black players, despite, for all-intense purposes, a coach like Tom Coughlin and a player like Brandon Jacobs hail from two very different worlds…. One Black, one White, separate and unequal.

Color, culture, class, common in-life experiences, all these factors matter if you’re considering what a team owner is honestly doing — hiring a man to wear a multitude of hats: coach, big brother, dad, father, cop, shrink, Marine Sergeant, marriage counselor — it ‘s clearly material if a man can “talk-to” his players.

A field general who may have walked in their shoes, understands life from his players perspective. Is not “put-off”, intimidated or uncomfortable with the vast majority of his players. As much of white Americans are….

Ability to convey your ideas are essential, but so is the skill to tactically assault a defense, plot X’s and O’s, game-plan and manage a game clock, and, for those of us who read between, over and under the lines, it’s clear these abilities are still regularly questioned by many.

A coach like Kansas City’s Herman Edwards, is constantly tagged, portrayed as an “emotional” motivator, but not an anal tactician. That perception is predictable considering such insights have never been kept secret, instead “intellectual limitations” was the NFL company-line for decades — explaining why Blacks weren’t permitted to be head coaches in a league they predominate, and surely star in.

Black coaches are consistently categorized as a “little too soft, a little too chummy” with the players — a players coach. Let’s not play touch football here, many a coach is hired because he has the reputation of possessing the Dr. Doo-Little gift, to “talk to the animals

Barry Switzer, Jerry Glanville, and Jimmy Johnson — “Negro Whisperers”…

Tony Dungy and Lovie Smith, both examples of guys that many journalists wants to cast as non disciplinarians, too soft-spoken to direct a football team. How wrong, how highly wrong are these critics?

But ask me If I’m not surprised some “conservative ol’ school of thought”, which believes you have to be the Tuna, Lombardi or General George S. Patton to handle and control today’s player (Black athletes).

In a very similar fashion – this President , who’s a former MLB franchise owner, recall, he’d owned the Texas Rangers — he, and his frat-boy administration are comfortable with ruling by fear and intimidation, torturing prisoners, outing CIA agents, turning it’s back on Katrina victims. It’s the same arrogant pimp like mentality — just in different venues.

Some might suggest, this style of leadership is the trademark of how the angry white man handles his business. Seriously, it’s his John Wayne style and method of operation.

Thus, in my simple publicly educated little mind, a 62-year-old Caucasian guy, hailing from another time and place, or John-Boy — who simply can’t muster the respect of his players, can’t look Ray Lewis in the eye, and tell him he just screwed-up…. isn’t always the logical choice either.

See Norv Turner, the emotional choice, in Washington, Oakland, San Diego…..

Please, let’s not play dumb. Presence, poise, the take-charge authority to demand respect and command the huddle — is a hurdle for a kid like Eli Manning, that’s what Tiki was tap-dancing around — The ability to interact with, address, command Afro-Americans. Let’s not be naive here, the ability to speak-to all men transfers over into the realm of coaching.

Forgive me for stating what’s obvious in locker rooms and sports bars everywhere — there’s that particular type of white man who simply can’t relate to people who are different. Maybe he never really had to, or, has chosen not to, but they do exist. He may have all the credentials, be able to draw up the battle-plans, lay-out the plays, but he simply can’t be in charge.

See George Bush; He had the blood line, the Ivy League cheerleader pedigree, yet, he’s unfit to lead men. An aristocratic coward willing to send his team, his army onto the field of battle, not properly trained nor prepared for battle, with inferior armor, to die for him, in the name of Black gold, Texas tea…And please note this guy was AWOL during the defining moment of his era, the Vietnam war.

Would that be like cheating to stay alive, like stealing the signals of another team to obtain an unfair advantage?

Before I stray too far, there’s a propensity to hire white guys as head coaches, either gray haired geniuses or Boy wizards, and it’s insulting to me, the lifelong NFL fan.

Furthermore, I’m poked in the eye by this insistence — it’s happenstance, by chance… my ass — there’re only 6 Black NFL head coaches, that’s the result of strategic exclusion – not “oops, what do you know, golly, how did it get so lopsided?”

Who will dare contradict me — Callahan, back in-charge of an NFL team before Hall of Famer Singletary is…….

NEXT: Gary Norris Gray takes a look at the college football scene for black head coaches.