Black NFL head coaches share their experiences in the league

A Washington Post exposé reveals the candid experiences of black head coaches in the NFL, of whom there were only 26.

Earlier this year, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores submitted an application Discrimination complaint against the NFL as a result of his interviewing experiences with the New York Giants and the Denver Broncos.

The 58-page lawsuit detailed the history of NFL coaching hiring and highlighted the fact that franchises like the Washington Commanders were once owned George Preston Marshallwho refused to racially integrate his team.

The commanders have removed his legacy, and Flores hoped by filing the lawsuit, he would change the NFL’s culture and its hiring practices, which Flores said are still influenced by “systemic racism.”

While the Rooney Rule, designed to address the lack of diversity in head coaching, has been in effect since 2003, Flores is one of the many head coaches who have been hired over the past 19 years who have criticized the way it has been improperly implemented – such as interviewing Flores in a “sham” interview aimed at meeting the requirement of what Flores claimed in his lawsuit.

That Washington Post recently shared some of the experiences of 16 black head coaches in the NFL, including both current and former coaches. Their experiences, captured in a video and in-depth article, illustrate what the collective experience was like for black head coaches in the NFL.

Those featured in the interview include Houston Texans head coach Lovie Smith, former Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Todd Bowles, and former Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy.

Black NFL head coaches past and present share their experiences in the NFL

To illustrate racial differences in coaching, the Post notes that since the Raiders hired Art Shell as head coach in 1989, the NFL has hired 191 different people as head coach.

The Washington Post article reports that 25 black head coaches have since been hired, including Shell, which excludes Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel biracial.

“In my time we played but you didn’t see a lot of African American coaches so it wasn’t your path or thought process,” explained Dungy.

“I knew if I was successful, it would open the door for people,” Dungy continued.

“I think the words ‘genius’, ‘guru’, ‘quarterback whisperer’ are all terms they use to describe non-African American coaches,” explained Jim Caldwell.

“It’s like we don’t have the same level of IQ intelligence as some other brothers,” Hue Jackson said.

In those conversations, and examining decades of NFL data, the Post found the following:

“While white candidates are offered a huge and diverse range of paths to the league’s top coaching jobs, black coaches face much narrower paths. They have to serve significantly longer than mid-level temps, are hired on a temporary rather than full-time basis, and are held to higher standards when it comes to keeping their jobs.”

As the coaches surveyed emphasize, there continues to be a unique pressure to be a black head coach in the NFL — and to date, those opportunities are severely limited. Black NFL head coaches share their experiences in the league

John Verrall

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