Here is Why Only Three Black Head Coaches Made the NFL Playoffs
As soon as the NFL’s regular season ends, all eyes are usually turned on Black Monday — the first Monday after the regular season ends. Coaches whose teams didn’t perform impressively during the season have reason to dread Black Monday. It’s the day traditionally set aside to fire underperforming coaches. But fortunately, for three Black head coaches, it doesn’t matter.
Yep, those three NFL coaches are resting easy, confident their jobs are safe: Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers; Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach; and DeMeco Ryans of the Houston Texans. By now, if you’re an NFL fan, you probably know their teams made the playoffs.
Now, we shouldn’t play the race card everywhere, but there is a good reason their success here is significant and even ironic. As they celebrate this feat, for some racists at the NFL these might as well be the three of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. For starters, almost 60 percent of NFL players are Black but, curiously, over 90 percent of head coaches are White! It has been an ongoing debate for a while.
Hall of Famer Ed Reed once addressed the matter on The Ringer’s “Slow News Day” podcast, pointing out that “It’s no secret how far this (hiring Black coaches at NFL) goes back on why African-American coaches are being treated that way.”
Without mincing his words, he added “It’s because of the way African-American people are treated. This is bigger than just coaches.”
He further said that in the few-and-far-between instances when black coaches get hired, they don’t have the full power they need to make critical decisions as managers. He should have added that the same powerless coaches are expected to take full responsibility when things go wrong.
So, what is it that only White coaches can do better than their Black counterparts? Why would Blacks dominate the NFL, just not as decision-makers? What makes them good players and not good managers? Are they genuinely incapable of leading, or is it just blatant bias that disregards facts? Let’s find out.
The NFL’s league office once asked its 32 teams why they don’t hire Black candidates as coaches. The reasons some of the teams gave are ridiculous, to say the least. For instance, some claim Black coaches lack the necessary experience to lead and are unsure of their ability to motivate veteran players. At the interviews, Black candidates “…didn’t look the part…seemed nervous throughout the interview process…”
In short, the rejection starts even before the real interview because they “don’t look the part.”
These good reasons were presented to none other than NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent — himself Black! How he got his job in such an environment is in itself a mystery to many. For many teams, he might as well be the fourth of the four horsemen we just mentioned.
According to the findings of an investigation by The Washington Post, Black coaches are usually as good as White coaches. Still, while White coaches enjoy many advantages and more opportunities at the league’s top coaching jobs, their Black counterparts have everything stacked against them: they walk narrower paths and generally serve significantly longer as mid-level assistants.
Furthermore, they end up with only interim jobs instead of full-time ones and must maintain a higher standard to keep their demeaning jobs. They are also comparatively twice as likely to be fired.
Finally, that only three Black coaches made the playoffs painfully reminds us that nothing has changed much since 2003 when the Rooney Rule was enacted. The rule stipulated that teams should interview “minority coaches” when hiring. But the rule hasn’t helped much; teams hardly take it seriously and that’s why there are so few Black coaches — otherwise, tens of Black coaches would have made the playoffs in the just-concluded NFL regular season.