Over the next two days, the NFL will have what it’s calling a Coach and Front Office Accelerator during the spring meetings in Atlanta.
It’s a glorified seminar diversity of prospective minority candidates for head coaching/general manager positions.
The NFL is trying to boost a minority hiring in a sport that’s 70% African-American on the playing field. Of the 32 NFL teams, only three head coaches are African-American, and overall there are six coaches of color. In the just-completed 2022 head coaching hiring cycle, there were nine positions available and only two went to minorities — Mike McDaniel (biracial) in Miami and Lovie Smith (African-American) in Houston.
Of the last 36 head coaching openings, which includes the Cowboys before they hired Mike McCarthy, just five Black men were hired by NFL teams.
Brian Flores decided to take a stand against the hiring practices in February and filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL and the team that fired him, the Miami Dolphins. The suit also includes Denver and the New York Giants, teams he conducted sham interviews with him.
It’s a disturbing situation considering the league has a mandate for clubs to interview at least two coaches of color for a vacancy. There is also the Fritz Pollard Alliance designed to provide a list of qualified head coaching and general manager candidates to the clubs.
Somehow there is a neglect when it comes to hiring coaches of color.
The NFL wants to increase the numbers, so in this latest attempt, it created a program where each NFL team nominated a man or woman to interact with owners and other club personnel.
The Cowboys are scheduled to send Joe Whitt Jr., the defensive passing game coordinator/defensive backs coach, and Chris Vaughn, who was recently promoted from national scout to assistant director of college scouting to Atlanta.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had the opportunity, where a lot of our diverse candidates have been able to liaise with our executives and our ownership,” said Belynda Gardner, the NFL’s senior director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. “And that’s just because there’s a lot of red tape involved with the anti-tampering policy.”
The problem is NFL owners understand some minority coaches want head coaching jobs but they won’t provide opportunities with the same frequency as they do to white coaches.
Though the league and ownership groups communicate they want diversity, the hiring numbers don’t support it. NFL owners can hire whomever they want.
Take a look at offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, who was nominated to the program, from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Why is Bieniemy even in the program? He’s had numerous head coaching interviews with NFL teams and is considered one of the best at his position. If an NFL owner wants more information on Bieniemy they can always call coach Andy Reid and team Chairman/CEO Clark Hunt.
It’s not so much about hiring Bieniemy but obtaining qualified candidates, and if you don’t believe he’s a worthy prospect, given his work with quarterback Patrick Mahomes, then that’s another story of ineptness with the ownership group.
You have to wonder why even have a program at all if you have to include Bieniemy.
“I don’t think that’s fair to say,” Gardner said. “I think what we’re talking about, 30 to 32 clubs, and we’re talking about way more owners and executives. I don’t think it’s fair that to say that [all] These candidates have to get equal amount of face time. Some of the participants in the program are known very well. Some are maybe a little less known, and some have crossed paths with some of these clubs and ownership and some of them have not. So it’s even keel.”
Of course Commissioner Roger Goodell can recommend a club hire a qualified minority group for a head coaching position. It’s not like the league is asking for an unqualified person to get a job.
Meanwhile coaches such as Whitt just keep working, hopeful for a fair opportunity as the league continues to push owners to hire qualified minority coaches.
“I’ve had coordinator interviews,” Whitt said last season about a potential head coaching job. “I interviewed [in Dallas]. But you know I’m ready to call the [defensive plays], and I think a lot of people know that. But my dad always told me this, ‘You do the best job with the job that you have and your next opportunity will come,’ and so I’m not worried about it. When that time comes I’m ready. When the time for me to be a head coach comes, I’ll be ready.”
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