Commentary: NFL Has Chance to Diversify Its Coaching Ranks

Six openings should leave league with no excuses for lack of hiring of Black coaches.

Posted: 12/31/2013 04:23 PM EST

The NFL resumed its annual game of musical chairs. The league had another round of coaches who were fired Sunday and Monday. In total, five men lost their jobs this week, all for the same reason: They lost more than they won.

So for Mike Shanahan, Rob Chudzinski, Greg Schiano and Jim Schwartz, the past couple of days haven’t been occasions to celebrate. For opportunities to coach in the NFL are so rare, and perhaps only Shanahan will get another try soon. But who’s to say.

I can say this, though: The fifth coach to get fired will surely not. Leslie Frazier, one of three Black football coaches, is what I like to refer to on the management end of the NFL as “a one-and-done.”

With Frazier fired, the league is left with Mike Tomlin and Marvin Lewis, two Black men who coach for organizations that have been willing to let them go through ups and downs.

Frazier, who coached the Minnesota Vikings, had his team in the postseason a year ago, but things unraveled for him when running back Adrian Peterson was unable to produce the yardage in 2013 that he had in 2012.

That put Frazier’s fate in the hands of a marginal quarterback. The man had no chance.

Now, the search begins anew in Minnesota, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Washington for the next “Great White Hype” in the coaching fraternity, because anybody who believes the NFL is serious about hiring Black coaches is either a cockeyed optimist or delusional.

I pick the latter.

For I saw its dysfunctional hiring practices put under scrutiny a year ago after the Chicago Bears fired Lovie Smith, a Black coach who had been successful. Yet unlike Shanahan after the Denver Broncos fired him in 2008, Smith found no one willing to give him a second chance.

Instead, teams like the Browns went out and hired a coach like Chudzinski, who did not have the strong portfolio to justify his hiring. One year short, he finds himself in the same situation as Smith was a year ago.

What does that tell you about the science of hiring an NFL coach?

I think it tells you plenty. It tells you that teams that have a shaky organization structure — the Browns, the Washington Redskins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Detroit Lions all do — will miss more on coaches and on draft picks than they hit; they will panic; they will look to the short term to fix problems that have festered for the long term.

They will also do one more thing: hire white.

The league has found safety in hiring coaches who look like owners. All the slick talk about the “Rooney Rule,” which mandates that a minority candidate be interviewed for every coaching vacancy, is just that – slick talk.

With a total of six vacancies among NFL coaches — Houston Texans fired coach Gary Kubiak in November — the odds say that someone of color should get one of those six jobs.

But the odds have proved wrong before, and in a league where Blacks play a significant role on the field, any rule like “Rooney” will only be as effective as the men who administer it.

The NFL, which has had about 20 Black head coaches in its 93-year history, now has a chance to show the world that it is open to all possibilities. Unfortunately, I doubt team executives will do anything more than what they’ve done in the past: keep hiring more men who look like Rob Chudzinski.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Follow Justice B. Hill on Twitter: @jbernardh

(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)

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