Aspiring African-American head coaches in the NFL lost a maverick and a champion two weeks ago when Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died.
Davis became the first to hire a Black head coach when he promoted Art Shell in 1989. Progress has been slow since then.
Veteran sportswriter William C. Rhoden wrote a column this week in the New York Times questioning who will pick up the torch among the owners now that Davis is dead. The Rooney Rule — mandating that at least one minority coach be interviewed when head coaching openings arise in the NFL — has certainly done a credible job of getting African-American coaches in front of owners these last several years.
There are currently eight minority head coaches in the NFL. But with the pool of viable Black candidates seemingly shrinking, with just two offensive coordinators and six defensive coordinators — the two groups most likely to produce first-time head coaches — it seems even the Rooney Rule may not help to increase the numbers in the short term.
The question now is how do you position more African-American coaches at the coordinators' ranks in order for them to be considered for NFL head coaching jobs?
That’s a question even former NFL offensive lineman John Wooten finds difficult to answer in his role as the chairman and co-founder of the Fritz Pollard Alliance. His group was created to promote diversity and equality in opportunities in NFL coaching.
But Wooten seems against implementing any type of rule similar to the Rooney Rule for assistant coaching positions.
“You can’t restrict a coach; a coach has to have his own staff,” Wooten told Rhoden. “We truly feel that a head coach should be able to put together a staff the way he wants it.”
But that type of fairness policy could be the only answer to grooming attractive head coaching candidates in the future.
Contact Terrance Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris
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