Hiring black head coaches

Every year in the NFL, there are coaches hired, fired, reassigned, retiring, and moving on to other things in their life.

Every year, 32 Billionaire owners and General Managers sit down and try to figure out who is the best to lead their franchise to the Super Bowl. Every year, the debate rages over why there are not more black coaches hired for head coaching positions. Everyone has an opinion on this from Racism to not qualified. Since I am an “everyone” I have thought about this argument and want to put in my 2 cents worth. This is solely my opinion, so be mad or glad at me, no one else.

In looking at this problem, I put myself in the owner’s position: I have this huge investment, and as a successful business person, I expect my football business to be profitable and successful. I didn’t become successful by turning a blind eye to people’s potential, or lack thereof. I hired the best I could find, period. So, why would I not transfer that to the football business? Seems logical to me. Which brings up the question then why is there so few Black Head Coaches?

In 2021, I do not believe that racism is a reason for not hiring someone. The old owners who may have thought that way are no longer around. Besides, look at the makeup of the NFL; in 2014, the league was 68% black, 28% white, and 4% Asian or Pacific Islander.

In 2020, the league was 70% black, while blacks makeup up roughly 7% of the population. Yes, I realize the argument is often made that “well, they are only employees”. Yes, they are, but they are chosen (drafted or traded for) to make the owner successful, and they are well compensated for it (average pay is $860,000).

Then, is it the NFL hierarchy that is racist? I doubt it, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics at Central Florida gave the NFL offices an A+ in racial hiring and a B+ in gender hiring. There are 2 female coaches and 1 female referee, Sarah Thomas, (I’ve watched her, she is pretty good!). There are 4 black referees (Ron Torbert I really like, Jerome Boger….I guess he’s ok) and 40 black officials in the league, that does not seem to be racist. (17 total crews, 7 men each, 119 total officials- 37% are black or female). That is pretty good!

There are currently 2 owners only of color, Kim Pagula, a South Korean woman who co-owns the Buffalo Bills, and Shahid Rafiq Kahn, a Pakistani born American who owns the Jaguars. They are 2 of the 614 billionaires in America (78% white, 8% Asian, 8% Black, 7% Hispanic, 1% others).

With the leagues players so dominantly black then, why so few Head Coaches, officials, and owners? Well, math tells us that 2 Black coaches and owners are 7% of the coaches and owners in the NFL……the same rate as the population. I find this an interesting statistic.

Could it also possibly be that there are only 7 black Billionaires in the United States, and they have no interest in owning a franchise, like a lot of other billionaires? Only Michael Jordan is involved in ownership of any kind, in NASCAR, and the NBA. Is it also possible that once Blacks quit playing, like a lot of players, they have no real interest in getting an NFL coaching job? I don’t know that answer, but I do know that a lot of white and Asian players and billionaires don’t go into the NFL either.

If I were a team owner, would it really matter to me if a candidate was black, Asian or female? I think what would matter most would be are they the one to be my Coach?

One problem I do see with NFL owners is they tend to hire retreads and offensive or defensive coordinators, not real head coaches. They fall in love with the latest schemes and the men who create them, and think they are the answer!

It seems to me that if you are a coordinator and you become head coach you tend to work on that side of the ball you coached, and leave other areas to the rest of your staff. I think this is a fatal flaw. I do firmly believe that some people are just coordinators, and are not meant to be a great head coach.

Norv Turner comes to mind, great offensive mind, never been overly successful as a head coach. As a head coach he has a losing record, 114-122 with Washington, Oakland and San Diego. Todd Bowles (defensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers) record as a head coach is 26-41. Todd Bowles is one heckuva defensive coordinator (just ask Aaron Rogers!) and there are other examples too. I would hire a Head Coach, one who has done the job before and has learned from his mistakes before. Bill Belichick comes to mind.

After thinking about all of this, I think that the reason for a lack of people of color not being in ownership or coaching is because a lot of them don’t want to be. The ones who do get interviewed are because of the Rooney Rule which states you must interview at least one or more diverse candidates.

I agree with this, it will help root out the remaining racism that I am sure has been prevalent in the past. However, just because a diverse candidate gets interviewed, that does not mean he/she has to be hired. Only the General Manager and the Owner usually conduct the interviews, so we really don’t know HOW that person did in the interview.

We interview people in our office, and I myself have ideas about what we want. Some candidates in my mind are great, some….not so much. I never thought, “Wait, this is an Asian woman, and I don’t think she would work in the position of vehicle maintenance, even though she was the top in her class.” How stupid would that be?

I want the best to work for us, so why would I limit the county to just one gender, color, race or religion? I think most NFL owners are the same, at least I hope they are. That is why they have been successful in life. They picked who they thought would be the best.

Racism is prevalent everywhere, it is not exclusive to the United States. I am a firm believer though that we, more than any other country, have done the most to eliminate as much as possible. Racism will never go completely away, some will always hate because of color, religion, ethnicity, etc. It is sad, but we are humans.

I do not believe we are inherently evil, but we have flaws. Is the NFL racist? No, I don’t think so. Do they need to try harder? Don’t we all? From the 60’s to now, we have made great strides. We will continue to do so. So will the NFL. (The NBA, MLS, MLB are in this boat of not hiring blacks too!) That’s the way I see it from the sidelines.


By Michael Stegall

From the Sidelines

Contributing columnist Mike Stegall a 27 year former OHSAA high school football official and current Darke County Commissioner