Championship Sunday is arguably the best day for pro football fans across the country. From sunup to sundown, the best teams in the league battle for an opportunity to play in the Super Bowl. This year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the field against the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin for the NFC Championship. Hours later, the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Buffalo Bills and clinched a second straight ticket to the Super Bowl. While none of the head coaches who took the sidelines were Black, four of the eight lead coordinators were Black. For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Byron Leftwich led the team's offensive efforts while Todd Bowles spearheaded the team's defensive front. In Buffalo, Leslie Frazier and Eric Bienemy went at it as the Bills defense attempted to stop the Chiefs' offense. In spite of the success of these four talented coordinators, none of them have been hired as head coaches this offseason.
The NFL has struggled to deal with a lack of Black head coaches for some time now. Over the course of more than 50 years, the 32 NFL franchises have combined to hire less than two dozen Black head coaches. Key franchises like the Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants and New England Patriots have never hired a Black head coach. Currently, Black men make up more than 65% of NFL rosters, but less than 10% of head coaches in the league. During this particular offseason, six of the head coaching vacancies have been filled by non-Black candidates.
“There are many outstanding Black men and other men and women of color in the NFL,” Fritz Pollard Alliance Executive Director Rod Graves said in a statement
“The disparity in opportunities is mind-boggling. It is unfortunate that the performances of coordinators like Eric Bieniemy, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich, Leslie Frazier, and Joe Woods, may not meet what appears as ‘ever-evolving standards’ for becoming a Black Head Coach in the NFL. The prospect for second chances is proving to be even more elusive. The same applies to executives like Jerry Reese, Rick Smith, Reggie McKenzie, and others. All capable of providing the vision, leadership, and expertise to lead a championship effort.”
Often times, it's difficult for Black coaching candidates to even land an interview. For example, star quarterback DeShaun Watson reportedly had to campaign for Super Bowl-winning offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy to even get an interview with the Houston Texans, the lone head coaching vacancy in the NFL.
As the Super Bowl looms, it appears unlikely that an NFL team will hire a head coach before the start of the 2021-2022 NFL season. If this trend holds, the NFL could very well start the season with the fewest number of Black coaches in nearly a decade.
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